What software should I use to track my personal finances?

I’ve written previously about the effect of cloud accounting on our industry and how it is replacing our industry’s jobs of the future, but today I’ll give an overview of how we can use this software from a personal point of view. 

QBO Dashboard

The Quickbooks Online (QBO) dashboard: Very simple, and very easy to use. You can see the accounts at the top right, and the number in the circles shows the new transactions that you need to allocate.

So many personal finance blogs sing the praises of Mint and Personal Capital as the only ways to track your personal finances, but for us in the land down under neither of these apps is available. We are therefore left out in the cold somewhat, and I’m not sure that anyone has given a lot of thought to what is really available for us Australians (and probably New Zealanders) in this space.

I have historically used a very old version of MYOB, which was so old school that it relied entirely on manual data entry and had none of the time-saving advantages of modern software. I figured that it was well past its used by date, and took too long to keep things up to date, so I set out to explore what is actually available and understand which of these options is most suitable for me (and presumably the wider personal finance blogosphere downunder).

So what is out there?

When I made my initial enquiries (via Google of course), I was surprised to find that the most common products identified for us Australians were actually those that we use for our accounting clients at work. These are probably the bigger names, including:

  • Intiuit Quickbooks Online
  • Reckon One
  • Xero
  • MYOB Essentials

Now I have experience with all of the above packages from working with clients at work, so I had some sort of feel for what they can do, but to be honest, one of the biggest deciding factors in which one of these to choose has simply been price. Because all of these packages are reasonably powerful in terms of their accounting capabilities, I knew that all of them would be able to get the job done, but could they get it done in an affordable way?

The following table summarises the pricing of these packages:

Cloud Pricing Comparison

Given the above selection options, it probably wouldn’t come as a surprise to you that I chose Quickbooks Online. Admittedly its pricing reverts to $1 more per month after a year than I would otherwise pay with Reckon One, but Reckon’s product was completely rewritten earlier this year and hasn’t really been put to the test by much of the market. The limits on bank transactions are also a big negative in my view.

I have actually found Quickbooks Online to be very simple to use, and it’s been a great upgrade from my old manual version of MYOB. Admittedly I also find Xero and MYOB Essentials to be easy to use as well, but probably not quite as easy as Quickbooks Online, which is another reason why it’s my preferred product out of this group.

Here is a snapshot of the features of Quickbooks Online “Simple Start” version:

  • Allows you to track your income, expenses and profits;
  • Send unlimited quotes and invoices on the go (not that I’m in business, but my wife sometimes sends out some invoices for some consulting work that she does);
  • Download transactions from your bank and credit cards automatically, and there is no limit (that I could find) on how many accounts you can link up;
  • Access your data online from a PC, Mac, tablet or smartphone (Android and Apple)
  • Complete your Business Activity Statement (Australian tax reporting)
  • Free payroll for up to 10 employees (we don’t need this, but if you’re in business it’s another reason why this package is great value).
  • Intuitive rule making system that allows the software to suggest where transactions should be allocated. This makes data entry incredibly simple and quick.
  • Ability to attach images of invoices and receipts to transactions so that you’ll always have the detail available. Whenever I get a receipt from a place that supplies a lot of different things (like a department store), I take a photo of the receipt, and then I can just attach it when the transaction appears in Quickbooks the next day.

I tend to log into Quickbooks Online every couple of days to allocate any transactions that have occurred in that time, and it really does make the process so simple. I can access it anywhere at any time, so it’s even something productive that I can do if I’ve got time to kill.

Alternatives

As well as the above products that are capable of general accounting work, my search also showed up some other options that seem to be meant more for personal use, these being:

  • PocketSmith;
  • PocketBook; and
  • ANZ Money Manager.

Because I had already settled on Quickbooks Online I haven’t actually used any of the above apps, but the reviews that I have read would indicate that all three are quite good apps. Pricing for these apps is summarised below:

Cloud Pricing Comparison 2

Have you used any of these packages before?

At some stage I wouldn’t mind checking out the free ones just so I know what they’re like, and if they work well then it might even be worth switching over, if only to save the $12/month that I’m currently paying for Quickbooks Online.

I’m curious to know if anyone else has actually used these packages before though – if this is you and you have any feedback on them (good or bad) can you please let us know?

IA.

12 thoughts on “What software should I use to track my personal finances?

