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I’ve said before that Quicken was a lifesaver for me and my finances all the way back in 1999. That’s when I stumbled across the product and it helped me realize just how much of a mess of debt I was in. I was then able to rely on the software to really come up with a game plan and eliminate all of it over the next handful of years.
Obviously software can’t get you out of debt (you need to do that yourself), but it did help me see exactly where I was at with my finances and come up with some optimal plans to get rid of all the credit card debt I had.
Since then, I have been a strong advocate of Quicken software. I’ve purchased the product almost every year as the new versions come out.
I will tell you that Intuit, the makers of Quicken, can’t seem to release a bug-free product though. With every release, it seems that there are goofy problems, some that have actually corrupted my data and caused me to have to restore from backups. Then they release a handful of software updates and usually get everything fixed within a few months of the release date.
That’s what I get for being excited about new software… the moral of the story is not to be the first guy – let someone else have all the problems and then install the software later on down the line once the kinks have been worked out! 🙂
When you’re dealing with a way to keep track of your finances, you want something that can easily help you see exactly where you’re at with your finances with only a glance (a dashboard so to speak). You also might want something to help you budget. Most of the products out there will connect to your accounts and ensure you have the latest transactions and balances from banks for checking and savings accounts, credit cards, retirement accounts, etc. And then there are some that will help you with even more tasks such as managing rental properties, evaluating your portfolios, providing debt-reduction planning, etc.
Some of you might be content with something as simple as a spreadsheet to manage your finances, but I need a little more. This is one area where I don’t like to skimp – even though I put a little bit of money toward the software, I’m able to easily recoup those costs through more informed decisions I’m able to make on my finances.
I’ve tried some of the other products out there through the past decade just to see if there is something better for keeping track of my finances, but I continue to come back to Quicken. Back in the day, there was only one other major competitor and that was Microsoft Money (which died off in 2009). I tried it for a while, but it just didn’t seem to have the same feeling of ease for me that Quicken did.
In the past few years, we’re starting to see more online products to help you with your finances. This is opening up a whole new realm of possibilities. Quicken was designed as desktop software and has gotten pretty bloated. However, some of the online services such as Mint and Empower (formerly Personal Capital) were designed from the ground up to be accessed through the Internet giving them an upper-hand. Quicken has to work to extend their reach to do some of the things that these services can provide. This is tough for them to do and probably one of the big reasons that Intuit picked up Mint in 2009 and why they’ve decided to sell off the Quicken product.
One of the downsides in my case with some of the Software as a Service (SaaS) is that they are focused on gathering all the data for you and are more or less read-only. So if I write a check (very rare) or do an online bill payment (much more common), I’m used to adding the information to the check register in Quicken. Now I know exactly where I stand. Since the online services only grab the data that’s out there, they aren’t aware of these pending payments. That throws my numbers off – hopefully not enough that I would bounce a “virtual” check, but I do like to know exactly where I stand and this is not something you usually get with the online services.
A few of the different products out there include:
- Quicken – my go software to for years – I use the Home & Business version, but there are other less expensive editions as well such as Deluxe and Premier which might suit you fine depending on your needs.
- Mint – A lot of people I know swear by Mint, but it seems to fall short on some important things like investment accounts (and my credit union!).
- Empower (formerly Personal Capital) – Very powerful online service that has some fantastic retirement planning tools as well. The only downside I have with it is that it doesn’t let me manage everything that Quicken does (credit union, manual entries, pending transaction, etc.). Definitely worth trying though to see if it suits you.
- YNAB (You Need A Budget) – Desktop software designed for people who… well, need a budget! I haven’t used it before, but it does have a strong following.
- GnuCash – free and very good, but just not as robust as Quicken in my opinion.
- Moneydance – I’ve never used this software before, but it does seem to be a pretty popular alternative to Quicken.
Some of the software out there, desktop or online, provide mobile apps as well. This can make keeping an eye on your finances even easier.
For now, I’m going to stick with Quicken, but considering 2016 is the last version of the software Intuit is making, the future is up in the air. Hopefully, another company will take the software and continue to grow it, but it’s still an unknown. In the meantime, I think I’m going to have to suck it up and try to get used to some of the online services despite their shortcomings.
How about you? What have you found to make managing your finances easier?
Thanks for reading!!