Forget Quicken & MS Money – My Free Personal Budgeting Software

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This is an edited guest post from PV – a “techie” friend of mine who believes in free and open source software. When I discussed this blog with him he was kind enough to provide an article on the budgeting software he uses. It is a great little tool, good reports and best of all it is FREE. Here is review and I am going to experiment with it this month for my budgeting.
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You are probably familiar with the old management saying:

“You can’t manage what you can’t measure”.

We earn; we spend; we save and we invest; but in the midst of all this activity; it would be nice to manage, monitor and measure our assets and liabilities. The best way for this would be to have a tool that allows you to look at and analyze the details of our everyday spending or saving, to then quickly rocket out and look at a 10,000 ft view of your equity and financial health.

There is an ever growing list of software tools out there that promise to help you manage your finances which can be broadly divided into the following groups:

* Commercial software you pay for: MS Money, Quicken (both desktop based and web based) etc. These are heavily marketed and most commonly used.

* Free software: open source desktop based tools (GnuCash, Grisbi, KmyMoney etc) and Web based (Mint, Wesabe, etc). There is also Microsoft Excel, but that is a manual spreadsheet tool that everyone customizes to their own needs so not as portable as a stand-alone tool or system.

Since the best way to save is not to spend; let’s talk about free tools. These free finance and budgeting tools are available in the form of both web based apps and desktop tools. There is a sea of information for those wishing to evaluate and identify the one tool that will perform the job for them, some of these resources are listed in the references at the end of the post

Since I am not yet comfortable uploading my financial details to third party sites on the web, I personally use an open source, free software tool that I can download to my desktop. The remainder of this article will list out some of the features of the tool I use – GnuCash. This does not mean that this tool is the best choice for everyone. Every software tool out there provides a wide range of features, you should certainly review some of them before choosing one.

Some of the nice features of Gnucash, installed on my Windows XP machine, that I find useful are:

* Installation: portable (unzip into a folder).

* Easy install and configuration: a simple wizard will run you through the process of getting set up (handy templates available).

* Global currencies

* Double-entry booking

* Import existing financial data from other tools in QIF / OFX files.

* Reporting capability

* Consolidating or account reconciliation

* Ability for receivable and payable systems, tax table construction – if you have business use of this tool.

* Easily record and track your Stock/Mutual Fund Portfolios

A complete review of the software and its various features is certainly beyond the scope of a single article on this blog, so I will conclude this article with a few screenshots that will get you interested in evaluating some of this and other open source free software applications for yourself.

Figure 1 (below): A Wizard runs you through some templates to get your initial setup configured


Figure 2: Extensive Reporting and charting capability

Figure 3: Schedule, split transactions; Reconcile and manage accounts through online services

There is certainly much more that can be discussed; and perhaps it can be in another post; if there is interest. Feel free to share your comments on this product or any other ones you have discovered.

Reference and Related Posts:

Personal Budget Spreadsheet – how to make it work for you
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gnucash
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comparison_of_accounting_software

Editors Note – As this is a free tool I am not making any money from this article or links in it. It is purely to provide some useful information to my readers.

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