Author Topic: Best software for tracking finances  (Read 9891 times)

eveline

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 8
Best software for tracking finances
« on: January 10, 2016, 06:43:39 PM »
I imagine this has been covered in detail on this forum, but I am having a hard time locating any advice.

What software do you use to track your finances?

Are you happy with it? Pros/Cons

I have access to a copy of Quicken 2015 Home and was thinking of that. Right now I have a simple budget in a spreadsheet, but that's all.

I just got a new job, making more money. I would like to start this off on the right foot. Keeping up with tracking your spending takes time, too. How do you manage your time, managing your money, so you stay on top of it, and you're not falling behind?

accolay

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 983
Re: Best software for tracking finances
« Reply #1 on: January 10, 2016, 06:55:47 PM »
I use a spreadsheet too- MS Excel. I wonder what I'm missing by not using dedicated software. Would it really make that much of a difference?

GrowingTheGreen

  • Bristles
  • ***
  • Posts: 356
    • Growing The Green
Re: Best software for tracking finances
« Reply #2 on: January 10, 2016, 07:01:15 PM »
It really doesn't get much easier than Mint.  Some people like Personal Capital.

Honestly, Excel is just too much work for me.

accolay

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 983
Re: Best software for tracking finances
« Reply #3 on: January 10, 2016, 07:07:01 PM »
I kinda like plunking numbers into excel and once the format for my budget was set up I thought it was pretty easy to maintain.

GrowingTheGreen

  • Bristles
  • ***
  • Posts: 356
    • Growing The Green
Re: Best software for tracking finances
« Reply #4 on: January 10, 2016, 07:08:18 PM »
No doubt it's easy.  I'd love to be able to do it, but I have a hard time finding time between doing a DIY remodel, running a blog, volunteering 500 hours a year, and my W-2 job!!

You probably have some sweet graphs that I'd be jealous of.

skuzuker28

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 150
  • Age: 32
  • Location: OR
Re: Best software for tracking finances
« Reply #5 on: January 10, 2016, 07:13:13 PM »
Was using an Excel template I found, just switched over to QuickBooks because I am a masochistic nerd.

GizmoTX

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1424
Re: Best software for tracking finances
« Reply #6 on: January 10, 2016, 07:27:40 PM »
YNAB.

I did Excel for years, but essentially just a checking account register. Before that, Quicken -- too complicated & expensive. Before that, Managing Your Money, which sadly was sold to banks who made it unavailable to Mac computers.

YNAB is great for the account register alone. It features complete customization of categories & the way budgeting is handled is brilliant. Downloads of transactions are available for all my credit cards & banks, insuring that no transactions get missed.

BlueHouse

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 3277
  • Location: WDC
Re: Best software for tracking finances
« Reply #7 on: January 10, 2016, 07:47:52 PM »
I've used Quicken for 15+ years.  I was so bogged down in collecting the numbers correctly and making sure that they matched up with statements from mortgage companies, banks, investments, credit cards, etc, that I didn't spend the appropriate time doing analysis.  I'm GREATLY reducing the number of categories I track and I'm also no longer trying to track movement between accounts.  I'm more focused now on cash flow and savings vs. expenses and
less on tracking things that other people already track. 

eveline

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 8
Re: Best software for tracking finances
« Reply #8 on: January 10, 2016, 08:06:00 PM »
All of this is very helpful, especially the time-saving ideas.

I am going to look at YNAB, but I am hesitant to spend money, even a small amount. But, if it's easy and useful, I will go with it.

I spend too much time in excel for work, I need something more controlled, I think. Unless you have an awesome template you would not mind sharing, that you use.

foto

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 4
Re: Best software for tracking finances
« Reply #9 on: January 10, 2016, 08:36:07 PM »
I've used Quicken since 1993.  I track all of my accounts, both banking and investment. Also, I use it for investment analysis and retirement forecasting. Its my one stop shop for my personal financials - Everything!  All my accounts are connected so it's very easy and effortless to download transaction, ensure they are categorized correctly for later analysis an reports.  Despite some peculiarities, I wouldn't use anything else.  Besides I like the fact that my data file resides on my local machine. My main uses now are cost tracking, investment reporting and retirement planning.

On the downside, Quicken has struggled recently with buggy releases.  Their yearly release tends to just "rearrange the deck chairs", not offering too much in terms of groundbreaking features.  New features sometimes are half baked, at initial release (eg. Bill Tracking)  And finally, some of the functionality around tax and retirement planning are horibly outdated (eg. IRS limits on 401k and IRA).   Of course there are work arounds, but the chronic bugs could lead you down a wrong path.

