I'm often asked which personal finance software is the best. I strongly recommend YNAB 4, the system I personally use. It is by far the best budgeting system on the market. The software is fantastic and the methodology is extremely effective. You can read the review or Try YNAB 4 with a FREE 34-Day Trial!
Geezeo is financial management with a social twist. You can manage all types of accounts, automatically tag transactions, set budgets, and interact socially to get tips and hints on managing your finances. Geezeo is part of TheStreet.com, having taken funding from them ($1.2 million) — with an option to buy.
Based on the Wayback Machine, Wesabe attempted to merge social with financial about five months before Geezeo. We’ll see if Geezeo was able to improve upon it (in no way am I saying Geezeo simply copied Wesabe — I’m just talking about social/financial and making improvements on that idea in general).
*Update: It seems Geezeo has changed their business model and is now only accepting new users through the banks and credit unions that they have arrangements with. Now that you access the system through your financial institution, the software may have changed from what is reviewed below.
Getting Started with Geezeo
The startup process with Geezeo was fairly painless. The live search capability to find my financial institution (Wells Fargo) is almost becoming standard now. Seeing the list of Wells Fargo options clued me in to the number of financial institutions available through Geezeo (Geezeo uses CashEdge, a third-party data aggregator).
Fetching the data from Wells Fargo took about five minutes, and the whole thing went over without a hitch. My very next step was to choose to for my business accounts. I was happy to see that was an available option.
Unfortunately, Geezeo didn’t update my transactions to reflect the fact that I had deleted three of the five accounts. That resulted in a lot of bad links if I chose to click through to that deleted account from a transaction that was listed on my dashboard:
I logged out, and back in, but to my dismay, the transactions from the deleted accounts were still listed. My guess (hope?) is that they will disappear within the next day or so.
UPDATE: I logged in a week later and the transactions from the deleted accounts were finally gone.
Editing and Tagging Transactions
One key aspect to any personal finance software is to make sure that the required tasks take as little time as possible. These tasks are important to the user, because the user benefits from working with their money. However, the user does not benefit from having to click too many times unnecessarily, or just deal with an interface that doesn’t flow correctly. In that spirit, I edited and tagged transactions in Geezeo for longer than I’d like to admit — just to see if they’d done things with the user foremost in their minds.
You can see that your transactions are listed in a fairly bright blue, and you have a nice button right there so you can begin working with the transaction.
You’re shown the original payee (usually it’s quite a mess as it comes directly from the banks), but you can enter a new payee and then tell Geezeo to “use for similar transactions” so the payees come in clean the next time.
Also, you can choose a repeat tag (McDonald’s is always fast food) or a single tag (yes, I was at McDonald’s for fast food, but it was for a ‘birthday’ party).
Finally, there’s a Notes section, and then ability to Submit, Close or Sweep Up. I had no idea what Sweep Up meant, so I attempted to look it up. I scoured the FAQs and couldn’t find a single thing about what Sweeping Up a transaction would do. So I clicked it. It turns out it simply hides transactions. It seems in an effort to be cutesy with their wording, they created more work for a (semi-intelligent) user.
Some Glaring Problems with Geezeo’s Transaction Editing
You have to click the Edit button every single time. From what I could gather, there is no way to have all of the transactions in Edit mode, where you can simply tab through and make adjustments. This seriously hinders the speed at which you can work with your transactions and it’s a big deterrent to those first starting out because you…
Are forced to import a massive history of your accounts. Why can’t Geezeo ask for a start date of some type? This would save me from having to work backward and let me focus on working forward (where there’s obviously a whole lot more value!). Importing a massive history would be fine if Geezeo would…
Stop being so presumptuous with tags from the get-go. I didn’t like the wording on some of their tags, while others were just wrong (for me). For instance, I take income from the business and it’s just a transfer of money from a business account to my personal account. Geezeo saw that and categorized them as Transfers. That’s fine, except for me, they’re not.
Payees did not seem very sticky. I changed “POS PURCHASE – COSTCO WHSE #00CO” to Costco and checked the “use for similar transactions” box and it didn’t seem to work — at least not going backward into history. Perhaps it does work going forward. It would save the user a ton of time in starting Geezeo to have the payees be cleaned automatically — going forward or back.
Note: apparently you have to reload the entire page to see these changes come into effect. So there I was making the same changes again and again and again and all it took was a page reload. Their direct competitor, does not require this.
The colors are very tough on (even young) eyes. Each spending transaction is colored in a fairly bright blue. That’s not too bad, but then the tag links are all in white — this makes it extremely difficult to read!
No mechanism to do any mass-editing of transactions. I had the idea, after learning what Sweep Up meant, that I could select all transactions in Geezeo before August and have them swept up. This way I wouldn’t have to tag them! The process was still extremely tedious because I had to click Edit a bazillion times to open each and every single transaction and then confirm each and every single transaction. It was a user nightmare. I actually ended up giving up (fairly early on in the process) because it was so painful.
No useful filtering. I can’t see just September’s transactions, or just last month’s transactions. All I get is a “view all” option and then paginated links to the next pages.
Tagging and Editing Transactions Overall
My overall conclusion in regards to Geezeo’s user interface with transaction editing is that it needs serious work. They’re doing a beta UI overhaul, so hopefully these things will be improved. For the moment, entering all of those historical transactions was just an absolute nightmare. This is not what we need for someone that’s finally getting on the ball with their finances — to be facing a huge task right at the get-go that makes them want to quit (I wanted to quit).
