BucketWise v1.1.0

Posted by Jamis on May 14, 2009 @ 09:55 PM

So, I’ve now been using BucketWise for almost two months, and it’s been fantastic. Admittedly, as the author of the application, I’m willing to overlook a lot of the warts and inconsistencies, but I can honestly say I’ve felt more control over my finances these last two months than I’ve felt in the last 10 years. It’s an awesome feeling!

Tonight, I tagged version 1.1.0 of BucketWise, which (if you haven’t been following along) fixes a few bugs and adds several new features (account reconciliation, memorized transactions, actor name autocompletion, simple budget reporting, and more; I’ll just refer you to the changelog for the full list). It’s really been a fun project to tinker on. The last feature I myself really want is scheduled transactions; I may be hacking on that one in the near future.

I figured this might be a good time to talk a little about how I, personally, am using BucketWise. I’ve been surprised by a few things, both good and bad: some features I’ve found to be less useful than I anticipated, and others have been surprisingly handy!

Firstly, when you log into BucketWise, you see a short list at the top, called “Recent transactions”. This list was intended to let you see, at a glace, what you most recently had entered. (It also provided a handy landing place for newly entered transactions.) It hasn’t been very useful, though; I find that what I really want is to see the register of transactions for my checking account. I may be reworking that dashboard view soon.

Also, bucket reallocations haven’t been quite as useful as I expected. I do use them, and they are definitely handy, but I find that if you shuffle money around too much, it muddies your register. The reallocations are basically noise, especially when viewing transactions at the account level. I’m going to be pondering ways to reduce their visibility.

Buckets, though, I’ve found to be spectacularly useful. I’ve got my savings account partitioned into three buckets (short term, medium term, and long term), and that’s been a great way to keep track of how those savings funds are earmarked. Also, I’m trying to save 10% of each paycheck (trying, but not very successfully yet!), so I’ve got a “savings” bucket in my checking account, too. When the funds get to a certain threshold, I transfer the money to my savings account. (Yeah, I could just do a transfer with each paycheck…but I find I’m more likely to do it if I do it infrequently. Not sure why that is.)

Buckets are also great for indicating money that was given as a gift. My wife and I share the same checking account, so when it was her birthday, I transfered money from my Paypal account and put it in a “Tarasine” bucket. She was then welcome to record whatever purchases she wanted against that bucket. Similarly, when I receive money as a gift (birthday, Christmas, whatever) I just deposit it into a “Jamis” bucket.

Lastly, having credit card debt repayment built into the application has been awesome. I’ve loved being able to immediately indicate which checking account bucket a credit card purchase will be repaid from, and seeing that those funds are set aside, inviolate, ready for when the credit card bill comes.

My checking account currently has 35 buckets, and I can see my wife and I adding more. Most are purely for budgeting purposes (“groceries”, “auto fuel”, etc.), but they are so handy as ways to arbitrarily earmark money. Tithes, charitable offerings, savings, and credit card repayment are just some of the ways I’ve used them. (In fact, I’ve found myself wishing I could mark additional buckets as being “aside” buckets; I’m still pondering ways to make that happen, if it needs to.)

I’ll probably blog more about BucketWise down the road, and talk about specific use cases and how it’s helped me with them. However, I’d love to hear from others, too. Are you using BucketWise? If so, what do you like and dislike about it? I’m definitely only writing this application for me, but I’m curious to hear what the experience is like for others.

Lastly, if you’re interested in giving BucketWise a test drive, I’ve set up a demo account that you are welcome to log into and play with. I’ll reset the data there periodically, so feel free to try out all the features! Just go to http://www.bucketwise.com, and log in with the “bw.demo” user (password “demo”). Note that this is hosted on a modest Linode host, and will almost certainly be swamped into unusability with any significant traffic, but you’re welcome to try it out.

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Comments

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14 May 2009

1. Jonno said...

Very cool. I like it.

I will try to see if I can get it going on heroku.com .

My only major complaint is the color scheme … that green is awful ;)

What is your reasoning behind not importing bank statements and tagging transactions automatically?

2. Jamis said...

@Jonno, if you want a version that works on Heroku, you might look at http://github.com/watkyn/bucketwise/tree/master, Tony Eichelberger’s fork. He’s made a few other changes, and I don’t think he’s merged my latest changes, but it might give you an idea of what needs to happen to run it on heroku.com.

I prefer not to import bank statements because I prefer to manually enter them. Manually entering and categorizing transactions gives me the chance to review them. When transactions are blindly imported and automatically categorized, there is no real learning occurring.

3. Mark said...

@Jamis, I totally agree with automatically importing. I don’t see any real difference from just using my bank’s website if I just automatically import. Besides, it doesn’t give me a chance to catch errors and reconciling doesn’t mean much in that scenario.

I’m a GnuCash user, but I’ve grown tired of it. I’ll give this a try and if I like it, I’ll fork it and tune it better to my needs ;)

Looks good though, thanks!

