Back in 2005 I built a simple website so I could manage my bank account and credit card purchases from my laptop. This website I had running locally on my computer allowed me to track my purchases, income and would output some spending reports. As a broke college student working a minimum wage job, I noticed my expenses were outweighing my income each month. I showed these reports to some friends and they said they could use this website too since they had no idea where their money was going.

This made me realize there was a market for an online money management tool so I spent a few weeks updating the website from something I built for myself into something that would allow other people to sign up and use. In May 2006, I launched This was back before the iPhone existed and there weren't any basic financial management tools available that didn't cost an arm and a leg.

In 2009, when the company I had been working for went bankrupt, I made ClearCheckbook my full time job. Today, the site has nearly 500,000 users managing over 125 million transactions.

I currently live in Santa Fe, NM and aside from managing my website, I spend a lot of time cycling, baking bread and brewing beer. I'll be happy to answer any questions you have, whether it be how I made the leap to working for myself full time to what I do in my free time.



Dec. 22 edit note: I'll be on and off Reddit today if there are still more questions that people want to ask.

Comments: 401 • Responses: 84  • Date: 

Sandsturm_DE375 karma

What was your biggest mistake regarding your product and how do you feel now about it?

turkeychicken665 karma

There were a lot of headaches and growth issues along the way, but as far as something I would call a true mistake, it would have to be the launch of version 4 of our iOS and Android apps.

The developer who had previously worked on the Android app had taken on the task of developing a multiplatform codebase so we could have a more streamlined launch/release cycle for the apps.

He had built the version 4 (multiplatform) apps and we had beta tested for about a month. We felt pretty confident the apps were releaseable so at the end of June this year we released the apps.

What a disaster. We immediately started getting feedback about some bugs, so we'd fix those and issue a release only later to find out that broke something else. All of this was going on during the 4th of July weekend as well.

I was getting thousands of emails per day from annoyed users. Our app ratings dropped a full point each and some of the hate thrown at us was ridiculous.

I try to look at stuff like this as a learning opportunity. While it was disheartening to hear some of the nasty stuff people were saying to us, you can't let that get to you.

Now we have a much better pre-release testing protocol and it's as follows:

  1. Internal test for a week or so

  2. Run through a set of 20 test criteria that covers as many use-case scenarios as we could think of

  3. Release to open beta testing channels

  4. Phased releases to the public stores so we can catch any other issues before they become too big of a deal

andrewsmd87581 karma

I would add 5. Don't release on or around a holiday week to that list :)

turkeychicken282 karma

Very true. We almost released an update before Thanksgiving this year but waited. Fortunately it went off without any issues, lol

startupkitchen50 karma

Are your tests automated? If it isn't I suggest doing that.

turkeychicken51 karma

We've started doing that and will be looking into automating more of our test scenarios in the future.

strong_grey_hero21 karma

Why is it always Version 4?

I’ve noticed this all the way back to DOS:

  • DOS v4 was a mess, with many people either downgrading to 3.3 or waiting on 5.
  • Windows 4 was Windows 95, with all its bugginess and issues
  • The fourth branch or the Windows 9x code base (after Windows 95, 98, and SE) was Windows ME.
  • The fourth x86 processor for home use was the Pentium, with its notorious floating point bug
  • many of us are here on Reddit because of the Digg v4 debacle

It’s like v3 is the paragon of where you can go with the v1 code base, and with v4 they always want to try something new, often to disastrous results.

If you make software, skip v4.

turkeychicken11 karma

I think you might be onto something there... haha

Windows ME makes me shudder.

ProudAccident155 karma

How much money do you personally make from your business each month?

turkeychicken423 karma

The site makes between $15-20k per month. That's excluding hosting fees, taxes, misc business expenses, paying app developers, etc.

DMoogle335 karma

I appreciate that you answered this fairly straightforwardly. Way too many people do AMAs and give BS answers here if at all.

turkeychicken311 karma

I think it's important for people to see that not every app/website needs to IPO for a hundred billion dollars. There are a ton of apps and sites out there that serve a good purpose and make the owner enough money to live comfortably.

nova900129 karma

This sounds great. Make a useful app and get a decent income every month. I seen how you answered this sensitive question and thanks for the transparency. Too many people trying to front their success when its not what it seems.

turkeychicken36 karma

Yeah, I never understood that aspect of things. I'd rather present the true nature of the site than try to fluff things, haha.

donniellama28 karma

May I ask what you net on average after expenses?

turkeychicken99 karma

after taxes, business expenses (hosting fees, SSL, etc), insurance and all the other stuff that gets thrown your way for being self employed, somewhere around 7-9k per month

annul24 karma

how many hours a week do you work on average?

turkeychicken122 karma

It fluctuates a lot based on what kind of development cycle I'm in.

When I was in the early days of making this my full time job, it would be 50-60 hours per week.

Now, If I'm making a lot of updates or working on a larger feature, then probably 30ish hours

If I'm not actively working on an update or big new feature, then closer to 15-20.

tia_mila58 karma

That sounds awesome but you really worked for it, congrats!

turkeychicken129 karma

Thanks! You also have to remember that working for yourself is a lot different than in an office. It's hard to equate a 40-50 hour a week office job to 40-50 hours at home.

