I think I have mentioned that I like Quicken Online. It helps me stay within my budget and keep track of bills. In particular, I like its budgeting feature (called Goals). It makes it easy to set up a reasonable budget by presenting me with averages of what I have actually spent in any given category. So if I’m trying to cut back on spending and I see that over the last year, I have spent an average of $300 a month eating in restaurants, I know that’s a good place to cut back. So I tell set a Goal for what I think is a reasonable amount to spend eating out. Then I ask it to send me a text message when I get close to that limit. It is a terrific tool for altering bad spending habits.

Even better would be a full-featured mobile version of Quicken Online that would show me a snapshot of my entire budget wherever I am.

Well, if you have an iPhone (I don’t L) you can have that very thing right now: Quicken Online Mobile is brand new – just launched yesterday. Chelsea at Quicken showed me a demo of it earlier this week and now I have iPhone envy. Oh sure, I can go to m.quicken.com to access my Quicken Online account from my mobile phone’s Web browser. It will let me see balances and enter my latest transactions, and some other basic features. But I can’t look at my budget and see how much I have left to spend on groceries or eating out while standing in the produce isle or choosing from a menu. The Quicken Online Mobile iPhone app will do that.

I can see a real use for this:

Let’s imagine it’s a typical Friday evening in my life. My husband will soon be leaving his home office to drive downtown and meet me at my office. (In fact, he is doing exactly that right now). As usual, we would have no particular plan other than a desire to do something kid-free and selfish that doesn’t involve a computer screen, picking up dirty socks around the house, or watching reruns of The Closer or 30 Rock. Due to this lack of direction, we end up wandering past the delightful selection of clubs, restaurants, and bars in our cute town weighing the relative merits of each against our mood, the weather, and what we did last week. Unless one of us is feeling very fiscally responsible (that happens less often in this moment than in most others), we might easily end up in the high-end eatery I love. It serves marvelous wines and terrific food from the Catalan region; we know the owner; and it has a stunning view of the sun setting over the river. I love that place. But it’s a bad habit.

If this were my life with better mobile access to my budget, though, I could whip out my phone as we debated and see that we have only $100 left in the dining out budget. That’s not enough for me to get a text message warning. But if we choose the wine bar, we would probably blow most of that. The reality that I wouldn’t be able to pick up any takeout or drop in a taco place for lunch for the rest of the month, would very likely stop me from sitting down and chatting with the owners and ordering a glass of wine and some delicious small plates of various tasty items as if we were living on the budget of Nick and Nora Charles.

I could use my phone as a sort of fiscal rudder to steer us instead to the almost-as-pleasant rooftop bar with a beautiful view. There we would probably only want one drink and to watch the sun set over the water because that place serves beer in plastic cups (so people don’t throw bottles off the roof) not delicious wine in perfect glasses. And it doesn’t tempt us with pricey French food. We could enjoy ourselves and stay within our budget.

Of course there are other methods for reminding myself of my budget in my weaker moments. But if you have an iPhone, you can have this one for free. (An account at Quicken Online is also free.)

 Here is a video demo of it:

7 thoughts on “A Navigator for Fiscal Wandering”

  1. The info you’ve given is spot on, believe me, I’ve been doing my research and you’re info is some of the best out there.

  2. Mmmm. Italy. I think I like you owing me big! Sorry I didn’t have time to answer your Q b4 you figured it out. Have a panini for me!

  3. I love your blog! I moved to quicken online and I love it. I’m living in Italy right now so budgeting is SO critical…I love the goal feature. Question: Does the mobile work with an IPOD touch or just the iphone? Thanks!

    PS…you are streamlining my life…I owe you big!

  4. Hi Todra,

    This is Chelsea from Quicken. Hopefully I can alleviate some of your concerns about security with more information.

    First, the Web service, http://www.quickenonline.com, does not store any of your account numbers – they are all truncated.

    Intuit places the highest priority on safeguarding our customers’ personal and financial information and has for decades. All our web sites are Trustee certified, data connections are encrypted – exceeding FTC standards (same standards banks nationwide use). We do use the same security standards as banks nationwide, but we store less information that anyone could ever do anything with (basically, this is read-only data and no transactions can take place within Quicken Online).

    As far as the iPhone app itself goes, all of the information above applies, except that we’ve built in an additional layer of security (the PIN you can set and use to access the app on your phone every time you open it). If you were to lose your iPhone for example, no one could access your Quicken Online Mobile app, even though there is nothing they could do anyhow aside from see your account balances, etc.

    I hope this helps alleviate some of your concerns. Thanks for stopping by Christina’s blog to read more about the app!

    – Chelsea, Quicken

  5. This sounds great, but I have one concern – if it’s online, is there a chance that someone can see your personal information? I know this is probably just as safe as say, online banking, but my heart beats a little faster with the notion of putting my entire budget online (alone with account numbers???), too.

  6. I have been using MS SBA for my accounting software, I decided for some reason to pay $400 for quickbooks but they are unable to convert my SBA file to Quickbooks. I think I am just gonna go back to SBA.

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