Xero Personal – I think I love you

Personal finances – there’s an interesting topic for you.

My wonderful melancholic detailed husband has a magical budget spreadsheet that magically shows us earning more than we spend. Problem is, his lovely wife has no visibility of that when she is actually spending. And I’m not saying I’m a reckless spender at all, but my shopping volume is based on the bank account balance on that day, not any budget or forecast.

I’ve dabbled a bit in YNAB (You Need A Budget) which also has a great iPhone app, but it’s been getting dusty for a while due to lack of attention on my part. I also couldn’t figure out how to marry up hubby’s magical spreadsheet to its structure.

So today I had a look at Xero Personal, knowing that it supported Australia bank feeds. And hey, so far so good. Here’s what I’ve learnt so far:

  • Importing my ANZ account & credit card transactions was pretty easy & quick.
  • Creating my own spending categories was pretty easy too, except you can’t rename the default categories AND you can only create 20 new custom categories. This was a pain when I want to separate out different kinds of insurance (for example) and required a bit of creative reshuffling of both the default accounts & our own magical spreadsheet. For example, I created a Mortgage category and I’m using the Housing category for repairs, gardening stuff, furniture etc. Not ideal but it will work.
  • Categorising transactions was pretty quick too, but I bumped into a few Xero tricks. The imported transactions are grouped by name, which is hopeless when they display as ‘ANZ Internet Banking Funds Transfer’. You can go into the detail of each to see further payee details AND you can rename them to suit. You can then also start typing the first letters of a previously used name or category to pop up the right one, instead of using the category scroll bar.
  • Credit card payments (when your credit card is also added as a bank feed) are put in the Transfers category, so they don’t end up duplicating the spend for the actual item, purchase.
  • Goals are actually budget goals which can be set per week, per fortnight, or per month in each category. It’s extremely scary to add dollar figures to these then see how much income you actually need each month.

I know have to add any debts or other credit accounts (eg hire purchase agreements) and start using the thing. Fortunately it also has an iPhone app, plus the bank feed will automatically suck in the new transactions each day & suggest their categories.

I’ve yet to touch the Plans & Reminders, but that’s on the to do list. I’ve also given hubby his own login so he can see everything I can (is that a good thing??).

Being hosted ‘cloud’ software, you don’t need to backup anything on your own computer, but I’m yet to find out how you could actually get your own backup or export of the data if you wanted it. I’m nervously guessing that my data will stay locked inside the software & I’ll lose access to it if I decide to stop paying for it (or end the trial) and I’d also bet that I can only rely on Xero’s own data centre backups. Yes, I’m sure they have an impressive backup & recovery strategy, but they wouldn’t be the first data centre to go belly-up and have backup issues. But that’s just the IT geek in me that likes to have some control in keeping my own data safe.

With a 30 day free trial, this software is definitely worth playing with.

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