Last night, on the 25th episode of the Personal Finance Hour , we discussed mostly about budgeting and touched on some popular budgeting tools. PearBudget is an online budget management tool, mentioned by both JD and members of the chatroom, that I had never heard of.
PearBudget’s  tagline is “really simple budgeting” and it delivers on that promise. Within ten minutes, I was able to setup a budget and begin tracking expenses without even entering an email address. You can play with the full tool right from the start, without even registering. That’s uncommon in any tool, let along a budgeting one.
PearBudget doesn’t have a predefined budgeting method, which makes it adaptable to whatever your budgeting method is. When I think about budgets, I believe there are two crucial parts – the system and the tools. The system is the methodology behind the budget and the tools are what you use to track your spending, plan your future spending, and work towards your goals.
However, sometimes you look to a tool to give you a methodology to work with. If you don’t have a budgeting method and are looking for a tool to give you one, this tool won’t provide that for you.
Setting up your budget is a remarkably simple five step process that takes all of ten minutes (if you have the numbers handy, less if you are just playing around). First, you choose your budget categories like groceries, entertainment, mortgage, and so on. You can select from fifty pre-written categories or create your own. Then you specify whether a budget category is a regular monthly expense (dining out, entertainment, mortgage) or an irregular expense (property taxes, income taxes). The fifth and final step is entering in your income.
Tracking is even simpler. As you spend money, you enter in the date of the expense, the amount, the category, and then some tags on the receipt. The expenses are reflected in the review section. There currently is no “import” function so you must enter all the data by hand. If you think this is a bad thing, think again. By forcing you to enter everything manually, you become closer to your spending. It isn’t just a number populated by a machine, you spent it, you enter it.
Exporting data is easy too. You won’t see this until you you enter an email address but you can export the data to a CSV file that Excel can read. It’s under advanced user options when you click your email at the top of the screen.
Go-Cards: One fun little feature offered by PearBudget is the ability to print out a “Go-Card,” which is a 3″x5″ card detailing how much you have left available in each category.
PearBudget  is exactly what it says it is – really simple budgeting. The tool itself is easy to work with, very intuitive, and it’s nice that they let you test drive the tool without even entering in your email address. You know from the beginning whether this is the right tool for you.
If you’re a PearBudget user or gave the trial period a run, please share your opinions in the comments. I’d like to hear what you thought of the tool.