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Old 11-06-2010, 08:42 AM   #21
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Is there any 'free' software that does a decent job but does not have all the bells and whistles
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Old 11-06-2010, 08:48 AM   #22
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Al, instead of downloading transactions and fixing them, would it save you time to just enter data manually?
I used to do it that way. With local checking accounts, roth iras, trad iras, taxable, there are 18 different accounts. Every month many of them have dividends reinvested, etc. Each would have to be typed in with share price, etc.

In the past I would just occasionally enter dummy data to bring things up to date, but even with the hassles, downloading data is faster. For everything except the VA stuff, it works smoothly.

From the Moneydance site, they told me that I would have just about as many steps with MD as with Quicken. Their support seems GREAT.
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Old 11-06-2010, 09:06 AM   #23
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RE: I guess I'm curious what one actually gains from all this data entry/tracking?

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There is an old saying that goes something like: "If you take care of the Pennies, the Dollars will take care of themselves."

After several painful experiments attempting to disprove this theory, I stopped arguing with it... that was forty years ago. Besides, it is easier (for me) to keep track of Pennies -- I have more experience with them.
I understand, but I'm still trying to get my head around how this micro-management achieves that. It seems like many are just putting in effort to count the pennies - what actions does it drive?

For example, T-Al just mentioned entering the share price of a dividend re-invest. I'm thinking "who cares?". To me, it's more important to know that I decided this fund is one that I want divs reinvested, and to look at the big picture once in a while (AA, overall performance trends, etc).

I'm starting to think this might actually be counter-productive, like not seeing the forest for the trees?

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Old 11-06-2010, 09:23 AM   #24
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Is there any 'free' software that does a decent job but does not have all the bells and whistles
budgetpulse.com
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Old 11-06-2010, 09:25 AM   #25
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RE: I guess I'm curious what one actually gains from all this data entry/tracking?

I understand, but I'm still trying to get my head around how this micro-management achieves that. It seems like many are just putting in effort to count the pennies - what actions does it drive?

For example, T-Al just mentioned entering the share price of a dividend re-invest. I'm thinking "who cares?". To me, it's more important to know that I decided this fund is one that I want divs reinvested, and to look at the big picture once in a while (AA, overall performance trends, etc).

I'm starting to think this might actually be counter-productive, like not seeing the forest for the trees?
Okay, another Cliché: "God is in the details."

What action can one take as to "AA, overall performance trends, etc" without knowing how you got there? For instance, I hear of those who believe that 75/25 (or whatever) AA is ideal and (seems to me) blindly sell and buy to maintain that ratio. How productive is that?
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Old 11-06-2010, 11:20 AM   #26
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Okay, another Cliché: "God is in the details."

What action can one take as to "AA, overall performance trends, etc" without knowing how you got there? For instance, I hear of those who believe that 75/25 (or whatever) AA is ideal and (seems to me) blindly sell and buy to maintain that ratio. How productive is that?
Getting so bogged down in details and exerting so much effort in getting these details could be counterproductive or of marginal value.

If you like getting into the nitty gritty of details that's another thing altogether, but I'm not sure getting involved in every detail is worth the result: the juice is not worth the squeeze to me.
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Old 11-06-2010, 11:29 AM   #27
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Getting so bogged down in details and exerting so much effort in getting these details could be counterproductive or of marginal value.

If you like getting into the nitty gritty of details that's another thing altogether, but I'm not sure getting involved in every detail is worth the result: the juice is not worth the squeeze to me.
You understand I am not advocating making a full-time j*b of it? I am speaking of perhaps an hour or so a month. But you are correct, "details" and "bogged down" are very personal things and mean different things to different people.

Another cliché: "You say potato, I say potahto."
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Old 11-06-2010, 12:12 PM   #28
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Okay, another Cliché: "God is in the details."

What action can one take as to "AA, overall performance trends, etc" without knowing how you got there? For instance, I hear of those who believe that 75/25 (or whatever) AA is ideal and (seems to me) blindly sell and buy to maintain that ratio. How productive is that?
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Old 11-06-2010, 12:19 PM   #29
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I used to do it that way. With local checking accounts, roth iras, trad iras, taxable, there are 18 different accounts. Every month many of them have dividends reinvested, etc. Each would have to be typed in with share price, etc.
In the past I would just occasionally enter dummy data to bring things up to date, but even with the hassles, downloading data is faster. For everything except the VA stuff, it works smoothly.
I'm in the same situation, but I only enter some data a few times a year-- for example IRAs don't get updated more than quarterly.

I was just trying to suggest that there may be ways to limit the mistakes by entering data manually. Maybe there's a way to not download VA data along with the rest.

