Thursday, 18 December 2014

This is NOT Another Comparison of Budgeting Apps

When I shared that we've signed up for the MoneyStepper Savings Challenge, I let you all know that we'd be picking a new budgeting tool for 2015.

Our latest system involves a spreadsheet that only tracks "high risk" budget categories and it's been driving me nuts that we're not tracking our full financial picture.

I had planned to compare all the popular apps highlighting all their neat feature with lots of pretty comparison charts.  It was going to be so fabulous that I'd even put a link to it on my menu bar.


Well, I'm not going to do that any more.

Honestly, I just wasn't thrilled with many of the options out there for us, so there wasn't much for me to compare.


4 Reasons We Won't Be Using The Usual Budgeting Software



1.  We're Canadians.  Many of the tools that I've been recommended, like Personal Capital, only support American Financial Institutions.

I can see myself getting frustrated that I've have to use a partially functional system, like netflix.CA.  We tried it once, but I'd get so angry when I'd search for a documentary I really wanted to watch.  It would say, oh you mean this documentary?  Oh yes, we love this documentary too.  It's won all of these awards.  Here, read these amazing reviews!  Oh wait, you're a Canadian.  Well we can't let you watch this.  Urg. 


2. We have investments.  Not a lot right now, but some.  I'd like to be able to pull up investing reports.  I'd like to know my return for the year.

As we invest more, I'd like our choice to be a useful investing tool, not just a budgeting tool.  From what I read, the most popular option for Canadians, Mint, leaves a lot to be desired when it comes to investments. 


3.  I crave reports.  I want to have the option to create custom reports, track side hustle incomes for tax time, and track net worth.  I'm not interested in just seeing the cash going in and coming out of our bank account.

Getting these advanced features basically eliminates the rest of the budget apps like MoneyStrands.


4. I'm cheap.  For a Canadian, it seems like the only way to get a robust personal finance system means choosing a desktop application.

The most popular option, Quicken, is about $45.  Not too expensive really, but I'd rather not spend money if there's a free option that might meet my needs.


So what was I left with? 


GNUCash.



Ever heard of it?

GNUCash is a free, open source program.  Unlike the usual options, it's for personal and business use so I'm hoping it's good for both at the same time too.

We have a mix of Windows, Linux and Macs in our house and it works on all three operating systems, which is definitely a bonus.

Plus there is an app that you can use to check your balances when you're out and about.  Probably not with as many features as the others, but it's still something.



Conclusion


I know GNUCash is a little odd of an option for a personal finance blogger to choose.

  • It's not as user friendly as many of the other apps out there, so it's probably not the best choice to recommend to those readers that are just getting started and need something easy to get them excited about tracking their money.  
  • It's a free open source program, so I don't have the opportunity to get a cut if I convince anyone that it's the best program out there and that they should switch over.  
  • It's not popular in the blogging community, so I can't make friends based on our shared experience with our budgeting tools (In the personal finance blogging community cafeteria, this is what I imagine happens at the cool table)

I'm pretty sure there will be a learning curve and I'm not even sure that it will meet all of our needs.  But, I'm not afraid of numbers and personalizing budget software (dream come true?)

We'll see how it goes.  Maybe we'll break down and cough up money to pay for a commercial product.  Or maybe we'll decide we don't need the extra functions after all and switch to one of the free budget apps out there.

But for now, in the name of cheap, we're going to give it our best shot.



What About You?


How do you track your spending?

Is there something you'd like your budget tool to do that it doesn't?

Anyone use paper and a pencil?  Has there been something stopping you from using an automated system?

 

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