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Welcome Purdue CSR 342 students!

1/29/2007 in ClearCheckbook News
Last semester the CSR 342 course was the first to use ClearCheckbook as part of the course curriculum. The Professor and I had a few meetings to discuss how it could be used and it fit in very well with the exercise on spending.

It appears that they are using ClearCheckbook again as several Purdue students are registering. Last semester the course held around 300 students and I'm assuming this semester will be the same.

So, welcome CSR 342 students from a December 2005 Purdue Alumni. I also took CSR 342 in the Fall of 2005 before ClearCheckbook was even open to the public and for my personal use.

If any of you have any questions on how to use the site, please post here in the comments or send us a message by clicking the "Contact Us" link at the bottom of every page.

Weekly Update: January 20, 2007 - January 26, 2007

1/28/2007 in Miscellaneous
Statistics wise, the stats are about the same as they have been the last two weeks. No real major increase or decrease in the amount of new members or entries made.

There have been a few major updates to the site since the last Weekly Update however. Checkbot has been updated and the new Spending Limits for categories have been implemented. There has already been an overwhelming amount of people setting up their monthly category spending limits and that's great to see.

Keep on sending in those requests / questions / comments as we love to read them.

New Feature: Spending Limits on Categories!

1/21/2007 in ClearCheckbook Updates
The time has finally arrived... you can now set monthly limits on your spending categories! Members have been requesting this feature for quite some time and we're proud to announce it's finally here. This will be a great tool for helping you set budgets each month.

Spending Limits Manager Screenshot

Spending Limits Manager screenshot.


In the new Monthly Spending Limits manager you can quickly add, view, edit and remove limits for accounts and categories. Forget using envelopes to manage your money each month, let us do it for you automatically. Once you set up a limit for an account or category, as soon as you make a purchase in that account or category it deducts from your limit and shows you how much you've spent.

As you can see from the screenshot on the left, my budgeting could use a little work. Now that the limits manager has been set up, it'll be a lot easier to judge how much I can spend on different categories each month.

You really need to check it out and see how awesome and easy it is to use. You can check out the screenshots if you don't already have an account with us.

Try it out and let us know what you think by posting here in the comments!

New Site Updates: Nav Structure and Checkbot

1/20/2007 in ClearCheckbook Updates
There have been a few minor updates made today. The first and most obvious update to our members is the re-organization of the navigation structure when you log in. Now, all the helpful tools are placed in a "Tools" link and are no longer in "Settings."

The links that now reside in "Tools" are Checkbot, Reminders, Spending Limits, Scratch Pad, Importing Records and Exporting Records. Breaking these away from Settings and putting them in Tools is an obvious decision. In the Settings menu you'll find, strangely enough, the settings that will help you manage your ClearCheckbook.com account.

In addition to the navigation structure update, CheckBot has also been updated. You can now transfer money from one account to another with Checkbot. The text you need to type in to make a transfer is located in the CheckBot Manager (which is now in Tools -> Manage Checkbot).

Weekly Site Update: January 13, 2007 - January 19, 2007

1/19/2007 in Miscellaneous
It's been another strong week as far as new members go. We've had 178 new members join the site since last Friday. Our total number of active users is now over 1,700. Our members have also made over 3,000 entries since last Friday. This is great news and we're glad to see such large numbers.

There have been a few minor updates to the site this week. The first update was to help make the pages download faster. All the pages are now Gzipped when they are sent to your browser. This method is reducing the size of each page by 65% on average and is causing the pages to download about 3x faster than they used to. The next step will be improving the efficiency of the code that generates the pages so they'll load even faster. The second update this week fixes a problem with editing the amounts of entries over $1,000. The comma in the amount was causing some issues, but this has been resolved.

There are several updates slated for this week. I won't talk about them in this post because you'll see new posts made about them as the updates are finished. We've also figured out what we're doing for the one year anniversary and we're sure everyone will love it. It will take the ability to update and view your account to a whole new level.

Keep blogging and spreading the word about the site. If you see ClearCheckbook mentioned in a blog post or article somewhere, please post about it here in the comments or send us a message and let us know.

Tip: Using the Credit page

1/17/2007 in ClearCheckbook News
In order to use the Credit page, you need to have at least one credit card set up on the site. To do this, go to the "Settings" tab and click on "Manage Account Types" and make sure one of your accounts has the type "Credit Card."

