New User Overwhelmed and Lost

Hi All,

As the title says, new user and a little overwhelmed with where to start. I feel I’m low to moderate Excel literate and a former IT guy. But as much as I like what I researched into Tiller, actually being here is a little confusing.

Yes, there are a lot of help topics and such, but as Tiller seems to be this living, breathing, evolving venture, there seems to be a need for a more dedicated onboarding process. I see posts in this area from 2019 or 2022, for example, but they are outdated to various degrees.

There are some very talented people on here, both from the Tiller team and the community. So some of the terms, jargon, etc. sometimes goes over my head. And trying to figure out where to get the best up to date help (Tiller team or community) is confusing.

Maybe it’s me. I’ll accept that. Even though I’ve read Tiler is a small team, there should be a clear direct path for new users to get the most current direct onboarding help. Maybe there is, but I see this massive forked road with old post, new post, Tiller team, and community help.

I’m not here to complain. I did my research and loved what I learned about Tiller before joining. Now that I’m here I feel paralyzed by all these possible options. I’ve just added one account for now, sort of just dipping my toe in the water, and there seems to be so many ways to go. So I’m stuck.

I want this to work, I love spreadsheets. It seems there are a hundred options, with none 100% working, especially on the Excel side.

Thanks for reading a new user rant (it’s done with respect for the hard work being done) and thanks for any guidance and help. I apologize if this conveys a negative tone, not my intention at all. I guess I’m just frustrated.

Look forward to your response. :sunglasses:

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Hi @markv68 – have you discovered the official Tiller Money YouTube channel? I found those videos the most helpful when starting out with the tool.

Here is a short video overview of the basic foundation template for example:

There are lots more videos here:

Tiller also just published a new resource of Financial Pros who use Tiller – if you’d like to go the route of hiring somebody to help you get up and running (full disclosure: my own business is listed here): Financial Professionals Directory - Tiller

I appreciate the resource. I’ll check it out. I’ve watched a lot of Tiller YouTube videos prior to and after joining, maybe this will be different.

Hi Mark and Welcome .

I’ve been using the Google Sheets version of Tiller for about 3 years. Hopefully my experience below will help you.

I’m very happy with Tiller. I’ve used several other similar systems but Tiller’s spreadsheet foundation just works for me. But I agree some of the add on solutions by Tiller and templates from the Community can be overwhelming at first.

First – I don’t use Tiller to create budgets or to track actual expenses against a budget. I know that a lot of Tiller use it for this purpose but I use it mostly to generate actual income & spending across several income sources and several bank accounts. At the end of the year, I use this information to streamline filing our taxes.

For the first few months using Tiller, I focused on connecting my bank accounts, updating my Tiller Transactions every day, creating a “chart of accounts” that cold generate the reports I wanted and setting up AutoCat to minimize manual categorization and to standardize descriptions in my Tiller file.

No Problems Importing Transactions. I’ve had virtually zero connections problems with Wells Fargo, Vanguard, or Fidelity. I don’t import our credit card transactions yet. I just haven’t gotten around to it because it requires an extra formatting and importing process.

Setting Up Categories: No fault of Tiller, I went through 2 or 3 revisions to my chart of accounts (Categories) to get the reports I knew that I’d want once there was enough data in Tiller to report.

Setting Up AutoCat: In my view, this is one of Tiller’s best features. I created a lot of AutoCat instructions in the first few weeks and have slowly added more as I saw opportunities to do so.

Generating Reports: For me, this is the fun part and it’s where Tiller’s spreadsheet foundation really shines. Tiller and the Tiller Community offer quite a few pre-built templates. Some of them are just fantastic. There are several spreadsheet experts in the Tiller Community and some of their solutions are pretty amazing. That said, I found that I had to customize them so I’ve used the techniques used in their solutions to create my own. Once the data is in the Tiller Foundation sheet, I can generate virtually any report you can imagine.

The QUERY function in Google Sheets is incredibly powerful. I often get help from ChatGPT or Bard / Gemini on complicated Queries. Both of these AI tools can create complicated Queries that work. I’ve also used them to write AppsScript to automate some functions.

So, without knowing what aspect of Tiller is challenging you, I’d suggest the steps below to get started.

