ClearCheckbook's Blog, News & Updates

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 While we were keeping up with the latest in security measures, we started to realize that the framework was getting outdated and we weren't able to keep some features working correctly (ie: Automatic Backups to Microsoft OneDrive being disabled).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

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.

ClearCheckbook's 2019 Roundup and What's Ahead for 2020

1/3/2020 in ClearCheckbook News

The main focus of 2019 has been on rewriting ClearCheckbook for our latest update, but we also hit some big numbers and milestones.

ClearCheckbook Version 5 had been taking most of our time this past year and we hope to have it launched soon. You can check out the full blog post for more information about what new features and updates this will bring. In short, the version 5 upgrade has completely rewritten ClearCheckbook for the latest versions of frameworks and programming languages the site is built around. This will help make updates faster and easier in the future.

ClearCheckbook hit a big milestone in 2019 and surpassed 400,000 registered users with a half a million users set firmly in our sights. Our users also added over 18 million transactions during the year which brings the total number of transactions we're tracking to around 112 million!

This growth and activity has also brought with it a few hiccups along the way. We've experienced some site lagging and slowdowns this year and have worked on mitigating this by doubling our database memory and increasing the number of CPUs the site has access to during high traffic times. We will continue to monitor traffic and site speeds and adjust these metrics as needed but we're very optimistic this will address a lot of the slow response times.

We also want to thank everyone who supports ClearCheckbook by upgrading to ClearCheckbook Premium. You're helping us to keep improving the site and keep the site running smoothly. We've never received any money from investors, advertising or any other means aside from ClearCheckbook Premium upgrades, so thank you again! If you haven't upgraded, you can always help us by spreading the word about ClearCheckbook to family, friends and coworkers.

Here's to great things coming to ClearCheckbook in 2020!

Brandon OBrien
Founder, ClearCheckbook.com

Upgrading ClearCheckbook hardware due to increased growth

1/2/2020 in ClearCheckbook Updates

ClearCheckbook has been growing and is quickly reaching the limits of our current server setup. To address this, we're doubling the memory for our database and increasing the number of CPUs that serve the site.

With the increased traffic we've been seeing, the site has had started exhausting its current resources. This expresses itself by the site running extremely slow or showing a timeout warning. We're doubling the amount of memory given to our database and are dialing in the increased number of CPUs required to help serve the site as quickly as possible.

There might be some more slowdowns in the site loading times while the database rebuilds its cache.

We look forward to ClearCheckbook's continued growth and all of the new features that ClearCheckbook V5 will bring.

The Next Big Update for ClearCheckbook - Version 5

10/30/2019 in ClearCheckbook News
The current version of ClearCheckbook (v4) was built on code and technologies from around 2009. While we still adhere to the latest in security and privacy measures, many of the frameworks and software versions we're using are getting old and will soon stop being supported. We've run into several cases where we want to implement a new feature or tool but are limited by our older code not being supported.

About a year ago we started planning a huge upgrade that will put ClearCheckbook on the latest frameworks with better infrastructure for future-proofing the site and apps. Our goal was to keep the front facing website (what you see and interact with on a daily basis) the same, all while taking advantage of the new framework to optimize speed, performance and security.

We’re finally at the point where we’re beginning testing of ClearCheckbook v5 on the same hosting platform the site is currently running on. We’ll be running v5 through a whole slew of testing over the next few months to make sure it’s ready for you to use.

Aside from having to rewrite the backend of the site, we’ve also taken this opportunity to add several new features, tools and updates.

New Features:

  • ‘Trusted Devices’ feature in conjunction with 2 factor authentication

  • Asset tracker - Manage and track assets such as homes, vehicles and other tangible assets.

  • Account Text Reports - reports similar to the Category text reports but for accounts.

  • Payee Text Reports - again, reports similar to the Category text reports but for payees.

  • Dark CSS theme - ClearCheckbook can be switched into dark mode to make it easier on the eyes

  • Net Worth Reports - See how your net worth has changed over the past 2 years with this new report.

  • ClearCheckbook Knowledge Base - We've rebuilt the Help / Support section to make a much more informative Knowledge Base with screenshots and much more detailed instructions on how to use the site.


Updates / Bug Fixes:

  • Auto-complete updated to show more information (such as which account/category will be auto-filled)

  • Ability to disable auto-complete auto-fill features so it only fills the text

  • Manually enter ‘last price’ for investments that aren’t automatically updated

  • Hide suggestions in the Import auto-categorization tool

  • Reminders will post deposits before withdrawals

  • Payee beta reports - ability to sort by sum column

  • Monthly Summary - fixed bug that was preventing accounts and categories from showing up alphabetically

  • Transaction History tool - link to view the current transaction so you can see what changed

  • Debt snowball - additional payments can now have a date associated with them

  • Reconcile tool - you can now edit or delete reconciliations

  • Separate withdrawals and deposits sums in a reconciliation report

  • If you change the number of transactions to view per page on the register, that setting is saved instead of resetting each time you log out.

  • Profit & Loss report - updated colors to make it easier to identify positive and negative numbers

  • Latest Transactions gadget - selection to view only transactions for a specific account

  • You can now categorize transfers when creating them

  • Updated how the 'lost password' form works to make it more secure

  • Budgets - you can now see a breakdown of how the amount spent is being calculated

  • Payee reports - export to CSV functionality

  • 2FA bypass - allows you to have a bypass code sent to a trusted contact method in case you can't access your authenticator app

  • Investment Portfolio - autocomplete for symbol and note fields in Add Investment form

  • Income Budgets - show the amount differently if you generate more income than the budget limit

  • Debt Snowball - you can now see how much you've paid toward principal and interest for each budget by expanding the history

  • Debt Snowball - you can now see which snowball methods will save you the most money or be paid off the fastest

  • Ability to assign all No Account transactions to an existing account from the search results page

  • Made it easier to delete all No Account transactions

  • Ability to quickly delete all expired reminders

  • Ability to turn an existing transaction into a recurring transaction

  • Tweaks + Bug fixes - Over 45 small tweaks and bug fixes to help make the site perform as expected


We’ve also greatly optimized and reduced the number of database calls made from each page load. This will help dramatically speed up the response time of the website.

As mentioned earlier, now that we’ve got the new version running on the same hosting platform as ClearCheckbook currently is, we’ll be doing our own internal testing. After we’re happy with that we’ll be asking for some beta testers to run the new code through its paces and look for any issues we might not have come across. We’ll keep you updated on progress as it goes on!

Updated on August 5, 2020 to reflect more updates and feature additions

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