I find that if I'm not feeling motivated, I go do something else and if I'm feeling super in the zone, I crank out a lot of work. That means my hours worked are more productive than trying to look busy in an office.

tia_mila17 karma

Are you thinking about a new project or are you sticking to this one for now? Thanks for responding btw!

turkeychicken26 karma

I'm content with ClearCheckbook for now. I've tried other random projects over the years but nothing really gained any traction.

the_saas_guy3 karma


I built a saas software product 3 years ago that does about 20k/month with almost no expenses, no staff, and I don't work much to maintain it, maybe a few hrs a week. I am happy not rushing to expand too fast and just enjoying it.

turkeychicken2 karma

Cheers! It is a nice position to be in.

Oracle_seesall124 karma

If you could give any advice about finance to my ( gen Z) generation what would it be?

turkeychicken237 karma

The best advice I can give is to start learning about budgeting and tracking your spending as early as possible. Even if you only have a checking account that you use occasionally for random purchases here and there.

Just knowing where your money is going is extremely important. You'll be shocked at how many people can't tell you how much they spend on food or gas each month. Knowing where your money is going and how much you can afford to spend each month will keep you from spending to excess and potentially racking up a lot of debt.

r00t185 karma

Has it been tough to compete with Mint? What differentiates your program from Mint?

turkeychicken172 karma

Mint actually came around after I started ClearCheckbook.

While I would consider us competitors in the market, we both target different mindsets.

Mint iss more of a 'set it and forget it' mentality. You plug in all of your financial sites and it gathers everything for you. While there's merit to this, there are several gripes people have.

First off, with ClearCheckbook we don't connect to any of your financial services, so right there it's much more privacy and security focused.

Second off, by relying on the user to enter their data, it's much easier to catch any double charges, incorrect charges and know about unposted items.

What I mean by that is when Mint simply pulls your data in, you don't know if it's correct or not. If you were charged twice at Applebees for your burger and fries, you probably aren't going to catch that unless you're really looking at each transaction posted on Mint.

With ClearCheckbook, by having you enter your data and then compare that with your bank statement, you can tell right away when something doesn't match up correctly.

While you might say "who cares, it might happen once or twice a year and maybe costs me fifty bucks", for some people that can mean the difference between an overdrawn account and one that stays in the positive.

Toph-Builds-the-fire37 karma

Can you please explain to the class the difference between "double charges" and "pending charges". I feel like I explain this nearly every day to my customers.

turkeychicken88 karma

Hahaha, yeah. These are the things people don't really think about at all.

Double Charge Usually this is an honest mistake on the part of a business. This can happen if a card is swiped twice or it could be an issue on the credit card processor side. It just means if you went and spent $25 on takeout food, you might see two $25 charges on your bank statement.

Pending charge - You usually see this at gas stations where there will be a $1 hold on your card and the real amount won't show up for a few days. This can cause people trouble because if they have $40 in their bank account, then spent $30 on gas but the charge shows up as $1, they may think they have $39 to blow on something when in reality they only have $10

terribleatlying10 karma

So the follow up is how's your competition with YNAB?

turkeychicken13 karma

They're obviously more budget focused whereas ClearCheckbook is more of a transaction register for reconciling your accounts that has budgeting, reports, a bill tracker, etc built around that.

UndercoverProphet55 karma

Now that you have a fairly high yearly income (I assume), what do you invest in with your money for long-term? Do you do index funds or individual stocks or something else? I’m just wondering to hear from the perspective of someone who’s business minded

turkeychicken125 karma

I do a mix of long term investing. I have a few different brokerage accounts that I treat differently:

  • Roth IRA - ETFs and mutual funds

  • SEP IRA (basically a self employed IRA) - a split of ETFs and individual stocks

  • Standard brokerage - almost entirely stocks. I have a pretty even mix of tech, energy and health/bio sciences here.

I've definitely made some dumb mistakes and have since tried to convince myself to buy and hold. My biggest mistake was selling off $TSLA that I had at a cost basis of $180 pre-split. I had 40 shares that I sold off a couple years ago after Elon smoked weed on JR podcast and got into trouble when he claimed there was investment interest at $400-ish a share. The stock tanked and I said screw it and sold for a few thousand dollar profit. I don't even want to think about what that would be worth now.

Cptnmikey34 karma

How much time, on average, would you say you put in to uploading all of your financial data? I’m horrible about keeping track of my spending and I should really do a better job of it.

turkeychicken60 karma

I save my receipts for everything I buy and usually enter everything once a week.

Here's my typical process:

  • Buy something and keep the receipt in my wallet so I can enter it later. If I purchase something online I immediately enter it into my account so I don't forget about it. Same goes for if I buy gas and the receipt doesn't print or something. I enter that immediately via the mobile app

  • I take about 5 minutes once per week to take the receipts out of my wallet and enter them into ClearCheckbook. I keep track of the date, amount, a brief description, which account i purchased from (usually my credit card) and what spending category I want to associate it with. After that, I throw the receipts away unless I think i'm going to need it for a return or something.

  • Twice per month I open up my bank websites and compare (reconcile -- we call this Jiving) those transactions that have cleared the bank. This is also when I check to make sure I wasn't double charged or charged incorrectly. Any recurring purchases that show up on my statement that I don't get a receipt for (Google Fi for instance), I enter those into ClearCheckbook.