    • Connect your bank accounts and import transactions every day. The import process takes me about 3 minutes. AutoCat (see below) catches (correctly categorizes) at least 90% of my transactions.
    • Create your categories based on the reports you think you’ll want. Design the report and create the categories needed to create the report. As I said above, I had to revise my initial set of categories about 3 times.
    • Create your initial set of AutoCat instructions. AutoCat saves an incredible amount of time from step one above and it gets better over time.

Don’t feel the need to rush into exploring solutions and custom templates done by others UNLESS you just like to see what others can do with a spreadsheet.

Finally, I’ve been very impressed with Tiller’s product support. When I send a support request to Tiller, I get a response quickly and usually with a direct answer and often with links to detailed instructions. Then, I get a follow up email from support. Then, a few days later, I get another email explaining that they are going to close my ticket unless I have more questions.

The Tiller Community is another great resource. Questions are usually answered by a fellow Tiller user or one of the Tiller’s support staff or both. From my experience, people are always polite and helpful in their responses.

Hope this helps you – but – if none of the above addresses any of the issues you’re experiencing, reply with a description of what’s confusing you or not working as you expect. One of us will try to help.

ScottC

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Thanks for the heads up

Hey @ScottC, I appreciate the detailed description of your start and journey with Tiller. It does help to hear how you intended to use Tiller and an overview of your early experiences.

Like you, I don’t really have budgeting in mind yet. I’d rather focus on expense tracking and categorizing these transactions and generating reports to see where and how much money is going. Then at some point budgeting.

I’m an Excel user and dedicated some time to learning what little I know. I guess I’m more used to using Microsoft Office and not opposed to Google Sheets. Just habit. I’m open to change.

I use my Excel spreadsheet to track every income and expense. Not very elegant, one sheet for every month of the year, then connect that Dec sheet to a new workbook for the next year.

This just allows me to have all my bank, loan, and CC accounts have a consistent balance with my online accounts.

Since I didn’t start with a “Transaction” sheet-like in Tiller, my monthly sheet has “blocks” of cells for various account types.

A box for CC’s and loans, Fast food, Misc., Groceries, Auto, and subscriptions, then have a cell that captures the subtotals from each of those sections. If I had the know how I’d be able to generate reports rather than tabbing back and forth from last month to this month all year. I never had the foresight to use categories, groups, and other granular sub-categories to get a better picture of where things are coming in from and going.

Maybe it’s easier to learn this in Google Sheets. One of my biggest obstacles with Tiller, besides my earlier comment, is reliability with transactions being pulled in, and timely.

I posted earlier that I refreshed my one account on Tiller’s website, then went back to the transactions tab and clicked the fill button and it only brought in the latest two of my 20+ Feb 2024 transactions. I thought that was a core function that worked if your institution was supported. So that’s disappointing. Maybe it’s an Excel thing.

I’ve been manually entering transactions in my spreadsheet, I thought Tiller would solve this accurately without lengthy delays (almost as soon as they hit the account). Otherwise knowing what I can spend on bills, debts, and living expenses would be unreliable.

I haven’t reached out to Tiller support yet, just trying to find my way around. As I posted elsewhere, this seems like a big beta test for a developing app.

But there are some very smart and talented people both with Tiller and the community.

I really want this to work, but reliably. Maybe Google Sheets is something I should explore.

Your thoughts on my intended use and expectations would be helpful.

Thanks again for the insight of your experience and some examples of what you’ve done.

Look forward to your response,
Markv68 :sunglasses:

Have you been able to set up a sheet and feed in your data? The most basic steps are:

  1. Connect your accounts to Tiller
  2. Launch a sheet, follow the set up prompts to get the data feeding in
  3. Configure your categories (or simpler: use the Tiller defaults)
  4. Categorize your transactions

Where are you getting stuck?

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I use both Excel and Google Sheets. For unknown reasons, I got started with Tiller using Sheets so I don’t know how they two might differ.

My experience with Tiller/Sheets has been very good. I would not describe it as ‘beta software.’

Some people in this forum have reported download problems from their financial institutions. In some cases, they can’t connect at all and in others they report long delays. Some banks import with no problem but others have issues. Some of issues are persistent and others are short interruptions resolved by Yodlee, the company Tiller contracts with for connectivity to financial institutions.

