This is a guest post from Sheryl (a.k.a Cdn Gwen) in Ontario, who is 40 years old with a grown daughter, and is trying to rebuild her retirement dream just 20 years too late for early retirement.
Just before Christmas, this blog was approached to review Quicken 2012. Knowing I was evaluating a variety of personal budget software, Tim offered the task to me.
I went into this experience completely blind, the only financial software I had used before this was the system use have at work (industry specific), the invoice creation function in Quick Books at my second job, and a plethora of downloaded spreadsheet solutions found on the internet.
So in my first attempt, I installed the program on my PC, went through the introduction, and downloaded ALL of my accounts form all the financial institutions I deal with. I ended up with a big, confusing mess. While I was impressed that the program had categorized most of my expenses, and I could generate endless reports based on that data, I really had no idea what to do with it. The other issue I initially had was that I try to mostly use cash, and was having a very hard time figuring out how to work cash in my wallet into the program. I almost gave up.
I deleted everything (except the program itself). I researched on various chat forums and websites for any guidance on how to use Quicken. Most of the responses I found were for older versions, and I started feeling that if I were to continue trying to use it, it would be very cumbersome. Not wanting to accept defeat, I figured I would try again, but start with only the account I use for my regular household bills, and track my cash in a spreadsheet on my own. I had read about using the savings goal as a way of tracking cash on hand, I tried it, but it felt too much like a work around.
I became comfortable with how the one chequing account was being monitored and reported, so I added my other chequing and savings accounts; then I added in my mortgage and debts, and then I discovered CASH ACCOUNTS!!
I could set up accounts within Quicken where I could log the cash in my wallet, how it got there, and where it fit in with my budgetary spending. I was ecstatic when I found this!! I could set up an entire envelope system if I wanted to!! I tried to share my excitement with some non-money nerd people, but they just didn’t seem to get it (go figure, lol). I promptly set up one account for my main wallet, and another for my U.S. funds wallet, so my cross border shopping trips could be accurately tracked (including taking exchange rates into consideration). I was on a roll, I was just about to start setting up cash accounts to track the gift cards in my wallet, but then I figured that might be going a little far (I just show them as “gift card income” showing a credit to my wallet, and a debit in the appropriate category).
Now that I’ve figured out how to use the program, I am impressed with its intuitiveness and ease of use. I have found the program will be as general, or as detailed as you want it to be. Adding new categories to track is easy. I can split purchases into multiple categories, (which comes in very handy when my daughter comes with me shopping and I pay by debit card and she reimburses me with cash).
All in all, I have to admit I’m a convert. Two thumbs up!!