Moneydance Personal Finance

Want to get out of debt? Stay out of debt?

There’s only one way to get out of debt – spend less than your income. A simple philosophy that in this day and age is extremely difficult to do – and for many people, myself especially, it takes a mindset shift. It takes a mindset shift because most people know how much they earn, but have little idea about how much (and more importantly where) they spend.

If you want to get out of debt, you need a mindset shift.
You need to know how much you earn AND how much and where you spend.

Screen-Shot-2014-09-29-at-9.27.13-pmTraditionally, the world of personal finance has been dominated by Windows Software – Intuit Quicken or Microsoft Money specifically. I’ve found it quite difficult to find quality Mac software for tracking and taking care of your personal finances – particularly one that would import your transactions from your bank account (or hook up directly to your internet banking). Quicken for Mac exists, but the customer feedback for the 2015 version doesn’t appear to be all that good, and a number of people suggested Moneydance Personal Finance so I decided to check it out.

Moneydance runs on Mac OSX, Windows and even Linux and gives a polished display on all these platforms. It does everything you would expect from a Personal Finance tracking software, including the ability to import your transactions from a bank export – which supports QIF, OFX, OFC or QFX format files. If you’re in America (or your bank provides an OFX API server) you can actually hook the application straight up with your online banking. Unfortunately I’m in Australia and couldn’t figure out whether Commonwealth Bank of Australia does have an OFX API server so I couldn’t test this. It’s a little odd because the Quickbooks Online offering from Intuit will hook directly up with my CBA accounts so I suspect there’s some sort of API there – but I have no idea how to connect to it manually.

Moneydance is a MUCH nicer interface than GNUcash (which is really a programmer style interface) and although there’s a few things that are clearly ‘multiplatform’ (ie, they don’t necessarily do things the Mac way) I find it’s not too annoying (for example, right clicking over a bank account doesn’t provide an ‘edit’ option. But you can edit the account details from the menu bar at the top.

The home screen layout is nice and gives you a quick breakdown overview of the different categories you’ve spent your money on this month (or however long you wish to see). Clicking on the breakdown bar gives you a further breakdown of who (as opposed to which category) you’ve paid.

Setting up a budget is extremely easy but I found this an area of rather large disappointment. The budget setup doesn’t allow me to put in my Income and balance that against expenditure – so for me, who wants to ensure that I spend less than I earn, the budget section is useful, but could be better. It does obviously allow you to enter dollar (or pound, or whatever your currency) values for each category and then it will keep track of how you’re going within that category for the month, but I would like to be able to see my income placed along side. This area of the application looks a little unfinished and underwhelming which is a shame. Another area that the budget system lets me down is that I get paid fortnightly and most of my budgeting is fortnightly, but Moneydance only allows me to set monthly budgets. It’s not a deal breaker, but it’d be nice if future versions could improve on the budgeting aspect. Better graphing of budget versus actual would be nice too. The Infinite Kind would do well to look at something like the CAP Money Program for some inspiration here (not that I’m pushing the Christians Against Poverty on them, but their budgeting webapp is really good).

unnamed-3Moneydance also provides ‘extensions’ which I haven’t looked into in any great detail from a programming perspective, but from a user perspective this allows 3rd party developers to provide additional features to the software. There seems to be a number of additional extensions already written and I suspect as Moneydancer grows in popularity more may come along. Possibly the most useful I have seen in my travels through the app is a Paypal importer which imports any Paypal transactions directly into your Personal Finance data. I haven’t used it, but it looks like it would be good. Installing extensions is a simple click of a button.

I also like having the exchange rates on the home page – I sometimes have cause to send money to Europe and seeing the latest exchange rate (with the help of an extension which auto-updates the exchange rate data) is very handy indeed.

All in all, this is a great app for helping you balance your home income and expenses and keep track of where your money goes. The interface is reasonably polished although could use some effort on the contextual (right click) menus and perhaps a little more ‘pizzaz’. The budget side of things could really use some additional work, and I’d like to see the system integrate directly with my CBA account, but that’s largely a CBA issue I suspect.

Is it a Quicken killer? Perhaps not – Quicken have been in the game a very long time. Is it a viable alternative to Quicken? Absolutely – and it beats GNUcash hands down (although GNUcash is free of course).

More Information:

For more information, check out the product pages at http://www.moneydance.com/

If you’re running on Mac OSX (or Linux), Moneydance is well worth a look for keeping track of your personal finances – and it (or something similar) is absolutely essential if you’re trying to reduce (or remove) your debt situation.

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