Amanda's search for personal finance app perfection continues as she abandons Xero.

Amanda's search for personal finance app perfection continues as she abandons Xero.

By Amanda Morrall

A few months back, I decided to try out Xero's personal finance software to see what, if any, good would result from me using it. I had promised to report back to you.

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'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.


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As a post script, I would note that Xero shareholders find more reason than I to be upbeat.

I have a similar experience with personal Xero. I found it time consuming to categorise transactions, and not something I want to pay for.
I'm using Kiwibank's Heaps product, which I find more intuitive to use.

something bothers me about  good 'ol Xero ya know.  The star struck shareholders, heavy marketing campaigns,feverish effort to  get the new customers numbers up..
and no profit in sight !       brrrr I wouldnt get in to deep personally

But it is a tech growth company, and that is just how they work. It is all about brand building and increasing the cusomter base at this stage. It coul dbe done slower, and they then make profits, but in clooud computing, there is a rush to grow it as quickly as possible. I see it's value from being brought out by some rich  company in the future.

I see it's value from being brought out by some rich  company in the future.
Exactly. It's a matter of capitalising ramped up intangible worth. But when that fails, as it has, with Facebook there is just no end to investor losses, especially when panicked restricted insiders start buying size puts positions, thus causing the option market maker to sell the crap out of borrowed shares. 
I don't know if the situation here is as bad as the US - but corrupt competitors have been known to employ sharp practice brokers to sell short shares that never existed. 
The SEC has been remarkably slow to police such activities because, when every politician pretends the stock market is the economy, the upside potential of a large but nonetheless illegal uncovered short can be ignored in the name of the greater good. 

That's what they want you to think so you will buy their  second rate offerings.
There is actually a lot that become profitable within 12 months, especially internet/web based business models, they are not offered to the retail public in NZ. I actually have one NZ client who's web site  is generating 6 million USD per month post tax after 24 months. When you find your niche it can go expodential growth initially.

Many companies though don't make a profit for their first few years. Look at the third mobile company in NZ. I don't think they have yet made a profit, yet they now have a million customers.
I don't think trademe was making all that much before they were purchased by fairfax.
I have heard that xero is a very good system for businesses. But not sure how good their personal version is. Personally I am not a fan of cloud computing but I do see value in Xero, and I guess that is why it has a market cap of half a billion.

True however look at the players, they may all in time make a return however surely you want superior returns for the capital employed, where is their edge to achieve that?
- zero playing catch up in product offerings in an already crowded  space, especially inetrnationally.
Third mobile company is entering a mature market place competeting on price = commodity  market, good luck to them. Who cares about a million custmers if you can't make a return from your efforts...sincely hope they have new product offerings to cross sell. Why would they not show their hand by now...
Trademe is relatively mature market, not an orginal idea and no international reach to increase it market materially.
Yeah can't see spectacular returns anytime soon. I hope they prove me wrong.
Same old same old.
The client I mention above, web based , less than 15 people involved making 90 million NPAT, that is a business which is the whole package. Will never be a retail offering.

The major players in Xero appear to have already made thier capital, Mr Speckles.
And are not naive enough to think that every tree in the garden rains down golden apples.
'True however look at the players, they may all in time make a return however surely you want superior returns for the capital employed, where is their edge to achieve that?'
They have already had superior returns, on prior business.
As an advisor, do you believe in diversification and capital protection?

Naturally the main stakeholders have, the greatest strategic play this year being facebook  for the initial stakeholders..they have set themselvesup  to buy out others who are tainted by their sucess at the expense of  retail investors.... for other in the social media space many have been outplayed. They will buy their IP. I'm trying to get retail people here to see it for what it is. 
I not concerning myself with the initial stakeholders here...
Naturally diversify but it has to be in the right investments to start with otherwise it is an illusion.

If I go back and check the evaluation criteria we had for accounting packages "spit it in my face" wasn't on the list.
Nice idea if you're into that stuff.

Strongly worded yes but you get my drift. Subtlety doesn't sell.


The time to buy Xero shares will be when it is a dirty ugly mangey mutt , with halitosis .......
........ just as Rakon is , now ! ....... Rakon has lost 90 % of it's value in recent years , slumped from being an overhyped market darling , to being an unloved pariah ... and yet , the business is still functioning adequately .....
If it's a turd , 100 % the way through , no amount of rubbing will put a shine on it ( Allied Farmers ! ) ..... but some things covered in poo-poo , do have hidden value , that's the fun of being a private investor , finding the value when no one else spots it ....

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