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December 16, 2009


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I use a Microsoft Excel sheet to keep track of our budget and expenses. It takes about 20 minutes a week to type in every single expense into the correct category.

I simply pull up my credit card statement every week or two and enter in those charges to my sheet. I also look up and type in what was debited from my bank accounts since not all of my utilities take credit. Lastly, I update how much cash we withdrew since I do not keep up with exactly what that cash is used for (it's only about $200 a month and gets used mainly by my husband and small cash expenses like's easier just to consider it "Cash").

Once a month I transfer money into all savings accounts that we budget for (Main Savings, Taxes and Insurance, Home and Auto, Roth IRA, and Vacation).

If there is any money leftover after everything else has been handled, it gets split 50/50 between our Main Savings and Vacation accounts...this hasn't happened since my husband started graduate school...I miss it...

Anyway, I love this system for the same reasons FMF mentioned loving Quicken. I have our last 5 years of expenses at my fingertips and can easily see how we are doing at any time. My husband appreciates having a written record too since his memory is like Swiss cheese...

Crystal --

I use a spreadsheet for budgeting as well -- Quicken for everything else.

I love Quicken, though I still use the 2002 Deluxe version on my Mac. None of the online features work but that's not a big deal as I download my credit card and brokerage accounts myself then upload the QIF's into Quicken. The reporting features are invaluable, you can see exactly where your money is going. Investment stuff is also very nice.

I glanced at the headline and thought it said "Why I like chicken." I thought, wow, he must really be running out of ideas. LOL

Apex --

For the record, I do like chicken. ;-)

Anyone know if Quicken does IRR calcs on portfolios? If so, does it handle splits, dividend re-investmens. brokerage fees, etc. for dozens of stocks over extended periods (10+ years?)

is it better than Excel's XIRR function? I've got one tab on my investment SS that calcs IRR and I'm over 4000 entries and growing....

Thank you Hivemind in advance!

"Why I like Chicken" could be a financial blog would be like:

"I like chicken since its versatile and so much cheaper than beef."

And it would create comment controversy with vegetarians and beef lovers and people who like to correct grammar (it's, not its)...there you go...shortest blog ever. :-)

I've been using Microsoft Money for probably 10 years now, but Microsoft has dropped it and now suggests Money users migrate to Quicken, so I guess I'll be trying it myself eventually. *sigh* I'm sure it's a good product--after all, if Microsoft doesn't want to compete with it anymore, then it must be superior! I just hate the idea of having to change over... I was so comfortable in my little world.

I'm a quicken user too. Don't know if I like it or not as it's all I've ever used. I've been looking at a few other options (mvelopes & YNAB) lately as I really think they would help more from a budgeting standpoint. That's where we need help; just have to get the spouse to realize the hole we're in and agree to start changing behaviors so we can get out (sigh).

Quicken seems easy enough though, I think that I may just like seeing what is left for each category instead of seeing that we overspent after the fact. Of course it could just be that the grass is greener on the other side...

I used to use Quicken until I realized that the budget was more important to me than anything else and Quicken's budgeting features were terrible. I eventually stopped updating quicken in favor of You Need a Budget Pro. It's not nearly as comprehensive as Quicken but the budgeting is much better and the developers have improved it tremendously since I originally bought it. Their support and forums are great and the only thing I miss is one-step updating from my banks.

I've been using Quicken since my wife and I got married. However, after a few months we started using You Need A Budget to manage our budget as we realized the shortcomings of Quicken when it comes to actually budgeting your money.

Now that YNAB 3 has come out and can track our net worth, I might just abandon Quicken altogether, however I'm not sure yet since I really like the one step update. We probably have 10 or so different accounts (banking and investments) all told and I really don't have a desire to go download each one individually.

My Quicken file began 16 years ago as a 5.25" floppy disk on an IBM/XT machine to celebrate the occasion of combining finances with my fiancee. It has now grown to 38 megs in size and is the one file I genuinely fear losing and that I religiously back up. I enter every transaction I can--which usually means leaving out a few small cash transactions I've forgotten, which typically amount to a "write-off" entry of about $100/year. So you can probably tell I take this very seriously.

I absolutely acknowledge it's borderline obsessive-compulsive behavior. But for me, Quicken serves as not only a financial tool, but as a diary of nearly everything I've done over the last 16 years. So long as it cost me something, I know the name of every business I've ever patronized. It helps fill in the gaps when we try to recall what we did on that vacation to San Francisco ten years ago. I can easily find when and where a major purchase was made in case a warranty issue arises. I know to the penny how much it cost to adopt a child internationally, so I can share this information when counseling other families looking to do the same in working out their own budgets. I can review my wedding expenses and tell my cousin who's planning his own wedding. "Did you figure in the cost of gifts for your bridal party? You didn't? Well, how about this...and this?..."

