I Drank The Quicken Kool Aid

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!!

6 thoughts on “I Drank The Quicken Kool Aid”

  1. I was introduced to Mint.com first and have loved it. I do not think for any of my needs I could ever need anything but Mint. It tracks my accounts on its own so all I need to do is check it when I am curious or need to look for something in particular. I definitely drank the Mint Koolaid.

  2. Can you use Quicken to track your investments as well? I am looking for something that I can use for budgeting and investing so I’m curious about these products. Thanks for any info you can provide!

  3. I have mutual funds with 3 different vendors (that I now have showing in my investments tab in Quicken), and there is an investment tracking section in the Home & Business edition. I did notice there are places to track TFSA’, stocks, mutual finds etc, you can enter how many units you purchased and how much for, and their website
    states there can be automatic updates every 15 minutes for stocks.
    There is a net worth section so you can see to the dollar how you are doing as well.
    I found it to do everything I asked, although I don’t have many investments yet, I couldn’t test that part out quite as much as I would have liked to. That being said, if it is as thorough as the other components of the program, I’m certain I’ll be happy with the investment part as well as my portfolio grows.

  4. For me, Quicken has been the sing;e most important financial tool in my life. I’ve used it for tracking every aspect of my finances from cash spending to investments since 1994. It is great for understanding where your money is being spent, and how you’re doing overall. It’s also super useful at tax time. Just run a tax report, and get all the tax related transactions for last year so you don’t miss any deductions. My wife and I use the “net worth” as our own financial success score, which keeps us motivated to keep driving our net worth even higher. New online tools like Mint seem cool, but I’m concerned about potential security issues with these tools, and what if Mint goes under? Do I lose all my historical data?

  5. Quicken is amazing. I’ve been using it for 5 years it has helped me to transform my financial picture. However, it is important for all of us Quicken fans to know that it is on the way out. The owners of Quicken (Intuit) have bought mint.com, and are putting the majority of their efforts into mint. My husband and I have just began the process of transitioning. While Mint lacks some of the features of quicken (ie: the calendar), they claim to be working on bringing it up to speed. I am hopeful, as I believe Quicken updates and support will be discontinued in the next several years.

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