In Valid Logic

Endlessly expanding technology

Frustrations with Microsoft Money

Warning: Rant below.  Was going to shorten the post, but this bothers me so much and I just want to rant for a bit on this POS.

I think I am getting close to the end of my ropes with Microsoft Money.  Personal finance software sucks so bad.  The two biggest players are Quicken and Microsoft Money, both of which have been stuck in this logic of "upgrade to this years new edition!  it now puts headers on your TPS reports!".

They have constantly yearly releases which are essentially last years products with a few bullet point features, most of which are completely irrelevant to the common user and will sound like Greek.  Take a look what their what's new list.  How is any of that supposed to convince me to upgrade?  Ooo, some specialized reports!  Wait, doesn't it already have reporting?  Can't I already view my spending by category?

I want a program that does just what I want and only what I want:

  • Keep track of transactions
  • Automatically download from all my accounts
  • Categorization
  • Reporting
  • Budgeting (ie, try to stay under $400/mo in groceries or something)
  • Cashflow projections... ie, based on my budget, I want to see the cashflow projections on my checking account.  Will I have a $500 surplus I could move into savings?  Am I keeping enough of a buffer between $0 and my projected low point.
  • Optional, bill pay through the software
  • Optional, itemizing my paycheck.  Do this for tax purposes, though not a crucial thing.
  • Seriously, that is all I want.  I want it simple.  I want it stable.  I don't want it cluttered with ads and links to getting a low APR mortgage.  I don't want investment tips.  I don't want investment tracking.  My broker has their own online tools for that.  I don't even want 401k management.  I can take care of that elsewhere.  I only want everyday, common transactions.

    The latest nail in the coffin for MS Money was their recent online update.  Check out the instructions.  This little "update" they just threw on users requires you to basically remove all online bindings, then create new accounts with the new online settings, and then merge the old accounts with the new ones.  Some people have been very frustrated with it.  Some report it taking up to 4 hours, which I don't really want to do.  I set up all my accounts 2 years ago, I don't want to do it again.  And their latest version, Microsoft Money Plus?  It apparently needs Data Execute Prevention disabled in your BIOS.  Sorry, but why does personal finance software need that?  Why should I lower the security of my system for this bloatware?  I'm wasn't going to upgrade, but still, if that is the future of the software, and if their team is poor enough to put out software like that, is it really something I want to be a user of?

    There is some hope on the horizon with Wesabe.  Wesabe is a free online service that provides pure and simple personal finance management.  I am not 100% sold on them, since while they aren't quite there with the features I need, when a company is bold enough to where you can personally call their CEO, it may be worth giving them a chance.

    There are a few things missing from Wesabe that I think I'd really need to switch 100%:

    • No quick way to view new transactions.  What posted since I last logged in?  I like to look over all the transactions to make sure I or my wife made them.
    • They allow tagging of transactions, which is nice compared to straight categories, but no way to split transactions.  IE, I go to Raley's, spend $15 on groceries, and get $40 cash back.  It is one transaction, but I only want the $15 going against my groceries spending.  With tagging, the full $55 goes towards both.  They actually do allow splitting, and it actually sounds really sweet!
    • Their budgeting is a little weak... no way to get a nice total picture of your budgeted tags.  I don't need full budgeting, since many categories are static.  My gas bill only comes from one place, it fluctuates through the year, and I don't want to see "over budget on Utilities : Gas".  I am not over budget, just the concept of budget is inflexible to things like time of year.  I mainly car about the discretionary categories... things like groceries, gasoline, dining out, and general food (I differentiate dining at a sit down restaurant from going to the local deli for lunch).
    • Cashflow forecasting.  I don't use this a lot in MS Money, but I look at it every day.  It shows estimated account balances out 90 days based on my budget, so with that, I can easily ensure I have enough of a cushion or see if I have some excess I could move to a savings account.
    • Haven't found a nice way to enter in transactions in advance.  I can queue a payment to a credit card or some other bill like 2-3 weeks in advance.  This becomes important with the previous item, cashflow forecasting.  If I queue a $500 payment for something, I want to be reminded of that when I view the account in Wesabe.  It is helpful when transferring to savings, or planning in general.  IE, it is 5 days to pay day, and have a $500 bill posting in 3 days.  Maybe it'd be good to wait to buy baby furniture after the pay day so I don't need to transfer out of savings, dip into the account cushion, or risk overdrafting.
    • On the plus side though, Wesabe is much simpler.  No upselling and massive ad placement.  Nice and simple interface.  No dinosaur software that has been duct taped for years.  Hell, they even have a REST API, which will eventually open up to writing transactions.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

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