When you make purchases on your credit card and add them to the site, they will show up on the "Credit" page. To get to the "Credit" page, click on "Accounts" and then click on "Credit." This page will list all your credit card purchases. If you have multiple credit cards, you can use the drop down box to select a specific one.

The main goal of the Credit page is to allow you to "pay off" your credit card bill and identify which purchases were included on this bill. To do this, when it comes time to pay off your credit card bill, select the check box next to each payment listed. When you have selected all the payments on the bill, click the "Pay Purchases" button.

This also serves an additional purpose of making sure that all entries on your credit card statement are accounted for. There's nothing worse than trying to track down some purchase you don't remember making. Keeping track of everything in ClearCheckbook will help reduce these headaches.

After you click "Pay Purchases" it will take you to an "Add Entry" type page that automatically fills in the total amount of your bill (assuming you're paying it off in full) as well as all the payments included on this bill.

You can enter the rest of the information, like the description, account you're paying with, etc. When you are done, click "Pay Card" and it will archive all the credit card purchases for that bill and replace it with your payment.

If you want to go back and see what purchases were included on any payment, go to the "Credit" page and there is a section that says "Paid Credit Card Purchases." This section will list all your paid payments and you can click on the name of the payment to see all the purchases that were paid off for that specific bill.

This is a really powerful feature that helps a lot of people, but I know that some people are often confused and don't know how to use it. Hopefully this helps clear some things up and you can start using the Credit page to help you manage your credit card payments.

Weekly Site Update: January 5, 2007 - January 11, 2007

1/12/2007 in Miscellaneous
This week has been pretty good for ClearCheckbook. We've had over 140 new members join the site since last Friday. That brings our total number of active users to more than 1,600. There have also been over 3,200 entries made on the site since last Friday.

I've been getting a lot of good feedback from everyone with ideas and feature requests to add to the site. Please keep sending these in because I'm going to start working on the next version of the site soon. I plan to have Version 2 of the site up and operational by the 1 year anniversary of the site (May 19, 2007).

The new features / updates made to the site this week are: 1) Updated reports page. Instead of building everyones report every night, we give you the option to update it whenever you want. 2) New option to be logged out when you close the browser. 3) The Blog! 4) Several other small upgrades that aren't really worth mentioning but will help improve the usability of the site.

Keep telling your friends and family about the website. We're growing really fast and it's great to see how many people the site is helping stay on top of their money. The more people who can benefit from this, the better. So spread the word!

Tip: How to use the Jive page

1/10/2007 in ClearCheckbook News
The Jive page is a very helpful tool for you to keep track of your money and check all of your purchases with what your bank is saying you made. This is basically the Web 2.0 equivalent of the century old checkbook balancing tool.

When you load up the Jive page you will see all your accounts listed at the top of the page. You can click the check mark next to the specific accounts you wish to display. For example, I have a checking account with Bank of America. I regularly make purchases with my debit card and check my Bank of America account online.

So if I wanted to check and see if my purchases match up with what Bank of America says I've made, I log into my Bank of America site and click on the checking account. I view the list of purchases and deposits and then go back to my Jive page on ClearCheckbook and select each entry. This lets me see if there are any entries in my account that I did not make.

A great example of how this is useful is something that happened to me recently. I was traveling and flew into the Chicago Ohare airport and bought some pizza at one of the vendors for lunch. I was charged the 6 bucks or whatever the day after I made the purchase. A month later another charge for the same amount was made from the same pizza place at the airport. Since that withdrawal wasn't in my ClearCheckbook jive page I knew something was wrong. I contacted the bank and told them the story and had them credit my account back. They did and everything was fine. Without jiving my account I probably never would have found this and lost 6 bucks.

After you jive all the entries your bank account lists, there is a total at the top of the page that says "Jived:" and some amount. This amount should match what your current balance is on your banks website. If things don't match up, you know something is wrong and can do some detective work to figure out what that is.

So in short, the Jive page is there for you to check with your bank statement and make sure all your withdrawals and deposits are accounted for and no one has messed up and charged extra purchases to your account.

If you have a story about how you use the jive page or how it helped you find an error in your bank statement, post about it here in the comments!

Several Behind the Scenes updates

1/9/2007 in ClearCheckbook Updates
We're in the process of conducting some major updates to the code that runs ClearCheckbook.com in an effort to make things smoother and faster for everyone. Unfortunately, the updates we're making can cause some unwelcome side-effects such as seeing PHP warnings or errors. If you come across any of these please report it ASAP with the contact us form at the bottom of the page.