Connection Problems: I connect our Tiller sheet to Wells Fargo and Vanguard. Both work reliably with the caveats mentioned below.

Lengthy Delays Wells Fargo and Vanguard both connect reliably but my Wells Fargo transactions don’t import on Sunday or Monday and transactions that Wells considers “pending” don’t upload to Tiller until Wells Fargo deems them 'cleared" which usually takes a day. These delays may be unique to Wells Fargo or not. I don’t know. In our case, importing 5 days a week (not Sunday or Monday) isn’t a bother and waiting a day for pending transactions to clear isn’t a problem either.

If you’re comfortable revealing which banks you are trying to connect, I’m sure people in this forum would be willing to share how long it takes for their transactions to hit Tiller.

As I mentioned, I’ve been using Tiller for about 3 years. I have all of our transactions in one Tiller sheet, "Transactions’. As of this morning, this sheet has about 6,500 rows and 28 columns = 182,000 cells. So far, it responds instantly.

To generate reports, I initially used several of the standard templates that come with Tiller but over time I’ve migrated to generating custom reports using the Query function in Sheets. It takes a little time to learn the Query function. It may not be for everyone but I actually enjoy it. Once all of your transactions are in one sheet with a standard structure and consistent categories assigned to each, the Query function can generate virtually any report you can imagine.

I think I understood how you’ve been using Excel. Have you considered creating a new tab in your Excel workbook to combine all of your monthly sheets? If all of your monthly sheets have the same column structure, names and order, it wouldn’t be hard to create the consolidated sheet by copying and pasting from the monthly sheets. Your monthly sheets would remain unchanged.

Once combined, you could rename the columns to follow the Tiller Transactions structure (naming and column order) and copy that to a Tiller workbook. I think it would be a good idea to set up your Categories and AutoCat rules in Tiller first. Then, you could paste the consolidated data into a Transactions sheet and run the AutoCat rules. AutoCat would apply those rules to the entire dataset.

This will undoubtedly show holes in your AutoCat rules. For example, you’ll surely find transactions that weren’t classified because you didn’t create a rule. So, you should expect to do this a few times, deleting the first import, adding new AutoCat rules as needed, pasting the dataset in again, and finally running AutoCat again. This sounds tedious but it would be quicker and your categorization would be consistent.

Talk to Tiller support to confirm the process I’ve outlined above but I’m pretty confident it will work. They can tell you how to do it on a test Transactions sheet and they may have other tips to make it easier.

Good luck.

ScottC

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This is a good summary, @ScottC. I’d only add one thing: figuring out when pending transactions are going to become posted transactions is a bit of a mystery to me, especially when it comes to credit cards. On the same card, some things post after a day. Other things take three days. I suspect it has something to do with different credit card processors that merchants use, but as I said, it’s a bit of a mystery.

Yes I have done those steps. I waited a few days into Feb to get some transactions that definitely posted for this month.

So last night I refreshed on the Tiller dashboard then went to the transaction tab, the fill button was blue, I clicked it, and only the latest two items were brought in. Over 20 items from Feb 2nd to Feb 8th were not.

I checked my bank account to compare, that’s how I know.

Thanks

I will give this a try. I also want to explore using ways to get more granular than just categories. Using further subsets of say “utilities” or “subscriptions” to break down which utility or subscription. Then have that flow across appropriate sheets and eventually reports.

Thanks

For finer granularity, Tiller also supports tags. Search the support site for more information.

I use tags and categories like Utilities: Water, Utilities: Electric, Utilities: Gas. This allows me to to report on categories starting with Utilities:. That was my original idea but, in practice I don’t- but I could. :grinning:

You get the idea.

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Tags are the special sauce. Just for another variation: I have one Utilities category (trying to prevent category proliferation), but I have Water, Electric, Gas, etc. tags. I can see all of my utilities expenses with the category, and I can use the tags to get more fine-grained.

2 Likes

If you log in to tillerhq.com and scan down the list, do all your accounts appear with a green circle icon to the left of the institution name showing they are still connected? If so, and if the missing transactions are older than the transactions that have come in, I would use the little blue chat icon at the bottom right of your screen on tillerhq.com to file a ticket for missing transactions as it sounds like a bank specific issue the Tiller support team can help you resolve.

