Without question there are more than enough money management software titles for the Mac. There was a time when Intuit’s Quicken was about all we had to manage money. Years of abusing Mac users has relegated Quicken to also-ran status. Mac users found other solutions. In the past year I’ve changed my solution three times. The latest?
In some cases, switching to a different Mac money management application is straightforward, since data can be exported and imported (allow me to thank Quicken for that). While it may seem scary to go from one app to another, once you’ve done it, correctly, a few times, it’s easy.
Buh Bye, Quicken
Why not use Intuit’s Quicken? Intuit hasn’t upgraded Quicken as often as the Windows PC version, and it lacks a number of its cousin’s (they can’t be brothers) features.
Quicken for the Mac is Intuit’s forgotten step child. They keep promising a new version, but haven’t delivered on any of their promises in recent years, so why should I believe Intuit now?
So, a few years ago it was “Bye, bye Quicken” for me.
During the Ditch Qucken process I made a list of what I thought my money management needs would be. I kept it simple. A checkbook on my Mac would be enough.
So, that’s what I bought and installed. CheckBook from Splasm. It worked fine. CheckBook is what you think it is. A basic digital checkbook with a few extra features; accounts, currency, and so on. I used it for a year and decided to switch again.
Cha-Ching caught my eye because it had an iPhone version. It was also free during one of those Mac bundle promotions so I didn’t have to fork over any additional coin.
Cha-Ching worked fine. For awhile. A few upgrades went wonky which messed up the entries, which consequently messed up the synchronization with my iPhone version. You have to be able to trust money management software, and I found that Cha-Ching was no more trustworthy than Quicken.
Go West, Young Man
In barely a year I had gone from an old Quicken, to an easy and competent CheckBook, to a fancy Mac and iPhone compatible newbie. My needs changed, too. I was ready for more features than CheckBook, still wanted an iPhone version, and was under a vow not to consider an Intuit product.
That brought me to a search of a dozen Mac money management software titles. I settled on MoneyWell.
MoneyWell™ gives you powerful personal finance organization and analysis tools in a simple, single-screen solution. Without running complex reports or having to trudge through six levels of pie charts, you’ll know immediately if your spending is on track.
The hidden gem among the features is the single-screen solution and MoneyWell’s ability to show me how I’m doing financially without printing out a tree of reports.
There’s an analog money management technique called Envelope Budgeting where you take your cash, put the bill payments into envelopes marked for each espense; rent, food, car payment, alimony, utilities, child care, whatever.
MoneyWell does something similar but does it digitally, on your Mac’s screen, and it’s easy to do. MoneyWell calls the same concept buckets.
Splitting up your paycheck into envelopes for each category of your budget is a tried and true method for stopping overspending. Unfortunately, with direct deposit and debit cards that work like cash, it’s nearly impossible to do today. MoneyWell supercharges that concept and gives you back control over your spending with spending buckets.
This feature alone is worth the price of admission because it eliminates the need for a Mac user to be a CPA or an accountant or the owner of a Mac Money Management for Dummies book.
Buckets of Money
Simply put, MoneyWell lets you budget according to buckets for each basic expense. That’s where you start.
Part of the problem is knowing exactly how much you have been spending and the other part is knowing what you have left to spend right now. Most personal finance software forces you to print reports and click down through layers of pie charts just to find out if you are on budget. MoneyWell is different. It makes it easy to track what you spend so you know your spending patterns and it tells you at a glance what you have available to spend today.
I like that approach because it shows me at a glance where I stand in relation to how much money I have left, or, whether there’s too much month left at the end of my money. Think of the advantage to this method:
MoneyWell’s buckets are very visual. When a bucket is empty, it tips over and dims in color. If you overspend, a large red exclamation point appears to warn you. This means that at a glance, you’ll know exactly where you have money left to spend. It’s all right there on the main window.
From there, MoneyWell’s feature set grows but in more of a gentle curve that a bullet point list of components each of which requires an individual instruction PDF.
Good money management software still needs a list of common features for a user to grow into. MoneyWell does repeating transactions (rent, mortgage, car payment, alimony), connects to your bank (mine, at least), multiple accounts, and credit card management.
Credit cards are dangerous because they fly under the budget radar. MoneyWell is an equal opportunity spending manager. It sees money coming out of your Clothing bucket even if it comes from your credit card instead of your checking account.
What that means is that MoneyWell still tracks a specific expense in the right category even if you use a credit card for the purchase. This is big.
MoneyWell comes with a few surprises. One is the aforementioned iPhone version. No, it’s not here yet, but it’s coming. I’m confident enough in MoneyWell that an iPhone version will be worth the wait, though it may only sync via MobileMe.
The MoneyWell site also has tutorials on the basic components, including Cash Flow, Reconciliation, Credit Cards, and Getting Started. Tutorial? No PDF. It’s video. Easy on the eyes.
A companion product called Debt Quencher helps people with credit card problems. Enter your card balance. Pick a payment method. Follow the payment plan. Don’t use that particular credit card.
For those Mac users who want a little financial education, the MoneyWell way, a number of well written articles make up part of the support, but show you how by using MoneyWell.
My view of managing money on my Mac is that it should be fun, relatively painless, and not fall apart with a click. So far, so good.