Personal finance applications and budgeting tools have become extremely popular over the past two years, with Mint.com being one of the largest players out of the group, but there are other alternative applications out there that offer a variety of different features that you may be interested. BudgetPulse.com is one of those budgeting applications that separates itself from its competition by offering features such as very high security for your personal information and a way to organize accounts for accepting donations. As many of you know, I have dedicated a few posts to Mint.com, and it’s the budgeting application that I currently use, but I have been tinkering with Budget Pulse lately, and it may cause me to switch allegiances.
I caught up with Craig Kessler, their internet marketing guru, and asked him for a short interview. If you are interacting with the Budget Pulse brand, Craig is most likely the brains behind it. He writes their corporate blog, runs their Twitter and Facebook accounts, and has many other responsibilities that I am sure we’ll never know about. Here are the answers to the questions that I asked him.
Erik: What is the mission of Budget Pulse and why was it started?
Craig: Raj Jeyaprakash (CEO) was upset with the lack of tools available to help him with his monthly budgets. He also feared identity theft and wanted to use a tool that calmed all of his concerns, but unfortunately one didn’t seem to exists. He created BudgetPulse for himself and his family and then sent it to friends to use. After receiving such great praise for the new tool, he decided to expand on the tool and offer it out to others who may find interest in the software. It took off from there, and now our mission is to help both a domestic and international user base reduce debt, save for the future, and to help them take control of their personal finances.
Erik: I think your focus on the international community will be a great way to separate yourself from your competitors.
Erik: There are dozens of free online personal finance and budgeting tools on the internet, what what other aspects separate you from your competition such as Mint and Wesabe?
Craig: There is a lot of competition out there and some fantastic tools that provide excellent resources to users for various reasons. BudgetPulse fits a smaller niche in the personal finance software industry. We do not sync with bank accounts or any personal account information. Our users simply manually input their data or can import their financial bank statements in minutes. This helps calm any fears about identity theft and can give users a more hands on proactive approach to taking control of their finances. We also have a savings goals function where users can create a public goal and email it out to family and friends asking for donations. Then they can receive money directly from PayPal, Amazon, or money that is pledged all in one centralized place and then budget accordingly, eliminating the use of multiple programs. BudgetPulse is the first personal finance software to integrate a budgeting software with online fundraising capabilities.
Erik: I know that a lot of people avoid budgeting sites like Mint.com because they don’t like third party sites pulling their personal financial data.
Erik: I understand you have some new features on the site, could you explain those to the Money Crashers readers a little more.
Craig: We just released a new savings goals/online fundraising goals function. We are the first personal budgeting software to integrate with cash gift functionality. Users can create private or public goals. Public goals can be mailed out to family and friends. The family and friends can then directly contribute money to a users goal through PayPal, Amazon, or by pledging money. Then everyone can keep track of how much is collected. The user can then collect money and budget accordingly all within one tool opposed to using multiple tools. It makes it so much easier for them. It can be great for individuals looking to get help buying a car, clubs collecting team fees, or non-profit organizations raising money for a charity.
Erik: That could also be beneficial for churches and missionaries looking to raise money for religious work.
Erik: Do you use Budget Pulse to organize your finances? How has it helped you to budget your money?
Craig: Yes, I use BudgetPulse for my own personal finances. It really has helped me put my spending into perspective and I find myself more aware on where I spend my money. I was able to find little ways to save so I could contribute more to my retirement and long term savings investments and what I really like is how I can compare my monthly spending to see how I improve (or sometimes go backwards) in spending from month to month.
Erik: What are the advantages of using an online budgeting tool rather than a simple pen and paper.
Craig: Using an online budgeting tool allows you to check out your finances anywhere in the world as long as you can access the internet, there are no limitations. It makes it easier to keep everything organized in one place and there are more tools to help you analyze your data which you could not get from pen and paper or a simple excel sheet. You also have the ability to export your data and take it anywhere you like. Using a tool allows you to fully take control of your finances in a simple manner, and with easy to read charts and graphs. It helps take the confusing and sometimes intimidating factors out of finances.
Erik: My wife is old school when it comes to us writing out a budget, but I’ve slowly showed her the light of online budgeting tools.
Erik: Can you tease us with any projects in the works for the upcoming year?
Craig: Sure. Right now we are working on developing a premium version of BudgetPulse that will be ready in 2010. We want to stay away from advertising and we need to keep the lights on. We are working on expanding our charts and graphs and may be looking into adding the ability to have multiple currencies in one account which has been a big request from users. We are also in the beginning stages of developing an iPhone app, although that would be something for the future. From my end, I am working on beginning a video series where I will be going on the streets interviewing people with fun taboo and random money related questions, and will be working on developing a weekly Personal Finance Twitter Chat each week that hopefully will be co-hosted with others involved with personal finance. We are growing and full of ideas that we would love to bring to the users. 2010 is going to be a big year for BudgetPulse, I can’t wait!
Erik: Ohhh, an iPhone App, now you are talking my language! I strongly recommend doing that, and doing it well, because Mint.com’s app is a little disappointing.
Erik: Were you a personal finance junkie before you were working for Budget Pulse, or did it convert you?
Craig: BudgetPulse definitely converted me. I come from a marketing background and have always been intimidated by finances in general. That’s one of the reasons I love the BudgetPulse tool is that it takes the intimidation of finances away. I always have considered myself a more frugal person who saves on the little things to pay for more expensive things that I want or want to experience. BudgetPulse has lead me to dive deeper into my knowledge of personal finance and through it, I have met so many fun people who share a passion for personal finance that I have been able to learn from and interact with on a daily basis.
Erik: Do you have any parting words of wisdom that you’ve learned about budgeting and/or personal finance?
Craig: Everyone has their two cents about budgeting, but the main thing is to get started and to do what works for you. There is not one full proof plan, but as long as you can understand your situation and want to help yourself, just find a plan that works for you and stick with it.
Erik: Thanks so much for taking the time to discuss Budget Pulse with us, Craig. If you’d like to try out Budget Pulse, it’s completey free with no strings attached. Register for a free account with this innovative budgeting tool.