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Full user review
This review was originally posted on VersionTracker.com.
This is exactly the software I was looking for. It has all the accounting features I need for home and freelance work, plus has the best budgeting features of any software I've tried -- and I downloaded EVERY mac finance program I could find (about 3 dozen) after I got married and tried all of them.
I used Quicken as a teenager and then iBank (not the newest version, hate it) when I got an Apple. I "tricked" the old iBank into budgeting for me, but it was a hassle, and I knew it would be more of a hassle with two incomes, two freelance businesses, and two people to budget for.
Most of the budgeting programs I found just used a more sophisticated form of "tricking" -- you create a budget, and then you click accounts and run a report to see what you've budgeted in those categories versus what you've spent. OK, but not the easiest way to see if we have money left to eat out, not very flexible, and I'd still have to trick the program to put money aside each month for a bill due every six, or to only save money for Christmas presents a few months of the year, or to do something special with extra income.
I love that MoneyWell makes it easy for my husband to see exactly where the budget is (really helps with the date planning!) without my having to interpret or run reports, and that we can still be anile about tracking and reconciling everything.
The budgeting works on the envelope (in this case, bucket) system, but it's the most flexible I've seen. You can transfer money from one bucket to another or revise your spending plan at any point in time. I never would have gotten so much out of our budget without this program: being able to see all the totals instantly, compare to past spending, and tweak things without fear of messing anything up, I kept adjusting categories as I went, and I'm now amazed at how far our money's going. It's also great for either of us to be able to glance and see if we have money in a particular bucket to spend, or if there's another bucket we could transfer the money from.
Even better, it's so well integrated with the accounting side of the software that you barely have to do anything. Categories become buckets, so aside from creating a spending plan and then dispersing your income (or having the program do it for you -- you can prioritize buckets), there's nothing extra to do. The category for the transaction is a bucket, and that's that. But the buckets are separate in that you can mess around with them as much as you want and you won't throw off your account totals. All the charts I've ever found useful are already right there.
The spending plan does all the work for you -- totaling your income and expenses, giving you the average of what you've spent in a category in the past, and dividing a per-month total for irregular expenses. But it also gives you control -- you can tell it whether an expense hits a particular time of month, or you can adjust amounts for specific months for each category.
The accounting program works as it should. You don't have to click to add transactions, you can apple+n and then tab through, and the form has autocomplete. The lack of a pop-up calendar on the date box bugged me at first, but it's nice that you can type in the date however you want and the program interprets it. You can pre-enter or schedule transactions, and they show as pending (and in a different color) until you OK them. The graphics and colors are helpful without being obnoxious or annoying. For instance, go into reconcile function, and entries are then color-coded: dimmed if they're out of the date range, and, within the date range, blue if they're reconciled and red if they're not. The one-click feature is perfect for months everything matches up.
I thought it had some quirks when I was trying it out, but most turned out to be features I didn't quite understand yet. Once I figured everything out, those quirks became non-existent or helpful. The *only* thing that I would like is subcategories/nested buckets, just because I'm anile. A quick workaround, though, is to use categories you're used to (car:gas, car:tolls, car:maintenance, etc.) and then select all related categories (they'll show up next to each other alphabetically) when you want the full picture.
(Examples of "quirks": I thought I had to click on an account and a bucket to add a transaction -- what a pain. Now I keep the "all transactions" bucket selected unless I'm looking at something specific, and then, like every other program, select the account I want to enter transactions in, and bingo, autofill bucket entry. Other problems I had when getting the program to balance: I had expenses and income for the wedding that didn't match the budget and was trying to use my "trick" methods to get everything to line up. The fix was figuring out how to use the initial rollover date option to not have or not have past expenses affect the budget and then to not allocate part of the initial balance since it was already partly spent.) The only actual quirk I've found is within the spending plan: go to a category without a plan, type in an amount, and then drop down the frequency, and the amount disappears; you have to enter the frequency first.
Try it -- the trial is full-featured -- and you'll see it's the best system possible for budgeting. Oh yeah, the undo/redo on the program is incredible. No accidental boo-boos, and you can feel free to play around.
To address others' comments:
I do have a new Mac, but I was still impressed with how fast the software runs -- it quits and starts before the icon has time to bounce, honestly in about the same time as it takes to hide and reappear. Features within the program work instantly.
For a running total, click on any date in the account register, and the actual and reconciled totals for that date appear on the bottom gray bar of the program. I thought I'd miss not having the running total in the register, but I haven't. It cuts the clutter, and I hardly ever need it anymore with all of MoneyWell's features for budgeting and reconciling.