Welcome to the final day of my mini series exploring popular personal-finance apps. As I prepare to track my spending in 2017, I have to decide which tool to use.
In the olden days, there weren’t many options. Lately, however, there’s been a boom in personal-finance tools. Rather than try every available app, I elected to take a look at four that seemed like good fits for me: Quicken, You Need a Budget, Personal Capital, and Mint.
And at the end of this article, I’ll reveal how I’ve decided to track my money during 2017.
For years, my personal-finance tool of choice has been Quicken. I used it to track my descent into debt during the 1990s, although those files are exiled to inaccessible 3-1/2 inch floppy disks. That said, I have transactions in my Quicken datafile going back to 19 February 2004 — almost thirteen years ago!
My records go back to when I was married to Kris and we were living in the small town where I grew up. I was still maxing out my credit cards, still living paycheck to paycheck, and still wondering why I had suck rotten luck. I hadn’t yet had my financial awakening. (That wouldn’t happen until October of 2004.)
I’ve tracked my income and expenses with Quicken intermittently during the past thirteen years. I used the program religiously from October 2004 until April 2009, when I sold Get Rich Slowly. Then I used it again in 2011 and in 2013. So, my records are spotty. But they’re there. If I wanted, it’d be easy to compare my present habits to the past. (In fact, I just for fun I ran a net worth report on each year for which I have data!)
I use the decade-old Quicken 2007 to do the following:
- I have a list of accounts and spending categories. I’ve been using the same accounts and same categories for thirteen years. If an account becomes inactive, I’m able to hide it from view (without deleting data). Account registers work just like check registers. Yes, I’m one of those old men who still uses checks now and then. And because I was raised using checks, I prefer a check-register interface.
- I enter transactions by hand. Automatic downloads are available but I don’t use them. Manual data entry helps me remain more aware of my habits. That said, I do use automatic updates for my investments. And I like that Quicken downloads stock prices every day.
- I don’t use the budgeting feature, although I might give it a go in 2017. From time to time, I do use other built-in features though, like the retirement calculator and the home inventory.
- Finally, I’m a big fan of the reports. Quicken 2007 is capable of producing dozens of different reports, all of which are customizable. As a money nerd, I like this.
Until yesterday, I hadn’t upgraded my copy of Quicken in over a decade. I stuck with Quicken 2007 — warts and all. I was fine with it. The software works. Better still, I know how to use it. I know how to make it do the things I want it to do. This is no small thing; in fact, as you’ll see, it’s probably the biggest determining factor in which tool I use to track my money.
Yesterday, however, I gave myself permission to upgrade to Quicken 2017. I didn’t feel like it was fair to review the current versions of Mint, Personal Capital, and YNAB against something a decade out of date! Let’s see how the new version compares to the old. [Read more…]