1. Money Duality: Using Quicken and YNAB 4

    Back in February, I began making myself do twice as much work when it comes to managing our money.

    Why would I do this?

    In short: Because, even after eleven updates, Quicken 2013 is an unmitigated disaster.

    Quicken: Can I Get Along Without It?

    Quicken 2013 has now gone through eleven updates, and it’s still craptastic. My beloved “What’s Left” report …

    In / Out / What's Left

    … doesn’t register certain savings transfers once they’re entered. (As long as they’re just scheduled transactions, they show up fine). It doesn’t count “Employer Contributions to 401k” as income, but does count them as outflows when they’re transferred to my 401k account. Say what?

    And though it’s been revamped, Quicken 2013’s budgeting feature is still useless: I literally cannot determine where I stand for the current month as regards “Actual” spending, as it doesn’t tally any of my income at all in its bottom-line numbers.

    Sure, the register and account views of Quicken are still good. But otherwise, this is Total. Software. Fail.

    I went so far as to start an entirely new Quicken datafile, too, to see if that cleared up any of the issues. The answer? It cleared up one big issue, which was having Scheduled Transactions vanish once I set them to enter into my account registers. (I used the clean datafile throughout the month of February, and no transactions disappeared during that time, or during my first March bill-paying session.)

    At this point, I’d reasonably say that I’m as frustrated with Quicken 2013 as I’ve ever been, with any software.

    However, after using Quicken for so many years, the question of “Can I get along without it?” isn’t an easy one to answer. I always said that if I ever decided to dump Quicken, it’d be for YNAB. This hasn’t changed now that YNAB 4 is out; my YNAB 4 review is absolutely glowing. It is a fantastic piece of software.

    But for tracking all sorts of accounts, from retirement to stock-trading to just plain asset-value accounts, YNAB 4 isn’t Quicken. And Quicken’s reporting abilities are second to none.

    Can I get along without those things? I don’t know.

    But I am going to use both programs for a while, and see how it goes.

    Doing It All Twice

    There’s no doubt about it: Doing everything twice is a pain in the butt. February proved that to me.

    Since I enter all transactions by hand — no bank downloads for me! — and reconcile all accounts when statements arrive, doing all our monthly money-work twice is no small task.

    I have lots of accounts which I track in Quicken for net-worth purposes, but didn’t add to YNAB. I like to see my accounts segregated into more than two groups; YNAB has only “Budget Accounts” and “Off-Budget Accounts,” whereas Quicken allows for “Banking,” “Investment,” “Property & Debt,” and “Separate” groupings.

    Thus, precise net-worth tracking in YNAB 4 is a non-starter. But that’s not really what it was built to do. It was built for budgeting supremacy …

    … and it delivers that in spades.

    And since Quicken’s “What’s Left” report — which I depended upon for budgeting purposes — is now blown to heck, I shall have to rely on YNAB for cash-flow planning.

    When used for that task, YNAB is a true joy to behold.

    At some point, I’ll have to decide what I’m willing to give up: vast account-tracking abilities (Quicken), or heavenly cash-flow planning (YNAB).

    Because I don’t think I can keep doing twice the work forever.



  2. Quicken 2013: It Isn’t Good.

    I’m now about one month into my foray with Quicken 2013 Deluxe (upgraded from Quicken 2010 Deluxe), and the results are …uh … less than optimal.

    In other words, this program is a mess.

    In addition to the cash-flow-tracking problems mentioned earlier, I’m now having Recurring Bills VANISH ALTOGETHER when I click to enter them. My monthly cable bill, for example, when I clicked its ENTER button in the “Bills” tab … well, not only did it not appear in my register, it disappeared entirely from the bill list, too.

    Not good. Not good at all.

    I’ve spent years using Quicken, and generally defending it against detractors, but this is not acceptable. I’ve never once utilized Quicken’s transaction-download features, simply because of all the horror stories (former) Quicken users told, and in my mind I just blew these problems off. Entering all transactions by hand? No biggie. It’s what I’ve always done anyway.

