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Budgeting basics bettered

Take an up-to-date approach to the tried-and-true envelope-budgeting method with this excellent tool.

CommonCents from EnDevelopment is a personal financial tool based on the tried-and-true envelope budget system, which traditionally involves putting money for expenses aside in paper envelopes so that you're forced to live on whatever is left over. Such cash-oriented budgets enforce old-school financial discipline, but they have limitations, especially when it comes to record-keeping. CommonCents improves the envelope method with a comprehensive suite of tools for managing everything from cash and credit cards to banking, loans, and mortgages, not to mention complete transaction histories and real-time account and envelope balances.

CommonCents' main interface, My Vault, features a main display divided into four resizable panes. The program's main view and its general approach toward recording and displaying information is an interesting hybrid of spreadsheet and Windows app, with a tree view for navigation plus customizable tables that have the familiar feel and functions of a spreadsheet program, such as Excel. The program is divided into 11 Managers that configure and control not only the Vault but also Account, Envelope, Income, Budget, Backup, Reconciliation, and other features. Clicking each calls up a dialog with checkboxes and other options that simplify setting up your personal information: You just check or uncheck items as needed. There doesn't seem to be anything left out, from Dining to Insurance to Taxes, but you can assign any expense or item you need to. Indeed, we were particularly impressed with the way this program manages to combine the total flexibility of a spreadsheet tool with excellent assistance and ready-made solutions. It had us budgeting in no time flat, and it shows the real appeal of the envelope method.

Nearly everyone can benefit from a good budgeting tool. CommonCents' combination of comprehensive coverage, flexibility, and ease of use with the commonsense envelope method definitely sets it apart from the crowd and earns our recommendation.

Editors' note: This is a review of the full version of CommonCents 3.3.73.520. The trial version is limited to 60 days only.
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