Announcing Cash Tracker

I’ve undertaken a personal project in my spare time. It’s a personal finance application I’m calling Cash Tracker. You can read the technical details on the Cash Tracker page.

The idea for Cash Tracker came to me when I was trying to find an easy way track my own finances. I wanted something I could put my income and bills into and get a simple projection of my account balance throughout the year. Then, if I didn’t mind making adjustments later to reconcile (thus improving the projections as time goes by), I wanted to be able to enter a manual transaction here and there, too. But my main focus was keeping it simple. So, I wrote a very simple program that reads in a set of recurrences (bills, income) and transactions (non-recurring expenses or adjustments to bills/income). Then, it displays a set of numbers that are designed to help give me peace of mind about the future, like my project low and high balances for the year. To help me reconcile with my balance at the bank as the year goes on, I had the program output a running total I could open in Excel and compare with the bank.

Right now, that’s pretty much all the Cash Tracker does. It’s ugly, but it works as well as I need it to and keeps me from worrying about my finances. The project I’m undertaking is to bring Cash Tracker from “personal helper” to “helper to a lot of people” by making it easier for people to use who can’t write code or format a flat file correctly; people who don’t know what a CSV file is or what XML looks like. And, of course, I want to bring the Cash Tracker to other people like me who just don’t want to waste time on a “big” personal finance application, but still want to feel secure financially and have some numbers to support themselves with. I’m doing this solely because my Cash Tracker has helped me organize my own finances so much over the past 3 months.

I think Cash Tracker will appeal to many people because it makes maintaining finances so painless. Now that I have all my income and expenses into the program, it takes me just a few minutes every week or two to make the current projected balance line up with my actual balance. That includes the time I spend editing ugly, tab-delimited files. I am sure I can speed up the process even more.

So, the goal right now is to get the Cash Tracker into a form that other people can actually use. Eventually, I’d like to get it to “auto-magical” status, which would look something like this:

  1. Select your financial institution
  2. Enter your login credentials
  3. Hit “Track It!”
  4. <magic>
  5. View a list of your regular expenses and income, your projected high and low balances this year, your projected balance for any date in the future, etc.

We’re talking zero maintenance. I believe we can get there, but we’re going to take baby steps.

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