For days when I'm in a curious mood, I can see how the cost of a tankful of gas has fluctuated over weekly fillups over 15 years as no impersonal, generic infographic in USA Today can. I can see expenses for my children progress from baby superstores and a nanny to ballet and soccer classes and braces. I look at what I tipped our housekeeper at the holidays last year and the year before in order to gauge what to give her this year. I can once again see the generosity of my parents and in-laws when we bought our first home and faced other major financial milestones--which helps reinforce the need to be more patient with them and appreciative for what they've done as they age not-so-gracefully. You reap what you sow.

Perhaps most importantly, it provides my wife--who has happily delegated all household bookkeeping to me over the last 16 years--a roadmap for what to do in case I'm no longer around to do it. Information for each account is in one consolidated package--account number, online usernames/passwords, points-of-contact, etc. My best friend is an attorney and I send him the file monthly, in case something should happen to both of us.

I realize some see this as nothing more than a software package. To me, it's the ultimate tool to take full responsibility for my finances and transition them to others if necessary.

For a while, it was my nightly ritual to download my transactions, or if I didn't have any I would generate a report that I might want to use later. I was obsessed with tracking every single penny, doing splits on my grocery receipts to track how much I was spending on milk, etc. Lately I've been putting it on cruise control and checking in weekly. I've got it all dialed in the way I like it, so it's essentially effortless to maintain my financial life.

The budgeting tool does suck, but I have a separate system for that. And I hate that they discontinue support for every version every 3 years. Switching versions always makes me nervous. Really shakes me out of cruise mode.

I use Quicken, and i love it. Although my version is the Free Version of Quicken that came with my first Mac, over a decade ago. Yeah, it's that old. But, it tracks my Accounts and tracks my Net Worth, so I've seen no reason to spend money to upgrade to newer versions. (My budget sheet is a form I made myself in Quark).

lol apex, I thought the same thing at first glance :) and I thought 'hmm, this is gonna be interesting.'

I used MS Money for ~8 years. now that they are discontinuing it I switched over to use Yodlee. I tried Mint and Quicken online and both are good (I wonder what will happen now that Quicken owns Mint) but Yodlee gave me more than enough in reporting and tracking and its free.

I'm with Dar & Travis. I've been using MS Money since 1998 to track all of my finances. I've been considering moving to Quicken, but I'm not thrilled about moving to a new system, so I'm holding off until I absolutely have to make the switch.
I, too, am borderline obsessive about entering each and every transaction, and tracking returns in all of my investment accounts.
Would like to hear from someone who has already made the switch about how well importing data from Money went.

I use YNAB. I simply couldn't stop playing with all the cool toys that Quicken had to offer. That, and I couldn't stand the thought of having to buy a new version whenever my bank changed the way they exported my transactions.

Give me a robust, simple spreadsheet any day. I haven't even bought the new "pro" version of YNAB, because of the extreme portability of the old version's spreadsheet format.

I've used Quicken to keep track of bank accounts for a long time but am switching to Excel in 2010. Like some of the other commenters, I've done my budgets in Excel because Q's budgeting feature leaves something to be desired.

Switching from the PC to the Mac meant I had to convert all my .qdf data to .qdfm. It doesn't convert back readily. This limits portability -- if your Mac crashes and you need to switch to a cheaper Windows-compatible machine, then you lose. So that's a pain, in addition to the fact that making the switch loses all your brokerage accounts.

A more consistent and predictable pain, however, is Intuit's insistence that you keep upgrading to new and ever-more-bloated versions...and the dirty trick the company plays on consumers who are happy with what they have and don't want to upgrade. If you delay upgrading a couple of years, the newer version is apt to refuse to read your data.

Most of Quicken's bells and whistles -- such as the loan calculator -- can be had online. My credit union is not read by Quicken's online banking function, and besides, I don't need Quicken to do my banking online.

Excel is compatible across platforms and can be made to track and reconcile banks accounts. So...why pony up the cash for an extra program? If you don't want to use MS Office, GoogleDocs has a spreadsheet that does the same thing.

@theCase: I've been using Quicken since 1996. It has its strengths (or I wouldn't have been using it for 14 years), but calculating IRR is not one of them. I track it separately. It also loses track of basis when you transfer securities into new accounts (e.g. when you change brokerages). PITA. But on the plus side, I know exactly where I've frittered away all my money :).

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