Another benefit to manual data entry is that it helps me think about where the money is going, and reminds me of things that need doing. Just the act of manual data entry serves as sort of a portfolio review and planning session. I don't know if I'd get that benefit from downloading.
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Old 11-06-2010, 01:07 PM   #30
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I've been playing with MoneyDance. My first impression was that it is too primitive, and the reports were too limited, but on closer inspection, it may work out.
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Old 11-06-2010, 01:19 PM   #31
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I tried Quicken once. I had the problems Al is having. I found it inaccurate and confusing, so I gave up on it. I check all my accounts online at least twice weekly, and at least once a year I do a big NW calculation and trend analysis on Excel. That's enough navel gazing for me.
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Old 11-06-2010, 01:30 PM   #32
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OK, but for me personally, I wouldn't want to mess with a separate program for this. I just throw the receipt in my tax file, or maybe enter it in a spreadsheet that I keep for tax entries. Pretty simple.

-ERD50

I often find myself looking up the details of expenses that are as much as 5 or 6 years in the past, occasionally even longer.
Trying to deal with that much paper (receipts, statements, etc.) would drive me crazy. I really like being able to do it in seconds on the computer.
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Old 11-06-2010, 03:11 PM   #33
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My bank provides an Intuit budgeting tool called Financeworks that captures all my credit/debit/share draft transactions, catagorizes them and presents the data graphically. It does trending and goals, email allerts...etc.

I was told that in 2011 Fidelity is coming out with a performance tool for broakerage/IRA/401k accounts that's supposed to provide account trending info for any given time period.
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Old 11-06-2010, 04:56 PM   #34
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I often find myself looking up the details of expenses that are as much as 5 or 6 years in the past, occasionally even longer.
Trying to deal with that much paper (receipts, statements, etc.) would drive me crazy. I really like being able to do it in seconds on the computer.
I'm trying to understand how these programs help with that. What kind of expenses? If I downloaded my CC statement or checking statement into a program, it wouldn't tell me much, maybe only that on a certain date I spent $535.42 at Home Depot, and $125.99 was on a light fixture that I want to track the purchase date on. I'd be hard pressed to find that $125.99 out of the other purchases.

What I do find handy is when I buy things on line. I normally get emailed a detailed line-by-line description. Those get saved to a "Purchases" folder, and my hard drive is indexed so context searches come up with answers as fast as I can type.


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Okay, another Cliché: "God is in the details."

What action can one take as to "AA, overall performance trends, etc" without knowing how you got there? For instance, I hear of those who believe that 75/25 (or whatever) AA is ideal and (seems to me) blindly sell and buy to maintain that ratio. How productive is that?
I can look at the performance of a fund/stock on the Internet. I'm really not getting how my personal records are going to tell me anything more than that. Now, I've been curious in the past if some transaction I made really panned out as I hoped. But I track those transactions for tax purposes already, so I've got everything I need. For non-taxable, I track it if I think I'll be interested. But not every dividend, etc - again, that is all on the Internet. There are some specific things that I'll just make a spreadsheet entry on if I want to track it.

I'm not trying to be contrary, people can do as they please, but I am trying to understand what they are getting out of this that makes dealing with a separate program worthwhile. So read my comments as "Should I be doing this, am I missing out on something?" and not as "Why the heck do you bother with this nonsense?".


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Old 11-06-2010, 05:32 PM   #35
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I'm trying to understand how these programs help with that. What kind of expenses? If I downloaded my CC statement or checking statement into a program, it wouldn't tell me much, maybe only that on a certain date I spent $535.42 at Home Depot, and $125.99 was on a light fixture that I want to track the purchase date on. I'd be hard pressed to find that $125.99 out of the other purchases.
OK, I see your point.
In my case, I download no transactions from anywhere; I don't trust the application to get them right, and I don't like the idea of giving it my password access to other accounts.

What I do is to simply enter everything manually. Once a week or so, I go to my investment accounts, look at the transactions, and enter them in the software the way I want them. I do the same for bank accounts and credit card accounts.

Usually, there isn't much to enter that way, because I enter the transactions at the time I make them, so the weekly check is really more of a double check.

I use the Memo field in the software transaction register to fill in the details of transactions. For example, if I buy something with a credit card, I'll enter the date, merchant, amount, category, and "2 shirts" or something like that.

It's probably more trouble than many would want to deal with, but I've been doing this for many years and I'm comfortable with it. Knowing my spending by category, payee, and with specifics like the memo field, I find it really easy to work out my budget, analyze my spending history to project future needs, and generally reassure myself that I'm likely to remain solvent.
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Old 11-06-2010, 08:43 PM   #36
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What I do is to simply enter everything manually. Once a week or so, I go to my investment accounts, look at the transactions, and enter them in the software the way I want them. I do the same for bank accounts and credit card accounts.
I use the Memo field in the software transaction register to fill in the details of transactions. For example, if I buy something with a credit card, I'll enter the date, merchant, amount, category, and "2 shirts" or something like that.
It's probably more trouble than many would want to deal with, but I've been doing this for many years and I'm comfortable with it. Knowing my spending by category, payee, and with specifics like the memo field, I find it really easy to work out my budget, analyze my spending history to project future needs, and generally reassure myself that I'm likely to remain solvent.
Exactly, but the labor of this task is what everyone refers to as "tracking your spending". I'd find it impossible to do this from just downloading credit-card statements. It's the data entry, the error-checking, the review, and the analysis that helps me get a handle on what happened to it all.

