Since year 2003, I have been using Microsoft Excel as a tool for keeping track of all my financial transactions. I used a workbook containing 12 worksheets for each month. It also contained another worksheet for credit card related transactions. There were few graphs and charts I had used to summarize the transactions. I had also decorated some of the sheets with coloured columns to make them look intuitive. All these while I was looking for some piece of software which could help me keep track of the same using a much better user interface other than Excel.
My colleague Ranjith directed me to a site called AlternativeTo. This was actually in relation to one of my status update on the social networking site Facebook with regards to managing playlists for music library. Accidently I came across this personal finance management software and thought of trying it.
Here are some of the options for software which can be used for managing personal finances http://alternativeto.net/software/money-manager-ex/. I tried couple of them before settling down on Money Manager Ex. Its free and open source. There are other options like Microsoft Money or iBank which are commercial products. But for a single user needs I think Money Manager is sufficient. I think Microsoft Money is no more available for sale. HomeBank is another option which I looked at.
Features of Money Manager
Support for Multiple accounts – Money Manager supports multiple account. I have couple of savings accounts in different banks. Using excel it was difficult to get to know the details related to a particular account. Money Manager gives a very good user interface for managing multiple accounts.
Support for Stock – Money Manager can also be used to track investments in stock market.
Recurring transactions - Most of us use online banking for payment of various utility bills as well as other things like insurance premiums etc. Money Manager has a option of setting up recurring transaction and reminders will be shown when the due date approaches.
Categories - Money Manager comes with a set of pre-built categories for income and expenses like Automobiles, Bills, Homeneeds, Income etc. We can define our own categories.
Budget – Money Manager allows us to come up with a budget for a complete year. Based on the categories we have defined in the categories section, we can set the budget for each of them. Here is a screen shot of the budget setup screen.
Simple reports – There are some basic reports like Summary of Accounts, Where the Money Goes, Where the Money Comes From, To Whom the money goes, Income Vs Expenses, Transaction Report, Budget performance etc.
For my current needs Money Manager serves the purpose of giving up to date information about the state of my finances in a single window. I like the simplicity of the user interface and ease of use. The reports are also very minimal but they help in getting us the kind of information we need. I personally like the budgeting feature a lot since it can be used to plan for short term and long term financial needs. Only thing I miss in Money manager is the support for handling credit cards related stuff. This was available in the HomeBank software. But the user interface wasn’t really appealing. I am sure being part of open source community, Money Manager will have the feature for supporting Credit Card related transactions very soon.