Wow! I just read on PCMag that Microsoft is going to stop selling MS Money at the end of June. This was the first I heard about this. I use Microsoft Money… 95 edition. I started suing it in the Windows 3.1 days. Here’s the story…
I originally wrote my own “checkbook” program in the DOS days because Quicken couldn’t do a couple of things I needed. In Quicken 3.0… when you reconciled your checking account against your bank statement, if you found an entry in error you could not edit it. You had to leave the reconcile function, find the order to edit it, and then start the reconcile process all over. Or… you could let Quicken enter an adjustment transaction. Neither of these options were good enough for me. Also, Quicken 3.0 had limited text “graphics.” I liked entering checks in a form that looked like a check on screen.
So I wrote my own check book program that used the extended ASCII characters to draw forms on the DOS text screens of the day. I enabled editing transactions while reconciling, and could run the entire program off a floppy if I had to (someone asked for a copy and needed to run it this way).
After 6 years of use the program started to loose transactions. I may have hit a DOS memory limit or something. I was now programming in Windows, but did not have the time to invest in writing a program in Windows, so I bought MS Money… I think it was the first or second version for Windows 3.0/3.1. It did everything my program did, but it did it in Windows graphical world. Forms for data entry and editing amounts as you reconcile. Cool!
When Windows 95 came out I was beta testing it. I also got a beta MSN account. MSN beta testers were given a free download to the Windows 95 version of MS Money… if you downloaded it from MSN within the first 60 days of Windows 95 going live.
I downloaded the install and I am still using it. That’s right… I am running Microsoft Money 95 (actually version 4.1, but the first for 32-bit Windows 95).
I tried buying Money 2000 in case the Y2K bug was going to be an issue. I struggled with Money 2000 and its browser interface until I was blue in the face. It was a huge step backward in usability. So I reloaded Money 95, restored my Money 95 data file (it was converted to the 2000 format, a one way conversion) and re-entered two months worth of transactions from my bank statements.
From February to March 2007 I compared Quicken to Money. I really, really wanted to make use of online banking. My goals were simple. 1) Connect to my credit union to balance my check book so I didn’t have to manually reconcile to the monthly statements I get in the mail, and 2) setup budgets so I can see how much money I have left to spend as the month progresses. The budget part was super easy as I setup only two categories, Bills and Other.
Both failed my very simple budget requirements. All I wanted to know was home much money I had left to spend of my monthly budget as I entered transactions. This was beyond either program. Feel free to read the gory details yourself.
Quicken stopped connecting to my credit union and I was forced to use Money 2007. It did not last. I was too frustrated with the reconciling of transactions. Money 07 did not allow easy tagging of categories to certain transactions it found in my credit union’s data. It would not do a good job matching up transactions I entered manually to those it got from my credit union, causing double entries and other strange anomalies. In the end it was actually easier when I manually reconciled my paper statement to Money 95. Plus the budget feature was worthless requiring me to do double entry with my spreadsheet. Back to… Money 95.
When I abandoned Money 2007 I switch back to Money 95. I did not go back to a saved copy of my Money 95 data file. All that would get me was 12 years worth of historical transactions with no categories and no budget information. So I started a new data file.
I have been using Money 95 ever since. Things are easier. My credit union has redesigned their statements so that it is very easy to reconcile to Money 95. And I have gone to a new budget system that eliminates the need to keep track of our spending.
I call it the Cash Budget. At the beginning of the month I withdraw the cash we would use for all non-bills. Bills are mortgage, credit cards, electric, water, cable, phone, etc. Groceries also fit in with bills. I budget these only, so when I am already sitting at my desk writing checks I just enter the checks in Money 95 and my budget spreadsheet.
The cash is the key. We have a budget for how much we can spend on other things. Other things is everything that is not a regular bill. Clothes, dinners out, movies, ice cream at Sonic. Name it and it is in this section of the budget. I take the cash at the beginning of the month and put it on the dresser. We just pay cash for everything. When the cash runs out there is nothing left and we have to stop spending.
It is so simple, but so effective. I wish I had thought of it sooner. Actually, I had thought of it years ago, but was never bold enough to do it. Now we are doing it and our miscellaneous spending is much better controlled.
So… to recap… 1) the paper statements are simpler making reconciling easier, 2) the budget spreadsheet is easier with only a couple dozen items a month to enter, and 3) the cash spending is easier. All this is easier and it is now more effective than ever at managing our money.
MS Money 95, an Excel Spreadsheet, and a pile of cash each month makes for a great way to manage finances.