Cha-Ching: Making Fun of Money

I downloaded Cha-Ching today and bought a license a few hours later. Within about twenty minutes it occurred to me that Cha-Ching somehow to convinced me to do something I had never had interest in before: track my account locally, rather than through the bank web site.

I think there are two factors. One is that it's dead simple. There's no "software philosophy" you have to buy into before you can start using it. No wizards or tutorial videos. You just launch it and go. They've clearly optimizing for the most likely case.

But simplicity itself isn't enough to make me do monotonous tasks. There are other personal finance managers on the Mac that are simple. Then I realized that the difference is that Cha-Ching actually makes it fun to track my account. I know it sounds ridiculous, but if you download it and try it, you might see what I mean.

I've used Quicken and I appreciate the fact that they have a Mac product, and I know plenty of people like it and use it, but it's about as far away from what I want as I can imagine. Quicken is utilitarian. It takes itself very seriously, perhaps by necessity.

With Cha-Ching, you start out with an icon of a pig with a drawer in it. You simply cannot take that seriously. Psychologically, I'm already in fun mode, and it's reinforced by a gorgeous, peaceful interface. There's even a little Mario-esque coin counter at the bottom of the window. The stress of the paperwork is gone, and I feel like I'm playing a game.

This game thing first occurred to me when reading a comment Wil Shipley left on Daniel Jalkut's post about C4. In the comment, Wil addressed some well-intentioned criticism about Delicious Library:

Even if you consider DL essentially a game, well, the world needs more games. Id rather make people smile than make them richer, honestly.


Until I read this, I hadn't even considered Delicious Library in that light. I think of games as things with heart meters and level bosses. But the more I thought about it, the more sense it made.

Making an inventory of your possessions is not inherently glamorous or rewarding. But Library, like Cha-Ching, turns the whole thing on its side and makes the process of adding items enjoyable. Rather than typing the information in, you use an iSight as a barcode scanner, thereby turning your inventory task into an item scanning game. Genius!

The clever thing is that it doesn't go over the top and make it a literal game, but rather simply makes the process enjoyable.

As for Cha-Ching, I'm not sure what I can say about it other than it's exactly what I want in this sort of thing. The learning curve consists of about four minutes of clicking around. The text and graphics are beautifully rendered so it's not a chore to look at. If you don't want the animations, you can disable them.

Happiness for $14.95. Thumbs up.
Design Element
Cha-Ching: Making Fun of Money
Posted Dec 22, 2006 — 22 comments below




 

crunkmaster — Dec 22, 06 2807

Thanks so much for that recommendation - I played around with it for a few minutes and got some stuff set up and decided to buy it, too.

It's definitely what I need - I've been a little too lax on my spending lately. The budget thing really is going to help.

Jon H — Dec 22, 06 2808

Rather than typing the information in, you use an iSight as a barcode scanner, thereby turning your inventory task into an item scanning game. Genius!

It goes beyond that, too - there are a few easter eggs triggered by entering certain items.

Mike Zornek — Dec 22, 06 2809

I just downloaded it, and while it looks very nice I don't find as pick up and go as you did. Something disconnecting with hitting a plus sign, not seeing a new row added to the transaction table and the side becoming enabled but not getting focus. Lots of icons clickable but not doing anything.

Seems interesting but needs a little more time in the oven.

Scott Stevenson — Dec 22, 06 2810 Scotty the Leopard

Something disconnecting with hitting a plus sign, not seeing a new row added to the transaction table and the side becoming enabled but not getting focus

I agree there's a bit more polish that can be done in the workflow, but I certainly understood the intentions of the app very quickly. It's still enjoyable.

Scott — Dec 22, 06 2811

I first heard about Cha-Ching when Phill Ryu mentioned it. I eagerly checked it out but it looked like nothing more than a check balancing program with fancy program -- basically iSpend with an over-the-top interface. I couldn't see what Phill meant about it being a Quicken killer.