All in all, I'd say I spend maybe 15 minutes per month between entering transactions, balancing/reconciling statements and marking off transactions that I paid off from my credit card.

Cptnmikey30 karma

Embarrassed to say I’m 41 and my wife and I make great money together. I have just been extrememly laisez-faire about or finances since we aren’t pinching pennies.

I will look into this and try to make a change. I’d love to know exactly where my money is going because as of right now, it’s only a guess.

Edit: thank you for taking the time to type this out. Appreciate your time.

turkeychicken32 karma

It never hurts to get a grasp on where your money is going. Even if you make more than enough to not really have to worry, keeping track of your expenses can really help save you some money.

Things are wacky with COVID, but one of the biggest places people seem to have money disappear is in their eating out / drinking spending. Just shaving off a meal or two for two people of eating out per month can mean saving up to $100. Throwing some of that toward debt or investing can have huge payoffs later.

Good luck in your tracking! It can really be quite fun once you see how much money you're spending and can find ways to cut back.

Wasseratem31 karma

Hi Brandon,

my name is Rene, Im a software developer since 14 years and worked for a bunch of companies. I dream about "my own software" and life from it - I don't want to be rich, I just want to have "my users", getting in charge of everything etc.

But in a time like today, where there are millions and millions apps and websites and software, what would your best advice to me to find a software I could code to fullfill my wish ?

turkeychicken56 karma

Honestly, build something that you would use yourself. This started out as a way for me to track my finances and because I was able to build it the way I wanted, I was able to stay motivated and excited about it.

The fact that you use your own product also means you can build the program better than if you just started trying to come up with random ideas that you think might make you some money.

Fafman2 karma

Are there any tools that help in building a web application? I own a farm (large in area compared to most individual holders but small compared to corporations). It’s been a challenge finding a simple web app to manage tasks and progress being made up to harvesting season. There is a genuine gap here for a decent software. What advice would you have or any pointers?

turkeychicken2 karma

There are more tools and frameworks than you can count available for programmers. If you know you want to build a web app then that helps narrow things down.

I picked up PHP because it was the one most accessible to me when I was learning to code.

Youtube is probably your best bet as a starting place. There are a lot of tutorials for setting up extremely basic little websites. You can use that as a launching point for building the site you really want.

KaMiiiF131 karma

How do you managed the premium features to envolve the users? Did they start as free? What was your thoughts regarding the premium part ?

turkeychicken68 karma

Most users start out free and then upgrade if they feel they could benefit from the added features that the premium service provides.

A lot of the premium features started out as requests by users for additional settings, tools, etc. When I'm deciding what should become a new premium feature vs what should be a new free feature, it usually comes down to whether or not it's critical to the basic management of your finances.

I always want ClearCheckbook to be free and usable for people who either cannot afford to pay for the premium features, or don't want to. Playing into that, I don't want to restrict the ability for people to manage their finances at the most basic and fundamental level by hiding a feature behind a pay wall.

56Kabertron2 karma

What is your user count split between free and premium? Have you done any surveys/research on why the premium users justify the cost?

turkeychicken2 karma

I would need to run some stats to figure out the premium percentage, and that's probably something I should do anyway just to have that number at my disposal.

As far as a survey from premium subscribers, I haven't done that. Based on feedback it mostly revolves around the more advanced reporting tools as well as some of the custom transaction fields / ability to attach files to transactions.

akak197221 karma

Why don't you let me handle the website and you focus on cycling, baking and traveling instead?

I promise to donate all upticks in profits to baked charities of your choice (and some of mine).

Edit: added you

turkeychicken17 karma

Haha. If reddit karma were dollars, I could maybe afford a bicycle

Bris_Throwaway19 karma

The overall spending vs. saving graph on the main page of your website looks really similar to the same report in Microsoft Money 98. To what extent did Msmoney influence your product?

I think MS missed a trick in sunsetting that product.

turkeychicken26 karma

I've never actually used any other financial management tool. I built CCB 15 years ago and that's all I've used since then.

Everything built into the site either comes from user feedback or they're set up the way I think they logically should be.

The fact that the report looks similar to MS Money is entirely a coincidence.

appinv13 karma

1) How do you generate revenues? 2) Was it not crazy making the website your sole source of income, like did you ever dream at that time that it would turn out to be true? 3) How did you decide your tech stack? 4) What stranger (not friends) user story made you feel delighted you actually made the website? 5) How did you get a worlwide audiance?

Thank you for answering!

Story Comments: Eat your own dog food, great the website was useful to you first!

Side note: I build this in my spare times: I hope one day it will really benefit people!

turkeychicken18 karma

1) The website runs on a freemium setup, so I make money when people upgrade to my premium service

2) It was, but I had saved up a decent amount of money so I felt confident taking the leap and being able to support myself for a little while even if the website didn't work out

3) I had taught myself PHP in college and so that's what I was familiar with.

4) I get a lot of feedback from people saying they haven't overdrawn their account since using the site. Hearing things like that helps put a smile on my face

5) growth has been organic. People simply tell their friends about it or they find it via search engine queries.

Robots_Never_Die13 karma

What does your product cost? I see it's free to sign up but how do you make money?

turkeychicken48 karma

It's free to sign up and use. I have members that have been using the site for over 10 years without ever having paid a dime.

