All those notes on the refrigerator door tracking who owes what may soon become a thing of the past. Three friends — graduate students at Carnegie Mellon's School of Computer Science — created an online tool that lets users keep track of shared expenses.
Amit Manjhi, Ashwin Bharambe and Shashank Pandit are offering the web-based service Buxfer, a combination of "bucks" and "transfer," for free.
"We used to go out for lunch, dinner, movies and it was just a hassle to keep track of who paid for what," recalled Bharambe.
The three developed a small program for their own use. In addition to helping them track shared expenses, they noticed the software changed the nature of their transactions.
"We found we didn't have to exchange physical money as much," said Bharambe. For example, if Manjhi bought dinner for Pandit and Pandit bought movie tickets for Bharambe, a lunch purchased by Bharambe for Manjhi could in fact cancel all the debts.
It wasn't long before friends and acquaintances were asking for copies of the software. And so its creators eventually decided to move their software online.
All of the members of a group can readily see who owes what to whom, and Buxfer also keeps a running balance for each member's credit or debits.
The website launched in September 2006 and is already tracking transactions totaling more than $2 million.