At the beginning of October I signed up to get a free two month trial of Quicken. At the time I was getting ready to start tracking my expenses for the month and was interested in exploring a different budgeting tool than what I was using (Excel).
I just couldn’t get the software to work for me. Maybe it was because I couldn’t set up my bank for automatic downloads and I didn’t want to be entering every transaction as it happened. I also didn’t want to deal with downloading the info from my bank. So, instead of Quicken facilitating my expense tracking it actually made it more difficult. Or maybe it was because it was hard for me to tie the current month’s result to the next. But I mostly think it was because there was nothing really wrong with the system I was using and I am more comfortable with it.
Right now my budget is cash flow based. Because we pay ourselves first (automatic savings straight from paycheck) any money that hits our checking account is budgeted for bills or living expenses. If there are any surpluses it just rolls over to the next month and we keep it in there for any unexpected expenses.
I do admit that in the past it has been easy to spend the cushion kept in there without any advanced planning because “the money was there and we could spend it.” I am changing that. After tracking my expenses for roughly two months, I realized by budget was very simplistic. I needed to add categories for items that we spent money on not every month (gifts, pet care, etc). But that when they did hit our budget they caused noticeable impact. Staring in January, I will be putting aside a set amount of money for these expenses, so that I can accumulate the balance separately from our spending money.
I feel a little bad about not being able to make Quicken work for me. I wonder if there’s another software I can integrate better into my budgeting system. I have heard people use Microsoft Money successfully. Maybe that’s another one I could try. Or maybe I just need to stop trying to fix what isn’t broken (my current method).