I suppose there is well more funtionality than most would use, to be sure.  I started simply to track spending and it became progressively more integrated over the years.

Spork

  • Walrus Stache
  • *******
  • Posts: 5753
    • Spork In The Eye
Re: Best software for tracking finances
« Reply #10 on: January 10, 2016, 08:55:49 PM »
I have used (many years ago) Quicken and Microsoft Money. 

I switched to gnucash somewhere around 1997 when we got rid of our last Microsoft computer.  It also runs on Mac/Microsoft.  Don't panic.

It does everything I want for free.  I writes the file in an easily parse-able format if you want to do more.  This was probably my biggest draw to it -- building my own backend processing.

It is also much more financially correct than others I have tried.  It uses more generally accepted accounting principles.

It may not automatically download all your account information depending on your bank.  I see this as a feature... as I don't think it's a good idea to have automatic logins sitting around on a computer.

Zebra

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 16
Re: Best software for tracking finances
« Reply #11 on: January 11, 2016, 03:46:21 AM »
I use spreadsheets, Quicken, and YNAB. But I am weening myself off YNAB. I've been playing around more with Quicken and discovered that I can get basically the same budget functionality as I had in YNAB by using tags, customized reports and the Planning tab. I like Quicken because it allows me to see my complete financial picture in one place.

I haven't used Mint in years, but as I recall, it only shows you transactions that have actually cleared your account. Since it doesn't take into account scheduled future transactions or uncleared transactions, you don't get an accurate picture of how much money is available for spending. But a lot of people seem to use it successfully, so there's that.

Thegoblinchief

  • Guest
Re: Best software for tracking finances
« Reply #12 on: January 11, 2016, 06:32:59 AM »
I like YNAB mainly for how easy it is to plan for future expenses. That has always been the hardest thing for me with other approaches.

That said, unless they're still doing trials and purchases of YNAB 4, it's hard to recommend the new YNAB right now. They released it too soon. I might stick with new YNAB past my free trial out of curiosity so I can write about it but I'm still maintaining my YNAB 4 budget in parallel.

MDM

  • Walrus Stache
  • *******
  • Posts: 9791
Re: Best software for tracking finances
« Reply #13 on: January 11, 2016, 08:36:41 AM »
I've used Quicken since 1993.  I track all of my accounts, both banking and investment. Also, I use it for investment analysis and retirement forecasting. Its my one stop shop for my personal financials - Everything!  All my accounts are connected so it's very easy and effortless to download transaction, ensure they are categorized correctly for later analysis an reports.  Despite some peculiarities, I wouldn't use anything else.  Besides I like the fact that my data file resides on my local machine. My main uses now are cost tracking, investment reporting and retirement planning.

On the downside, Quicken has struggled recently with buggy releases.  Their yearly release tends to just "rearrange the deck chairs", not offering too much in terms of groundbreaking features.  New features sometimes are half baked, at initial release (eg. Bill Tracking)  And finally, some of the functionality around tax and retirement planning are horibly outdated (eg. IRS limits on 401k and IRA).   Of course there are work arounds, but the chronic bugs could lead you down a wrong path.

I suppose there is well more funtionality than most would use, to be sure.  I started simply to track spending and it became progressively more integrated over the years.
+1

Good overview of the pros and cons.

2buttons

  • Bristles
  • ***
  • Posts: 393
Re: Best software for tracking finances
« Reply #14 on: January 11, 2016, 09:36:16 AM »
Excel. Every few months I make adjustments, but with basic formulas its really simple. All the other programs I have tried over the years are not as flexible.

golden1

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1544
  • Location: MA
Re: Best software for tracking finances
« Reply #15 on: January 11, 2016, 09:45:53 AM »
I made my own master spreadsheet for home use.  It has a retirement planning page, a monthly cash flow page and a year plan.  I've spent years tinkering with it and perfecting it.  I am currently working on a meal planning page for it. 

For mobile use I actually use 4 apps. 
1) Mint - for tracking all my accounts and budgeting.
2) Dollarbird - for my month cash flow
3) Pennies - to track my flexible weekly spending
4) My new favorite - Sweep.  This is particularly excellent if you want to use your credit card for flexible purchases.  It has a "pay as you go" system where it allocates money to pay your credit card balance as you use your card. 

midweststache

  • Bristles
  • ***
  • Posts: 471
Re: Best software for tracking finances
« Reply #16 on: January 11, 2016, 09:50:38 AM »
I like YNAB mainly for how easy it is to plan for future expenses. That has always been the hardest thing for me with other approaches.

