Figuring out how to track my finances has been a challenge for me. I’m constantly switching back and forth from a computer based to paper based system. Right now, I’m leaning more towards a paper based system. I tried using Quicken a few times and every time I did, it seemed like I spent more time fidgeting with the program trying to get it right, that I defeated the purpose of having a piece of software tracking my expenses.
Time investment for set up
My biggest pet peeve about Quicken is that I spend about an hour setting up my accounts and half the time only half of them can connect with Quicken. I have to wait a few days before connection can be re-established so I can check my balances. It would be faster for me to just sign on to my banks’ online services and write down my balances and transactions.
Addictive time wasting charts
Quicken and MS Money also have lots of fancy charts showing everything from your net worth to spending for the past three months by category. These charts, while helpful, can become an addictive time waster. I find myself changing the parameters of the graphs in order to see different things, not because the info I receive is particularly useful, but simply because I can. Using a simple paper based system, I don’t have luxury to create instant charts. Consequently, I spend more time looking at the bottom line.
Delay in transaction posting
The other problem with computer based systems is that most of the time they don’t display my actual balance. Whenever I make a purchase with my debit card, it often takes many days to show up on my bank statement , and consequently in my Quicken registry. By not having an up to date balance in Quicken, you might be lulled into a false sense of security about having sufficient funds. I’ve been burned by this a few times and have been hit with overdraft fees. I’ve found it much better to write down the transaction in a registry right when you make the purchase. That way I always know how much money I have.
The one thing Quicken does have going for it is the ability to crunch numbers quickly. It’s nice having an instant balance of your bank accounts. I guess a calculator works just as well.