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

Setting up accounts

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

Quicken resources

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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