That said, unless they're still doing trials and purchases of YNAB 4, it's hard to recommend the new YNAB right now. They released it too soon. I might stick with new YNAB past my free trial out of curiosity so I can write about it but I'm still maintaining my YNAB 4 budget in parallel.

This. I'm not planning on making the switch away from YNAB4 for as long as possible. I like that it's on my desktop rather than the Cloud (some probably ill-informed sense of security), and though I absolutely love the product I'm a little disillusioned by the monthly payment set-up of a software that is ostensibly a money-saving measure (and that seems to be directly tied to moving to a cloud-based format)...

Will

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 786
  • Location: Vancouver, WA
  • What the deuce?!?!?
Re: Best software for tracking finances
« Reply #17 on: January 11, 2016, 09:56:51 AM »
I like YNAB mainly for how easy it is to plan for future expenses. That has always been the hardest thing for me with other approaches.

That said, unless they're still doing trials and purchases of YNAB 4, it's hard to recommend the new YNAB right now. They released it too soon. I might stick with new YNAB past my free trial out of curiosity so I can write about it but I'm still maintaining my YNAB 4 budget in parallel.

This. I'm not planning on making the switch away from YNAB4 for as long as possible. I like that it's on my desktop rather than the Cloud (some probably ill-informed sense of security), and though I absolutely love the product I'm a little disillusioned by the monthly payment set-up of a software that is ostensibly a money-saving measure (and that seems to be directly tied to moving to a cloud-based format)...

Yeah, I was going to say that this is where I would usually chime in with my ringing endorsement of YNAB but with this new release and ongoing cost I cannot do so.  I guess I should take that discount link out of my signature....   :(

Thegoblinchief

  • Guest
Re: Best software for tracking finances
« Reply #18 on: January 11, 2016, 12:17:40 PM »
Will - AFAIK there's no discounts via referrals anymore.

robartsd

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 2754
  • Location: Sacramento, CA
Re: Best software for tracking finances
« Reply #19 on: January 11, 2016, 01:30:32 PM »
I've used Budget by Snowmint Creative Solutions. I used the Mac version before they made Budget Touch or the Windows version. I like that it keeps track of both accounts and categories (envelopes); but sometimes did not like the hoops I had to go through to balance paying for an expense from one account when the funds assigned to the envelope were in another. Eventually our issues with not recording transactions as they occured leading to hard work to reconcile caused us to drop using it. At this point I wouldn't go back unless I could sync a budget between multiple Android devices and a Linux desktop with no recurring costs; but creating a budget during my first year on my own at university was freeing - and I liked the look of the UI a lot better then.

My ideal solution would have an easy way to enter transactions and view budgets on a mobile device (Android) with the data available on a desktop for easy analysis.

HeadedWest2029

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 184
Re: Best software for tracking finances
« Reply #20 on: January 11, 2016, 02:09:31 PM »
Quicken user for over a decade.  Tried mint to see if I could drop Quicken, but didn't allow adding more static assets like land I own, cash value on life insurance, car values, etc.  Maybe mint has since added this type of capability, but I wanted a more complete financial picture.  Only gripe with Quicken is they spam the crap out of you to get you to upgrade every year, however as others have said there is little reason to upgrade until your hands are forced to get the automatic account downloads working.  I think they disable this functionality once you fall a couple versions behind.  I'm on 2014 so I'll have to buy the upgrade by April 2017

https://quicken.intuit.com/support/help/shopping-and-buying/quicken-discontinuation-policy/GEN82218.html

RWD

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 3795
  • Location: Mississippi
Re: Best software for tracking finances
« Reply #21 on: January 11, 2016, 03:12:47 PM »
I have used (many years ago) Quicken and Microsoft Money. 

I switched to gnucash somewhere around 1997 when we got rid of our last Microsoft computer.  It also runs on Mac/Microsoft.  Don't panic.

It does everything I want for free.  I writes the file in an easily parse-able format if you want to do more.  This was probably my biggest draw to it -- building my own backend processing.

It is also much more financially correct than others I have tried.  It uses more generally accepted accounting principles.

It may not automatically download all your account information depending on your bank.  I see this as a feature... as I don't think it's a good idea to have automatic logins sitting around on a computer.

