PearBudget

Frequently-Asked Questions

If you have a question that you can’t find here, please reach out on Twitter (@pearbudget) or send us an e-mail (help@pearbudget.com).

Fun Stuff

Does PearBudget have an iPhone app?

We sure do! Or … at least, we have an iPhone-optimized interface that you can put on your iPhone, just like an app from the app store.

  1. Go to www.pearbudget.com on your iPhone, and log in to your account.
  2. Once you’ve logged in, click on the “+” sign in the middle of the bottom of the iPhone screen. Instead of a plus sign, you might see a box with an arrow coming out of it (pointing to the right). Clicking on that should get the same result.
  3. You should see some options, one of which says “Add to Home Screen”
  4. On the screen that comes up, confirm that you do want to save it to your home screen (click on the “add” button in the upper-right corner)
  5. On your home screen (the “start screen” that shows all of your apps), you’ll now see a PearBudget icon.

You can now drag that icon to the very first start screen, or stick it in your “home row” (at the bottom of the screen), or put it anywhere you’d like.

Does PearBudget have an Android app?

PearBudget has an Android interface … just go to pearbudget.com/a and you should be all set!

If you want to add PearBudget to your home screen, here’s the process:

  1. Using your browser, go to pearbudget.com/a and sign in.
  2. Click “bookmark > add bookmark”.
  3. On your Android “home screen”, click-and-hold on the blank spot where you want the icon to go.
  4. You’ll get a menu box … go to “shortcut > select bookmark” and then pick the PearBudget bookmark

(If you have corrections on that “app adding” process, please let us know! ... We don’t actually have Android phones ourselves!)

Does PearBudget have a mobile phone interface?

Yes. (See the above answers for iPhones and Androids, in case that’s what you’re looking for.) For regular mobile phones, just go to pearbudget.com/m, and you should see the bare-bones interface, useful for quick on-the-go entry.

What’s this I hear about you buying me coffee and donuts?

Several times a year, we meet up with PearBudget users (one-on-one meetings) up and down the East Coast. We meet up at a coffeehouse, buy coffee and donuts, and talk about budgeting and how PearBudget can better meet your needs. We sometimes even give presents (like personal finance books or comped months of PearBudget service).

We meet up with users in Arlington, VA, and Wayne PA around Thanksgiving and Christmas.

We meet up with users in Richmond and Williamsburg, VA, throughout the year.

Once a year, we’ll meet up with people in San Francisco and New York City.

Regardless of where you are, just e-mail us and we’ll see when we’ll be in your area, and to get on the meetup list (spaces fill up! after all: donuts!). We’re terribly friendly.

Using PearBudget

I have NO idea how much I’m spending each month. I just want an expense tracker for now. Can PearBudget do that?

Sure thing. A lot of people are in this situation: They know they should set up a budget, but they’d rather just track their expenses for a couple of months, to see what they’re spending.

PearBudget can totally work with this setup. Just mark your "planned" amounts as $0.00, and as you get receipts in, enter them in. The Review page will show that you’ve overspent your categories (since zero minus anything is negative), but you’ll be able to see what your actual spending has been.

That being said, our recommendation is that even if you have no idea what you spend, that you just guess. That way, you have a record of where you thought you might be. For example, a true story: one PearBudget user sent us a note telling us that she budgeted something like $50 for eating out for the month, and after she entered in her receipts, she realized her dining out spending was more like $300. The difference between her initial guess and the actual amount was just as useful to her as knowing how much she had spent.

I use the cash-only / “envelope budgeting” method. How does PearBudget handle that?

PearBudget is actually modeled off of the envelope method. In fact, many people who use the envelope method use PearBudget alongside it, as a record of their expenses, so they can look back over time and see how their spending habits have changed. (Don’t you wonder sometimes how much you were spending on various categories a year or two ago? PearBudget will help you see that.)