    But to have a feature so basic as Recurring Bills blow up like this? On a Quicken release that’s been through 10 updates already? All while the folks at Intuit can’t come out with more crap features fast enough every year?

    Totally. Not. Acceptable.

    My Quicken use dates back to the mid-1990s, 3.5″ disk days.

    At this point, my continued support of Quicken is tenuous. At best.

    YNAB 4 is looking better and better.



  3. Quicken 2013: Budgeting Woes

    It was mid-January when I pushed Quicken Deluxe 2010 aside, and upgraded to Quicken Deluxe 2013. Thirty or forty minutes in, and I already had a bad feeling that this particular upgrade wasn’t going to be one that made me smile.

    I’ve been a devout Quicken user since the 1990s, with upgrades done typically every two or three years. It was Quicken Deluxe 2010’s “In / Out / What’s Left” feature …

    In / Out / What's Left

    … which finally allowed me to break away entirely from keeping separate budgets in Excel. I couldn’t tell whether this tool was still around in Quicken Deluxe 2013, as the packaging didn’t show it, but I went ahead and took the leap. Hope and prayer, and all that.

    “In / Out / What’s Left” Is Still There

    Yes, the “In/Out/What’s Left” chart is still in Quicken 2013 Deluxe, but it doesn’t show by default (as it did in 2010). Plus it’s pretty well hidden. It took me several weeks of sorta/kinda searching to figure this out. I will say that, until I found the darn thing, I was a sad, sad man whenever it came time to fire up Quicken and punch in some transactions.

    To get the “In/Out/What’s Left” view to appear on your Home desktop:

    HOME tab → Home button → Customize button → in “Available Items” window, scroll down to Planning section → select “In/Out/What’s Left” → click ADD.

    See? Just like that, I had my beloved “What’s Left” cash-flow tool back, and all was right with the world.

    Kind of.

    Quicken’s Budgeting Tool Gets Another Look

    I’ve stated in the past that Quicken’s budgeting features are miserable. Up to this point, if readers ever emailed me, asking for my opinions on budgeting tools, I’d inevitably point them toward Excel (“Make your own budgeting spreadsheet, or use one of mine“) or YNAB.

    It appears that Intuit really tried to revamp their budgeting tools in Deluxe 2013, which was a fine idea. The fact that I can see a year’s worth of spending and budgets at once is quite lovely:

    Quicken's Budget

    And by “lovely,” I mean it’s a good thing to see an annual budget breakdown once you’ve spent hours upon hours getting Quicken tweaked to show things correctly. Because if you don’t, you’ll find yourself and your budget in some time-warp, federal-government “minus equals plus and red means overspending and red is good” bizzaro money world.

    So yes, I still assert that YNAB’s budget setups make Quicken’s look, sound, and smell like utter crap. But in this arena, any progress (for Intuit) is good progress.

    Sadly, even with the revamp, I still can’t say much for Quicken’s budgeting prowess overall.

    Clunky, Clunky, Clunky

    Much like a pissed-off porcupine, Quicken’s budget is hard to handle. Selecting categories to include in your budget is a serious time-sink, for one thing.

    It’s worth noting here that Quicken’s budget can and will start right from Penny One of your previously set up paychecks. So if you’re one of those dorks who, like me, tracks your income from its pretax levels, all the way down through taxes, deductions, and everything else, you’re going to have a jolly ol’ time slogging through this as it relates to your budget(s).

    How do I know? Because I spent weeks kludging my way to what I already knew was my baseline “available to budget” amount, all because Quicken was applying my 401k employer-match amounts to the expense side of the budgeting ledger (because I want transfers to my 401k to count as a budgeting outflow) … but it wouldn’t count the initial employer-match “income” on the income side of things. Thus my “Remaining to Budget” amount appeared smaller than it really was. And figuring out why it refused to count the income was perfectly maddening.

