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Interview: BudgetPulse's Craig Kessler


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We did a quick review of BudgetPulse.com back in June. They offer a great way to keep an eye on your finances without the need to link your financial accounts like Mint does. Both services are free.  BudgetPulse recently launched a new tool to help individuals and groups raise money - for whatever goals those individuals or teams aim to accomplish.  The tool helps you consolidate your goal and send out to emails to those who can help you reach your goal.  It make your financial goal public and raises the likelihood that it can be achieved.
“We understand individuals, charities, teams, and others may need help raising money for their goals,” says Craig Kessler, marketing director for BudgetPulse.com. “Friends and family are most likely going to be contacted first when asking for help raising funds. Now our customers can collect funds (via PayPal or Amazon, or pledge money) and budget the goals transactions within the personal budgeting software so they can keep organized and don’t have to use multiple systems.”
Craig Kessler, the Marketing Director for BudgetPulse frequents FrugalNYC and often comments on our blog posts.  We did an interview with Craig to find out what makes BudgetPulse tick.

How did BudgetPulse.com start? Why did you start BudgetPulse.com?

BudgetPulse was started from founder Raj Jeyaprakash as a direct result of a lack of a better budgeting software. He wanted to manage his money but without having to worry about supplying personal bank account information and deal with possible identity theft. So he built BudgetPulse for himself, friends, and family, and it got such raves that he decided that others may enjoy the tool as well.

Who is your target audience?

Our audience is very broad but our users are mainly from the ages of 18-35. Our users are your everyday person trying to get a hold on their personal finances with a very simple tool. A lot of our user base is international as well because we do not sync banks that restrict that user base.

How do your customers benefit from your service?

They benefit in a few ways. Some of our customers tell us how they use the tool to help them figure out where they can save to reduce debt. A lot use the tool to keep things organized and determine a balance of what they strive to spend in certain areas, and a lot use the tool to set up spending goals and set up for the future. Even with different reasons for the managing their finances, the main commonality is that they enjoy a simple easy to use tool that can give them a clear outline of their finances.

Are you the main blogger for BudgetPulse?

Yes, I am the main blogger for BudgetPulse although there are several posts from other writers including the rest of the BudgetPulse team. We also are always accepting guest posts if anyone is interested. I also manage the Twitter account and the BudgetPulse Facebook Fan Page.

Is that your voice on the How it works page?

For better or worse, yes that is my voice. I may not be tracked down to do the voiceover for the next big Pixar hit, but I do all the screencasts and videos for the site. I also have an introduction video coming out that will be on the facebook page soon. I also am working on a new street interview videos series that is being planned to start in Jan 2010 that I will also be doing.

You recently released a new savings goals function. It definitely can get those motivated enough (those who would use such a tool) to save and reach their goals. How did you come up with this idea? Was it a community request?

I interact with the BudgetPulse community on a daily basis and always love to hear feedback and suggestions, both the negative with the positive. There was a request to add a savings goals function that we previously lacked. A lot of users wanted a way to track specific goals without adding new banking accounts, and this was our solution. Online fundraising has been a growing area so we wanted users a way to be able to collect donations for their goals whatever they are. We took the savings goals request one step further and allow our users to set a public goal where they can email the goal out to their family and friends who can then directly contribute funds through PayPal, Amazon, or pledge money. This will help individuals, organizations, and non-profits collect money in one central organized place and allowing them to budget accordingly with the same tool. The majority of our improvements come directly from our users and already we are working on our next batch for a future release from comments made by users about things they would like to see added.

I've mentioned it before, one reason we like BudgetPulse is because it does not connect to personal banking accounts. Are there plans to do so in the future?

No. We are separating ourselves from tools that only sync and are offering an alternative. We have no plans to sync accounts with banks or credit cards.

Where do you see BudgetPulse.com going in the next year?

BudgetPulse has had a lot of growth over the past year and we plan on improving even more in 2010. We are going to be adding a premium subscription version of the tool. We want to stay away from advertising and we need to keep the lights on. We are going to be changing the entire interior application pages to have a more clean design to match the homepage. We are looking into expanding the charts and improving on the graphs to help users analyze their data better. We are looking into improving the use of multiple currencies in a single account. And we have even brought up talks about a possible iphone application. From behind the scenes I am going to get more involved with the users and personal finance community. Beginning after Thanksgiving break I'm going to be working on a weekly personal finance tweet chat that will be co-hosted each week. I will be working on hitting up the streets of DC to do street interviews with off topic and taboo money related questions for entertainment, and we will be working on getting our monthly newsletter up and running as well. There are a lot of big things happening in 2010 that we are looking forward to.

Your Product is Free, how do you sustain the company?

We have private investors who fund the company and will be offering a premium subscription soon.

Do you consider yourself Frugal?

I try. I know what things I like and what I can sacrifice. For example I love going to concerts. The concerts I go to are expensive, but since I barely ever go shopping for clothes, it offsets. I try to balance my spending out and am always looking for deals. I set up automatic transfers to my savings account each month which help with budgeting as well. The difficulty is being young and living in an expensive city and trying to find the balance between enjoying the time now and preparing for the future, and I believe I am on the right track and try my best to be frugal.

Is there anything else you want to share with the FrugalNYC audience?

Do what works for you and enjoy life.

Thank you Craig for taking the time out to share some insights with the FrugalNYC community!  You gave us some great ideas and insights about BudgetPulse and balancing our personal finances.  We wish you and BudgetPulse much success.

Are you a BudgetPulse customer?  Do you need a tool such as BudgetPulse to get an outline of your finances?  Share your thoughts with us.

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Craig said...

Thank you for the interview, it was a lot of fun! Hope that the new tool finds its way to be very useful towards your readers. If anyone has any questions, please feel free to contact me.

Craig Kessler
Marketing Director at BudgetPulse

FrugalNYC said...

Craig, it was a pleasure to do this interview. Hope to collaborate in the future!

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