Author Topic: Personal Finance/Budgeting Software Recommendations  (Read 2150 times)

brian313313

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Personal Finance/Budgeting Software Recommendations
« on: January 24, 2018, 05:20:51 PM »
Hi,

I am going to take over our budget & spending tracking from my wife. I am looking for some software to help. I've tried Mint in the past but didn't like it. I used to use Quicken and I liked that, however, I don't like the subscription software model. I tend to prefer software on my machine but I'm open to cloud-based also.

Also, I have Quickbooks. I was still able to buy that as a regular install so I don't have to keep paying. I think this does everything but download transactions from the bank. It seems like it has that feature but there are a lot of problems. The bank is giving me "qfx" files and Quickbooks will only import "qbo" files. Direct Connect will cost me a monthly fee. Since I have quite a few accounts this is not good.

Must haves:
- Download & categorize transactions from bank, credit cards
- Automatic categorization
- Split transactions over categories.
- Track spending on credit cards in the period spent and treat CC payments as a balance transfer. (I don't pay interest. I just use CC for rewards.)
- Report category averages over time
- Good price

Nice to haves:
- Track investments
- Variety of reports

Thanks.

MDM

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Re: Personal Finance/Budgeting Software Recommendations
« Reply #1 on: January 24, 2018, 05:41:56 PM »
IIRC, somewhere in Quicken's future direction - a cause for concern - Bogleheads.org there were suggestions on getting a copy of Quicken 2017 - good for another 2 years if you can get it.

COEE

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Re: Personal Finance/Budgeting Software Recommendations
« Reply #2 on: January 24, 2018, 05:57:24 PM »
Depending on where you're at in life, I'd suggest www.youneedabudget.com.  They have gone subscription recently, but they're still the best out there IMHO.  Or if you can get your hands on an old version (YNAB4) (buy it from a friend?), the license is perpetual.

If you're just starting out budgeting or in the debt payoff phase I would highly recommend YNAB.  It was extremely valuable for us when we were paying off our student loans and more recently when i was laid off for 6 months, 11 days - it helped me sleep at night knowing I had money in the bank and could pay all of our bills even without a job.  It's also been helpful for me to see that we have the money set aside and can afford pricey things occasionally (vacations, cars, etc) without it hurting our FIRE date much.

I've been using it for almost 6 years.  I haven't made the jump to the subscription service though - so these days it might be different.

Sarah Saverdink

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Re: Personal Finance/Budgeting Software Recommendations
« Reply #3 on: January 24, 2018, 06:12:25 PM »
Personal Capital offers most of what you are looking for and all of their tools are free. I've been using them for over a year and love them. They do a lot with investments and retirement planning, as well.

Here is an overview of their features: https://www.saverdinks.com/blog/personal-capital-free-finance-tools/

brian313313

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Re: Personal Finance/Budgeting Software Recommendations
« Reply #4 on: January 24, 2018, 06:33:35 PM »
Thanks for the feedback.

I am not in the payoff phase. I'm debt free except for a low-interest loan that I could pay off. I'm just trying to figure out what our monthly spending is. With multiple credit card and bank accounts it's really hard to keep track of spending. We say our budget is one thing but the savings are not adding up as much as they should. My wife has been tracking through Excel manually and the monthly expense balance she's reporting is always way off our cash flow.

Amazon import & categorization would also be a big plus. We spend a lot there and it can be anything from groceries to software.

letired

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Re: Personal Finance/Budgeting Software Recommendations
« Reply #5 on: January 25, 2018, 11:59:02 AM »
Unfortunately, I think the thing that will fulfil all your dreams is just that, a dream. I think as annoying as it is, you should sit down once a week and reconcile all your accounts and categorize expenses. There isn't really a software that will do it all automatically and correctly. Once you get a handle on it, you won't have to do it as often maybe?

Personally I mostly use old YNAB, which is 100% manual, but will kick me in the face if things don't add up. Its great at budgets and spending.