  1. IA – Wow, I didn’t realize that Mint/Personal Capital weren’t available to you guys! QBO sounds like a great solution for you though. But at $12/mo, that seems a bit pricey given that you don’t actually use it for business (still well worth it for accountants who care about FI though). I’m in the US and use Xero for my personal finances and love it. It’s free since I signed up to be a partner and took a quick exam. I paid a one time fee of $50 USD over a year ago, and I’m able to avoid the monthly subscription fee. Not sure if that’s the case for new partners but I’m going to continue to use it as long as it’s free and I also use it for clients. Xero does pretty much everything you listed that QBO simple start can do so feature wise, they sound pretty similar. One main drawback with using online accounting software for personal finances is the lack of investment account linking. I can easily track investments in Mint/Personal Capital, however, in Xero, I have to create a manual journal entry for investment activity each month – kind of a pain. Great analysis of software packages!

    • Hi Jeff
      Yeah, it sucks that Mint and Personal Capital aren’t available, and to be honest it really irks me that I have to actually pay for a software package given that I’m actually into frugality if I can help it. The upside is the automation benefit of it all, so that was probably what made me choose take the leap into a cloud package rather than sticking in the stone age with a free version of some very old software.

      I wasn’t aware of the potential to be a partner, but have since made an enquiry with Quickbooks to find out if I can convert my existing account into a QBO ProAdvisor account which would give me my account for free. I would need to complete a course to demonstrate knowledge of the software (should be easy enough given that I have been using it for a while), but I’m not sure if there’s a once-off fee. Even if there is, I’ll bet it’s cheaper than paying $144/year for the current package. Here’s hoping that I can convert my existing account!

      I understand what you’re saying about the linking of investment accounts, and so far I haven’t even bothered in adjusting for market value of my stock market investments. I have just treated them at cost so far, but figured I would eventually get to doing a manual journal entry (e.g. on a monthly basis) as you are doing. This is kind of annoying, but perhaps they will release it as an app for the likes of QBO/Xero in the future?

  2. You don’t happen to know about any German accounting software, do you? I’m about to buy MonkeyOffice, which is ~160€/year to do my own accounting for my new freelancing business. It was recommended to me by a freelancing colleague and my soon-to-be new accountant. I’m pretty excited to use it because even though everything is in German and my German sucks, I want to be closer to what is happening in my books instead of handing everything over to someone else. My life would be too easy then, lol!

    • Unfortunately I don’t know anything about German accounting software, other than the fact that SAP is a German company. Not that that helps you though as SAP is really only meant for really big businesses and costs a while lot of money!

      I’ve never heard of MonkeyOffice, but if it’s being recommended to you by people who are in the know then that’s probably a good start.

      I gather that Quickbooks and Xero aren’t available in Deutschland? Which seems strange given that Quickbooks is so huge in the US and should therefore be looking at selling its products into countries like Germany.

      • In my old company, no one wanted to be given SAP access lest we’d have to do our own SAP admin work! It was always emailing people and filling out spreadsheets to get anything SAP-related done. So awesome.

        MonkeyOffice (what a funny name!) is hooked up to the Finanzamt so us freelancers can easily submit our VAT reimbursements. Not sure if Quickbooks or Xero are able to do this, but I’ll give MonkeyOffice a try since it’s the only one I know and what has been recommended.

    • I’ve never heard of it but have just checked out its website. It certainly looks old school and very clunky so I don’t think I want to go anywhere near it to be honest. No cloud, no automation, the only plus seems to be that it’s free!

      My (very) old version of MYOB from 13+ years ago has more features and costs me nothing, so I’m not sure where GNUCash are going to get their clients from with that sort of competition. Thanks for the suggestion though!

  3. I just use old fashioned excel with fortnightly cash flow.
    I find this gives me the greatest flexibility eg to link to my loan schedule (in another sheet I downloaded) and to forecast cashflow over time

    • Yeah, old fashioned excel is pretty good I’ll admit, but where it falls down is tracking historical numbers – you have to do all of that data entry and summarising yourself, and it can become a bit tedious after a while.

      With the cloud-based packages the data entry is so much more automated, and you can add in the budgets/projections as well which is what I like. Have you ever tried one of the cloud-based packages? I wonder if many of the people who say “I prefer excel” have actually tested out the new packages – many probably haven’t seen the need to, but like many things in life, you don’t know how good they are until you try them!

  4. Hi there,

    My name is Kerstin DuBois and I do online presence management for Intuit QuickBooks Canada.

    I have a quick question for you about this article. Please get back to me when you have a spare moment. 🙂

    -Kerstin

    • Hi Kerstin, I’d be happy to answer your question, just let me know what it is and I will do my best to answer it!

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