Each of your categories acts as your “digital envelope” — when you have money in the category, you can spend it. When you don’t have money in the category, it’s time to stop spending.

Switching money from one “envelope” to another is easy. Let’s say you want to move $10.00 from the “clothing” category to the “groceries” category. All you’d do would be to enter a “receipt” of $10.00 in the clothing category and a “receipt” of -$10.00 (that’s negative $10.00) in the “groceries” category. The -$10.00 will even show up as green, to highlight that it’s a credit. You’d then have an extra $10.00 in groceries. (And, if you wanted to, you could tag the entries with something like “transfer from clothing to groceries” to help you recall the transfer down the road.)

I get paid biweekly, and haven’t found a budget program that works with that. Can PearBudget handle paychecks that come in every two weeks?

Absolutely. In truth, there’s a relatively easy way to budget when you get paid biweekly, and PearBudget works well with it: Just double the amount you get per paycheck, and consider that to be your monthly income. Then, twice a year, you’ll have a “bonus” paycheck that you can use to pay down debt or put towards your savings.

The downside to this approach is that you’ll have a slightly smaller amount to budget with each month ($80 less for every $1,000 in your paycheck). The benefits, though, are that you’ll have a much simpler budgeting process, and you’ll still get those bonus paychecks twice a year, which you can put towards Things that Matter. Since PearBudget isn’t tracking debt payoff or super-long-term savings, you don’t even need to enter the bonus paychecks into PearBudget.

I have some money that I’d saved up from before I started using PearBudget. How do I record those savings, to show that that money’s available?

Entering in an existing balance is easy! But before we explain how, we’ll give some quick background on how it works.

When you enter a normal receipt into PearBudget, PearBudget looks at the amount of the receipt, and the amount that you’ve set aside in that category, and it subtracts one from the other. That is, it takes your $300 balance in groceries, and it subtracts your $50 groceries receipt, leaving you with $250. If you got a refund or a rebate, though, or if you had some other special money set aside for that category, though, you could enter it in as a negative receipt. When PearBudget sees negative receipts, it adds that amount to your category.

So if you’d already set aside $500 for a new car (or whatever) before you started using PearBudget, you can enter in a negative receipt for that category, and PearBudget will show that as money that’s now available in that category. Usually, what we recommend is that you enter in the negative receipt with a date from just before you started using PearBudget. So if you start using PearBudget in May, enter in a receipt for April 30th.

Keep in mind that if you’re starting in January, you’ll want to make sure that your category is carrying over its balance from the previous year. Also note that the carrying-over of balances only applies to Irregular categories. So make sure the category you’ve set aside money in is classified as an irregular category in PearBudget.

Where do I record the actual income that comes in?

You enter income in the same place you enter your expenses, on the Enter Your Receipts page. If you look at the drop-down box for the “category” entry, you’ll see that, at the bottom of the list of expenses are your income categories. Just pick the right income category, and the amount you enter will count as money in!

How do I record refunds / rebates / store credit?

You can record a refund or a rebate on an item just like you recorded the item itself — by entering a new receipt. However, instead of entering a positive amount for the receipt (like normal), use a negative amount. So, if you return a sweater and the store gives you $30 back, then you’d record -$30.00 in the amount field. (Make sure the new receipt is in the same category as the original receipt.) The same would be true on a $20 rebate received for a new cell phone, for example. You would enter a receipt for -$20 and put it in the same category as the original cell phone purchase.

What’s the difference between “monthly” and “irregular” categories?

Monthly Expenses

These are for expenses that you have every single month — like electric bill or groceries. At the beginning of each new month, you get a clean slate. Overspent or underspent money doesn’t roll over from one month to the next.

Irregular Expenses

These are for expenses that you have at least once a year, but not necessarily every month — like gym membership or car maintenance. The unspent money for each category rolls over from one month to the next. This allows you to save up for larger expenses, like your vacation or Christmas.

