Monday, December 19, 2011

BillMonk Issues & Alternative

Issues with entering new bills on BillMonk?

We've been hearing reports from some of our new users and others on the web, that they have been unable to enter new bills on the money management site BillMonk. For those of you not in the know, BillMonk is one of the oldest social money management tools out there, and in some regards an alternative/competitor to WhoseBill.

Just to be clear up front, this is not a BillMonk-bashing post! As one of the most popular and longest-surviving web apps out there focussing on social money, we have a lot of respect for BillMonk, and tip our hats to what they have achieved over the years.

Whilst BillMonk was not the original inspiration for WhoseBIll (a 15-year old spreadsheet was!), they certainly share some common goals and features, and so the purpose of this post is to help any previous BillMonk users looking for an alternative solution.

We sincerely hope that BillMonk is fixed soon, as there is nothing worse for a user than finding the system you rely on no longer works - especially when it comes to sorting out money! What we'll do here is describe how the WhoseBill and BillMonk features compare, as a guide for those looking for an alternative.

Entering Bills & Payments

When it comes to enterting new bills, WhoseBill and BillMonk have fairly similar terminology. In WhoseBill, Joint Bills are the equivalent of BillMonk's Shared Bills and Itermised Bills - the feature sets aren't identical, but WhoseBill's Joint Bills allow you to add simple or complex bills shared between multiple people. We're always looking to add new features, so if you've just moved to WhoseBill and are missing a feature from BillMonk, please email us at and we'll put in on the list for future development.

Loans and debts work very similar between the systems, and Repayments in WhoseBill are the rough equivalent of Payments in BillMonk. In WhoseBill, we also have the concept of Settlements which automatically generate the most efficient set of repayments based on all the outstanding debts, in any currency!

One thing that may be new for previous BillMonk users, is that in WhoseBill bills can be entered before they have actually been paid. This helps to keep track of the household bills that need to be paid by someone in the house, or to make requests for loans or repayments. When entering a bill, you can choose who paid (single person or multiple), or leave it unpaid to put it in everyone's inbox for attention.

Another useful feature in WhoseBill is the ability to approve and contest bills from within the system. This means that WhoseBill is open enough to allow anyone to add bills involving others, but gives you the power to contest or block bills that you don't agree with

Friends & Family

Both WhoseBill and BillMonk allow you to invite your friends to join by email so that you can start tracking debts between you. However, WhoseBill also lets you add friends without actually inviting them straight away.

This can be really useful if you paid for something with a group of friends, but there were some friends of friends present for whom you don't yet have an email address. WhoseBill lets you add the bill straight away, creating a new friend with just a name, and you can return later to invite that person to signup, or connect with them using their email address.

Groups vs Pools

One thing that is certainly different between the two systems is the way that WhoseBill Pools and BillMonk Groups work. In BillMonk you can setup groups of friends to make it quicker to add bills involving the same people, such as when living in a share house.

In WhoseBill, we use Pools for similar situations, but Pools are much more powerful as they automatically offset (think BillMonk shuffling) debts between all the people in the pool. 

Whenever you add joint bills, loans or repayments to a Pool in WhoseBill, the debts associated with that bill are automatically offset between the member of that Pool. This means that you end up with a single financial position in the pool, and can stop thinking about which individuals you owe money too, but rather than overall you owe (or are owed) a certain amount collectively.

WhoseBill does all the maths automatically so you don't need to shuffle the debts manually - we think it is a much easier way to manage group finances, and saves our users a lot of time. If all of this sounds complicated, WhoseBill can also show you a complete ledger to explain your position in a Pool, allowing you to check the maths if you want to!

Finally, Settlements in WhoseBill Pools are super-efficient as they calculate the simplest set of repayments that cancel out all of the outstanding debts in the pool. This means that even with hundreds of bills in multiple currencies, involving any number of people, settling up can usually be performed with only 1 or 2 repayments by the people that owe overall.

Multiple currencies? No problem... 

One other feature that may be of interest to previous BillMonk users, is that currency conversion is built right in to WhoseBill. You can enter bills in any major currency (if we don't have yours, please just let us know), and WhoseBill automatically converts the associated debts to your preferred currency, based on the current average market exchange rate.

So even if you go on holiday abroad, or even a round-the-world trip, everything can be automatically converted to the currency of your choice. When it comes to settling up, WhoseBill lets you choose the currency in which to make repayments, and debts in all currencies are converted and cancelled out automatically, once the equivalent repayment is made.

More features coming soon 

We have big plans for WhoseBill and are always looking at new features to add. If you want to learn more about the WhoseBill, visit us at or checkout our FAQ if you want to know more about a particular feature.

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