[Edit: As of Friday, September 14th we now have our Simplified Debt feature live, which is known on BillMonk as debt shuffle. Information on Simplified Debt can be found here. We updated the importer Tuesday, August 21 to handle debt shuffles and multiple payers. If you imported before this, go through the import again and it will pick up the debt shuffles correctly and won’t import duplicates. ]
Like many of you out there, I’ve been waiting for BillMonk to load.
Why am I waiting? I’ve been testing our new importer for BillMonk data.
In the last week, BillMonk has sadly gone from slow to unbearable. While this is painful for their users, we hope we can provide a fairly painless process to move from BillMonk to Splitwise.
In 2006, BillMonk launched and started helping friends split expenses and track loans of money and things. It was a widely-admired Web 2.0 app of that era, and we have great respect for their founders. A year later, they were bought by Obopay, and since that acquisition, BillMonk has seen little new development and has been getting steadily slower and less reliable.
Splitwise started out in 2011 entirely focused on bill sharing between apartments and housemates. Over time, we have been slowly moving towards a more general approach to cost-splitting, and we are fortunately far enough along on this road that we can take most of the data from BillMonk and import it directly into our system.
The importer does many things well – you can take the BillMonk XML export and upload it straight into a new or existing Splitwise account. It checks for duplicates (so that if multiple people import the same expense, duplicates are not created), and allows you to choose which friendships to import. It also pulls data from itemized expenses, and warns you of any potential problems.
There are a few limitations, unfortunately, caused by the fact BillMonk does not export everything in a way we can reconstruct entirely. Recurring bills are not marked as recurring [edit: debt shuffles are now imported]
and debt “shuffles” are not exported in a way that we can use. So while everything will get imported, there are some bumps.
In the current version of Splitwise, you never have to shuffle anything – all debts in groups are automatically “shuffled” in that we only record net balances, and if you click the Settle Up button, it gives a simplified repayment plan. [Edit: You can now shuffle debts across all friendships and in groups]
However in the current version of Splitwise, debts between friends cannot be “shuffled”, because we just added this feature recently.
We plan introduce a “simplify debts” behavior that will accomplish the same goals as “shuffling”, but this is still at least a few months away. [Edit: debt shuffles are now imported]
As a result, if you make use of BillMonk debt shuffling, the total amounts owed to friends that we list will be different from the amounts listed in BillMonk, even though we import the data correctly, because it will not reflect debt shuffles.
We are sorry about this shuffling issue, but if you are using Splitwise for an apartment or trip, a Splitwise group will often serve the same purpose. and all four of us are working hard on improving the service constantly. Because BillMonk groups (common associations of people) don’t exactly map to this current concept of Splitwise groups (self-contained universe of bill-splitting), we for now do not import BillMonk groups except for the individual friendships.
Fortunately, the importer is smart enough to alert you to anything we get stuck on. [Edit: Multiple payers are now imported]
For instance, currently, the importer skips bills that have multiple payers – however, these bills that have multiple payers will be called out for you to assess, after your BillMonk data has been parsed by our system.
The last piece of this that’s tricky is getting your data out of BillMonk. Once you are logged in, you can go to this page, but it’s quite slow and often fails, so you may have to try a few times. I don’t have a great solution for this. We’ve tried automating pieces of this process, but Billmonk is so slow now that anything we try and do on our end is timing out.
A temporary difference between BillMonk and Splitwise is that on our website or Android app, you can’t currently split a bill between multiple friends outside a group. This is coming very, very soon and is our top priority internally. This is currently available on iPhone and will be available soon on Android and web.
If you’re looking for an alternative to BillMonk, please try out our importer and let us know how it goes at firstname.lastname@example.org!