While tracking your money may not be the most exciting thing in the world, it’s usually a good idea. When you ask yourself what happened to your last pay cheque, your records will give you the answer. If you find any of the numbers shocking, you can make adjustments. At tax time, you’ll know exactly what you need to claim and are less likely to forget something, keeping more of your hard-earned dollars in your pocket.
I started using the Canadian edition of Quicken Home & Business 2013 for our family finances in January of 2013. Before that, I used another program no longer in production. Downloading my transactions into the old program was becoming increasingly difficult, so when a Boxing Day sale came up 6 months ago, I decided it was time to upgrade.
Installing the software was reasonably easy. Adding our bank accounts was intuitive – no long instructions necessary. My favourite feature is the bill reminder system. As I mentioned in my post about getting bill-paying organized, without the bill-reminder system, I wouldn’t be able to remember what was due when.
Setting up investment accounts was more difficult. The program uses the ticker symbol to fetch the market values online and import them into the program, giving you an accurate market value of any of your holdings at any given time. While sometimes I prefer to bury my head in the sand, I figured that since the feature was there, I should set it up properly. For some strange reason, it wouldn’t take the ticker symbol the first time I entered it. I tried a few different variations (like putting CA in there somewhere for Canada), and nothing worked. I went back and put in the original symbol again, which hadn’t worked originally, but worked many minutes of frustration later. Computers are so annoying sometimes.
Now that the program is set up, the ongoing maintenance is quick. Once a week, I download the transactions from our bank accounts and categorize them (about 3-5 minutes), then pay any bills coming due in the next 7 days (another 5 minutes to check the charges and then pay). Quicken does not actually make the bill payments – I still use my bank’s web site for that, but I keep track of them in the software. The routine tasks are quick, which is great because that’s what I was aiming for. Who wants to spend all day looking at numbers?
The business side of the program takes a bit more time. I have found it to be less intuitive. For example, if you want to have the program recognize a certain type of expense as a business expense rather than a personal expense, I would have thought that changing the account type to “business” under its properties would do it, but no. I had to actually assign a tax line number to it in order for the program to recognize it. It took me longer than I’m willing to admit to figure that out. Forcing the tax line allocation makes sense when you’re using the program in conjunction with TurboTax to complete your tax return, but I prefer StudioTax (see my review here), so forcing me to enter a tax line number is just wasting my time.
If you have a simple unincorporated business, this program should give you the reporting and data entry options that you need. However, if your business is incorporated and/or you need to track retained earnings, on behalf of your accountant, I beg you to please get another option that is designed for this purpose. You need something that will track retained earnings properly and force you to categorize all transactions.
Quicken is available on Amazon.ca.
What do you use to track your family finances?