You can set up or change the amount you’re planning to spend in all of 2011 on your irregular categories here: https://pearbudget.com/set_up_2011.

Can PearBudget auto-import my spending information from my bank account?

In a word: no. There are a number of other programs that do auto-import transactions. We don’t do it, for two primary reasons:

  1. Better Budgeting: The ultimate goal of PearBudget is to help align how you think you spend money with how you actually spend money, in order to help you change your spending habits. It’s much easier to understand your spending habits when you enter your receipts yourself. When your budgeting is on auto-pilot, it’s way too easy for your spending to be on auto-pilot, too (that’s not a good thing).
  2. Better Security: It takes a lot of resources to make sure that a site with banking passwords is secure. We’re focused on providing a simple, secure budgeting resource, and we feel that incorporating bank passwords would compromise that. By not bringing your online banking passwords into the picture, we protect you and your money from any funny business.

Wait. I enter receipts in by hand? Doesn’t that take forever?

People worry that entering receipts in by hand will take a ridiculous amount of time. It really doesn’t — roughly 10 minutes a week for most people.

  1. Once a week, set aside a little time (perhaps during the commercial breaks of your favorite show?) to enter your receipts and find out how much money is available in your different categories.
  2. At the end of the month, look over how you did and make any necessary changes for the next month's budget.

That’s it!

I’d like to keep a copy of my budget / receipts on my own computer. Can I export my data to a spreadsheet (like Excel)?

Absolutely! In just a few clicks, you can save your data to your local computer, and you can open it up in Excel (or Numbers, or Open Office, or another program) to play with it, create new graphs and comparisons, and so on.

  1. On any of the main pages of the application, you should see your e-mail address in the upper-right corner of the page. Click on it. [Result: it’ll open up a pop-up box with your account information.]
  2. At the bottom of the pop-up box, you should see a line that reads “advanced user options”. Click on that link. [Result: it’ll reveal some more choices, including exporting.]
  3. Within the “export” section, pick your desired month, and whether you want to get your budget or your list of receipts. Then hit the “Export” button. [Result: you should see a box pop up with choices for opening or saving the CSV file.]
  4. Save the file to your computer, and you can open it up in any spreadsheet program.

Is there a way to export the entire year’s receipts?

Sure thing. Just click this link: https://www.pearbudget.com/export_receipts_for_year/2010

You should see an option to save a file on your computer. Once you save it, you can open it up in Excel or another spreadsheet program.

I’d like to view all of the receipts I’ve ever entered into PearBudget. Is that possible?

Absolutely! You can view all of your receipts by going to https://www.pearbudget.com/all_receipts. If you have a bunch of receipts entered, the page will take a little while to generate, so it’s safe to go get a cup of coffee after you click the link.

Is there a list of all my recurring receipts?

There sure is! https://www.pearbudget.com/recurring_receipts.

If you want to then delete one of them, just open up the category pop-up (by clicking on the category name), reveal the advanced controls (by clicking on the gray bar at the bottom of the pop-up box), and then remove the recurring receipt.

I’d like to print my budget out. Is there a “printer-friendly” version of my Plan / Review page?

Actually, your PearBudget account pages are already printer-friendly. We designed PearBudget so that if you want to print those pages out, you can, and they’re already formatted to look nice coming out of your printer. This way, you don’t have to find a special “printer-friendly” version of your data — it’s all printer-friendly.

How far ahead can I plan my budget?

Planning ahead is tricky. It’s like driving down the highway: Rather than picking the one spot 1,000 feet down the road and driving without adjusting the steering wheel, you point in the right direction and make small course adjustments as necessary.

Similarly, each month you’ll want to make small tweaks and adjustments. Maybe gasoline costs more at the gas station, so you have to adjust the amount you’re budgeting for car gas. That, in turn, will affect groceries, or clothing, or dining out.

Because of all that, we limit how far ahead you can plan your budget — you can make adjustments for past months, and the current month, and one month into the future.