The site offers a premium upgrade which is $5/mo. This premium upgrade gives a lot more features and tools which can help you out. All of the premium features are found here:

I've never and will never sell any user data. That's one of the core beliefs that I've held onto while building and running the site. All income I make is through the premium signups.

bruski6 karma

Do you primarily make revenue from the $5 per month membership fee or is there also other revenue streams?

turkeychicken24 karma

That's the only revenue stream. We don't sell ads or sponsored content and we don't sell user data. The only money the site's ever made has been through premium purchases.

bonustreats5 karma

Would you ever consider one-time/lifetime pricing? I hate the movement to recurring/monthly transactions, though I can fully understand the reasons behind it.


turkeychicken11 karma

I've thought about it and it's something I still haven't ruled out. The problem is how to keep revenue coming in even through site updates. The monthly recurring system seems to be the norm now and one-time purchases for software don't really seem to be that popular.

BenniLugosi12 karma

What coding language did you use initially?

turkeychicken35 karma

PHP. Originally I used MySQL as the backend but switched to PostgreSQL.

I know PHP isn't the "cool" language, but it works and it's what I taught myself to code with back in the day.

slugstronaut5 karma

Curious, what made you switch? Both why did you decide to stop using MySQL and why did you choose PostgreSQL to replace it?

turkeychicken8 karma

Honestly, I can't really remember the reasons now. At the time it was probably due to some memory management issues. I have no doubt that it was due to a lack of optimization knowledge on my part back in the day.

As far as why I chose PostgreSQL, it was a fairly painless process to switch between mysql and postgres. I could leave most of my queries alone and the migration process was pretty simple.

bluehat911 karma

Very cool. I like that you’re happy with a fremium product and not looking to squeeze every dollar (like selling user data). My rough estimate is if 15% of users pay the $5, you’re doing about $4.5m gross annually, which is simply amazing.

What are your highest costs? Is “hosting” Very costly or more a drop in the bucket?

What do you attribute your staying power to? I imagine there are probably some other solutions to the problem you’re solving?

turkeychicken24 karma

I wish I was making that much per year!

Hosting is by far the highest cost. I moved to Heroku several years ago after the site outgrew my colocated servers. Being scalable and adjustable doesn't come cheap. I'm averaging about $1200/mo in hosting fees.

I think the staying power is simply having a site and app that perform tasks easily and efficiently. I've always had the "KISS" method in mind when building the site, so keeping things easy and intuitive is always important.

A lot of people come to ClearCheckbook from programs like Quicken which are so bloated full of features, tools and settings that they get overwhelmed.

bluehat92 karma

Need to get more of those users paying I guess! What percent do now? 1%?

Have you looked at aws? Would it be more expensive?

That’s interesting about the more streamlined product. What do you think we the main ways new customers even find your product exists?

turkeychicken20 karma

Yeah, it's definitely down in the low single digits. Also, not all 500k users are daily or even monthly active.

Heroku does use AWS. It's just a lot more of a friendly interface than trying to deploy everything to AWS directly.

I've only recently (in the last month or so) started doing any advertising (and only through some basic Google Ads). People find my site via search engines, the occasional blog that writes about us or word of mouth

jfeld229 karma

Whats your homebrew setup look like? Im an avid homebrewer myself.

turkeychicken8 karma

Nice! I just put together this post about my setup on our homebrew club's website:

Basically a 10 gallon all grain setup where I normally brew 5 gallon batches (but reduced it to 3 gallon due to COVID and not having parties)

What kind of setup do you run?

jfeld223 karma

Very nice! Im running a Brewzilla (35L). I love the all in one electric units because its so simple to operate and made proffessional tasting beer. Also the built in pump allows me to easily recirculate wort, and then pump the wort out of the unit into a fermenter without any additional sanitizing or lifting.

Have you ever entered a brewing competition?

turkeychicken6 karma

I've been eyeballing those all-in-one systems but haven't pulled the trigger on one. I also really like the idea of not having all kinds of stuff laying around (mash tun, kettle, propane tanks, burner, etc).

I've entered a bunch of brewing competitions, both local and national. I did make it through to the final round of the 2018 National Homebrew Competition with a fruited berliner weisse but unfortunately didn't place in the final round

Piratesfan027 karma

What is your favorite bread you like to make?

I am a big fan of Ken Forkish’s Flour Water Salt Yeast book and I like modifying those recipes for what I want to eat.

turkeychicken15 karma

That's the book that got me started really baking bread! I have a sourdough culture that I love using. It started as a wild fermented cider I made. I took the yeast/bacteria after fermenting the cider and added flour and water to it to kick off the culture.

I go through phases but lately I've made a lot of loaves with smoked gouda and green chile in /on them.

Shameless link to my bread recipe blog, lol:

tungvu2567 karma

learning how to manage money is very important to everyone. why isnt even the basics being taught in school? and what are some good sites for learning the basics and then the advanced stuff such as investing for retirement?

turkeychicken17 karma

I agree! ClearCheckbook actually partners with several middle and high schools to aid in teaching students basic financial literacy. These classrooms use the budgeting and reporting tools in ClearCheckbook to help students track their own spending so they can understand how spending and saving works before they're fully responsible for it.

