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This $30 Piece of Financial Software Changed My Adult Life

I owe so much of my financial well-being to this software.

$296,956. That’s how much money I’ve spent on rent or my mortgage since 1995. I’ve dropped $97,481 on travel, $53,256 eating out, and drank $5,436 worth of coffee. My daughter just turned 3-years-old in April. She’s cost us a grand total of $34,340 to date. How do I know all this? Largely because, like a crazy person, I’ve been entering almost every expense I incur into the financial management program Quicken since I graduated college. Some might call it an obsession ⏤ my wife, perhaps, when I pester her for the week’s receipts ⏤ but after 23 years, it’s become such an ingrained part of my life I can’t imagine not doing it. I still use the reports it generates for our taxes, and so I press on, more determined now than ever to record my entire financial life in the program. I will use it until I die. And so should you.

I’m not even sure how or why I chose Intuit’s Quicken to begin with ⏤ I think it came installed on my laptop. It worked well enough and the more receipts I entered the more committed to it I became. Eventually, we were tied together by years of pay stubs, grocery store receipts, and a giant data file I had little interest in converting to a new program. I upgraded a few times along the way ⏤ jumping around from Basic to Professional to Deluxe, and even switching over from PC to MAC ⏤ but ended up settling on Quicken 2007, which, 11 years later, is what I still use. I continue to put off upgrading simply because of how well I know the interface, but the current version of Quicken Deluxe for MAC only runs $30. There’s no reason for me not to, and I’m sure when I buy a new computer I will.

I guess could have tried Quick Books or YNAB or moved to Mint at some point along the way, but I never saw a reason to do so. Quicken was easy to use, fit my needs, and most importantly, unlike a lot of the newer more popular programs that are cloud-based, it allows me to manage my financial records offline. Again, like a crazy person, I don’t link any of my online bank accounts to the program. Rather, I import downloaded monthly statements or manually enter the expenses myself, right down to the memo field. Granted, it’s become much more of a chore as life’s gotten hectic (and more expensive) with a child, and the receipts pile up higher these days before I get to them, but I still prefer to enter each by hand. According to reviews, Quicken remains one of the most highly rated financial management programs for manual entry.

Admittedly, I have never explored all of Quicken’s functionality. I don’t use it to budget, manage my investments, pay my monthly bills, or do my taxes (it integrates with Turbo Tax), although it can do all of these things well from what I understand. I’m sure one day I’ll sit down and be wowed by the amazing features I’ve been missing. I use it entirely to track my income and expenses, to record when and on what I spent my money. And for that it’s fantastic. New spending categories are a snap to set up ⏤ even in the middle of entering an expense ⏤ or rename, and the reports can be as simple or as detailed as one requires. I run them periodically throughout the year to see how much we’re spending in certain categories, but couldn’t prove, as budget experts suggest, that they help curb our spending. Although I’ve definitely used them to identify areas where we should probably cut back, and they make itemizing on our taxes a breeze.

Is it perfect? Of course not. Maybe it’s the old version I’m using but certain bank statements (I’m looking at you Chase) won’t import, and when others do, it annotates the entries and awkwardly uses all caps. Annoying, for sure, but not terrible enough to send me packing. And to be honest, what I love most about Quicken is less about software specifics and more about the overall concept: it’s essentially a diary of my life. By running the full reports, I can browse through years of entries ⏤ the restaurants, the sporting events, the trips with friends ⏤ and a flood of memories come pouring back. I can’t say I check often, but when an old entry auto-populates while entering an expense, it’s fun to reminisce. And it makes the drudge of inputting receipts late at night after my family is long asleep mildly more enjoyable. Even if it does also remind me that I could have invested $5,436 over 20 years instead of buying 3,000 cups of Starbucks.

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