I use Quicken to track my personal finances. Back in the olden days, I used Andrew Tobias’ Managing Your Money, but that hasn’t worked on my Macs for nearly a decade. I’d still use it if I could.
Quicken on the Mac is a pale comparison to the Quicken on the PC. I feel like I should be able to get more out of the program, so I went on a scavenger hunt, scouring the web for the best Quicken hacks. There aren’t many out there. Here are the 24 hints and tips I deemed worth sharing:
Getting started with Quicken
- How to get started using Quicken — Gina Trapani is a dedicated Quicken user. Here she explains how to get up-and-running in no time. [@ Lifehacker]
- How do I convert data from Microsoft Money files? [@ Quicken customer support]
- Handy Quicken shortcuts for entering dates — t is today, for example. [@ Quickenhead]
- How to use categories in financial software — This site is a mess — it’s more ads than content — but the info here is good if you’re just getting started with Quicken. [@ About.com]
Setting up accounts
- Tracking your mortgage and escrow account in Quicken — “If you are like me, you have a monthly mortgage payment that also includes an amount that goes into Escrow every month. Here’s how you can record your mortgage and escrow account in Quicken.” [@ Quickenhead]
- Tracking an interest-only mortgage in Quicken [@ Quickenhead]
- Configuring Quicken to access your Vanguard accounts — Apparently this isn’t as straight-forward as it should be. [@ Making Our Way]
- Track airline miles or points — By setting up your airline miles as a “foreign currency”, you can track them from within Quicken. [@ Consumerism Commentary]
- How to incorporate your PayPal account into Quicken — Tricia shows how to set up a PayPal account. In the comments, Mandi explains how to set up your account so you can download data from PayPal and import it. [@ Quickenhead]
- How to track an envelope budgeting system in Quicken — “A very popular way to budget is the Envelope Budgeting System. Paychecks are cashed and then a budgeted amount for certain expenses are placed in envelopes. When you need to spend money, you use the money from each envelope. Can you record a system like that in Quicken? You bet!” [@ Quickenhead]
Working with Quicken
- Back up your data files often. I back up my files once a month. It is imperative that you back up your data before you upgrade versions. Intuit practices an asinine “sunsetting” program whereby they intentionally “break” older versions of their software. For example, I was using Quicken 2004 on my Mac. It worked just fine. But because of the sunsetting policy, Intuit was going to prevent that version from downloading transaction information online. I was forced to upgrade to the new version. Why this is legal is beyond me. It makes my blood boil. Anyhow, Quicken upgrades have been known to break things. When you upgrade, be sure to create a backup copy of your data.
- Tips for solving reconciliation discrepancies in Quicken — “The main thing is to try to not get frustrated.” I recently had a $.06 error that I could not find. When I reconciled with the next month’s statement, things balanced. Sometimes you just need to put things aside and come back later. [@ Quickenhead]
- Tracking cash spending using Quicken — “To me, cash can often be forgotten about when it comes time to looking at your finances. Here’s a way that has helped me keep track.” (Note that Tricia also writes Quicken Head.) [@ Blogging Away Debt]
- What category to use when you’re unsure what an expense is for — What should you do when you can’t remember where your money went? This is a great reason for saving your receipts in one easy-to-find location! [@ Quickenhead]
- Quicken investment recordkeeping tricks — “Quicken provides powerful investment record-keeping tools for individual investors. Unfortunately, once you step beyond investments like stocks, bonds, and mutual funds, the mechanics can get a little tricky. Here are some tips for handling common investments in Quicken.” [@ Buzzle.com]
- How to set aside money in your checking account for a future expense — This is a clever idea, a way to remove money from the general pool without actually spending it. [@ Quickenhead]
- Accounting for accrued expenses in Quicken — “Sometimes you may received services one month, but not be billed for it until months afterward. Normally, you would pay the bill after the bill is received and that expense will show on your income & expense statement the month you paid it. If you would actually prefer to show that expense the month it was incurred (using an estimated or known cost), the following tutorial will help you do that.” [@ Quickenhead]
Working with files
- How to access a password-protected Quicken file without the password. [@ Quicken customer support]
- Hack Quicken to import QFX files on OS X — Quicken data files are the same for both Mac and Windows. But because of obscure licensing issues, Intuit disables importing from certain banks on the Mac. This hack allows you to work around the issue to get at your data. (More here.) [@ Digital 501]
- QIF Master — “QIF Master adds Quicken categories based on the description (e.g. payee) of each transaction.”
- Many of these tips are from I’m a Quicken Head, which has infrequent but useful updates. (Subscribe to Quicken Head.)
- Quicken community forums — Get help from other Quicken users.
- Quicken hints and tips by Dr. M — This is a treasure-trove of Quicken tips, with ten pages of ideas. But the site may make you go blind. If you can’t find help elsewhere, check here.
- Kerry’s Quicken tips has some good ideas, particularly if you’re tracking a small business in Quicken in addition to your personal accounts. (Such as I’m doing.) But this site, too, may make you go blind.
- Ask Metafilter: How different is Quickbooks from Quicken? And how difficult is it to learn?
I’d love to hear about more Quicken tips and tricks, especially when it comes to working with graphs and reports. I’ve managed to learn a few things on my own simply through trial and error. For example, I can now create reports that break down data by quarter. These are useful for spotting trends. (Like too much comic book spending.)
How many of you use Quicken? Do you feel comfortable with it? Do you have questions about it? Flexo just posted a list of 10 improvements he’d like to see in Quicken 2008. He’s also giving away a copy of Quicken Premier 2007!
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