Since I needed to re-install all my applications on my upgraded Desktop PC, I decided to only install software that I really needed. I also considered upgrading to a newer version if it seemed appropriate. For my checkbook registry I’ve been using Microsoft Money 2004 which has worked well for me over the years, however, I wanted to see if Microsoft had some cool updates with the latest version.
After checking the Microsoft web site, I discovered that three different versions of Money are available. Since I pretty much only use the software for tracking my checking account, I decided to try out the low-end solution called Microsoft Essentials ($20 US) Luckily, Microsoft has fully-functioning trial versions that will work for 60-days, so I was able to test out this updated version of Money immediately after I downloaded it.
For what I need, Money Essentials seems to fit the bill. It has a very clean, easy-to-use interface while still incorporating advanced features such as registry entry downloads from the Internet. I was able to easily and automatically download all my checkbook entries from my online banking account back to Jan 1, 2009 and be in business.
MoneyEssentials has some nice features that I really like. For example, the online backing statement might have an entry titled, “WITHDRAWL FITNES” which corresponds to my Gym membership fee. Money Essentials has a feature that allows me to associate “WITHDRAWL FITNES” to the desired entry label, “Mountainside Fitness”. Now when I do an automatic online update, all downloaded entries for “WITHDRAWL FITNES” will show up as “Mountainside Fitness”. Cool!
The only downside I could see, is that you can’t create new category labels in the software. You are limited to only the pre-defined category labels in the software (with my older version of Money I could create my own category labels on-the-fly if needed). Also, there’s no field for adding notes to an entry (which isn’t that big of a deal).
I decided to also try out the next step up called Microsoft Plus Deluxe ($40 US). This higher version looks very similar to Money Essentials, and added some additional features such as having the ability to create category labels. It also had options for investments, planning, and taxes which I don’t care about.
Two other alternatives are to use the free MSN Money Online offered by Microsoft and Money’s competitor, Intuit Quicken. Intuit doesn’t allow for downloading trial versions, but I was able to play around with Quicken installed on my wife’s computer. The Quicken interface seemed a bit too complicated for my taste (especially after using Money Essentials), so I decided to exclude that particular software option. Also, I want to have my data available on my PC directly, so going with an all online approach with MSN Money Online wasn’t a good fit.
So, I’m planning to continue using Money Essentials for the next two months to see if it works good for me. If I find some deficiences, I can always install my old Money 2004 version and use it until I find something better.