I spent a good chunk of my weekend figuring out what program to use to track personal finances, and was that a painful exercise! You would think that in 2008, with Money and Quicken around for about 20 years, you were going to be blown away by those programs. You could not be more wrong.
I decided to give Money a try, as we had a Money 2007 around. The problem is that I couldn’t find my Money 2007 CD, so I went online and downloaded a free 60-day Microsoft Money Plus 2008 Deluxe trial, until I locate our copy.
Since I’m a newbie, I was after something fairly basic: have Money download my statements from the banks’ Web sites, and have the transactions categorized to have a vision of what where our money is spent, projections for the future, etc. Nothing really fancy, but that was way too much for Money.
First, Money gives you the choice to store passwords locally, or in the Windows Live vault. I chose to do this locally, even though it promised me a pessimal experience. It quickly took a stronger tone while I was setting up one of my accounts by telling me that if I wanted to download transactions automatically, I had to use Windows Live. That was the first turn off for me.
But the next one was even stronger. Money can consolidate transactions based on variations of the name of the payee. However, it does not support any kind of wildcarding. Let’s take an example. I have auto bill pay at my bank. Those get reported as:
Payee Date Time. So, I get:
JOHN SMITH FEB 28 21:03:02
JOHN SMITH MAR 28 21:06:43
I couldn’t figure out how to tell it that all of those ought to be in a specific category. Actually, it was not obvious how to assign default categories to transactions. The combination of all that made me reconsider using Quicken.
I read a few more bad Quicken reviews on Amazon (note that Money’s are actually worse), and decided to give it a try. The problem is that the only trial advertized on Intuit’s Web site is for their online version that I didn’t want to use. With a few Web searches, I discovered that there actually is an unadvertised Quicken Deluxe 2008 60-day trial.
I gave it a try, and Quicken looks much better than Money. First, all the account information is kept locally. It doesn’t seem to support as money banks as Money, but it’s pretty good at giving instructions when it fails. Second, it’s really easy to set up automatic categories for transactions. Not only that, but in my example above, Quicken automatically recognizes that all those transactions are for
So, for now, I’m pretty happy with Quicken, and I’ll order the full version if things stay this way.
That being said, I’m enthusiastic about the basic functionality, when I was looking forward to being blown away. Reading the various reviews, all those new versions of Money and Quicken are barely fixing bugs, and that’s very disappointing. It seems that people who invested in one solution are stuck with it, and they seem to be very little incentive for Microsoft and Intuit to innovate; it’s sufficiently bad that You Need A Budget, a program written by one guy in his spare time, is seen as a viable alternative. Worst, Quicken seem to be deactivating copies of Quicken after 4 years, forcing people to upgrade to marginally better versions.
So Quicken is not the loser of the game, but there’s no winner.