UPDATE: After I started this review, but before I finished, Geezeo updated their site with a new look. Unfortunately, it’s pretty much just a new look The editing of transactions (where there is so much room for improvement) is still just as bad — it just looks different.
The Geezeo Dashboard
From here you can see the prior month’s transactions grouped by date, add an account, add a budget, or set up your mobile phone. On the sidebar of the dashboard you can add an account, see your accounts at a glance, get a money snapshot, see a bar chart of your top six expenses, see your Geezeo friends, groups, goals, and give a money confession. The pictures here are worth ~5,000 words…
Geezeo budgeting is fairly straightforward. I’m noticing a lot of the same thing with these new financial applications that are coming out on the market (mainly the Web 2.0 stuff). They all tout budgeting, but they’re all very weak in the area. Geezeo is basically no different.
You can give Geezeo about what you make in income each month, and that creates the top graph, with your budgeted expenses then compared to your income. I like the fact that you could create a zero-based budget with Geezeo (the budgeting idea which I’ve used for quite some time now) — it’s only that implementation of that could be made much easier. I’m certain Geezeo would implement it better if they were trying to get you to do zero-based budgeting. They’re not. They’re trying to get you to set some spending targets or goals.
You can see that they represent each tag as a large, eh, button I suppose. Green means you’re in good shape. Yellow means you should slow down and Red means to STOP! I like that. Cute.
I noticed that I can easily set a budget higher than my expected income, which idea I found to be ludicrous. Again, Geezeo is not focused on budgeting — they’re focused on the social aspects of personal finance — so you won’t get strong budgeting features here (at least not yet).
(On a side, nit-picky note, I found the Budget Breakdown percentages to be extremely confusing. They were showing over or under in each tag for the set budget, but they were presented to make you think they were showing you what percentage each element of the budget represented in regards to the entire budget. Confusing.)
Also, one feature lacking is the ability to distinguish between saving and spending. I might budget to save $500, but if I save $550 that’s a bad thing?
Check out the screenshots from the Budgeting section:
The next area of Geezeo that I checked out was the Goals section. Again, it reminded me of other competitors out there. I could pick from goals already listed or create my own. I chose to ‘Build a 3 Month Cushion’. It was cool to see that you could associate a tag or account with a goal. I associated my savings tag with it and said that once it hit $3,000 I will have reached my goal.
After joining the goal, I was kicked back to the dashboard immediately (?). Well, I went and checked out the goal page and PFSR was not listed as a user participating in the goal (in my dashboard yes, but not on the goal page). Also, I noticed there were only two people participating, though it was one of the largest (in the Tag Cloud) goals available. I determined that the large-ness of the tag is in relation to the comments left on the goal, not on the participants (why?).
Since I wasn’t listed as participating on the goals page, I clicked the “I Want to Do This” button again and chose $15k as my savings target (for Tag:Savings). Again I was kicked back to the dashboard, again I’m not showing as participating, and again, down the right side of the dashboard, I’m listed as participating…
I created another goal “save to pay down debt” and completed it right away, since my credit card balance was below my specified $2,000 limit. That one appeared to work and it showed PFSR as having completed it.
I’ve come back to check multiple times on the 3 Month Cushion goal and I’m still not registered. Strange.
At any rate, the goals are nice, but I don’t see Geezeo doing anything different than what 43things.com is doing except for the fact that Geezeo ties a tag or account to your goal. As far as community activity goes, 43things.com wins it hands down. Their user base is much more active, and that activity is supposed to be what helps the person reach a goal (at least that’s the idea). The big question: will this goal feature, heavily weighted toward the social aspect, help you with your personal finances?
Check out shots from the Goal section:
The Groups area of Geezeo isn’t anything special. At the moment they definitely appear to be in the “new” stage, in that there aren’t a lot of contributions yet, even to just a single group. My feeling is that they’re trying to be a bit too broad at first, and they’re spreading the activity a bit too thin. At any rate, you’ll find much more active forums that will also offer great advice for getting deals (FatWallet.com), budgeting (YouNeedABudget.com), getting out of debt (LLNOE.com), etc.
It’s the same story you get with Wesabe. They want to be forums, a financial management app, and a social network. We’ll see if it actually helps people get out of debt, save a bit more, and find a bit of financial success.
Geezeo’s New Look (They’re Out of the Beta)
The only real difference, besides colors and some layout changes, is the fact that you deal with significant advertising now :(. For instance, you have a very large zecco ad across the top, and an HSBC Direct ad on the right that’s got to be 350px by 350px. They’re very much in your face. In that regard I like advertising much better (though, as would almost any user, I prefer no advertising at all).
Honestly, I preferred the old look. It was much cleaner color-wise, with nice contrast. This one’s just too many shades of blue.
Geezeo Overall Conclusion
Geezeo is trying to be the crossroads of social and financial. It’s yet to be proven how that actually pans out for users as far as getting them an effective solution to help them get out of debt, save, and have some financial success. I wonder if Geezeo (along with its peers) are overshooting what people are actually wanting in regards to money management. Do they really need to have “friends” on their financial social network?
All in all, the jury is still out with Geezeo. At the moment, I’d say look elsewhere.