ClearCheckbook's Blog, News & Updates

What have we been up to since the ClearCheckbook version 5 update?

9/4/2020 in ClearCheckbook Updates

ClearCheckbook version 5 was launched on August 15th and since then we've been making a lot of updates to improve the speed of the site.

If you feel like ClearCheckbook has been loading and responding a little quicker than normal, you're not imagining things! We've been hard at work upgrading many aspects of both the hardware and software running ClearCheckbook to help improve response and load times.

Some of the updates we've made:
  • Doubled the RAM in our database - This improves data caching which dramatically decreases the time it takes to look up items in the database
  • Separated sessions, job queue and cache into separate databases - This helps the site make different types of requests for information without causing a data backlog
  • Updated the server configuration to better handle higher traffic periods - Adding more CPUs during high traffic period helps throughput and response time
  • Updated asset compression and cache expiration - This speeds things up by telling the browser to store certain files for a longer period of time
  • Changed the home page slightly and changed image formats - Changing the layout of the home page helped us remove some of the files that were loading and using up unnecessary bandwidth
  • Added a slight delay in the auto-complete fields - Rather than querying the database every time a keystroke is made, it will now ping the database a few tenths of a second after the last ping.

We hope these improvements have been noticeable and have helped make the site feel a little snappier. We'll continue to monitor various aspects of the site and work on making speed and response improvements as needed.

How to fix being logged out even with the 'Remember Me' option chosen

8/20/2020 in ClearCheckbook Updates

If you're experiencing the issue of needing to log back in every few hours even if you have the 'Remember Me' option selected when signing in, you just need to clear your browser's cache/cookie data for ClearCheckbook.

We discovered that some users who were logged into ClearCheckbook while the upgrade to Version 5 was taking place might be experiencing this problem. It comes down to your browser having cookies from the old version of ClearCheckbook which are conflicting with those set by the current version.

Your browser should give you the ability to clear the cache and private data for specific websites. To learn how to do this, you can consult the FAQ/Help docs in your specific browser.

For example, doing this in Firefox is very straightforward. Simply load the Preferences and then click on Privacy & Security. Next, click on the Manage Data button under the Cookies and Site Data section. You can type clearcheckbook.com into the search box and then remove all the data.

This will remove all cookies. Once the cookies are removed, simply sign out of ClearCheckbook if you're currently signed in, and then sign in again clicking the 'Remember Me' option.

Welcome to ClearCheckbook Version 5!

8/16/2020 in ClearCheckbook News

After nearly two years of development and testing, we're extremely happy to announce the update to ClearCheckbook Version 5 is complete! Check out many of the new features and updates here: v5 Release Notes

Version 5 has over 100 updates, new features and bug fixes all on top of a new development framework. In addition to the new framework, all of the 3rd party libraries we use have been updated which will help make updates and new feature additions much easier moving forward.

The site doesn't look any different, what changed?
One of our biggest goals with the Version 5 upgrade was to make sure the site looked and behaved like everyone has grown used to. Almost the entirety of the updates apply to the part of the site you don't see. We call this the backend and it's the code that actually runs all of the logic behind ClearCheckbook.

Why was this update necessary?
The last version of ClearCheckbook was running on a development framework that was initially implemented in 2008 and then heavily updated in 2014. While we were keeping up with the latest in security measures, we started to realize that the framework was getting outdated and we weren't able to keep some features working correctly (ie: Automatic Backups to Microsoft OneDrive being disabled).

Many of the 3rd party APIs we deal with were updating and would stop working with the old version of ClearCheckbook. In an effort to stay on top of this, we started development of Version 5 back in late 2018. Version 5 runs on an entirely new development framework which has a much more active development community. This means it's extremely easy to keep the underlying code that runs ClearCheckbook updated with the latest security patches and version updates.

Taking security and privacy to the next level
ClearCheckbook was built with privacy and security in mind and the idea that your financial data is yours. Staying true to these goals, we've updated how our "Lost Password" function works and added a Trusted Devices feature that works in conjunction with Two-Factor Authentication (2FA). Speaking of 2FA, we also implemented a way to access your account if you get locked out due to losing access to your authenticator app.

The new ClearCheckbook Knowledge Base
The previous Help / FAQ section was very limited in its scope and only addressed the most basic of questions about the various tools and features ClearCheckbook has to offer. We knew that Version 5 was the perfect opportunity to build up an extremely extensive Knowledge Base that covers how to use every feature on the site. The amount of detail and information contained within the Knowledge Base is enormous. Each Knowledge Base article is filled with screenshots and full explanations on any features/settings specific to that page.

The Knowledge Base is broken down into sections (General, Tools, Reports, Settings and Apps). Each parent section has sub sections related to each tool or setting. You can find the updated Knowledge Base by clicking on the Help / FAQ link in the Support section at the bottom of the page. A direct link is here: ClearCheckbook Knowledge Base.

A special thanks to all the Version 5 beta testers
The amount of feedback we received during the testing phase of Version 5 was overwhelmingly helpful. Thank you to everyone who has been using Version 5 for the last seven months. You've helped us find and fix many issues we never would have caught in our own testing. Beta testers - you know who you are and thank you!

What if I notice an issue or find an error?
Version 5 went through seven months of beta testing with hundreds of active users so we feel pretty confident that most issues were found and fixed. If you do happen to notice something not working correctly, please message us through the Contact Us link at the bottom right side of the page.