    Turns out that, to rectify this, I had to figure out how Quicken was categorizing the employer-match money behind the scenes — and “_401 Employer Contrib” is the correct answer, kids. Then, for this category to even be made available in your budget, you have to checkmark “Show hidden categories” at the very bottom of the “Select Categories to Budget” form.

    Finding the category...

    And of course, because it would make NO SENSE WHATSOEVER to place “_401 Employer Contrib” in the “Personal Income” category group, you have to spend time scrolling through roughly 4,267,184 other categories in the “All Categories” group to find “_401 Employer Contrib” way down near the bottom of the list.


    Well, at least now, after several weeks, I’ve got Quicken’s budget set up to at least show me good “actual” spending numbers. I haven’t even approached the “budget” inputs yet. Should I desire to plan our income and spending months in advance, I think Quicken can make it happen. The question is: What Quicken budget idiosyncrasies have I not yet discovered? You just know there’ll be more.

    Only time will tell.



  4. Effective Tax Rate, 2010 Edition

    Each year, once I’ve completed and filed our income taxes, I like to spend a little time calculating my household’s effective tax rate. What’s an “effective tax rate,” you ask?

    Well, it’s a way for me to get outside of the usual “What tax bracket are you in?” thinking that so many folks seem mired in. Yes, income-tax brackets get all the media focus and hubbub, especially when tax rates change, but last time I checked, I pay more taxes than just the “income” variety.

    Since income taxes are really only part of our overall, real-world tax picture — think Medicare taxes, Social Security taxes, property taxes, and so on — it strikes me that figuring a more comprehensive “effective tax rate” gives a much better feel for how much of our money is really going out the door to the Tax Man.

    What’s Included in ETR?

    When I calculate my effective tax rate (“ETR,” for short), I start by figuring out my household’s gross annual income. That includes total wages and salaries (Form W-2, Box 3), interest earnings, non-retirement-account investment income, and any other sideline income that existed for that tax year. Added together, all those items get me the “Gross Income” figure for my formula below.

    On the taxes-paid side of things, I tally up our federal income taxes paid (Form 1040, Line 60), minus any credits below that line — the last two years’ “Making Work Pay” credits would qualify here. Added to that are state income taxes paid (if any), Social Security taxes, Medicare taxes, and any property or local taxes that I forked over during the year. If I have any excise or other taxes that I paid during the year, I lob those in here, too.

    Since I do separate some of my utility-bill taxes in Quicken, those figures go here, as well.

    What About Sales Taxes?

    Yes, to get a true tax picture, the year’s cumulative sales taxes also should get figured in.

    However, tracking sales taxes in Quicken with any sort of precision would mean that most every transaction becomes a split. Whilst I love me some in-depth financial data, I’m just not gung-ho enough to go that far. You gotta draw the line somewhere, right?

    (My annual use taxes do get figured in, though, because they’re included in the amount shown on the tax-form line I use for my Oklahoma “state taxes paid” above.)

    Initially, I planned to omit sales taxes altogether. But as I wrote this, it occurred to me that I could simply fire up an annual cash-flow report in Quicken, export it to Excel, and remove all categories that either (1) aren’t sales-taxable, or (2) already had use tax paid applied. I could take the remaining categories and do a little math on them.

    So I did. Figuring a rough estimate of total sales-taxes paid wasn’t too hard, with exception of auto fuel and its “cents-per-gallon, plus X percent sales tax” setup. Everything else? Pretty simple.

    For instance, our sales-tax rate on groceries was 8.25 percent, and we spent $5,332 on groceries last year, taxes and all. We can estimate that $406 of this was due to sales tax. [5332 − (5332 / 1.0825) = 406]

    Once I dumped that Quicken report into Excel, and autofilled the correct formulas, the sales-tax math was a breeze.

    (Yeah, over time, changes in sales-tax rates will complicate this. But again, all I’m looking for is a rough estimate!)

    A Tax Rate That’s “Effective”

    Once all those items are tallied up, the rest is easy:

    And that’s all. Take your [Total Taxes Paid] amount, and divide it by your [Total Gross Income] amount. The rate that results is your Effective Tax Rate.