Here are a few of the things the updates are addressing:

1) You can now log in with a "Keep me logged in" option. By default from now on when you log in, you will be logged out when you close the browser. If you would like to stay logged in even after you close the browser, click the "Stay logged in" check box under the login form. This is something people have been requesting for a while and it's now in place.

2) Anti-caching measures. More recently a lot of people have been sending us messages saying that this or that isn't working properly. 95% of the time this is due to your browser "caching" the pages. (Read more about caching here.) Generally what you can do to alleviate this is to force your browser to refresh and clear out the cache (or Temporary Files as Internet Explorer calls it). If you ever experience something not updating, try refreshing the page a few times. If it still doesn't work, clear out your cache and try again. If that fails, contact us and let us know.

The Anti-caching measures we put in place today should help reduce that significantly, but dealing with issues like this isn't an exact science and there are always exceptions to the rule.

3) The third big thing we've been working on is the new way to handle Reports. It seems the script that gets run each night isn't behaving properly and is stopping before it creates all the reports. We're debating the idea of whether or not to even run the script at night but rather let you, the users, click a button whenever you want your reports to update and it will update only yours. This is the method that's in place right now and we will probably stick with this until we can optimize the report building code a little more.

To sum things up, a lot has been going on behind the scenes the last couple of days. Everything we're doing is to make things better for you, the user. If you notice any errors or things that don't work, please report it immediately using the contact form at the bottom of every page.

New Years Resolution: Take control of your finances

1/8/2007 in ClearCheckbook News
With New Years a week behind us, have you stuck to your resolution to keep your checkbook balanced or keep a better watch on your budget? If you made a resolution regarding your spending, ClearCheckbook.com is here to help you keep your resolution and help you stay on top of your finances.

With our easy to use interface you can keep track of all your savings, checking and credit card accounts in one place. You can balance your checkbook, view reports on your spending, import and export your records, plus update your account from anywhere with CheckBot.

Do you know someone who made a money related resolution this year? If so, let them know about ClearCheckbook. We're positive that after just a few weeks of using the site they'll be thanking you.

Happy New Year! We hope that all our current members continue to enjoy using the site and that new members will continue to join and experience how easy we make managing your money.

Improved load time of the reports page

1/7/2007 in ClearCheckbook Updates
Many people, as well as I, had noted that the reports page was loading extremely slow each time you tried to load the page. Part of this long load time is that there are over 90,000 entries in ClearCheckbook and it had to crunch through all of those when generating the reports.

What happens now is that each night (morning) at around 1:30PST a script is run that generates all the reports and saves them as a static file. This static file is then loaded whenever you access the page.

Within the next couple of days you will have the ability to re-generate your reports page whenever you would like. This will create a new static page that will be loaded the next time you access your reports.

Update: January 8, 2007
After the reports are generated tonight, you will have the ability to rebuild the reports whenever you would like.

New ClearCheckbook.com Blog

1/6/2007 in ClearCheckbook News
In order to bring you the most up-to-date news about ClearCheckbook, tips on how to use the site, articles about managing your money, and much more, we have decided to create this blog.

Anyone who has an account on the site will be able to leave feedback on the blog in the form of comments. Rest assured that your email address will not be displayed if you leave a comment. The only thing that will appear is your username. If you have an article you would like us to publish, use the Contact Us form and send it to us. If we think it will be helpful to other people, we'll post it.

We went ahead and copied the more important site updates into the blog from the previous upgrades page. If you would like to see the old list of all the updates, you can click here.

There is also an RSS feed for the blog. You will be able to subscribe to it and be notified right away when a new post is made. You can access the RSS feed in Firefox by clicking on the orange icon in the address bar.

Checkbot Updated

1/2/2007 in ClearCheckbook Updates
There was a bug with CheckBot that was recently fixed. The problem was occurring when some people used text messages to update their accounts. They were getting flooded with 6 or 7 text messages after they would send their message off.

The reason this was happening is that some cell phones were sending additional messages to CheckBot and CheckBot was in return responding with a message saying it didn't understand the last message.

For some reason, some cellphone service providers find it necessary to send several messages saying "This was sent with a text message. You can respond and I'll get a text message in response." The messages varied, but the result was the same.

The fix was easy, we simply told CheckBot not to respond to any message it didn't understand that were over 10 characters long. For those of you who had experienced this problem, please try again and let us know if that fixed the issue.

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