As far as tools for teaching finances, sites like and podcasts like Planet Money are great resources.

nevertoolate19835 karma

Just hopping on to say that this has been such a great AMA! Really appreciate the honest/straightforward answers. Since I have to ask a question, here are two :)

  1. Did you ever consider taking on investors (to accelerate growth)? What made you decide against doing so?
  2. Are there any solid personal finance educational resources you can recommend? I’m in the process of building a content library to share with friends and family who could really use help in this area. If their are any books, videos, courses, etc that you feel doing a good job of breaking down important concepts, please share!

Kudos on all your success! You are doing what many of us in this thread hope to do someday :)

turkeychicken6 karma

Thanks! I wanted to be as open as possible with everyone haha.

  1. I've never taken any investor money. I may have back at the start had I been approached by anyone. Growth was steady enough that after the initial development, I never really felt the need to try to get investment money. Should I have? Maybe. I could have gotten into the app markets a lot sooner most likely, haha.

  2. There are a lot of money related podcasts like Planet Money, Money Girl and How I Built This. As far as web resources, I've found nerdwallet to be pretty helpful on a wide range of topics.

Sawamuraryuhei4205 karma

Why does it hurt when I pee Brandon?

turkeychicken3 karma

Maybe it's time to start chugging some cranberry juice

sbonedocd5 karma

What’s your favorite beer to brew? Have you ever dumped an entire batch down the drain?

turkeychicken6 karma

I love brewing and drinking saisons! I have dumped a few batches:

  • a "lactomel" which was a mead brewed with milk instead of water. I still have nightmares about that one

  • a sour beer that I added smoked figs and cherries to. The underlying beer was great but the smokiness from the fruit just made it taste like sour bacon. Down the drain it went

MaveRick_TheBoss4 karma

Good morning to you. I plan on having my own company when I start college. I would like to ask you what all should I keep in mind when I start my own venture?

How to make up the courage to give up job security?

turkeychicken14 karma

I mentioned it to another user, but i think the most important thing is to build an app/company that you use and are passionate about.

As far as job security goes, I was lucky to have started working on ClearCheckbook while I still had a full time job. I started saving like mad until I had roughly a year's worth of spending in the bank (in my case, that was about $20,000). That way, I knew I'd have at least a year of not stressing out about money while I tried to make my own project work. If a year passed and I still wasn't making any money, I would find a new "real" job.

Fortunately i was able to make things work and didn't have to try to find a job again.

Felipe_AP4 karma

Great, I feel like this AMA is such a gift since I'm finishing a book by Robert Kiyosaki and i'm getting like more idea (and interest) about what my financial life should be like, more or less. Thanks for posting this, then.
I'm progressively realising that financial growths might not be invested on my personal life/needs only, but to make my audience grow (since my music is like my little child that needs to grow/improve).
So, for someone who is starting a career in arts, what would you advice for managing/growing their finances? I mean, considering that musicians already get royalties from what they release, the first idea i get is to invest that money on something to make your numbers grow, but beyond my ideas i'd really like to know if perhaps i'm missing some formulas you already have more experience with.

turkeychicken7 karma

While I can't speak specifically to artists, I think a general rule of thumb to follow would be to make sure you're paying yourself first. This doesn't mean you need to be rolling in cash, but it means you need to make sure you have enough money to pay your bills and not have to rely on credit cards.

Going into major credit card debt is a temporary solution with long term consequences.

Once you've reached that point, then it's time you can start looking into reinvesting your profits back into your art. It took me several years before I was making enough money to feel confident paying people for things like app development.

My advice might be slighly skewed because I've never received any investment money for the business. Every penny earned has been through premium signups. Had I started with a larger lump sump (via some kind of investment or loan), then things might have been different.

kiscel4 karma

I see from other comments that you have mostly built the product yourself and scaled to a fairly large user base. No small feat!

Have you ever worked with a designer especially around the user experience of the site?

How do you personally decide when a feature is “good enough” to be developed/ released and how do you then track it’s performance? Have you ever removed features that you were excited about but fell flat for the users?

turkeychicken8 karma

I haven't worked specifically with any UX designers to help with testing. When I was in school, part of our program was to go through some basic UX testing so I feel like I have some rudimentary knowledge on that. Combine that with the fact that I use the site personally every day, I'd like to think the site is fairly usable. I should add that to my list of things to look into for the future though!

When I get feature requests, I try to think about how many users would be able to benefit from it. Early on in the site's life, most of the requests were for really solid features that I implemented into the site. Now most of the features are things that are pretty specific to the needs of certain users. I try to find a balance between feature creep and enhanced site abilities.

I really don't want the site to turn into some gigantic mess of features and settings that just end up confusing the user.

One feature that I retired was called "checkbot". Back when AOL Instant Messenger was still popular, I built a little script that would let you message a number from AIM and using a set of codes you could add transactions, get your balance, etc.

I retired that a long time ago, about the time when modern day smartphones became the norm and people could easily load the website from their phone's browser (or download the app)

DragonsLoooveTacos3 karma

I am a financial counselor at a non profit and I am stoked to learn about this website! I can't wait til I get back from my winter break and play around with this site to see if it meets my organization's criteria to be able to pass it along as a potential resource for my clients to use to further develop their budgets to align with their financial goals since we don't have an in-house budget tool to provide. I've read through your answers and see you don't sell user data which is a plus. I am always looking for free resources to pass along to my client base since many of them are already trying to get out of situations where they have a monthly deficit and adding additional subscription costs from the start doesn't usually help them because there's a good change they won't commit to it yet still pay. A fremium site is always ideal for this reason.

