Budget Mania: LearnVest Upacked

Last year, I did a non-comprehensive post about Budgeting Tools. And for the last year, I have been simultaneously using several budgeting apps. As that is a recipe for crazy-making, I slowly cut away at the list of apps until I had just a few left: Quicken, EveryDollar, & Mint. To better delve into why I kept those and dropped the other ones, I’ve decided to highlight them in a not-so-fancy fashion.

LearnVestI know I said in the original post that this was my favorite app, but after using it for a year alongside several others, it’s limitations have become very apparent. Nitpicking aside, the biggest issue is the amount of effort it takes to put transactions in the right folder. Categorizing transactions on my iPad was a huge pain. Categorizing transactions online was a pain. Things actually work the best on the phone app, which is what I used the most. HOWEVER, I cannot split transactions from my phone, I have to use the desktop for that. That was a pain. Furthermore, it doesn’t remember what I like to categorize my transactions as (unlike most of the other apps I’ve used – either automatically or manually), so every time my paycheck cleared, I had to manually file it under “paychecks” because it ALWAYS defaulted to “other income” – a category I had no use for – and there was nothing I can do about it. That got tiresome after a while. I like the Goal Tracker, but I can just as easily rig up something on Numbers or Excel.

So, what exactly is it about categorizing transactions that make it such a pain? I’m glad you asked.

In Mint, if I have a transaction, say my mortgage, posting to my account as “Telephone Initiated Transfer to (ridiculously long name for mortgage company)” and it’s filing it away as “Credit Card Payments and Transfers” – I can go into the details of the transaction (on the desktop site only, but at least it’s there) and tell Mint to call it “Nationstar Mortgage” and categorize it as “Mortgage & Rent” instead. There is no such option on LearnVest. It doesn’t learn my preferences. So in order to use it, I have to be willing to constantly deal with their folder system.

Now, I liked the folder system at first. That was until I tried to categorize something on my iPad. Unlike the phone application that uses a drop-down method, this uses a drag and drop method. The problem is that it isn’t the seamless dragging and dropping of EveryDollar. No. It’s press and hold, then drag and drop. That wouldn’t be a problem if that wasn’t the ONLY way to categorize or recategorize a transaction. That means, I’m looking at my account, see something categorized as something stupid, click on it, and nothing happens. I have to click on an icon to the left, pick “inbox” from the menu, then navigate over there to press and hold and drag and drop. It’s just too many steps, making using that app very unappealing, thus I hardly ever used it, and would therefore, often forget the click, pick, press, hold, drag, and dropping that I would have to do.

The good thing is that this app never told me what to do with my money. I got to pick my own goals, I got to set budget amounts for as many or few categories as I wanted, it didn’t analyze me or lecture me for going over budget, and I loved the Goal Tracker. But one feature isn’t enough.

In the original post, I mentioned how it gives me my available balance, even though pending transactions don’t show up. I’m not sure what was going on or who I was banking with when I wrote that, but that has not be the case with anyone I’ve banked with since last summer. And honestly, the pending transaction thing has turned into a deal breaker. I know I’m crazy, I totally own it, but Mint does it. Personal Capital – which I’m also not playing around with anymore – will at least let me see them. Hello Wallet – which I’ll talk about next week – weirdly lets me play with pending transactions for some banks (3 out of the last 5 banks I’ve been with). I don’t see how it’s that hard. I know EveryDollar and Quicken don’t have this feature, but I do everything manually on those platforms, so it doesn’t matter.

As far as the website goes, I appreciate the effort they put into the content, but it isn’t revolutionary. The overall messages they seem to push out the most are penny-pinching and the benefit of hiring a financial planner. Speaking of, one of the planners has gone as far as to recommend that you get a checking account for fixed expenses and a separate checking account for variable ones. If you listen to her, she will have you opening about 7 different checking and savings accounts. I get what she’s going for; it’s for people with self-control issues, but as someone who’s had pretty serious self-control issues, I can tell you that this is not only ridiculous, it also doesn’t work, and I know this because I’ve done it. You’ll just use the other account and end up more broke than before. You’ll also drive yourself crazy trying to keep up with all of those accounts, and I also know this from experience. Simplicity, folks.

That said, I do enjoy reading most of the content and will continue to poke around on the site. I have run across some very good information on the site. Just keep in mind that this is why it’s important to read from different sources and use your brain when it comes to personal finance. Not everyone’s advice will work for you, and not everyone has good advice.

Happy Budgeting! 🙂

Hi ^_^