We know that limitation might create some frustration. We’ve found, though, that when there aren’t limits like that, users in their zeal create budget plans for months in the future that — once they get there ’ are totally unrealistic.

What kinds of expenses should I enter? Should I include things like my mortgage? Or do I only enter in things that shift around (like dining out and entertainment)?

Ultimately, it depends on the questions you’re trying to answer.

Most people are trying to answer something like this: “Out of the money that’s come in, and the money that’s committed to immovable expenses (like my mortgage / insurance / car payment / other things), what’s left for my discretionary spending (on stuff like entertainment / dining out / clothing)?” In cases like that, we recommend entering in every receipt, even for expenses where you don’t actually get a bill (like if your insurance is auto-drafted from your checking account).

That being said, you’ll probably notice that there are a few categories that are especially problematic for you and your family. (Dining out is a big one.) Even though you’re entering in receipts in lots of categories, you’d do well to pay special attention to those “trouble” categories in particular.

What are tags?

A “tag” is a short description or keyword that you can use to label your receipts. Tags are not necessary, and many people new to PearBudget don’t use them. But they can be really useful, and once you’re comfortable with them, you can do some pretty cool things with them.

For example, Sarah and I got an oil change on our red minivan last week. We put it in the category “car maintenance.” We then used the tags “oil change” (so we’d remember what work we had done), “red minivan” (so we’d know which car had the oil change), and “Colonial Foreign Car” (so we’d know where we had the work done). None of those tags are necessary, but at the end of the year, we can look back at all of our receipts tagged with “red minivan,” and see how much it cost us over the year. Or, we can see all the work we had done over the year.

We’d write those tags into PearBudget like this (note how we use commas to separate the tags):

You can make up whatever tags you want. Note that a period or a comma that isn’t followed by a space won’t be split into two tags. So you’d want “kids, clothing” rather than “kids,clothing”. Here are some fancier tag examples:

Single-Use Tags

Using that example from above, with the oil change: let’s say we wanted to include the mileage of the van when we took it in. We could use a “single-use tag,” like this: *134,126. See that asterisk (*)? Now, when we look at our list of tags, that one won’t be in the list, but it’ll still be associated with that receipt, and with the car maintenance category. So at the end of the year, we could look at all car maintenance receipts (or all receipts tagged with “red minivan”) and we’d see the mileage of the car throughout the year. Slick.

Checkbook Balancing

You can use tags to give you an easy way to balance your checkbook. Whenever you write a check and you enter it into PearBudget, use two tags — the tag “check” and the single-use tag of the check number (so, “*1034” or whatever).

Whenever you want to balance your checkbook, just do this: get your last bank statement (or go online to get it), and look up your check tag on PearBudget. PearBudget will tell you all of the checks you’ve written, and your bank will tell you all of the checks that have been cashed. So you can quickly see which ones are still outstanding, and you can quickly figure out how much money you really have available in your checking account.

Tracking Credit Card Use

Let’s say you want to know what your credit card bill will be before you get it in the mail. Just use the tag “visa” (or whatever) to note which expenses you used the card with. PearBudget will tally up your expenses across categories, and you can see what you’ve spent over the month, regardless of the category you spent it on.

I have a tag and I want to change its name, but PearBudget won’t save my changes. How do I change a tag name?

Each tag (and each category) has a pop-up box with details on the tag (or the category). You get this pop-up box to appear by clicking on the tag’s name (it should look like a link). Once it opens, look for a gray bar at the bottom of the pop-up box, and click on it. This should reveal some additional options. One of the options is to change the name of the tag. Just make the change there, and when you reload the page, you should see the tag's new name.

Is there a way to view all of the tags I’ve used?

Definitely! Just go to https://www.pearbudget.com/tags/all. If you’d like to view receipts for a tag or delete it from that list, clicking on it will allow you to do both.

