Moneydance bills themselves as the most intuitive personal finance application. It’s an interesting motto so I thought I’d put that to the test. Since Moneydance is written in Java it supports PC, Mac and Linux which is great news for those not on a PC or those moving from one platform to another.
Where to Buy
The software is available only to purchase online. The great feature is that you can download a trial copy and make sure you like it. Later you can purchase a license key and turn your trial into the full blown version. Buy or download a free trial copy at the Moneydance purchase page.
Believe it or not there is a useful help file included with the software. It’s not extensive nor is it particularly pretty. A theme you’ll see when working with Moneydance but it’s more than enough to get you going. There is also quite a bit of useful information on the Moneydance website at http://www.moneydance.com/help . A getting start guide or some quick video tutorials would be a nice touch for new users but the interface is straightforward enough that you can brute force your way through the learning process. What is unfortunate about the help provided is that it’s not searchable nor indexed. So if you are looking for a specific feature you’ll need to drill down into the multiple chapters to get at your information. In the 2010 version the help file lists as one of the bullet points “How to Upgrade to Moneydance 2008.” It might be easy to infer that the help system has not been updated for some time.
Moneydance 2010 Startup Screen
You home page is a no nonsense dashboard that includes a calendar, reminders, account balances, net worth calculation and interestingly enough exchange rates for various currencies. On the left you have access to some of the different screens including checking registers, budgets and reports.
Moneydance Check Register
Moneydance like most every personal finance software package utilizes an input page similar to a paper check register for entering in expenses and income. No real surprises here the interface works great and includes the pertinent information for any sort of transaction including date, check #, memo, categories and payment or deposits. I know it’s nitpicky but you just can’t tab through the register to create a new transaction you have to hit the new transaction button or find it under the File menu. One thing you can do is import your transactions both from a downloaded file as well as import directly from your financial institution. This puts Moneydance as one of the few standalone software packages that lets you do that without an additional fee.
Here’s the edit window for your budget. You hit the + or ““ keys to enter and remove transactions, specify an interval and a date range. This is then what will display on the Budget Homepage and will readout at the top of Moneydance showing you how you are doing for the month. It’s not a zero based budget I’m afraid so it takes a bit more additional work to figure out how much income you have to work with and then map that to your budget. There isn’t really the concept of monthly balances either so if you want to carry your car maintenance budget over month to month and show it’s balance that’s not going to happen. The budgets are rudimentary at best.
Moneydance Investment Tracking
I have to admit I was excited at the prospect of another piece of software actually providing the capability to track my investments. This is the Achilles heel of many of the applications and they usually choose to avoid it outright. You can manually track your investments or if your provider is one of Moneydance’s supported financial institutions you can import it directly from your broker. You need to manually setup each of your securities (aka your different funds, or stocks) and then it will map them from there. It’s a bit confusing and doesn’t provide much in the way of data, but it’s tracking it dynamically nonetheless.
There are over 20 stock graphs and reports covering net worth, budgets, transactions and investment history. Are they ugly? Yes but they do provide a fair amount of data.
It would be really nice to be able to create your own custom reports but you can tweak some of the stock reports by filtering out accounts and the level of detail.
This is a fantastic idea allowing third parties to create extensions that can be bolted into Moneydance to provide you more functionality. Some of the extensions you can install include Credit Card Payoff Calculators, balance predictors, Yahoo Stock Quotes and a Python Scripting Interface. One of the big benefits of Moneydance is the ability for developers to interface with the API and greatly extend the capabilities of the software.
Moneydance 2010 Review Wrap-up and Recommendations
Who’s It For?
Moneydance is suited for those who may need to run on multiple platforms or that desire to have the ability to track their investments. If you don’t do much in the budgeting department then this software could also work for you. It’s also one of the few remaining options for those who want to automatically import their bank or credit union data without having to export it from your banks website first.
Who’s It Not For?
If you are looking for a budgeting powerhouse then you should definitely review some of the other options available. The interface works but it’s not as intuitive as they would leave you to believe.
With several other options there’s not much that makes Moneydance stand out from the rest. It’s Java based interface is reminiscent of software in the early 2000′s and uses some of the same klugey input mechanisms. In this era customers are used to be able to use a variety of methods to input data rather than merely clicking a button that says New Transaction. There are better packages out there. I would still stick with my ultimate favorite You Need a Budget.