    Now, I’ve been calculating my effective tax rate for years, though prior to 2010 I focused only on income taxes. Because I’m a dork who finds such comparisons fun, I tried to standardize things a bit this year so that I could go backwards through our tax returns and see how our ETR — now expanded to include all the other taxes we pay — has changed over time.

    2010 Effective Tax Rate: 21.9%

    So, for tax year 2010, roughly 21.9 percent of our income went toward taxes of one kind or another. For 2009, our effective tax rate was 21.5 percent. And back in 2008? A bit higher, at 23.9 percent.


    For a while now, I’ve really preferred to think of my tax burden in terms of this overall “effective tax rate,” rather than in terms of federal and state tax-bracket rates … which is what so many people do. Income taxes are only part of the picture, after all. Until you look at your tax burden in total, taking into account all the directions from which the Tax Man gets into your wallet, then it’s pretty easy to miss the immense impact that taxes have on your total financial picture.

    As the figures above show, I might be in the 15 percent federal tax bracket … but that sure doesn’t mean I’m handing a mere 15 percent of my income to the tax authorities!



  5. How to Activate Tags in Quicken

    Reader MataDorG left a comment on my latest post discussing tags in Quicken, asking how to make the tag field appear in the Quicken register. Apparently, his/her version of Quicken (2010 Home & Business, in this case) wasn’t showing the tag field at all.

    The “tags” feature is one which can be turned off and on in Quicken. When tags are enabled, the “tag” field should appear appear in the register, like so…

    If that’s not the case, then head up to your Quicken menubar to turn the feature on.

    Activating Tags in Quicken

    In the menubar, select EDIT → PREFERENCES → QUICKEN PREFERENCES. This should bring up a separate window. In the left section of that window, select REGISTER, as shown below.

    Now put a checkmark in the box labeled “Show Tag field.” Finally, click the OK button.

    That should do it. Tags should now be available in your Quicken account registers!



  6. Quicken: Cash Flow Forecast

    Over the years, Intuit has added lots of tools to Quicken — mostly, I would argue, to encourage its users to adapt an annual upgrade cycle of the software. While I adore Quicken for its performance at tracking accounts, spending, and net worth, I find myself using very few of the additional tools that its Deluxe and Premium versions offer. (As of this post, I’m using Quicken 2010 Deluxe.)

    One such tool — brought to my attention by an email a few months back — is Quicken’s Cash Flow Forecast. It’s meant to help with long-range (say, a year out or more) cashflow planning. Quicken’s Help Files explain it like this:

    For long term forecasting use Quicken’s Cash Flow Forecast feature. A cash flow forecast lets you project your cash flow for the future, based on scheduled bills and deposits and estimated amounts. Quicken can forecast your spending patterns for up to two years, and displays your account balances in a graph.

    You can get to the Cash Flow Forecast via the menubar:


    When I select that, Quicken displays a graph like this:

    That awfully smooth, upward-sloping line is meant to show me how my bank-account balances will steadily increase over the next year IF my monthly “Income Items” and “Expense Items” meet the parameters I’ve set up. (Displayed figures above have been certified by the Congressional Budget Office. So you know they’re, uh, reliable.)

    Forecasting: It’s a Lot of Work

    The graph is all fine and dandy, I suppose. However, it took me a patience-testing hour or so to get Quicken’s Cash Flow Forecast set up in a way that’d reflect anything close to reality. Initially, Quicken’s “brain” had taken my next year’s worth of Scheduled Transactions, combined it with my average monthly categorized income and expenses, and applied all of that to my household financial cash flow in a manner that I can only describe as MADDENINGLY RANDOM.

    Some “income items” appeared twice. Many “expense items” appeared three and four times. Now, I’m all for conservative planning, but come on. Those initial figures were a disaster, and way out of whack.

    I can’t imagine that any large chunk of Quicken users would be willing to plow through their incomes and expenses, category by category, Scheduled Transaction by Scheduled Transaction, just to get this thing running at a somewhat realistic clip. I did it, but only because I’m a money dork. The rest of you probably have lives.

