Sunday, 2 August 2015

money, money, money

Many years ago I read an article which said that if your lifestyle was complicated enough to need a computer program to keep track of your money, you needed a simpler lifestyle.

Back in the day, I had a simpler lifestyle: a bank account for day to day things, and a building society account to save for a rainy day, and I reconciled my cheque book by hand.

But then the cheque guarantee card became an ATM card, and then a debit card, so my bank transactions were no longer all stored in my cheque book.

And then along came credit cards.  Multiple credit cards: I have one for everyday purchases, one with a very small credit limit for internet purchases, and one for things I claim back through work.

And there was also the need to keep track of work expenses, because not all purchases were by credit card, and I sometimes accidentally used the work expenses credit card for other things, or the main credit card for a work expense.

And then there was a mortgage account.

And then there multiple building society accounts: for rainy days, and high interest for long term savings.

So in 1993 I bought a computer program (back then, there were no such things as "apps"): Quicken.  I’ve been using it happily since then.  For the first few years, I upgraded to get better functionality.  But Quicken 2000 met all my financial needs; financial life complications increased, but didn’t outstrip its capabilities, so I ceased upgrading 15 years ago.

But I was still upgrading my hardware and operating system.  And early in 2013 I got a new machine, with Windows 7.  Quicken 2000 no longer worked.  I had a look at upgrading, but it seemed that support for the UK had been dropped several years earlier.  So instead, I installed an XP VM, and used the old Quicken on that.  (Smalltalk/V also stopped working; I rewrote my website book review page generator in Python; I had no desire to write my own financial system though.)

But it’s been a pain having to boot the VM just for this one program.  And now my 100GB solid state C drive is nearly full, with a major disc hog being the VM.

My C: drive visualised with WinDirStat.  The 34GB of VM space is the blue highlighted area.  The 3GB of free space is the grey area to the bottom right.

So I decided the time had come to move on.  I did a bit of searching around, and came across AceMoney, self-advertised as the best Quicken or Microsoft Money alternative financial software you can find.  It looked like it had the features I wanted, it was cheap ($40, or free for the lite version that allows only two accounts, but if I had only two accounts, I wouldn’t need a program), and it was available for a 30 day free trial.

So I downloaded it, and played with it for a while.  It does seem to do everything I want, in a manner similar to Quicken, and has a nice clean user interface, and sensible options,  I had some issues importing the old Quicken stuff, until I realised that Quicken had exported its dates in mm/dd/yy format (who on earth would use such a silly date format...), and also that AceMoney had some import rules that were mangling a few payee names.  One minor annoyance is that AceMoney doesn’t support dates before 1971: I have a few premium bonds from before that date.  I realise the AceMoney programmers are probably young enough not to realise that there are dates before 1971, but still.

screenshot from the AceMoney site

Standing orders, direct debits, and other regular payments can be entered on the Schedule page, and can be marked for auto-payment, or hand scheduled.  I like the way it includes these as future bills in grey on the relevant Account pages, giving a peek at what’s to come.

The Payees and Categories are editable, allowing unused dross to be removed, and mis-spellings to be corrected easily.

I haven’t used the Portfolio facilities: that happens elsewhere.

So, after playing around with it for a while, I decided that it is indeed a suitably good Quicken alternative; I shelled out $40, input the resulting authorisation code into AceMoney, then added the $40 purchase amount to my Internet credit card account.

Inception: the purchase of the software entered into the software

And now I don’t need the XP VM any more.

Maybe in another 22 years I’ll move on to another money app.  I’m no stick-in-the-mud!


  1. Foolish perhaps, but I've stopped keeping track of any of it. I'm dependent on the credit card companies, Amazon, banks, etc. being honest. But spot checks seem to bear that out. So why do I need to do any of the work at all?

  2. Amazon seems to fail to charge more often than it charges twice/spuriously. But I've had a few whoppers on the credit card bill (a hotel stay charged twice, for example), so I'm sufficiently suspicious to do more than spot checks.