Thanks for the help with some things. I’ll have to get with Tiller support I guess for the transaction issue. I wonder if it’s more common with Excel, what I use, than with Google Sheets, or if it’s like I keep hearing, a thing with the aggregator they use or even as I heard possibly, the timing of when a bank updates accounts plus when the aggregator then does their thing plus when Tiller accesses the aggregator. Three different timing issues, in addition to particular institutions.

With the categories, I see the possibilities. I read a community post that said they would append a category for say “Utilities” to have it listed as “Utilities:Electricity”, “Utilities:Phone”, etc. Then they used tags for something else, sorry don’t remember off hand.

But I found if I use the categories as mentioned above “Utilities:Phone”, that whole name is placed in the tags as well. They did say not to use a space because it would not be recognized. So, I’ll search again about this. Also don’t remember if it was Excel or Google Sheets being used.

Your transaction issues shouldn’t be a Sheets versus Excel issue. The downloading of bank data takes place before Tiller knows whether it’s going to fill in Google or Microsoft. It also shouldn’t be a timing issue. Those sequencing issues may affect when something downloads within a 24-48 hour window, but they shouldn’t explain a week-long delay. I think you need to give customer support a chance to sort this one out.

As for categories and tags, I think you’re referring to the conversation about third-level categorization in a thread a couple of weeks ago. You could use Utilities:Electricity as a category, and then, say, Home and Beach House as tags to distinguish between properties. That would allow you easily to see how much you were spending on electricity at your Beach House (by filtering to Utilities:Electricity as a category and Beach House as a tag), but also how much you are spending in total across categories at your Beach House (by filtering to Beach House as a tag). You could also use something like Transaction Tracker to facilitate that filtering.

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Good info to know about the sequencing process.

The categories thread sounds like the one I’m referring to. It was about third-level categorization. I think I looked at Transaction Tracker, but I’ll check it out again to see what it’s capable of doing.

Thanks for the help

Hi @markv68,
I agree wholeheartedly with everything you said. I’m a new user, too, having adopted Tiller in December, and overall I’m very happy with Tiller, especially after using Mint and suffering through increasingly bad user experiences and platform maintenance there. I’m using Google Sheets with the Savings Budget add-on. Searching for answers and navigating the maze of both outdated and new information has been challenging, to say the least. It’s not intuitive at all. When I’ve become frustrated by going in circles, sometimes for hours, the Community has been very helpful and provided speedy answers to my questions and excellent advice. Hang in there. It gets easier.

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I’m happy you’re seeing some help from the community. There are some bright people there. But, I got the impression before joining from their website and their CEOs videos that automated transactions were fully functional for Google and Excel.

After joining I found this not to be true. There a large number of posts about trouble with transactions. The limited support hours from Tiller, are a back and forth trying to explain all the questions the community can’t answer. With hours or days between replies.

They constantly fall back on their small team of about 15 people and the standard answer of that’s not on our roadmap. I hear that from users who’ve been with them from almost the beginning.

I said over and over, I love spreadsheets and I want Tiller to succeed. But more than anything, I just want any honest answer of when they’re going grow their staff, a honest clear answer and their roadmap, and I just want it to work and not be Frankensteined together.

I hope things continue to work out for you and I hope to get a better understanding of their plans.

Take care.

I too would appreciate knowing Tiller’s roadmap for updates and new functionality but I haven’t relied on automated transactions. As I said, I’m also relatively new to Tiller, but I’m happy with this workflow I’ve adopted:

  1. Open the Tiller Console
  2. Refresh each of my five Connected Accounts. This only takes a couple of minutes and my preference is for all of my accounts displayed in the Balances tab to be updated at the same time.
  3. Open my linked Tiller spreadsheet
  4. Go to the Transactions tab > Extensions > Tiller Money Feeds > Launch (or Fill Sheets.) I typically use Launch because that gives me easy access to AutoCat and/or Tools > Split Transactions, both of which I use frequently.

I suspect that Tiller’s growth has been faster than they anticipated, especially with Mint closing up shop, but I hope the road gets smoother for you!