I’m using an iPhone, and the comma is on a different screen than the normal keyboard (which has a period). Can I use a period instead of a comma to split my tags?

How’d you guess? You sure can!

You can either use a comma or a period, followed by a space, to split up your tags. So if you’re on an iPhone or another smartphone, you can stay on the normal keyboard view.

How do I delete a category? Can I just make it “inactive”?

Here’s the most important thing about deleting a category: When you delete a category, you also delete all of the receipts (from all time) that were a part of that category. It’s totally fine to delete a category, and often that’s exactly what you’ll want to do. But if you want to keep your receipts from a category intact, and just not include it in your monthly budget anymore, what you’ll want to do is to make it inactive.

To either delete or “make inactive”, just do this:

  1. click on the name of the category (you'll get a pop-up box with category details)
  2. click on the gray bar at the bottom of the pop-up (it'll expand, showing you some more options)
  3. find either the “make this category inactive” or the “delete this category” section (depending on which one you want to do) and just click the button
  4. you’ll probably need to reload the page, as well

That should do it for removing the category. Remember: “deleting” a category is permanent, so only go that route if you’re sure that’s what you want to do. You can always delete an “inactive” category later on, but you can’t bring a “deleted” category back from the dead. We’re a strict no-zombie website!

One note on ”inactive“ categories — if you have any activity in an inactive category in a given month, the category will show up on your Plan and Review pages. That way, you can bring an inactive category out of retirement just by recording a receipt for it, or by setting money aside in a certain month. So if you’ve made a category inactive, but it’s still showing up on your Plan / Review pages, it’s probably because of some activity in the category in the current month.

Okay. One more quick note on inactive categories. To record a receipt in an inactive category, just enter it as normal, and when you get to the “category” dropdown box, look at the veeeeery bottom of the list of catgories. You should see your inactive categories listed there.

One of my “inactive” categories is showing up in the regular list. Why?

We don’t want for “hidden” activity in your inactive categories to throw off your totals. To protect you from that happening, if you have any activity in an inactive category in a given month, the category will show up on your Plan and Review pages (just like a regular category).

So if you’ve made a category inactive, but it’s still showing up on your Plan / Review pages, it’s probably because of some activity in the category in the current month.

My Account

I’ve been using PearBudget for a while, but I’d actually like to start over from scratch. How do I do that?

We have a step-by-step guide that explains how to start over on our blog. Just go to http://pearbudget.tumblr.com/post/213000255/starting-from-scratch, and you should see the instructions. It’ll take you about 1 or 2 minutes to follow the instructions and get started with a brand new budget.

I’m already a subscriber, and I need to update my billing info. How do I do that?

Just go to our “Update your billing info” page, and you should be all set!

I’d like to subscribe using PayPal. Can I do that?

Absolutely! To subscribe by PayPal, just send your payment to the PayPal user address charlie@pearbudget.com. Be sure in the “notes” section of the PayPal transaction to indicate the e-mail address you’re using at PearBudget. It’s also not a bad idea to send us an e-mail (at that same pearbudget.com address) to make sure we’ve received the payment.

In terms of the amount of the payment, $49.50 gets you a year’s coverage.

As with everything else, if you have any questions, please send us an e-mail. Thanks!

I’d like to close my PearBudget account. How can I do that?

It’s easy. Before you delete your account, be absolutely sure that it’s what you want to do … there’s no “undo” for account deletion. Also, before you delete your account, we’d love to hear from you. If there’s something you want PearBudget to do, and you don’t think it can do it, shoot us a note and let us know. We’ve focused on making PearBudget’s design clean, elegant, and simple — so there’s a lot PearBudget can do that we don’t put up front. Maybe we can help you find it. Get in touch: (help@pearbudget.com).

