As a financial coach, people often ask me, “what’s the best tool for budgeting?”
And it’s a fair question! There are hundreds of budgeting tools out there, from free ones like Intuit’s Mint, to intricate tools like You Need a Budget (YNAB).
While everyone has their own opinion, my personal favorite tool for budgeting with clients and for managing my own budget is definitely Tiller Money.
What is Tiller Money?
Tiller Money is fairly unique among the budgeting tools. Rather than having an independent app, it pulls your transactions into a spreadsheet (either Microsoft Excel or Google Sheets) each day and helps you plan out and organize your finances from there.
So if you’re working with a client who absolutely hates spreadsheets . . . then Tiller Money may not be for them. But I’ve found that for most of my clients, Tiller Money is a flexible, collaborative, and intuitive way to keep track of money.
Tiller Money provides pre-built templates for monthly budgeting, tracking transactions, and monitoring account balances. And it provides innovative additional functionality, such as debt payoff plans, through free “Tiller Money Labs” templates and tools.
Using Tiller Money As a Financial Coach
My favorite part of Tiller Money is the ease with which you can review and plan out spending with a client.
Tiller Money provides a good setup for the client to get started and link their accounts. From there, the client can just share their spreadsheet with you via Google Sheets or Excel to collaborate.
When working with a client in Tiller Money, I start by helping them choose their budget categories and set achievable spending goals for their first month. From there, we review their actual spending vs. plan each month using Tiller Money’s pre-built Monthly Budget tool.
In addition to this budgeting functionality, I love helping clients set up automatic categorization using Tiller Money’s powerful “AutoCat” (automatic categorization) feature. My clients absolutely love “AutoCat” and find that it saves them time on categorizing transactions each month.
Taking Tiller Money to the Next Level
The beautiful thing about spreadsheets is their unlimited possibilities. Once my clients have their transaction and account balance data flowing into Tiller Money, I build custom sheets for them that help them stay on track towards their goals.
For example, I’ve built a custom spreadsheet tab for student loan paydown that shows a client their expected payoff date based on their monthly savings and payoff prioritization vs. other goals. Something like that simply isn’t possible in a less flexible tool like Mint.com. Even YNAB, heralded for its planning capabilities, doesn’t let you account for interest rates to determine a student loan payoff date.
I also use the client’s Tiller Money spreadsheet to help us track progress on their credit scores and on other goals we established at the outset. Seeing that progress over time is super motivating!
Finally, I’ve even started customizing the colors of the spreadsheet tabs to match Savings Academy, my brand. Clients say that they enjoy the cohesive feel of the “spreadsheet suite!”
Considerations Before Using Tiller Money
Cost and data linkages are two important considerations before recommending Tiller Money to clients.
Tiller Money costs $79/year after a 30-day free trial. I find that pricing very reasonable considering the value that my clients receive from using Tiller Money. However, I always give clients a heads up about the pricing when recommending Tiller Money.
If a client wants a free solution, you could recommend Mint instead. Though keep in mind that Mint makes money through ads, so your client will frequently see recommendations for credit cards and financial products that may not be ideal for them. In comparison, Tiller Money does not sell customer data to advertisers or third parties.
Data linkages are the second important consideration. Like most modern budgeting tools, Tiller Money pulls in your transaction data through a secure connection to your bank. That means clients will need to enter their bank logins when setting up Tiller Money.
The good news is that from my experience Tiller Money takes data security very seriously. For bank connections, they use Yodlee’s API, an encrypted industry-leading bank data aggregation service used by most of the major US banks.
Another thing to note is that account connections sometimes disconnect. This disconnection is caused by either:
- The client having two-factor authentication at their banks, which requires that clients re-authenticate each time Tiller Money pulls new data.
- A temporary connection issue with the bank.
The good news is Tiller Money customer support communicates excellently when these issues arise. And every budgeting tool that connects to banks runs into the same issues, so they’re not unique to Tiller Money. Over the next year Tiller Money is also moving towards a new Open Banking architecture with financial institutions which will improve the quality of data feeds while avoiding two-factor requests.
Is Tiller Money Worth Trying?
Despite the considerations I mentioned, I still highly recommend trying out Tiller Money. Start by setting it up for your own personal budget to get comfortable with using the software. Tiller Money includes a free trial.
Once you’re comfortable, choose one client to try Tiller Money with. Once that’s successful, gradually roll it out to other clients (or perhaps just your new clients). You’ll be an expert by the time you’ve fully rolled Tiller Money out! And if you’re struggling to figure out your Tiller Money workflow, the Financial Pros group in the Tiller Money Community is a handy resource. Just reach out to Tiller Money’s support team via chat for more details on gaining access to this group.
Using Tiller Money has transformed my coaching business. It has saved me time compared to the days when clients had to share their screen or manually enter information into a spreadsheet.
Most importantly, Tiller Money has allowed me deeper insights into my clients spending and saving – which is foundational to what we do as financial coaches!
Guest Contributor: Vineet Prasad, AFC®
Founder of Savings Academy