Moneydance

Update: I’ve rereviewed the new version of Mvelopes and now give it a big recommendation.

In addition to the career change I talked about a few days ago, I’m also working on an exit strategy of a different kind. It isn’t quite as dramatic, but I’ve been planning this one for a number of years: Moving to an all Apple household.

Last fall I mentioned how I had been spending an increasing amount of my time working within my web browser and on the Internet, making my choice of operating system largely irrelevant. Really, there was only one piece of desktop software that was tying me to Windows, and that was Microsoft Money. Years ago I selected that program as my personal finance manager of choice, so eventually it contained a very large amount of information about my family’s spending habits and financial history. The software did was it was supposed (and did it well), but there is/was one problem: Money is Windows only.

In the middle of October, I found what I thought would be the answer to my long time wish: a web-based personal money manager called Mvelopes Personal
. It’s a different take on the idea of money management than Quicken or Money, using a virtual envelope system to fund your different spending categories. My favorite part was that it automatically pulls transaction data from a huge list of institutions to give you an up-to-date picture of each account.

The killer (in a bad way) for me though, was that it was cumbersome to use and not intuitive at all. Mvelopes is a heavyweight JavaScript program (as opposed to the new lightweight approach taken by AJAX), which made it slow on most of the computers I tried and completely unusable on one of them. The software itself took a lot of time to setup and configure, and required me to go through a multi-step process to complete a simple and regular task like recording a money transfer between our checking and savings accounts. Needless to say, I wasn’t impressed. (Update: Mvelopes has gone through several major updates since I first wrote this, and this performance issue has long since been fixed)

In the end, I realized that the Mvelopes approach wasn’t actually what I was looking for. The program uses its built-in budgeting plan (the envelope funding idea), which doesn’t work all that well with the simple budget system we follow from the book All Your Worth (must haves, wants, and savings). One option was to switch to Quicken on our PC and then Quicken for Mac once we made the complete jump to the Mac OS, but I haven’t heard very good things about the Macintosh version of the popular money manager. My options were getting pretty small…

Then, a couple of days ago I came across a personal finance manager called Moneydance. The first awesome thing: It’s truly cross platfrom because it’s written in Java. That means you can get the same experience if you’re using Windows, Mac OS, or even Linux. Second, it’s simple. It lets me keep track of our spending and create a budget if I want, but it doesn’t worry about tracking retirement accounts or finding tax deductions. I’m a very passive investor, dollar cost averaging into market index funds, so I have no need (or desire) to constantly track their performance. The final great thing about Moneydance is that it looks like it will finally unteather us from Windows so we can pickup one of the new iMacs!

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