Anyway, if you do want to delete your account, here’s what you do …

  1. On any of your account pages (like your Enter page), click on your e-mail address in the upper-right corner of the screen. [Result: it’ll open up a pop-up box with your account information.]
  2. Look for text at the bottom of that pop-up box that says “Advanced User Controls". Click on it. [Result: it’ll drop down some text, including a link that says "Delete your account”.]
  3. Look for the white text with a red underline that says “Delete your account”. Click on it. [Result: it’ll drop down a big red box.]
  4. You should see a dark gray button that says “Permanently delete my account”. Clicking on this button will delete your account, and will purge your budget data from the PearBudget database. [Result: your screen will refresh, taking you back to the main PearBudget front page.]

We’re sorry there are a few steps in that process. We just want to make sure that people only delete their accounts when they really want to.

About PearBudget

Who’s behind PearBudget? Why’d you make it?

We’re Charlie and Sarah Park. We’re a husband-and-wife team, living and working in Virginia.

We built PearBudget when we couldn’t find a budgeting tool that was simple enough for us to use. As a young couple without much money, we were aware that unless we kept an eye on our spending, we wouldn’t be able to stay out of debt.

We looked at a bunch of different budgeting programs, and we realized that they tried to do too much. They tried to do the wrong things. They included charts that were really pretty but didn’t tell us anything useful, and features that were completely unnecessary.

So we built PearBudget, first as a downloadable spreadsheet. After it had been downloaded over 100,000 times, we re-launched it, in an even simpler (and even more powerful) format.

We’ve spent two years crafting this application, paring away everything that isn’t absolutely crucial for keeping a budget. It works terrifically well for us (and, now, thousands of others), and we hope it’ll be great for you, too. Thanks for checking it out!

Where does the name “PearBudget” come from?

When we first started building PearBudget, we knew one thing: We wanted something simpler than everything else out there. So we challenged every assumption about what was necessary for a budget to work, and we came up with a surprisingly short list of crucial elements.

We began building this ideal budgeting tool, and kept referring to it as “the pared-down budget.” Over time, we even pared down that name, and ended up with the cute moniker “PearBudget.”

Is PearBudget secure?

The entirety of our site is hosted on a secure server, using 128-bit encryption. When you log in, we set up a secure line for you to connect with our server, meaning nobody can intercept the information you’re passing through to the PearBudget database.

Furthermore, at no point do you put your bank account numbers, credit card numbers, online banking IDs, or bank passwords into PearBudget. We’ve built a tool that helps you do your budgeting. Period. PearBudget can’t access your online bank account, and therefore is not attractive to hackers or identity thieves. Your sensitive and private financial information stays at home with you, not online.

When it comes to billing, we don’t store the credit card number used to create your PearBudget account. We use a secure credit card processor (Level 1 PCI-compliant), and when it’s time for your account to renew, we submit your customer ID to them, and the order is passed on to your credit card company. We do not store your credit card number or other billing information on our servers.

We will not share, sell, give away, or otherwise distribute any personal information entered into the site or its databases, forms, or forums. This includes your e-mail address, password, budget, expenses, and any other data entered into the service.

Is the old PearBudget spreadsheet still available?

Of course! We intend to keep it available, forever, for free. You can download it from https://www.pearbudget.com/spreadsheet/.

What browsers does PearBudget work on? What operating systems? Will it work with my computer?

PearBudget will work with both PCs and with Macs. Because it’s all online, there’s no software for you to download or worry about.

PearBudget will work with Firefox, Chrome, Safari, Opera, and Internet Explorer (versions 7 and higher).

If you use Internet Explorer, we recommend upgrading (for free) to the latest version, here: Free Internet Explorer upgrade. Or, you might consider using the even safer, even faster browser, Firefox.

More Help

I’m having some trouble. What should I do?

The best thing you can do is to shoot us a note (help@pearbudget.com) and let us know the page you were on and what you were trying to do. It’s really helpful if you can tell us what kind of computer you’re using (Mac or PC), as well as what browser you’re using.