Last weekend I decided I needed some kind of budgeting software. I could make a spreadsheet, but I know me and my laziness and can be pretty sure that wouldn’t work. I looked on the moneysavingexpert.com forums and the program that came out on top was Microsoft Money. They all seemed to like it, and even those with their own spreadsheets were often planning to move the data into the 2005 version. It definitely seemed to be the one to go for.
You can buy and download MS Money directly from the MS website, but only if you’re in the US. Also, there are different software releases for the US and the UK, so ordering from a US online store wouldn’t work. No UK sites allow downloads, and the 90-day trial expired back in October. On Tuesday I was about to drive to PC World and pick up a copy at £18.99, but then decided I’d avoid rush hour by waiting until Wednesday. By then the price had dropped to £12.49, which was nice 🙂 I installed it last night and have spent a good few hours inputting all my data and configuring the program.
A major advantage of MS Money is that it can import online statements. If the bank offers transaction data in QIF or OFX formats the software will automatically detect the download and insert the data into the appropriate account. My HSBC bank account supports this, although Egg does not. Still, it saved me a lot of time. I categorised each payment / deposit from the past two months, then set up a budget and with some trepidation calculated my financial forecast for the next few months.
Hmmm. With my computer-repair income I’m just afloat currently, providing I stick rigidly to the budget, and that’s without any kind of saving for the future. At least I know that I can’t afford another 512mb of ram right now 🙂
The software is quite impressive, although I think it could do with a printed manual. Switching between a .pdf user guide and the main screen is a pain, and it’s easy to lose your place. I’ve got my savings and current accounts all set up, plus my two credit cards and a ‘cash’ account for tracking ATM withdrawals. Every scrap of money I have is accounted for, which is great for an overall picture. There certainly seems to be room for expansion, with panels for ‘investments’, ‘debt reduction plans’, ‘life events’ etc.
The only problem I’m having is getting it to forecast credit card payments in advance. I seem to have to insert them manually, which is weird considering it knows the current balance, plus statement and payment dates. I’m probably not understanding it correctly, though.
I think MS Money is an excellent investment for me, as I hate not having a grip on my finances.