    Just Start Over?

    The Cash Flow Forecast allows you to create and save different scenarios, which is probably pretty useful IF you have a few hours to kill. I wasn’t even willing to approach this feature, given what it took just to get the thing set up. (When making changes, income and expense items aren’t even listed in alphabetical order, for crying out loud. Who the hell came up with this?)

    I think that, if I were going to rely on the Cash Flow Forecast at all, I would start by scrapping ALL of the estimated items Quicken creates. I’d then simply enter the categories I wanted, by hand, starting with my largest categories (taxes, food, insurance, etc.) first. I’d likely keep the “Known Items,” as Quicken creates these from Scheduled Transactions, which ought to be fairly ironclad. (Ironclad, that is, IF you’re good about setting up all your recurring transactions as “Scheduled Transactions.”)

    Like a lot of Quicken “tool” offerings, there’s probably some value in the Cash Flow Forecast … but if you’re like me, it might take you so long to rebuild the Forecast data that you simply ignore it altogether.

    Sorry, Intuit. I’m opting instead for dumping a few months’ of Quicken report data into Excel, and working from there!



  7. Excel: Switching Rows & Columns

    Every so often I find the need to swap (or transpose) rows and columns in Excel.

    Take a report generated in Quicken, for instance. I like to see how my spending categories change from month to month. Getting Quicken to generate a Spending Report that shows this is really easy. In the Quicken menubar, REPORTS → SPENDING → SPENDING BY CATEGORY will get you there. Generate the report, then select your Date Range. Add a column for “Month” and you’re set:

    Spending-By-Category Report

    Exporting this data to Excel is a simple matter, too. In the Quicken report menubar, choose EXPORT DATA → REPORT TO EXCEL-COMPATIBLE FORMAT, then give your data a save location and a name, and save it.

    One problem, though: When opened in Excel, Quicken reports usually have the date periods as columns, and spending categories reside in rows. What if you want your categories in columns, and your dates in rows? (This is usually my preference.)

    Thankfully, Excel makes such a switch very easy to do.

    Transposing Rows & Columns in Excel

    As an example, I created a “Spending by Category” report in Quicken which shows my auto expenses for a portion of 2010 (March 1 thru July 31):

    Spending-By-Category Report

    Exporting that to an Excel-compatible format gives me a text file, which I named “Data2.txt” and saved on my desktop. I then opened a blank Excel spreadsheet, and from within Excel, I then opened Data2.txt.

    Importing a text file to Excel like this is quite easy: In the Excel menubar, select FILE → OPEN. Navigate to the text file you wish Excel to import. Excel opens its Import Wizard, where you can change column breaks and ignore rows as necessary. When you’ve finished this, click OK to close the Import Wizard, and your text file should now be converted into Excel.

    Readers who wish to follow along with the files I’m using can get them here:

    Excel File: Sample Data (ZIP file with Data2.txt and Data2.xls inside)

    Just download and extract that ZIP file, and you’ll have the files I use below. Play with them as you wish!

    Once the text file has been opened in Excel (I’m using Excel 2010), it’s time to work some magic. We want our date headers to be in rows, rather than columns, and our categories to be in columns, rather than rows.

    First, select the area of data to be transposed. In this case, that’s B5 thru H13:

    Select the data to transpose.

    Now right-click inside that area, and select COPY:

    Right-click and select COPY

    Now place your cursor in the spot where you want the data to be moved (and transposed) into. For this example, I’ll select Cell B15. In that cell, right-click again, and choose PASTE SPECIAL:

    In the PASTE SPECIAL menu that appears, select TRANSPOSE:


    Our data rows and columns have now been switched (transposed)!

    Data is now transposed.

    I can’t tell you how many times that this feature of Excel — being able to swap rows and columns with a few clicks — has saved me TONS of work!



  8. Quicken Users: What Do Tags Do For You?

    Reader Kelsey emailed me with a Quicken-related comment a few days ago. Buried in the middle of it was a question that intrigued me:

    Categories I get, but there’s these tag things … what would anybody even do with those?