But little by little it is starting to shape up. However it still has a long way to go to catch up to Quicken or even far more Mac-like options like iBank, which people should really check out before deciding to buy Cha-Ching.

Scott Stevenson — Dec 22, 06 2812 Scotty the Leopard

I couldn't see what Phill meant about it being a Quicken killer...But little by little it is starting to shape up. However it still has a long way to go to catch up to Quicken

My view on this is that it shouldn't try to keep pace with Quicken's feature set. Quicken has about a billion things that I'd never use, which all get in the way of the only thing I really want to do: enter, categorize, and view transactions. That's it. There are other features that revolve around this, but that's the gist.

I don't need forecasting, portfolio management, multiple currencies, complex reports and so on. To me, those make sense for a business but not a personal checking account. Something like a portfolio is probably better managed by a web site, at least in my opinion.

All of this extra stuff is what has kept me from using a desktop finance app before. In other words, I don't want to have to buy into this model just to track my account.

iBank seems to be more or less aiming for Quicken, which I respect. There's clearly a market for that. But I really appreciate the fact that Cha-Ching is an oasis from all of that, and isn't afraid of being fun to use. I suspect most people out there are really more in this category than needing everything Quicken or iBank provide.

Don Meyer — Dec 22, 06 2813

I've played with both Cha-Ching and iBank, and liked them both. For me though, the one item that keeps me tied to Quicken is the ability to easily download and reconcile transactions from my bank.

The sad thing is that I use almost none of the Quicken massive feature set - I really use the features that those other two programs essentially support already.

I'd love to get rid of Quicken. When the day comes that a nice simple Mac app supports the download feature, in the Trashcan it goes!

Scott Stevenson — Dec 22, 06 2814 Scotty the Leopard

the one item that keeps me tied to Quicken is the ability to easily download and reconcile transactions from my bank

If I'm reading it right, iBank seems to mention this as a feature on the home page.

Preston — Dec 22, 06 2816

I like iBank a lot. I'll check out Cha-Ching, but people should take a look at iBank first since it's been around longer and has a lot of features. I love the easily accessible charts that make it convenient to see where your money is going at a glance.

wombat — Dec 22, 06 2817

I bought a license for Money from Jumsoft. I tried Cha-Ching but I found Money to be simpler and faster. I understand your point about accounting software being normally very serious ... then again looking at my account, not much reasons to laugh :-)

David — Dec 22, 06 2823

It's semantics, but I'd say such applications are more akin to "toys" (in a non-pejorative sense) than "games". There are important, if subtle differences between the two concepts.

But yeah, there are toy-like (or game-like) aspects to these apps than can be fun. Delicious Library, in particular, has a strong housekeeping element to it (think: Tetris) which appeals to the organizer in us. And Cha-Ching taps in to the token-driven success of games such as Monopoly. (And is cute as hell, which doesn't hurt either.)

Scott Stevenson — Dec 22, 06 2825 Scotty the Leopard

It's semantics, but I'd say such applications are more akin to "toys" (in a non-pejorative sense) than "games"

Toy is sort of a loaded term, especially for Mac users. That was a favorite catch phrase/insult for a number of years. Either way, the simple fact is that does keep track of your money.

I guess sometimes people think an app doesn't have the proper number or correct features, but it's entirely subjective.

Matthew Arevalo — Dec 22, 06 2826

I am very excited about the features we will be adding. It has to be understood we are still 'in the oven' as one person commented above.

We have checked out iBank, Moneydance, Quicken, Money, you name it. We're going to blow them away. We are working very hard to implement all of the features we have had multiple requests for and I encourage you to keep an eye and tabs on us and not dismiss the application based on it's current feature set.

Please feel free to contact me directly if you have questions or feedback. Thank you.

Matthew Arevalo
Operations & Support
marevalo@midnightapps.com

Joachim Bengtsson — Dec 22, 06 2827

"heart meters and level bosses" -- We need more of those in our apps! :D Hmm... What mac app category is ridiculously overcrowded but still boring... Outliners! BrainJuicer, OmniOutliner, SlipBox, and a thousand others... They need health bars, powerups, and level bosses at the end of each lecture!

