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Moneydance for Personal Finance

Way back in, oh, 1976 or so, when I was working at the Retail Computer Store in Seattle’s Greenlake district, people would wander in and ask what a home computer might be good for. One of the standard answers was always “balance your checkbook.” We didn’t have any actual software do this this. We barely had BASIC interpreters in those days, let alone prepackaged personal finance software.

Over the years I’ve tried to computerize my family budget any number of times. Each December I would buy a fresh copy of Quicken or Microsoft Money, and try my best to get my data loaded and my finances under control. I never really stuck with any of these programs — I had trouble getting started, or trouble figuring out how to use them, or trouble getting them to download data from my bank and/or my credit cards.

This year I resolved to try once again and today turned out to be the day that I did so.

small_homepage.gifAfter reading the Home Budget Software thread on Ask Metafilter, I downloaded the free version of Moneydance. I created a test file and then downloaded an OFX file from my bank to try it out. I walked through the process of loading the data, and I was pretty sure that it would work for me. Later in the day I read the help files, perused the forums, and decided to go for it. I spent $29.99 for a license (the free version stores up to 100 transactions, plenty to try it out) and spent about 3 hours setting up some accounts and loading a month’s worth of bank account data and American Express charges. I now know where my money went this month (we spent tons of money on food and on energy).

There are all sorts of reports, a budgeting tool, check printing facilities, and direct integration with a number of online banking systems. There is built-in support for multiple currencies, plenty of preferences, and a full set of customization options for the home page. Oh yeah, and there’s an extension mechanism too (via the internal API), with a healthy set of extensions already available.

Moneydance stores the entire account in a single “.md” file; this simplifies file management and backup. After entering this month’s transactions I uploaded the file to Amazon S3 for safekeeping.

The developer has been working on Moneydance since 1997, and he writes regular entries to his product blog.

Moneydance is written in Java, and runs on Windows, the Mac, OS/2, Linux, Solaris, and various BSD derivatives.

Note: The screenshot above was taken from the Moneydance site. You can find a whole bunch more of them here.