One thing I'm curious about is how much of your revenue comes from ads embedded within your website or any sponsored content/referrals to sponsors where you get a kickback for new signups for the sponsor? That's always a huge concern and often the deciding factor in whether I can pass the information along to my clients.

On a personal level, taking off my financial counselor hat, I intend to share this website with my friends and family.

turkeychicken5 karma

Glad to hear it! Please don't hesitate to reach out via the contact form on the website if you want to get any specific information or have any questions.

We don't have any ads or sponsored content in the site. Like I said before, I wanted to build the site the way I wanted other sites to treat me as a user.

I've never made a dime from anything other than the premium signups.

BoyManners3 karma

Do you believe the execution is more important than an idea? What was the first thing you did when you got the idea that there's a market gap you can fill.

turkeychicken7 karma

I don't think it's possible to say one way or another. Obviously some businesses have tremendous success based solely on execution (FB vs Myspace, Google vs Altavista or Lycos, iPhone vs Blackberry), while others have succeeded based on an idea.

Unless you're starting off with a big marketing budget, I think it takes a little bit of luck, a good idea and a solid execution to get something off the ground.

At the time there was only one other online financial management site that I knew of (wesabe). The iPhone came out a few years after I started ClearCheckbook and they were pushing web apps (this was before native apps were allowed and these web apps were basically just mobile friendly websites). I created a web app and submitted it to apple and saw a few thousand people join over the course of a couple of days. That made me realize there was a desire for having a more web friendly money management app.

AsianPennyswise3 karma

Yo you hiring? I got scammed applying for a job

turkeychicken5 karma

Sorry to hear that. Unfortunately there aren't any open dev positions

Knowledge_is_my_food2 karma

Hey Brandon, what’s your favorite book and why?

turkeychicken3 karma

I've always been a fan of science fiction. The Naked God series by Peter F. Hamilton has always been one of my favorites. I read it for the first time when I was in high school and the sheer amount of world building that went into the series blew my mind.

simplegdl2 karma

Have you forgotten about OT and rule #1?

turkeychicken4 karma

CCB kinda got its start on there. That was one of the first places I showed those previously mentioned spending reports to when I realized I was spending more than I was making

coryrenton2 karma

How difficult would (or is) the process of setting things up so that other people can take over your business and run it for you? What would be something most people wouldn't suspect would be difficult to pass to another person?

turkeychicken4 karma

This is still something that I struggle to grasp at times. Currently, I'm still the one building updates, managing customer service, fixing bugs and handling the hosting environment side of things. I do contract out my app development, but everything else is on me.

I've never been approached about selling the site and I'm sure there will be a lot of things to consider if it ever comes to passing off the torch to someone else.

frank_mania2 karma

I've never been approached about selling the site

From your use of the past-tense "made a living" in the headline I assumed you had sold it. Its comforting to know it's still your 1-man operation and makes me want to use it more--as illogical as that is. A larger enterprise would be inherently safer, one would think, after all.

turkeychicken2 karma

Ah, good call. I was trying to make the title as condensed as possible so it would be easier to read lol.

coryrenton1 karma

The hosting seems like it would be the easiest to outsource -- what's the major difficulty there?

turkeychicken2 karma

It's essentially outsourced. I use Heroku as my hosting provider. They sit on top of AWS but give me a really easy to use interface for adjusting dynos (CPUs), upgrading my database memory, etc.

RODAMI2 karma

Why did Microsoft kill off Money? It was very useful for me in the early 2000s then gone. It got me on the path of saving over spending.

turkeychicken2 karma

I'm not sure, but ClearCheckbook definitely got a lot of people to join after Microsoft Money was killed off

Ancients2 karma

What is your favorite brewery and why is it Rowley?

turkeychicken3 karma

Because I live less than a mile from there, lol. I actually helped John and Tyler brew the first batch of beer there when they were still on the 1BBL system. I can't remember exactly what happened but for some reason we weren't getting the wort to chill (might have been that the mesh at the dip tube was clogged with hops) so we had to use liquid hydrogen to bring the temp down. Fun times

using liquid hydrogen to cool the wort

quack_quack_mofo2 karma

As a fellow dev wanting to start up a website, any tips from development point of view?

I feel like I'm prematurely optimizing the website for when I have many users so I feel kinda bad, but at the same time I don't want to be rushing solutions while the website it up and running, you know?

Anyway, that kind of stuff, any random thoughts you wish you did differently during the development stage?

turkeychicken4 karma

I think you're smart to consider optimization from an early point. ClearCheckbook had some major growing pains that would have been non-issues had I addressed them early on.

When I built the site, it was more about getting features out there than optimization and as the site grew, it would hit these choke points (whether database or processing related) that caused a lot of downtime and undue stress.

Another thing that's been super helpful is to set up an account with Trello and make cards for all your upcoming work, ideas, suggestions, etc. This is a great way to organize your upcoming tasks and prioritize what's most important.

iaintlyon2 karma

What kind of programming background did you have to be able to create your original website and what kind of marketing did you focus on?

turkeychicken6 karma

I was mostly self taught. I had some HTML classes in jr. high / high school (back in the late 90's) and right away fell in love with the internet.

