Suggestions / Help


R

Rajesh

Hi:
I would like some advice on setting up the budget and
accounts in Money 2003. I have been using excel for years
to do our finances but would like to switch to Money 2003.
I believe the problems I am having are not unique. I am
open to suggestions for improving the workflow. Any help
would be appreciated.

Here is some background information:

* A primary checking account.
* A primary savings account
* An ING account
* Two credit cards
* Mortgage
* CarLoan
* One 401(k)
* Two Roth-IRAs


I have a fairly detailed budget.

All of the monthly bills are on autopay and are deducted
automatically from the checking account or charged
automatically on one of the credit cards.

Here are the problems I am having and some of my suggestions:

* I would like to set up the bills as recurring but not
have them show up in the budget. (I would like to use my
own budget). Currently if I make anything recurring, it
gets is own budget entry and I have two budget items for
everything and I am not able to delete the ones the Money
created from the budget unless I also cancel the
recurring/bill feature for them.
* For the items/bills that are not due every month,
(car insurance (A), real-estate taxes (B), home-insurance
(C), car-maintenance etc.) I divide them into 12 and
transfer a monthly amount to the savings: (A+B+C..)/12.
Whenever a particular item is due, I transfer the amount
back to the checking account and pay the bill. How should I
set this up? A separate account for each of these items
where I "transfer" to each of these accounts monthly and
"transfer" back when they are due? My goals for this:
o know at a glance how much I have saved for each
purpose
o be reminded when they are due
o easy reconcilliation when they get deducted
from my checking/credit account or transferred to/from the
savings account.
* At the end of every month, I would like to:
o Make up for the shortfall in some budget items
with excesses in other categories and then if something is
remaining in a category, roll some of it over to the next
month i.e. say I have a food budget to 200 and I spent only
150 and I know there are guests coming in next month, I
would like to roll over the excess 30 to the next month
food budget and use 20 to make up for the extra I spent on
movies. Or put it in long term savings if I choose to. If
there is a deficit, I would like to roll the deficit over
so that next month's budget is less. The default behavior
would be to just roll the balance or deficit over to the
same category automatically.
o bills that fall around the end of the month get
cashed the next month but I would like to somehow tell
Money that they are for previous month without changing the
transaction date.
* I would like to set up the home and car as assets
with loans attached to them and have recurring bills but
use my own budget categories for them.
* How do I categorize things that I know are temporary,
e.g. $20 that I loan to someone this month but get it back
next month or I pay $50 for something which has a $40
coming back in 8 weeks as mail in rebate.
* How do I reconcile the credit-card payment which show
up on both in the checking account and in the credit card
statement?
* How do I resolve budget items that span two major
categories e.g. car insurance. Does it go under insurance
or under automobile? (Ideally I would like it to be both
but not duplicated). I guess my suggestion is to allow
overlapping categories.
* Although I anticipate all my transactions to be
downloaded from statements, it would be nice to have a way
of entering transactions without having to choose the
account first. For me accounts are secondary, it is "what"
and "how much" that is important. When I start Money, I
would like to see a summary of recent transactions (sorted
by date) with the account name in the last column. Then I
should be able just append a new transaction manually to
that list choosing the account the last from a popup menu
(after entering date, category, payee, amount etc). This
way one can grab a bunch of accumulated receipts and enter
them easily without jumping around among accounts.

Thanks.
--rks.
 
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D

Dick Watson

We're just fellow users, not consultants. But I'll take a swing at several
of your issues. See inline.