I am using GnuCash as well. It's been perfect for my needs.

tacosandbeer

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 8
Re: Best software for tracking finances
« Reply #22 on: January 11, 2016, 03:44:56 PM »
I'm going to swim against the current on YNAB 5. I like the new version; it makes working with my accounts and budget much, much faster than YNAB 4. I understand the pushback on the subscription model. You can do this with a spreadsheet (other than direct connecting to bank/investment accounts). And, previously, YNAB was a "one-time" license fee and you could opt in to updates.

If there's one thing I am sick of, it's the thousand cuts of subscription services (this is also true in my business in addition to personal finances).

But...the $5/month (the max amount if you're weird and pay monthly) is a small amount for me to pay to keep the accounts tidy. Will it be that way forever? Maybe not. Every December I'll re-evaulate and see if I need a different system that doesn't require YNAB and a subscription.

UKfire

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 17
  • Location: Chester, UK
Re: Best software for tracking finances
« Reply #23 on: January 11, 2016, 04:50:42 PM »
I use Graham Haley's 'Account Tracker' on iOS, iPhone & iPad.  He also has a really good utility meters app, not to mention his Hill Lists app for you hill walkers.

I have no affiliation other than being a user of all three apps.

http://grahamhaley.co.uk/accounts/
« Last Edit: January 11, 2016, 05:36:30 PM by UKNortherner »

Jacana

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 188
  • Location: Back in the DMV :(
Re: Best software for tracking finances
« Reply #24 on: January 11, 2016, 06:13:12 PM »
I hate Mint's budget method. If I spend $50 at Target, and half of it is groceries and half is baby supplies, Mint forces you to chose one or the other. Or leave it as this mysterious useless 'split transaction' category. And it constantly guesses wrong for auto assigning categories. But Mint is great for monitoring accounts and assets. I use YNAB 4 for budgeting and it is so so much more useful. I have not tried the new online model yet. You could write your own version of YNAB 4 in excel if you were so inclined.

robartsd

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 2754
  • Location: Sacramento, CA
Re: Best software for tracking finances
« Reply #25 on: January 12, 2016, 10:37:56 AM »
I hate Mint's budget method. If I spend $50 at Target, and half of it is groceries and half is baby supplies, Mint forces you to chose one or the other. Or leave it as this mysterious useless 'split transaction' category. And it constantly guesses wrong for auto assigning categories. But Mint is great for monitoring accounts and assets. I use YNAB 4 for budgeting and it is so so much more useful. I have not tried the new online model yet. You could write your own version of YNAB 4 in excel if you were so inclined.
In a browser on the desktop, I can split transactions in Mint (after they post - does not work on pending transactions) then assign categories to the split transaction. Sure not the most convienient, but no worse than sitting down with reciepts and entering data after getting home. For Mint I typically assign the split transaction to the category that has the largest total, add a note about how it should be split, and tag it "Split Me Later".

Jacana

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 188
  • Location: Back in the DMV :(
Re: Best software for tracking finances
« Reply #26 on: January 12, 2016, 11:09:33 AM »
In a browser on the desktop, I can split transactions in Mint (after they post - does not work on pending transactions) then assign categories to the split transaction. Sure not the most convienient, but no worse than sitting down with reciepts and entering data after getting home. For Mint I typically assign the split transaction to the category that has the largest total, add a note about how it should be split, and tag it "Split Me Later".

Thanks for that trick, I stand corrected! Is there a way to do it on the app?

frugalnacho

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 3552
  • Age: 36
  • Location: Madison Heights, Michigan
Re: Best software for tracking finances
« Reply #27 on: January 12, 2016, 01:23:02 PM »
In a browser on the desktop, I can split transactions in Mint (after they post - does not work on pending transactions) then assign categories to the split transaction. Sure not the most convienient, but no worse than sitting down with reciepts and entering data after getting home. For Mint I typically assign the split transaction to the category that has the largest total, add a note about how it should be split, and tag it "Split Me Later".

Thanks for that trick, I stand corrected! Is there a way to do it on the app?

Yes.  On the main page when you open the app is shows transactions and you can click "show all transactions", then from that screen you just click on whatever transaction you want to edit, then in the upper right hand corner there is a vertical "...", click that and hit "split transaction".  It's easier to do on the computer IMO, especially if you have to split many transactions or split one into multiple categories, but for simple splits I just do it on the app.  And like robartsd said you cannot split a pending transaction, so you have to wait for it to no longer be pending which is a pain, but not that big of a deal.

Obviously I am a mint user and I recommend it as well.

jim555

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 2160
Re: Best software for tracking finances
« Reply #28 on: January 12, 2016, 03:28:30 PM »
LibreOffice spreadsheet, dates running down, categories across.  Track every expense. 
Also sheets for monthly net worth, projected expenses and income.  Very simple and free.