I'm experimenting with GnuCash (open source), but it's a bit clunky and tbh, I haven't figured out the reporting functions At All.

SpareChange

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Re: Personal Finance/Budgeting Software Recommendations
« Reply #6 on: January 26, 2018, 11:40:23 AM »
I use two major methods, which you'll probably disregard, but hear me out.

1) Look at statements. I pay rent and utilities through my checking account. Everything else goes on a credit card. I can just look at past statements and get a pretty decent idea of what's going on.

2) Excel with months as rows and columns for different categories (23, to give you an idea of how granular it is).

I think this is all you really need for a few reasons. Most of my expenses are fixed or effectively fixed after one or two upfront decisions that I do a lot of work to optimize. This includes rent, heat, water, electricity, internet, phone, laundry, car insurance, registration, etc., medical, dental, vision insurance, prescriptions, regular medical visits, hygiene products, and cleaning products. Things that can really vary are food, clothes, shoes, car maintenance, gas, leisure events, discretionary/luxury goods, and miscellaneous. If you just systematically start optimizing everything about your household, you don't really need to pay much attention to a budget. Just make sure the discretionary/luxury purchases are at a slow enough pace to hit your savings goals.

Budgeting in and of itself can't help anything, it can only give you data to inform your decisions. What do you really expect it to tell you that you don't already know? If you're having trouble finding where to cut, make it a game or otherwise force yourself to be as frugal as possible, cheapest of or elimination of everything, for a month or two and then slowly ease up to a comfortable balance.

I do something very similar, and wholeheartedly endorse this perspective haha.

brian313313

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Re: Personal Finance/Budgeting Software Recommendations
« Reply #7 on: January 27, 2018, 05:29:39 AM »
Thanks for the input. For now, I'm using Mint.com. Excel is not an option because that's what my wife was using. I took the budget over with the excuse that I could use a tool to do it more easily. If I use Excel, she'll just get the message that she wasn't doing a good job. One problem we have tracking is that my wife doesn't use cash for anything and we wind up with about 4 transactions/day average. Once the budget gets behind it's hard to catch up on the record-keeping. Right now, it's also hard to figure out because I let credit card debt go up because of 0% interest/rewards but then realized my mindset had changed about the money so I paid them off over the last few months. That's really skewing the budget because it's showing those as expenses last/this month.

Still, I can see that we're over $1k on groceries this month which we can get down to $500. I have no idea how it got so high since I don't do the grocery shopping but we were at $500 not that long ago. We have itemized groceries to find the problem areas. If we don't get it down for Feb, we'll have to do that again. I just know on paper I should be saving about 50-60% and in reality it is about 30%. The only number that I've been seeing is the number going into savings though. That's why I'm wanting to get on the budget. January ended up being an unusual month because both property tax & life insurance became due for the year. It's ok if I know why. Those are budgeted monthly in 1/12th increments with rollover.

Indexer

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Re: Personal Finance/Budgeting Software Recommendations
« Reply #8 on: January 27, 2018, 10:43:07 AM »
I use mint + spreadsheet.

Mint tabulates everything and categorizes expenses very well. Mint however has flaws in long term financial planning. Namely, if you close an account or pay off a loan Mint loses all the previous data. It also doesn't have your tax information, which isn't a flaw with mint, they just don't have access to the data.

I use mint for tracking expenses and budgeting. I use a spreadsheet for tracking monthly net worth and annual cash flow. Having mint track all of the expenses makes the annual cash flow statement a whole lot easier. I just gather the information from mint and plug it into the spreadsheet. 

SlowMustachian

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Re: Personal Finance/Budgeting Software Recommendations
« Reply #9 on: January 27, 2018, 02:57:44 PM »
I use personal capital to track net worth, I found its better at linking accounts than mint. Im not great at pre-budgeting, but to track spending I download transactions from the one credit card we use (which gives points) and my checking account, and caregiver / sum in excel.