Review: PearBudget Beta

Creating a budget just got sexy, fun, and delicious. I just took a bite out of PearBudget Beta, a web-based application for creating a household spending plan and record. PearBudget is created on the success of the popular PearBudget Spreadsheet, which has been downloaded around the interweb over 100 thousand times.

PearBudget is a simple to use application for tracking monthly expenses, even those irregular costs that can bite you in the butt. It takes under 15 minutes to setup a new budget plan using the easy-to-follow wizard. Budgeting categories are highly customizable to help determine if your income meets your expenditures.

PearBudget is not trying to be the next Quicken, Microsoft Money, or Moneydance by offering lots of complex features. Rather, the goal of PearBudget is to offer users a simple way to “pare-down” the complexities of other budgetary tools. With PearBudget you no longer need to go bananas tracking the cost of apples and oranges. But, if you’re looking for a way to integrate your online banking and budgeting with a single solution, Pear Budget may not be enough to meet your needs.

Product: PearBudget Beta
Rating: 4 out of 5
Pros: Simple, stunning design. Easy and fun to use. Can try without creating a darn account. Exceptional documentation.
Cons: Does not import transactions. Downloading data is cumbersome.
Company: www.PearBudget.com
Cost: Beta is free! $3 per month after Beta
Browsers: Firefox, Opera, Safari, Internet Explorer
Processors: Universal

PearBudget Beta is free to use but will cost $3 per month when fully released. The application runs smoothly on Firefox, Opera, Safari, and Internet Explorer (but not IE6).

Highlights:

PearBudget is a stunning piece of ripe fruit. The user interface is clean and delicious. The husband and wife team (Charlie and Sarah Park) behind this slick application really know a thing or two about designing smart user interfaces. The setup of my own budget plan was easy given the straightforward wizard and the awesome documentation. Too many times a product is released with rotten user instructions and FAQs. This is not the case with PearBudget as the product documentation is wickedly awesome.

pearbudget_overview1.gif

Other tasty bits include:

  • Create a budget plan without registering for an account.
  • Elegantly simple. No extra fluffy features to boggle your brain.
  • Gives you budgetary results quickly.
  • Security is not a concern since personal banking data is not collected.
  • Download budget data into a spreadsheet.

Lowlights:

PearBudget does not support the import of transactions from a bank account. So those who dislike data entry will not be thrilled with entering all receipts by hand. This is a minor quibble as I prefer entering this data myself and have been doing this in Quicken for years. I simply don’t trust an outside application with my personal banking information. Besides, entering my own data takes minutes a week and keeps me honest with how much I’ve spent.

Another minor quibble with PearBudget is I find using the application to download budget information into a spreadsheet cumbersome and confusing. The documentation outlines the steps well, however, clicking my email address to either download my data or delete my account is a little scary. I could see a case where a user accidentally deletes their account in the attempt to download budget data. Perhaps PearBudget could use a dashboard to contain and separate various “account management” features such as file download, settings, and account deletion.

Should I Buy?

Overall I rate PearBudget an outstanding four squawks out of five (). The application does what it sets out to do by providing a streamlined and simple way to manage a household budget. I figure the tasty user interface and witty instructions are an added bonus.

You may like PearBudget if you don’t mind data entry, want a very detailed budget plan and record, and don’t require more complex financial software features (like tracking mutual funds or stock prices).

Your two cents:

  1. Peter March 26th, 2008

    I used the PearBudget spreadsheet a while back. I’ll give the website a go. Thanks.

  2. CJ March 27th, 2008

    Nice review.
    Do you know when they came out with the web-based app? Feels like it was only a few months ago that I downloaded the spreadsheet version of this. This new beta looks really slick.

  3. julie March 27th, 2008

    I don’t have a comment about the pear software but just wanted to say that I love your blog. I just subscribed. I am so aligned with *most* of your thoughts. (I disagree about renting vs owning a home)

    Is your day job in the writing field?

  4. fox March 27th, 2008

    Peter: Be sure to comment your thoughts!

    CJ: I’m not certain when this Beta was released. The PearBudget people are available via: contact [at] pearbudget [dot] com though.

    Julie: Thank you for the compliments! *blush* Indeed, the “rent vs. own” topic is a popular debate. I welcome all viewpoints so don’t be shy! As per my day job, I’m pretty much a “jack of all trades, master of nothing” kind of girl. I have a pretty weird and diverse software background. I do some writing at work, but nothing creative or notable. I mostly write instructions for uber geeks to follow. Albeit, they usually have a nice way of telling me where to go. 😉

  5. Hey, fox! It was great chatting by e-mail after this posted. I wanted to thank you again for this review, and to answer CJ’s question: We launched the web app on January 2nd, and we just took it out of beta in the last few days. It took us about two years to get it launched, so we’re really excited to have it out there.

    Even though it’s out of beta, you can actually create a budget and try the full program out for free. You can go through the setup wizard, get a feel for what the program is like, and see if it’s something that’ll be useful, and you don’t even need to enter your e-mail address to do that (as fox mentions in her review). If you decide you want to save your data, you can easily create an account (and you can cancel it at any point).

    Anyway, thanks again, squawkfox! We really do appreciate your review, and we look forward to reading more of your posts! And, to squawkfox’s readers, if any of you have any feedback, comments, or questions we can help you with, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us. Just shoot a note to my first name [at] pearbudget.com, and it’ll get right to me.

    Thanks!
    Charlie

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