    Personally, for my household, I haven’t really come up with a good use for tags in Quicken. To this point, categories have taken me everywhere I need to go. (I’m currently using Quicken 2010 Deluxe, and have reviewed it previously.)

    Quicken Tags: What’s the Point?

    Basically, tags give Quicken users a way to “categorize” transactions outside of, and across, categories. I guess you could call tags a “second level” of categorizing goodness.

    Suppose you wanted to sort of “sub-track” your grocery spending so that you could see how much of your grocery spending was attributable to unhealthy food. You could do something like this…

    … and then run a report as necessary to see how much you’ve been spending on foods that will kill you. But in reality, such a usage of tags wouldn’t be all that novel. After all, you could do the same thing with categories. Simply have a subcategory of “Junk Food” in your main “Grocery” category, and you’d be set.

    However, say you wanted to track all your “Nonessential” spending. That’s a “tag” that could span across categories because, after all, “nonessential” could apply to Groceries, Entertainment, House Repair & Remodel, and just about any other category you could think of.

    So keeping an eye on “Nonessential” spending, via a tag named “Nonessential” or something similar, is more along the lines of what Quicken intended tags to accomplish.

    Possible Use of Tags: Tracking Your BMF

    One “big picture” idea for tag-use that comes to mind — but which I’d be way too lazy to implement — would apply to anyone who wanted to follow Elizabeth Warren’s Balanced Money Formula, as described in her book All Your Worth (review).

    Warren advocates that folks classify their outflows as one of three types: “Must-Haves,” “Savings,” and “Wants.” Then track where your money’s going, and aim for the following percentages:

    BMF Targets: 50% Must-Haves, 20% Savings, 30% Wants

    I’m good with using those three “types” to track spending and saving, and to create a plan for such, but I’m a Certified Data Dork, too. I would also want to know what I was spending on, say, groceries, household consummables, mortgage debt, and so on.

    So, in Quicken, I’d categorize my spending normally as regards the groceries, dining, and so on. But then I’d also give my spending “tags” of Must-Haves, Savings, and Wants as applicable. That way, I could quickly generate a Quicken report (utilizing those tags) to show me how my BMF-style money plan was working out.

    Possible Use of Tags: Monitoring Use-Tax Expense

    For a while, I really thought I could make great use of Quicken’s tagging feature by assigning specific tags to my use-taxable online purchases throughout the year. By assigning a tag of something like “Use Tax” to all my online purchases on which I hadn’t paid sales tax at the time of purchase, I could, at tax time, fire up a simple report and see how much I needed to remit in use taxes to my state’s taxing authority.

    In the end, though, I decided to treat my use-tax liability as what it really is — an ongoing “debt” that I owe to the state, and which I pay off in April of each year. So I accrue for it in its own Quicken liability account, as detailed in my Quicken: Handling Use Tax tutorial.

    What Have You Made Tags Do?

    I’m sure lots of people have put Quicken tags to work for them — I’m just not one of those folks. To date, I’ve been able to make categories do ALL my heavy lifting.

    So what about you? Have you come up with a great use for Quicken tags that I’ve overlooked?



  9. Quicken’s Register Calculator

    As readers probably know, I’m a big fan of Quicken. It’s my finance-tracking tool of choice, and has been since the mid-1990s.

    Last week, I received an email from reader Dennis, who apparently has caught on to something of a shortfall in Quicken’s internal register calculator. For those of you who aren’t sure what that is, here’s a screenshot:

    Quicken's internal register calculator

    If you have numbers to add or subtract, you can do it inside the SPEND and RECEIVE columns in Quicken’s register. Anyhow, here’s what Dennis had to say:

    In your review of Quicken 2010 you revealed that you have been a Quicken user for a number of years. Personally, I’ve been using it since the second release.

    I’d like to alert you to a bug in Quicken that has been for many years. I submit a bug report on this issue with every new release, but apparently one user isn’t enough to promote change. Maybe you would have better luck.