It's also very handy for answering spouse's occasional comment "God#$%^mit, when did we %^&*ing buy this %^&*ing piece of @#$%?!?"
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Old 11-07-2010, 12:25 AM   #37
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It sounds like those of you who haven't done much automatic downloading aren't really understanding how it works.

Most of the transactions are clearly understood and categorized as they are downloaded. Transactions from Safeway are groceries, and from Chevron, gasoline. When I see something from amazon, I just search my email for the amount if I can't remember what I purchased.

Yes, sometimes you don't remember what you got at the hardware store, for example, but if you download monthly, you can usually recall it. Other times you just assume that what you got was just miscellaneous hardware.

Also, you do check and "accept" each transaction, so it's not as if it gets into the application under the radar. You still get a feeling for what you spent money on.

I just counted an average of 44 transactions/month on just the credit card (all monthly bills paid that way). That would be a major investment of time if entered manually -- way too much work.
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Old 11-07-2010, 12:57 AM   #38
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Most of the transactions are clearly understood and categorized as they are downloaded. Transactions from Safeway are groceries,...
Glad it works for you, but DW buys most 'grocery' stuff at Costco - it's a real mix of food, paper goods, cleaning products, batteries and other odds and ends, etc. For me, HW store is a mix of maintenance, home improvements, little hobby projects, etc.

Heck, a look at my waistline tells me we buy too much groceries. Seriously, I guess I still don't understand what the tracking gets you. We try to be good shoppers, so at that point, what good does it do to parse out that X% was 'groceries'? What are we gonna do that we aren't already doing? If we were happier with cheaper/less stuff, that's what we would buy.

Now for me, this is where the 'big picture' comes in. If I see more total $ going out than what I've set up for auto-deposits coming in (EZ to see, checking balance goes down!), we start to ask ourselves about the needs for this or that. But as I say, we are already careful shoppers, so that would normally translate to maybe cutting back on some of the more discretionary items, like delaying a home improvement project or 'toys' or some other purchase outside of day-to-day existence.

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Old 11-07-2010, 01:17 AM   #39
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It sounds like those of you who haven't done much automatic downloading aren't really understanding how it works.
I just counted an average of 44 transactions/month on just the credit card (all monthly bills paid that way). That would be a major investment of time if entered manually -- way too much work.
As long as it takes less time than:
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After another wasted 45 minutes dealing with the Quicken bugs, I'm once again looking for alternatives.
I realize that one major irritation is that for every bill paid via my VanguardAdvantage (VA) account, I must go through this:
  1. Manually edit the downloaded Money Market transaction to indicate that the money was transferred to the VA account.
  2. Accept it.
  3. Find the matching transaction in the VA account. If two checks cleared on the same day, the amounts are combined.
  4. Find the matching check entry in VA or add one and edit it. If I use a memorized payee, the amount disappears, and I must re-enter it.
  5. Accept the transaction.
Also, there are usually some quicken errors involved. For example, it may show the check as new rather than detecting a match with an entry I've already made.
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Old 11-07-2010, 04:21 AM   #40
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I have MoneyDance and do both manual and auto entry. When I download my credit card and checking transactions, MoneyDance allows me to split the transaction and properly allocate the money to the different expense buckets. I don't go down to "2 shirts", but I do split transactions into the different categories. Living here in Europe, I use cash for quite a few of my transactions, so I save the receipts and input the information - have to use the rate of exchange, so the amounts aren't exact due to the changing nature of the exchange, but it gives me a good approximation of what I'm spending on which categories. I use that to direct my behavior or reinforce it.

I do not track my investments with MoneyDance, my husband is doing that with Quicken - and he is not very happy with Quicken. For example, we upgraded all of our VG to Admiral just last week or so and it took him quite awhile to figure out how to do that in Quicken.

For a more sophisticated analysis, I use an excel spreadsheet. I wanted to know our AA - wasn't easily done due to the different accounts (yes, we should consolidate a bit more, we are working on it) - I put the info in a spreadsheet, used the pivot table function and had a nice little analysis.

I've bounced around in my money tracking - started out with Quicken for DOS and loved it - then ended up with an excel spreadsheet - didn't track for awhile and then broke down and bought MoneyDance last year. For the simple tasks I want for MoneyDance to do, it's been great.

Bottom line - YMMV with any tool :-)
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