Looking toward the future

As mentioned earlier, Version 5 sets some extremely solid foundation for future updates and new features. We have a huge list of updates that we plan on making now that Version 5 is released. We'll post more information about the next round of new features and updates when they're being launched.

When I built what would eventually become ClearCheckbook in my college apartment back in 2005, I never could have imagined what the site and apps have turned into. If someone had told me the site would help nearly half a million users manage a fifth of a billion transactions, I don't think I would have believed them.

Thanks everyone for the continued support!

-Brandon

Automatic Backups to Google Drive will need to be re-authenticated

8/12/2020 in ClearCheckbook Updates

The current Google Drive authentication tokens will no longer be valid after we upgrade to ClearCheckbook version 5 on Saturday August 15th @ 10pm EDT

If you currently have Automatic Backups enabled to Google Drive, you will need to re-authenticate ClearCheckbook with Google drive after we perform the upgrade to Version 5. We're using an updated Google Drive API and the current authentication strings aren't compatible with the new version.

This does not affect Dropbox users. If you have backups enabled to Dropbox, they will continue to work properly after the upgrade to Version 5.

How to Stick to Your Financial New Year's Resolutions

1/22/2020 in Money Management Tips
As we enter 2020, this New Year in particular is proving to be a popular time to set resolutions and goals for self-improvement. Due to it being the beginning of a new decade, more people are deciding to put their shoulder to the wheel and achieve their biggest dreams and aspirations for the next ten years. Stay on track with your resolutions by following some basic guidelines.

According to research, one of the most popular resolutions is improving one’s finances, with over half of those studied having some financial goals on their list. Unfortunately, resolutions are often very ambitious and fall apart soon after they’re made—56% of those surveyed stated that they were never able to follow through.

But is this really due to the failure of people’s ambition? One could argue that the real reason resolutions don’t succeed is because we’ve never truly learned the proper way to go about a resolution. So if you’ve set a financial goal for the next year, or even decade, and are worried about losing track of it, here are some tips on how to best stick to it!

Say No to Vague Goals
The best personal finance goals are the ones that are clearly defined because they’re the hardest to stray from. They also require more thought and planning than a vague goal. For example, if a person decides their financial plan for the new year is to “save more money,” they may have no path laid out on how to complete this. In addition to that, they could have no way of gauging when they’ve achieved success, which can make it easy to give up.

Instead, choose goals that have clearly defined ways to be completed. Instead of saying you want to save more, go into your savings account and see how much you saved on average last year. Do this by taking the amount of money you put into your savings account and divide that by 12, so that you know how much money you saved every month. Now make it your goal to save 25% more than that last year, or maybe even 50% more. This could mean going from putting $100 into savings every month, to $125-$150. Now you know what your goal is, can reasonably measure it, and have a set strategy in place for how to achieve it.

Here is a list of actionable goals you can set, compared to more common, vague, financial goals:
Vague GoalsActionable Goals
Improve your credit score.Bring my credit score up by 50-100 points by making monthly payments on time and keeping my card balance below 30%.
Save for retirement.Start contributing 5% of my income to a 401k or Roth IRA every month and meet with my employer to find the best options.
Make more money.Earn $1000-$2000 more this year by investing in dividend-yielding stocks, creating a side hustle, or working towards a promotion.


Automate What You Can
One of the other issues with resolutions is how easy it is to simply forget or get distracted from your original plan. The daily bustle of life can be incredibly hard to navigate, and adding a new routine to this certainly doesn’t ease the struggle. In order to get around this, use the latest technology to automate your financial strategy.

New fintech apps and software are being developed constantly that help users manage their finances, and it’s important to make the most of this if you really want to have the best chance of achieving success. The benefits of these platforms are that most of them allow for some form of automation, meaning they’ll be doing the work for you, or making the work easier to complete from your smartphone or laptop.

To get started, sign up for a ClearCheckbook account if you haven't already done so. Our tools and features help you manage all areas of your finances from reporting to budgeting and account balancing. You can also look into online bank accounts with helpful features such as automatic savings, so that every time you make a purchase or receive a paycheck, a small amount of money goes into your savings account without requiring any extra work.

Find Support
For those who complete their New Year’s Resolutions, many find that one of the things that drives the most success is having a third party to push them to complete their goals. For those trying to get in shape, this could mean involving a friend in their fitness journey or meeting with a personal trainer every few weeks to monitor their progress and give them advice.

The same principle holds especially true with one’s finances. Most people get emotional when they manage their money, and this can lead to hasty decisions being made that end up hurting them in the long run. Some examples may include not budgeting properly, making investments that are too risky, or overestimating what you can realistically achieve in a year. Consider talking with a financially savvy friend to discuss your strategy and get a second opinion on your plan. If you’re able to spend the extra money, meeting with a certified financial planner could be a great way to really see your money grow, and have the support to continue sticking to your financial goals.

Don’t Get Discouraged
While all of these strategies play an important role in helping complete New Year's Resolutions, it’s important to also remember that no one is perfect, and everyone is going to have slip-ups along the way. This is also where most resolutions fall apart because they can lead to a negative mindset. When someone overspends one day, their logic might be “I’ve already overspent today, so what does it hurt if I miss my goal tomorrow?” This leads to a negativity cycle which eventually causes the entire resolution to fall apart.

Instead, create a mindset where each failure becomes a learning opportunity. If one month you missed a credit card payment and are worried about a negative impact on your credit score, plan to spend less the next month so you can make more than the minimum payment going forward. By doing this, you’ve created a better opportunity for yourself by accepting a small failure.

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