16 May 2009

4. Jonno said...

I understand not wanting to auto tag them, but would not a wizard for importing a bank statement make the process of tagging go a lot faster?

I will checkout that fork. Thanks.

5. Dalibor said...

I like the application and I will surely give a watch at the source code to gather some new tips and knowledge. Btw, thanks for sharing it.

About the features of the application, I think it is missing few reports and charts about how the spendings are changing across the time which is very important to see what are we achieving with our personal finance program in any period of time.

6. Jamis said...

@Dalibor, no doubt it’s missing a lot of things. I’m implementing as I feel a need for features, but what I need and what you need will no doubt be two very different things. That’s why I put BucketWise into the public domain; please feel free to implement what you feel it is lacking.

7. Ryan Phelps said...

Thanks for sharing this, Jamis!

What would be the smartest way to keep BucketWise up-to-date while using it at the same time (local installation)? Should I just clone the repository and pull whenever I want to update, or is there some task I need to run?

8. Jamis said...

@Ryan, if you’re just running it locally, I’d just do “git pull”, followed by “rake db:migrate”. Also, you’d probably also do well to do “rake git:hooks:install” first (only need to do that once); that way, every time you do “git pull”, the external dependencies will be automatically kept up-to-date, too.

19 May 2009

9. Jamuraa said...

Jamis! You have solved my problems and answered my dreams! I am currently using a web application (neobudget.com) which costs money monthly (or yearly) to do EXACTLY this type of budgeting. This application will replace completely this web application and do it for free and in a way that I can always improve the application if I need to.

I absolutely love the envelope type of budgeting but it is way too much work to do manually or even with a spreadsheet, it is perfect for a web application. I plan on installing your application on my home server as soon as possible. I also love the credit card feature.

20 May 2009

10. Gerry said...

Jamis – absolute stroke of brilliance. Two reasons I find this a killer app:

1) multi-user: I just got it setup and deployed to my home server, and will be able to get my partner, and eventually the kids, entering purchase information. Really, a simple and awesome way to share financial information. As another commentor stated: “it is perfect for a web application”

2) The credit card “pay now” approach. I have used Quicken in the past, which pretty much kept me up to date on my expenditures (not being multi-user was always an issue). But, the credit card account had more of an impact on total net worth than day to day cash / monitoring of spending habits. In Bucketwise, the simple act of setting the cash aside from the account the credit card will be paid from, is a stroke of brilliance in human behaviour modification. After having gotten everything setup and balanced, the bottom line is sobering, instead of the normal “we have lots of cash” kinda feeling.

Thanks for sharing this great application!

22 May 2009

11. Jamis said...

@Jamuraa and @Gerry, thanks for sharing what you like about BucketWise! I hope it continues to be helpful. Be sure and let me know where you think it falls short as you use it—I certainly don’t make any guarantees, but I’m definitely interested in hearing how it works/doesn’t work for others.

04 Jun 2009

12. Chris said...

Jamis – trying to clone but I don’t see anything coming up at http://github.com/jamis/bucketwise/tree/v1.1.0

05 Jun 2009

13. Dave said...

What happened to bucketwise? Github shows an empty repo, last updated May 29.

09 Jun 2009

14. Jamis said...

@Chris, @Dave: sorry about that. There was a github bug which has since been fixed (but was never really explained). Makes me a little nervous that they can just arbitrarily “lose” an established repository, but they’re saying it won’t happen again. At any rate, the bucketwise repo is available again.

10 Jun 2009

15. Ravi Rao said...

Hey Jamis – thanks for your work; someone pointed me at Bucketwise and this blog post when I asked for recommendations on a personal finance management software that “just worked”. So I’m curious if a mobile-optimized version is at all in the works? It’d be a huge feature/win for me—I haven’t yet played with the demo site on mobile, but I will try out the current experience and let you know.

Thanks again, I’m looking fwd to setting it up over the weekend and playing with it in the weeks to come!

16 Jun 2009

16. Jamis said...

@Ravi, I’d love a mobile optimized version, too, but not enough to work on it myself. :) The code’s there, please feel free to fiddle with it and see what you can come up with!

08 Jul 2009

17. Ambyr Amoureuse said...

I can agree with your opinion :)) I use BucketWise too in my company :)) The finances are much better now :)) I am happy that the new version is coming out, I will use it for sure :))

14 Jul 2009

18. Marta Solteros said...

Absolut agree with you, I had the same experiences and i can tell also i had some little problems, but the whole thing run very good, and i just have good words about it.

16 Jul 2009

19. Elena Single said...

I have BucketWise as well. And I have to say it works well and above all is not expensive! I can’t wait for the new version, I am sure it will be even better.

24 Jul 2009

20. Jeanne Rencontres said...

I didn’t know about BucketWise but what u wrot, convince me. I will try it if it is not so expensive like Elena said.

Thank you for thi article