    The Quicken Register Calculator does not perform calculations in the mathematically standard priority sequence of Parenthetical, Exponential, Multiplication, Division, Addition and Subtraction operations. Using the Register Calculator, the key strokes “2+3*3+5*3” are evaluated as “(((2 + 3) * 3) + 5) * 3” resulting in 60 (the wrong answer) instead of “2 + (3 * 3) + (3 * 5)” which results in the right answer of 26. Anyone accustomed to using any standard calculator will experience this error.

    To avoid this error, it’s necessary to add repetitive values individually when using the Register Calculator (2+3+3+3+5+5+5 = 26). It’s a lot easier (and more accurate) to use any external calculator and copy the result into Quicken; however, since that last step creates an opportunity for transcription error, so it would be better if Intuit would simply fix the Register Calculator. Of course they could rename it to “Register Adding Machine” which would at least alert the user that it doesn’t function as a ‘Calculator’.

    Dennis’ note caused me to think: I can’t remember the last time I used any Quicken calculator. I almost always have Excel open, so it’s kind of become my default “quickie” calculator. And now that the calculator in Windows 7 shows you all the numbers you’ve entered …

    Windows 7 Calculator

    … as you input your formula, I have even less reason to utilize any “calc-ability” inside Quicken.

    I spent some time trying to think of a situation where having Quicken calculate this way — computing what is effectively a formula, and doing it without standard mathematical priorities — would be an issue for me, but I couldn’t come up with one. Again, I’ve grown accustomed to using Excel as my calculator for pretty much everything.

    I suspect that Intuit programmers never really intended this feature to do much more than add or subtract a string of numbers. Don’t guess I can really fault them for that, either. It’s awfully tough to program software that can do everything for everybody!



  10. Quicken Tip: Set Up Monthly Transfer Reminders

    It’s a bit of knowledge of which some folks are still unaware: You can set up recurring account transfers in Quicken the same way you set up recurring bills.

    Created this way, such transfers will appear on your BILLS screen, along with all your other recurring expenses and deposits. For my household, I’ve set up our monthly Freedom Account deposit this way, as well as my transfers to a less-used checking account outside of our normal ING Electric Orange account. (The less-used account handles our annual life-insurance premium payments, our monthly MCC tax credit fees, and our child’s medical-insurance premiums — as these must come from an account at an in-state financial institution, which ING Direct is not.)

    What’s the Advantage?

    If you’re anything like me, you’re a busy soul. Money and bills aren’t the only things you have to worry about. And regardless of how much coffee you drink, or how many gingko biloba pills you pop, you still go through periods where anything that didn’t get written down, gets forgotten.

    Quicken’s “recurring bills” feature is a great failsafe against just such memory lapses — those that affect your financial life, anyway.

    Quicken BILLS Screen

    Every month, your recurring bills, deposits, and transfers appear as a list of items that “check off” as you complete them. Actually, these days, all decent financial software programs offer this feature in some fashion or another. So it isn’t as if this feature is specific to Quicken. Quicken happens to be my software of choice, so that’s where I focus.

    (In Quicken 2010 Deluxe, you can set the program to always open to your BILLS desktop. If you’ve set up all your recurring transactions correctly, this makes it darn near impossible to EVER forget one.)

    Setting Up Recurring Transfers in Quicken

    I’m currently using Quicken 2010 Deluxe (review), so screenshots and instructions will be applicable to that version. Recent Quicken versions have offered similar functionality.

    Let’s say you make a $371 transfer to your Freedom Account savings each month. To set this up, you could go to the Quicken menubar, and select…


    Alternately, from the BILLS tab (desktop), click the ADD REMINDER button on the right side:

    Both methods pull up the EDIT TRANSFER window.

    From there, simply fill out the data fields as required. Most are self-explanatory. Note that I label the “PAYEE/PAYER” field with my nickname for the transfer itself, rather than a “payee” name in the usual sense. This makes the transaction more recognizable when viewed in your BILLS list … which is where it will appear from this point on!