Matthew Arevalo — Dec 22, 06 2828

I have inputted the request for a level boss into the next version of our application. I don't think it will make it into 0.5, but 0.6 maybe.

Matthew Arevalo
Midnight Apps
Operations & Support

Jussi — Dec 22, 06 2829

Last time I checked Cha-ching it was a flashy and very bad UI on top of a simple application. Have they fixed the UI so it's worth checking it out again?

Scott Stevenson — Dec 22, 06 2830 Scotty the Leopard

Last time I checked Cha-ching it was a flashy and very bad UI on top of a simple application
Tell me how you really feel. Seriously, I have no idea what your preferences are. For my tastes, the interface is beautiful. I haven't used it until now so I can't how the current version compares to earlier ones.

Jon H — Dec 23, 06 2831

I'd have to say that the little guys in the Quicken space on the Mac would be better off opening up APIs or data formats, so that other developers can implement various Quicken-like features as separate tools or programs.

For instance, a chart generator, or a budgeting application, could use ChaChing's data.

As far as the toy/game distinction goes, I suppose it's like a coin-sorting Big Bird bank I had when I was little. You could have Big Bird drop a coin in a slot, then you'd watch it slide/roll down the transparent inner works and fall into the appropriate slot.

Not so much a 'game' (no goals), but certainly a 'toy', despite having a function.

Maybe ChaChing and Delicious Library ought to be called "Toyetic Tools", though that's a misuse of the term 'toyetic', which refers to potential for tied-in toys for a media property (action figures, etc - Star Wars was highly Toyetic. "Anastasia" was not, resulting in the rather odd artifact of a Burger King kids meal toy of the hard-to-kill Russian mystic Rasputin.)

Jussi — Dec 23, 06 2836

I installed the latest and at least some of the worst mistake, an application modal window (with an animation, *really* locks the main window completely) has been removed from when adding a transaction. The same problem still exists with preferences window sans the animation.

But that's a less of an issue, so I'll give a look at Cha-Ching after xmas.

David — Dec 23, 06 2838

Toy is sort of a loaded term, especially for Mac users. That was a favorite catch phrase/insult for a number of years. Either way, the simple fact is that does keep track of your money.

Hence my use of "non-pejorative", which should have made it crystal clear that I wasn't using toy as a "loaded term".

The distinction between a toy and a game is an important one. Although Delicious Library doesn't have rules and end-goals, it does have a toy-like aspect in that its contents can be assembled and ordered to produce a pleasing outcome -- one which is determined by the user/player. The elements of building and organizing, combined with "color" (in the Monopoly token sense of the word) add quite a lot of value over the usual (somewhat drab) media cataloging applications.

I'm all for adding fun and attractive features to otherwise-dull applications.

That was a favorite catch phrase/insult for a number of years

Meh. There's never a shortage of insults, especially in the rarified habitat that is Mac development. Therefore, might as well just call things as you see them and let other people make up their own minds. If people want to take this labelling stuff seriously, well, that's up to them.

Don Meyer — Dec 29, 06 2952

the one item that keeps me tied to Quicken is the ability to easily download and reconcile transactions from my bank

If I'm reading it right, iBank seems to mention this as a feature on the home page.


Hmm, well, it does let you load in data from your bank that you download, which is close to what Quicken does but not quite it.

Not only does Quicken do that in one more-or-less seamless operation (as opposed to log onto the bank website, download a file, then import into iBank), but my bank doesn't appear to let me download a file.
An app like Quicken can use some magical interface to acquire the data, but I've been unable to find a way that I can download it as a file.
This means that even if I accepted the higher effort method, it's not an option unless I change banks...

(I don't quite hate Quicken that much, but that day may come! :-)

iBank's FAQ indicates that they are looking into this capability, but don't have it yet.

Ghibertii — Dec 30, 06 2954

http://www.liquidledger.com/




 

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