wesabeSince, oh, about 1995 or so I’ve attempted to use MS Money and/or Quicken exactly once a year. Whenever a new version would come out, I’d sign up for the 30 day trial and give it a go. I’d go back six months and catalog everything I spent and earned, glanced at some pretty charts and graphs, and that was about it until the next year.

I’m hopeful that it will stick with this new approach. I’ve started using Wesabe, which is a web 2.0 revision of Quicken/Money.

The major problem with Quicken/Money is that the various banks of the world are assholes digitally difficult to work with. All the various attempts at creating standard for transferring information have basically stalled and they realized they’d rather have traffic on their own sites to cross-sell more credit cards and second mortgages and actively shut out integration in many cases. Add onto that, the security measures involving picto-passwords, countless questions about pets and grandparents and the state of cross-site banking is pathetic.

Wesabe’s solution has been to build (among other tools) a FireFox plugin which depending on the bank, either takes a username/password or actually lets you script the entire process of logging in and downloading a statement. You can set it to run automatically as long as FireFox is open. They’ve clearly made this process their priority and rightly so.

Unfortunately some of the “basics” that Quicken/Money have had since the 90s are missing. Where are my graphs and charts? Tags are the only categorization method today and while there advantages for this style, it falls apart in other critical ways. Another problem common to tag systems is the need for intelligent systems to enforce obvious things like “restaurant” = “restaurants”. It looks like even things like capitalization separates tags which causes problems, although to their credit, there is a manual merge tag function. They do take advantage of the fact that we’re all putting our data up on the web and if I purchase something from a common vendor like Whole Foods, it will pre-suggest tags like groceries and food.

Overall, I’m excited by the site and can’t wait to see the improvements roll-in.

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