By Amanda Morrall
My apologies for the delay and thanks to a reader for reminding me.
I won't lie you to. I was procrastinating. I found the initial uploading, coding and classification exercise so time consuming and cumbersome that I wasn't exactly eager to subject myself to this all over again. As a result I had to catch up on three months worth of downloads, imports, coding and tagging to pick up where I left off. I can't blame the tedium and confusion entirely on Xero. If I'd stuck with the programme it wouldn't have been nearly as bad.
Despite discovery of new efficiencies second time around (rather than printing out and cross checking with a ruler, I syncronised the transactions that needed coding and categorising on Xero to my on-line account and kept two windows running) after an hour or two of uploading and inputting and coding, I was only 2 out of 37 pages in. I gave up. I just didn't have the time or patience for it given that the rewards for my efforts were unclear.
Yes, the science of categorising every single dollar spent, would have allowed Xero to pie-chart my spending and spit it in my face so I couldn't hide from money wasted on coffee or other non-essentials but through regular financial reviews I already know my general spending across all categories and am conscience of when I am spending too much or nothing at all on various aspects of my life. If I had persisted with the exercise I might have discovered some unexpected surprises. And more information is never a bad thing in personal finance.
The problem, is a personal finance app (particularly one you are paying for - $59 a year in this case) should make your life easier otherwise you could just do the same for free using sorted.org.nz's money tracker or a myriad of other free programmes and spreadsheets on the market.
When Xero is able to seamlessly upload from your bank to its website your transactions on a daily basis, thus sparing neglectful users like myself the tedium of having to upload three months worth of statements that need coding anew, the programme might stand a better chance of winning me over.
Xero's communication manager Richard Wood assures me that's not far way, before the end of this year in fact.
Also to Xero's credit, since the last time I used the system, it has significantly built up its support services. Rather than having to watch the video that doesn't necessarily answer your questions, there is now a fairly detailed personal guide to the Xero universe and lexicon that can be accessed once you're in your account.
Once I took the time to scroll through the guide, I was able to resolve the pesky little problems that were putting me in a bad mood.
Wood informs that a new "suggestions feature" has also been introduced which helps Xero guess how a particular common payee should be categorised. It has the effect of speeding up the whole categorisation process as the user can just scroll through the transactions review and approve as required, said Wood.
I'm not sure this feature was a huge benefit to me although it was so long ago since first trialling it, I can't recall exactly the nature of my complaints back then. I think they had mainly to do with exporting my bank account information from my on-line account and importing it into Xero in the first instance. My tip to those who give this a go is to clear their downloads file first so they don't have to wade through hundreds of previous downloads to find their monthly statements. A tip here, for those with mega downloads like myself is to search for the extension of whatever programme (there are a few options) you chose to export the files onto your desktop. In my case it was CSV.
Perhaps a more savvy computer user than myself could have navigated these "problems" much quicker than I but I'm willing to guess I'm not the only bumbler in town.
Because I have heard so many positive things about Xero's business accounting programme, I wouldn't want to put anyone off their personal finance software. It's just if you're looking for one that makes your life easier, you might be disappointed. I imagine for those who stay on top of it, and get it up and running, there are numerous advantages and financial insights to be gleaned.
For that reason, I asked Wood which individuals Xero personal would benefit most.
He suggested it would be a benefit to anyone wanting to keep a "clear eye on their personal finances" and boasted of its "awesome conditional search facilities over all transactions across all accounts.'' I admit I didn't get to test this part of its functionality so can't rate this feature.
Wood said it was also great for people who wanted to "push their sluggish savings goals" as you can set personalised goals and monitor your success toward them once you're up and running.
And finally (and I expect this could be the real jewel in Xero's crown) the programme could be valuable for helping individuals who have difficulty separating business from personal expenses to separate out the work-related transactions. That's particularly the case for those using Xero for business, which as I noted before already has the automatic bank feed feature.
When the same happens for personal, I told Xero to shout it from the rooftops.
Wood assured me they would.