I honed my programming skillset by simply creating random websites and apps back in the day. I've always been a little bit of a tinkerer so learning to prgram was right up my alley.

My actual degree was in computer graphic design which has been helpful in being able to build a site too.

Funny enough, I haven't done any marketing. Growth of the site has been entirely word of mouth and organic search traffic

Mattl54o2 karma

How do you like NM? Dream retirement state.

turkeychicken14 karma

I love it. I grew up in boring cornfield filled Indiana. I moved to Albuquerque in 2006, right out of college, and fell in love with the west. I met my wife in 2014 and soon moved up to Santa Fe where she was living.

Santa Fe is much more my style. Small town, easily accessible, great food, mountains, etc.

Mattl54o2 karma

I love ABQ and Santa Fe, try to go at least once a year.

SirJumbles3 karma

I used to date a a girl from Truth or Consequences. That place is a trip.

turkeychicken2 karma

Some friends were there pre-covid and were hanging out at the local brewery. Some guy came in with a tortise on a leash. it just sat there and chilled while he drank some beer.

Definitely an odd place down there, lol

SirJumbles3 karma

I dated the daughter of the owner of the Charles motel down there. Not sure if you are familiar, but they had/have the local hot spring water on site. Comes in about 112 degrees but there is cold water to adjust for preference. They have a bathhouse behind the lobby and two empty jacuzzis on the roof that can be rented out too.

The owners a cunt, so is her daughter. Cool motel though.

turkeychicken2 karma

Hahaha. I've only ever stayed at the Pelican spa down there.

kattannus1 karma

What made you start getting into finance?

turkeychicken1 karma

It started with a need to manage my own finances. My parents tried to instill a good sense of money management in me from a young age. I've been working since the age of 13 and having to track my income and expenses from then really helped keep my mind on where my money was going.

Once I started to realize the advantages of saving money, it really was a no brainer to move toward building something to help me track where everything was going.

helloworld-211 karma


turkeychicken1 karma

Users find the site organically. It's almost entirely word of mouth and search engine results with the occasional blog or news outlet that mentions the site in some kind of finance roundup. I've advertised via Google Ads a few times over the years (and have some ads running now), but those account for such a small amount of exposure that it's almost not fair to count.

thamightypupil881 karma

What's your IMC strategy? How do you leverage SEO?

How do you stay focused when the afternoon crash hits?

turkeychicken3 karma

I recently contracted out some SEO work (making sure meta information was up to date, pages had correct H1->H5 structures, links had appropriate titles, etc).

As far as an IMC strategy... one doesn't really exist lol. Being the only one handling everything, it's actually easy to try to keep the message the same and keep branding similar.

I learned a long time ago not to force myself to work. If I'm not feeling it, I go do something else for a while. I don't try to force motivation anymore. If i'm in the zone at 5:30am, I bust out several hours of high quality work. If 9:00am rolls around and I lose motivation, I go ride my bike or something. For me, that's one of the great things about not being confined to an office in a typical 9-5 setting

the_hammburglar1 karma

What do you think about adding sunflower seeds to bread? Mix them in the dough, or put them on top?

turkeychicken4 karma

I've done both and, if i'm going to use them, prefer them inside the bread. I've found that sunflower seeds and pepitas look great on the top of a loaf but as soon as you try to cut a slice, it's like a seed grenade went off and you're finding seeds hidden all over your kitchen for a week.

Now I usually just top my bread with sesame and poppy seeds.

ActuallyNotRetarded1 karma

Holy crap, reading your post was like someone was writing about my life in real time. I've experienced the same things you have. I graduated college and make excellent money for my age, but no matter what I do, I can't seem to save any real money. I've tossed around the idea of building a program to do exactly what you're saying but haven't had the resources to get it done. As someone who has a background in SQL and data/reporting, all I want to be able to do is create a customized dash board to my data laid out the way I want to see it, but any other app I've seen doesn't have many capabilities for customization. As of last week, I linked my Android Studio to Plaid's API, successfully pulled some transaction data, and got my hello world app up and running.

I'm doing all of this, not to make money by selling the app, but for my own personal growth and understand of my spending habits. If your platform can already accomplish what I want, I would stop programming my app today. It seems like the only thing your site lacks is a live link to bank accounts. Is there a reason why you haven't pushed forward with this? Would love to help your team out with this if you're interested, I have tons of ideas on this stuff!

turkeychicken2 karma

That's awesome! There are a couple reasons we don't interface with financial institutions.

First, back in the day I reached out to a few transaction providers and they wanted $5,000 per month flat connection fee and then there was a per user fee. Back when the site wasn't making any real money, that was a solid no.

Second, my users kinda prefer to be separated from any account linking due to privacy and security concerns.

I hadn't heard about Plaid and will look into this. With a really brief overview, are there any fees associated with this? I'm not seeing any fees and if that's the case, this is a game changer.

ActuallyNotRetarded2 karma

Thanks for the reply!