Jacana

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 188
  • Location: Back in the DMV :(
Re: Best software for tracking finances
« Reply #29 on: January 13, 2016, 07:22:44 AM »

Yes.  On the main page when you open the app is shows transactions and you can click "show all transactions", then from that screen you just click on whatever transaction you want to edit, then in the upper right hand corner there is a vertical "...", click that and hit "split transaction".  It's easier to do on the computer IMO, especially if you have to split many transactions or split one into multiple categories, but for simple splits I just do it on the app.  And like robartsd said you cannot split a pending transaction, so you have to wait for it to no longer be pending which is a pain, but not that big of a deal.

Obviously I am a mint user and I recommend it as well.

Thanks! I'll stick with YNAB for envelope budgeting for now, but this will make Mint more useful.

tomlovesbacon

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 1
Re: Best software for tracking finances
« Reply #30 on: January 13, 2016, 07:31:46 AM »
I've been using Mint since 2008 :-)

eveline

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 8
Re: Best software for tracking finances
« Reply #31 on: February 02, 2016, 12:15:33 PM »
I really enjoyed seeing all the replies and strategies. This is an active community.

YNAB always looked nice, but I am hesitant to pay for a SaaS product on a monthly basis. I would try it, but then I might get hooked. So, I opted to use a copy of Quicken 2015 that was given to me. I like it, sort of. I screwed up renaming my accounts and Quicken after I linked them went through a syncing nightmare, so I had to start over with a new data file. Not a big deal since I am only starting with 2016. New year, new job, and the like.

Quicken also has some wonky issues, like the assigning categories screen that goes off my monitor. It's quiet the programming glitch.

Anywho, I also am a redditor and I subscribe to r/frugal and r/personalfinance. One recent post that really helped me was:

https://www.reddit.com/r/personalfinance/comments/40q7jb/budgeting_101_the_simplest_way_to_start_budgeting

The spreadsheet is Excel, but opens in Google Docs okay, too. This model of budgeting works for me. I started a checking account just for Expenses and the Flex account really helps me manage my day-to-day without experiencing the hyper-vigilance of budgeting groceries/gas/clothing to the dollar. Unless I needed to consider those items a fixed expense, I leave it in Flex.

Thanks for all the helpful replies and sharing your experiences!

FiguringItOut

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 754
  • Location: NYC
Re: Best software for tracking finances
« Reply #32 on: February 02, 2016, 12:49:39 PM »
I use YNAB4 for budgeting my cash accounts and Excel for tracking all of my finances.


Excel is for my personal balance sheet, which I update monthly.  I have monthly balances of all of my accounts (401K, tIRA, rollover IRA, Roth IRA, HSA, student loan, and total cash from YNAB).  I update it once a month with the month end balance only.  I don't track contributions vs growth, dividends, etc.  Maybe at some point in the future I'll start doing that, and then I'll design a different excel spreadsheet to track what I need/want, but for now, I am just looking at my monthly net worth number.  It's low enough that none of the additional info is important right now, just that it grown bit by bit every month. 

I don't track my retirement/investment accounts in YNAB.  YNAB is only for cash (checking, savings, gift cards, actual cash in my wallet).

I tried mint and personal capital and didn't like either.  Mint was just annoying and in personal capital I can't connect of my credit union accounts that is my main checking account.  Plus I open a lot of checking and credit card accounts for my travel rewards and I don't want to keep updating all that info.

As for YNAB, I use the old version.  Haven't tried or plan to try new web based model.  I'll be using YNAB4 till wheels fall off. 

This. I'm not planning on making the switch away from YNAB4 for as long as possible. I like that it's on my desktop rather than the Cloud (some probably ill-informed sense of security), and though I absolutely love the product I'm a little disillusioned by the monthly payment set-up of a software that is ostensibly a money-saving measure (and that seems to be directly tied to moving to a cloud-based format)...

Emphasis mine.

I have to disagree here.  I don't see YNAB as money-saving measure.  YNAB is a budgeting tool, not saving tool.  It lets you budget your money any way you choose to and it doesn't force you into saving money.  If you choose to budget $5/mo for YNAB subscription then it's your choice.  If you choose to save that $5/mo, that's also your choice. If you want to budget for $5,000 trinket, be my guest as long as it fits into the parameters of your budget (inflows>= current + planned outflows).
I think savings overall is a consequence of budgeting, not a goal of YNAB. 

I do agree that new web based YNAB sucks and I don't plan to use it.