My Personal Finance Journey

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Why Do You Need Software For Personal Finance Management?

Contributed by mm | February 23, 2005 7:35 AM PST

In the last several months, I received at least four email asking me how I can manage my personal finance in Excel and whether I can share my Excel models. I guess it is because most of my illustrations at PFBlog, including the regular monthly balance sheet update, are done in Excel formats. However, most of my personal finance management is conducted through Microsoft Money 2005 Deluxe, and I believe everyone who cares about his own finance should use specialized personal finance software like Money or Quicken instead of relying on home-made spreadsheets.

Here is why:

First, our personal finance is becoming more complicated. At the very minimal, we are talking about more than 10 accounts: 1-2 checking account, 1-2 saving account, 3-4 credit card account, 401(k), 1-2 IRA, 1-2 brokerage, and/or mortgage. Personally, I am managing more than 70 accounts in my Money file. It would be very painful, if not impossible, to even attempt to track all these accounts solely based on spreadsheets.

Second, modern personal finance softwares provide many advanced features to manage your finances. For one, many software can automatically retrieve your transactions from your banks and credit card companies, saving you lots of time to enter your individual spendings. Your software can also remind you of upcoming bill payments, tabulate your net worth and monthly spending, and allow you to set up and manage your budget. If you have investments, your software can help you to track individual positions, update the latest prices, and even analyze tax consequences of your portfolio.

Third, those software packages usually come with nice value-add features and perks. Microsoft Money 2005 Deluxe, for example, includes Lifetime Planner, which can generate a useful long-term financial plan. It also bundles a one-year Experian Credit Report and Credit Monitoring service. The Premium version even includes free oline tax preparation and e-filing from H&R Block, making it even more a steal.

The good thing is: you can get all these features without paying a fortune. Right now, Amazon sells Microsoft Money 2005 Deluxe for $27.99 after $20 rebate. Quicken 2005 Deluxe currently sells at $55.99 but discount and rebates are available from time to time too. (If you still feel the price is too steep, think about what if you miss a credit card payment -- you will be easily set down $35.)

All in all, it's about saving time and money. Everyone who is serious about managing personal financial issues can benefit from using these software. You will save your time by managing your finance in a more structured way, and you can save your money by avoiding some common mistakes. Act now and start to take control of your finances.

This Post Has Received 9 Comments. Share Your Opinions Too.


Michael Commented on February 23, 2005

Glad to see someone else out there thinks Quicken and Money are worth the price. Excel has its uses, too, as a sort of add-on to what Quicken/Money provide for you. (Don't know about Money, but Quicken's budgeting capabilities are hideous, IMO.)

As you wrote, if one is serious about handling her finances in the most beneficial manner, she ought to pick up Quicken or Money immediately, if not sooner.


Flexo Commented on February 23, 2005

Money's budgeting system is not exactly beautiful either, but I didn't use that "feature" while using Money and I don't use it currently with Quicken. I have used Money (on and off) since version 95 and it has improved quite a bit since then. When I got serious about my finances, I used Money 2002 and later upgraded to 2003. I had tried Quicken several times during that time and didn't like the interface. Now that I've switched to Quicken 2005, I'm much more comfortable with the interface. I feel it's faster than MS Money and the reports are a bit more flexible.


Tim Commented on February 24, 2005

It gets even better...I bought Microsoft Money for $24.95 at Sam's Club. It came with a code for $50 from ING Direct just for opening an account (ING Direct accounts are a good deal without the $50 bonus). A second deal included in the package was for some free magazine subscriptions but also stated that in lieu of the subscriptions, you could get a $10 rebate. The automatic download of account data and ease of reconciliation have saved me countless hours. I can't imagine managing family finances without a good software package.


mark Commented on February 24, 2005

If you're into open-source sorts of things, GnuCash (gnucash.org) is not bad these days. It's not as fancy in some of the things it does, but in other areas is superior, especially with its automated scripting capabilities.


Glyn Simpson Commented on May 7, 2005

I think your bottom paragraph just about sums up the value of any financial programs. You'll have an outlay for some of the programs, whether it's time or money, but they reap rewards IF you are disciplined enough to stick to it.

I've spoken to a lot of people over the years who have started using Money or Quicken or another package, and couldn't quite get on with it. They've stopped using it and lost control of either spending or have no clear idea whether they are saving enough.


philip Commented on July 4, 2005

I just find Money and Quicken a bit over the top. Being in the UK I also can't use their online banking feature. I've tried both Money & Quicken and could not decide which one to use. I also like open source software.

The problem with all of them are that they are desktop based. I want to be able to manage my finances from work as well as from home. I came across mvelopes which is nice but a bit expensive. I have been using GBI Home Finance Manager (http://www.globihome.com/products.php?page=products) for a while now and am impressed with the functionality and ease of use. It's free as well so I'm giving it a try.

I personally don't store any sensitive info on it (i.e. account & credit card numbers) so I don't see it as a security risk. Their securirty looks good anyway. The good thing is that you don't need to store all your personal info to use it. If you have an email address and Name, that's enough.


Gary Commented on July 29, 2005

I am using MS Money to manage multifamily properties.
I master and tweak it a lot.
It works great!!! There is no better software that I found for this purpouse, and I tried everything I found on he web.
I only wish they will make a version that will allow multiple files (properties for me) to be opened at the same time or even better, ability to transfer money from one file to the other. Another great feature would be if I can store a favorite reports in a hierarchical folders.
Hope MS people will read this.

Gary


Sean Commented on August 29, 2005

Sounds like you have too many accounts. Consolidate and simplify. Plus you're impartial. There are links on your site to buy the products you are talking about.

Excel is plenty for the average person. Actually its also plenty for the average business.

Quicken and MS Money add another layer to your transactions, another chance for something to go wrong, and most importantly, another expense.


Stefan Commented on September 14, 2005

Regarding excel: one problem with excel is that it will not help you import bank account data. Having bank account data automatically imported and individual items classified (which money and I believe quicken will do for you) is a huge bonus.


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