Rajesh said:
* I would like to set up the bills as recurring but not
have them show up in the budget. (I would like to use my
own budget). Currently if I make anything recurring, it
gets is own budget entry and I have two budget items for
everything and I am not able to delete the ones the Money
created from the budget unless I also cancel the
recurring/bill feature for them.
Most unfortunately, that's not the way Budget Planner works. To BP, all
scheduled bills and deposits are, by definition, in budget. Stupid. But
that's the way it is.
* For the items/bills that are not due every month,
(car insurance (A), real-estate taxes (B), home-insurance
(C), car-maintenance etc.) I divide them into 12 and
transfer a monthly amount to the savings: (A+B+C..)/12.
Whenever a particular item is due, I transfer the amount
back to the checking account and pay the bill. How should I
set this up? A separate account for each of these items
where I "transfer" to each of these accounts monthly and
"transfer" back when they are due? My goals for this:
o know at a glance how much I have saved for each
purpose
o be reminded when they are due
o easy reconcilliation when they get deducted
from my checking/credit account or transferred to/from the
savings account.
Well, Money really doesn't work this way. I suppose you could coerce it to
work this way. Money tries to get you to view the whole thing as one cash
flow problem, not a series of "cookie jars." If you budget these items,
either via BP directly, or, better, via scheduled items, Money will be able
to tell you whether you will have sufficient cash across all of your
accounts to pay them when they come due.
* At the end of every month, I would like to:
o Make up for the shortfall in some budget items
with excesses in other categories and then if something is
remaining in a category, roll some of it over to the next
month i.e. say I have a food budget to 200 and I spent only
150 and I know there are guests coming in next month, I
would like to roll over the excess 30 to the next month
food budget and use 20 to make up for the extra I spent on
movies. Or put it in long term savings if I choose to. If
there is a deficit, I would like to roll the deficit over
so that next month's budget is less. The default behavior
would be to just roll the balance or deficit over to the
same category automatically.
o bills that fall around the end of the month get
cashed the next month but I would like to somehow tell
Money that they are for previous month without changing the
transaction date.
Money supports doing the former, more or less. I don't understand the point
of doing the latter.
* I would like to set up the home and car as assets
with loans attached to them and have recurring bills but
use my own budget categories for them.
OK. What's the problem? Money can do all of this except for the fact that
the "attachment" from liability to asset is not enforced in any way but in
your head.
* How do I categorize things that I know are temporary,
e.g. $20 that I loan to someone this month but get it back
next month or I pay $50 for something which has a $40
coming back in 8 weeks as mail in rebate.
I have a category called Miscellaneous:Deposit, Credit to Follow that I use
for inflow and ooutflow that I expect to be symmetrical and temporary like
this.
* How do I reconcile the credit-card payment which show
up on both in the checking account and in the credit card
statement?
If you do downloaded transaction data, I have no idea. If you do this by
hand, you use a thing called a Transfer. A Transfer takes money from one
account and puts it in the other.
* How do I resolve budget items that span two major
categories e.g. car insurance. Does it go under insurance
or under automobile? (Ideally I would like it to be both
but not duplicated). I guess my suggestion is to allow
overlapping categories.
Your choice, but subcategories are very helpful here. Personally, I consider
Automobile more important than insurance, so I use Automobile:Insurance. You
could use Insurance:Automobile. If I wanted to, I could call it Ripoff:Bills
I hate to pay. There is no right or wrong answer.
* Although I anticipate all my transactions to be
downloaded from statements
Why? My minority opinion is that users in general, and new users in
particular, should Just Say No to downloaded transaction data. My reasons:

1) Maintaining all of the connection/user/password data takes effort. Not to
metion dealing service outages and so forth.
2) The quality of the data the banks download is highly variable and in many
cases requires significant effort to polish. Some banks download payees as
the memo information and so forth. Payee names frequently are useless. (My
Discover bill this month calls Earthlink "ONTREUW0170078867 800-719-4660 GA
106142524.") Much effort is associated with training Money to match this
crap up with your preferred payee names. Oh, and the banks really don't care
and are in no hurry to redesign their back end systems--which were never
designed to accomodate this--to do it better and really are only supporting
this interface because the marketeers told them it might rope in some trendy
techhead customers not because they really care about making it work well
for you.
3) Things like Transfer payments to credit cards tend to come down as two
different transactions from two different banks at two different times
neither of which knows about the other account you have in Money when you
really want them to be one Transfer transaction in Money. It takes effort to
unscrew this stuff.
4) Money tries to match downloaded stuff with manually entered transactions
and with scheduled bills and deposits algorithmically based on payee,
amount, date. At best with the issues noted above this is not an easy
problem, at worst Money isn't very good at it either, apparently. This takes
effort to fix at best and causes real problems with getting bad or duplicate
register entries at worst.
5) If you do like I do and record lots of other data in your transactions in
the memo fields and so forth and splitting transactions at the
"Food:Groceries" store into some other parts, you will either have to wait
to do this until the transaction downloads and remember what you were going
to do and do it my hand or enter the transaction by hand at the time. Either
way, what's the savings?
6) Downloading transaction data pretty much amount to taking the bank's word
for it. What's it mean to "balance" you records vs. theirs when your records
are really, de facto, their records?
7a) All of the extra effort outlined above adds up as near as I can tell to
more effort than it takes to just enter the transaction data manually.
7b) All of this for new users works to delay or prevent their ever acquiring
an understanding of what's really going on. It's like using a calculator and
never learning arithmetic.
it would be nice to have a way
of entering transactions without having to choose the
account first. For me accounts are secondary, it is "what"
and "how much" that is important. When I start Money, I
would like to see a summary of recent transactions (sorted
by date) with the account name in the last column. Then I
should be able just append a new transaction manually to
that list choosing the account the last from a popup menu
(after entering date, category, payee, amount etc). This
way one can grab a bunch of accumulated receipts and enter
them easily without jumping around among accounts.
Well, that's all well and good, but it certainly isn't how Money works and
there isn't any easy way to coerce Money to work that way.

Don't take this as a slam, but I've seen people approach Money like this
before and it's a loser. You are used to doing your financial management one
way in your Excel model. Money doesn't work that way. It's different. Not
wrong, just different. It's like the only tool you ever used was a hammer
and now you've traded it for a screwdriver which you still want to try and
use like a hammer. A loser. Read the on-line help. Look at the sample file.
View the help videos. Read the threads in the NG and keep asking questions.
But don't try to use this screwdriver like a hammer.
 
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E

Erin

I'm not sure if you're going to get an answer--that's all
EXACTLY what I would like to do.

I have spent more time than I'd like to admit trying to
figure out how to get Money to do this, and it doesn't seem
to be working. I think what you want is envelope
budgeting. Money, to me, is just a fancy schmancy check
register (and it does a good job at that) that helps you
categorize your expenses and see things post facto instead
of a priori.

Tell me, how did you get this to work in Excel? Could you
email me at (e-mail address removed)?

Erin
 

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