Chronicle Bill-Pay App Puts Time on Your Side
Feb 26, 2013 5:00 AM PT
Chronicle is available for US$14.99 in the Mac App Store. It is also available as an iPhone app. The task of paying bills isn't at the top of anyone's bucket list, but as long as we remain tethered to our mortal coil, it's inescapable.
Those bills can be less of a chore, however, if we can remove some of the uncertainty surrounding them.
I don't mean the uncertainty about having the money to pay the bills. I'm talking about those nagging questions about bills swirling around in your mind every month: Did I pay the electric bill? When was the water bill due? Have I been using more natural gas lately?
One way to keep those questions from nagging you is to use a bill management program.
Sure, you might be able to create a spreadsheet to track your bills. You might even want to spring for something like Quicken. A spreadsheet, though, may lack some essentials -- such as reminders -- and Quicken may seem like overkill to many consumers.
Then there's a program like Chronicle. It includes the essentials without requiring the heavy lifting of a Quicken.
Just the Bills, Ma'am.
Chronicle does bills and only bills. If you're looking for software to manage your personal finances -- bank accounts, portfolios and such -- Chronicle may not be for you.
Command central for the software is its overview screen. There you'll see your bills in a table format. There are four columns -- bill name, average paid, amount due and next due date. You can sort the bills by any column by clicking the column's title.
Also in the overview is a "month at a glance" calendar. Dates when bills are due are marked with an icon. Below the calendar is some aggregate information about your current month's bills. It includes the total amount due, how much you've paid to date during the month and how much in bill payments are due soon. By default, "soon" is seven days, but you can change that in the preferences menu.
Income information has to be entered manually. However, if you collect a paycheck on a regular basis, you can make an income source repeat, and Chronicle will automatically add it to your income-to-date when appropriate.
Four fields must be filled in: bill's name, repeat interval, icon and next due date. Optional fields are amount due, total balance, payment URL, reminder and payment method.
Payment methods include automatic, phone, mail and other. Unfortunately, there's no way to make a payment from a bank account from inside Chronicle. That still has to be done at the site that sent you the bill.
Chronicle's reminder feature remains awake even when the program is closed, so you don't have to worry about the reminder failing to fire on time.
After you create a bill, it will be listed in the overview window. It will be assigned an icon by the software, but you are able to change it.
When you double-click on a bill listed in the overview window, Chronicle will jump to the bill detail view for the item. The detail view contains rich information about the bill's account.
Key information about the bill is prominently located on a "sticky note" in a corner of the view. There you'll see when a bill is due, how often it needs to be paid and its amount.
You can also log your payment from the sticky note, as well as pay the bill.
Pay Me Now, Please
When you click the Log A Payment button, a window pops up showing the date and amount of the bill, as well as a field for a note and a receipt.
Logging a payment into Chronicle will automatically update information associated with the bill, such as its reminder and the next due date.
If you associate a URL with the bill, a Pay Now button will appear beside the log payment one. A click of Pay Now will take you to the site linked to the bill, so you can pay it there.
You can see high, low and average levels for a payment. That's not very revealing information if a payment is a fixed -- like a subscription to Netflix -- but can be useful for variable expenses like heating oil purchases.
Historical data is also shown in detail view. You can see a year-to-year comparison of payments made to an account, as well as month-to-month historical information.
In addition to a Mac version, Chronicle is available as an iPhone app. Information can be synced between the two versions of the program using Dropbox.
While Chronicle can't take the pain out of finding the money to pay your bills, it can help you gain a sense of control over them -- and help you pay them on time.