When I created an account, it gave me access only up to 100 users free. There is definitely some sort of fee beyond that, but I'm sure it's come down a bit since then! I went to Plaid just because they're one of the most popular of their competitors so there is a lot of documentation and support around their API and they offered it for free for testing. There are many more like them (look into Teller if cost is a concern, I think they'd be cheaper)

turkeychicken2 karma

Great to know, I'll definitely be looking into these some more!

jacbofwgkta1 karma

Favorite route to ride in Santa Fe?

turkeychicken1 karma

If I'm mountain biking, definitely the Snack Pack / Holy Mole loop at Glorieta. If I'm road biking, then probably the hyde park road (ski hill) climb. I've been doing a lot of gravel grinding with my wife out on Rowe Mesa and Caja del Rio area lately too

Fuck_You_Downvote1 karma

What beer are you brewing now? You ever use the spent grains for bread making?

turkeychicken1 karma

I currently have a lager using Red-X malt that's cold conditioning right now. I've been on a little bit of a lager kick lately.

Definitely! I still have some spent grain from a big imperial stout I brewed. I dried it in the oven and then ground it down into a flour using a coffee grinder. I add that flour up to 10% in my loaves for a huge boost of whole grain flavor

Syncrondome1 karma

Are you a millionaire right now? A multi-millionaire?

turkeychicken1 karma

I can only wish. The site makes enough for me to live comfortably but I'm nowhere near pulling in a million bucks a year.

Syncrondome1 karma

Are you on track to ever have a million dollars in your savings?

turkeychicken1 karma

I don't think I'd ever have a million dollars just sitting in a savings account somewhere that isn't earning me any real interest. I keep enough to pay for bills and stuff and either invest the rest or throw it at my mortgage.

mrdfw841 karma

Can you explain a little more about the process that took your personal project to 500K users? When did you decide to build a team, received any investments etc. Thank you!

turkeychicken5 karma

It's honestly been 100% natural growth. I've advertised a few times over the years with Google Ads, but everything else has been due to word of mouth, press and organic search engine results.

I'm solo when it comes to running the site. I do contract out for an app developer and made that decision when I realized it was safer to hire someone who knew the ins and outs of app development than to try and build one myself. Sure, I could probably learn it but I didn't want to use that as my playground for learning app development.

I've never received any investment money. All income the site has ever generated has come solely from premium upgrades.

pearljam091 karma

What kind of cycling do you prefer? Have you ever ridden Moab? What's your current stable? What kind of bread do you like to bake? What's your current favorite beer?

turkeychicken2 karma

I go through phases but lately I've been leaning more toward preferring mountain biking. I've been to Moab once to ride and had a blast. Portal was super stupid and not anything I ever want to do again, lol.

I have a Cannondale Evo road bike and a Santa Cruz Highball as my mountain bike / gravel grinder.

I like making any kind of bread! I go back and forth between sourdough and bakers yeast based on how much time I have free. This time of year I eat a lot of soup and make a lot of garlic bread to go with it.

Favorite homebrew right now is a barrel aged imperial stout that I aged in a used bourbon barrel for 4 months, then kegged and aged on cocoa nibs and vanilla.

The_Queef_of_England1 karma

Do you think it's still possible to get on a bubble like that? Back in 2005 the internet wasn't mainstream so it was sort of like the wild west where the first few examples of a thing got a lot of traction, stuff like casinos amd review sites for specific products were practically new so random people ended up making money. Like it was easier to get a foothold on the internet. Do you think there are still ways to do that?

turkeychicken2 karma

To be completely honest, it's much harder now. You're totally right. Back then, there weren't apps and smartphones weren't a thing. All I needed to know was a web programming language and how to use photoshop.

Now, you would need to know how to program for the web, iOS and Android. Barring that, you'd need a solid enough business plan to get a lump sum of money up front so you could hire on some people to fill one or more of those positions.

That being said, do I think it's still possible to find a niche. You see it all the time with app developers or random websites (like imgur).

I've said it in other places, but if you find yourself wishing X app or website existed or could be done better, that's the perfect opportunity to try filling that gap.

The_Queef_of_England1 karma

Interesting. I forgot about ios and android - do people access the web more through mobile than desktop now? Do you give them more time/money than desktop?

turkeychicken2 karma

I think it can go either way. People use the apps to quickly add transactions on the go, check their balances and do some really basic account management.

The website is where the brunt of the tools are simply because it's a lot easier to crunch that data on our servers and display the results on a larger screen.

MySuperLongAcctName-2 karma

You’re like mid to late 30’s? Man, life’s been tough on you.

turkeychicken1 karma

I'm not sure what you're trying to get at.

It might seem like it's easy going now, but there was a year when I would get up at 3 in the morning to work on my website for 4 hours before having to go to my full time job, grind through that, then come home and go to bed. Rinse and repeat. The site wasn't making a penny at that time but I wanted to see it grow. Then, the company I was at went bankrupt during the 2008 economic crash so I took my chances and made this my full time job.

I wasn't handed anything. I built this from the ground up by pouring hours upon hours of time into it. I'm sorry if there's something about this that offended you.

MySuperLongAcctName0 karma

No man, I just mean you like closer to 50 in the picture.

turkeychicken1 karma

oh, ok haha. I think it's the grey in my beard and the covid (lack of) haircut.

TheD1v1s1on5-8 karma

"As a broke college student working a minimum wage job" Are you sure you went into college?

turkeychicken5 karma

I was working part time maintaining the engineering department websites while still going to classes full time. I think I was making about $5 an hour while still having to purchase food, gas, pay rent, etc. Student loans only went so far.