Converting from a weird Quicken/Excel hybrid and looking for advice

Eric Jack's Avatar

Eric Jack

23 Jan, 2016 09:07 PM

My wife and I have used Quicken for over 20 years, so we have quite the history sitting in our file. Currently using Quicken Deluxe 2010. Now that she has a new Win10 PC, we need to upgrade. But Quicken doesn't do double-entry accounting, and we've sort-of developed a custom method for getting that feature ourselves. So now might be the time to switch programs. Moneydance came up on some Google searching, and it might be what we were looking for.

Basically, we use Quicken to manage our bank and credit card accounts. We really don't use any of the other features at all. But we do have an Excel spreadsheet to track "accounts". When I say "accounts", I mean all categories we spend money on. Let me see if I can explain it:

The spreadsheet has multiple tabs, each tab is an "account", such as Auto Loan, Auto Insurance, Mortgage, Dining Out, Groceries, Electric Bill, Internet Bill, and so on. When we get a paycheck, she enters the paycheck into Quicken like you normally would. However, in the spreadsheet, I am taking our take-home pay and dividing it up into those accounts. $200 into Grocery, $500 into Auto Loan, $50 into Electric Bill, and so on. So each "account" has a balance. We know exactly how much we have available (or we are short) for each category. Can we afford to go out to eat? Look at the Dining Out account and it has $150, so yes! We call this spreadsheet the "Yellow Book", because it actually evolved from a yellow paper notebook that we used to manually write all these numbers in!

Every time we have a receipt, we enter it into Quicken... AND into the Yellow Book. So if we go out to eat and spend $50, she will enter a $50 transaction in Quicken on the credit card account. Then she hands me the receipt and I enter it into the Yellow Book by subtracting $50 from the Dining Out account. (Note, the accounts in the Yellow Book and the categories in Quicken don't match exactly.)

So we're doing the work twice, and I would love to use software that actually does everything in one place. Plus we don't know how to really audit/reconcile between our two systems. But I'm an IT guy, and she's a chemist, so even basic accounting concepts are difficult for us to grasp. We downloaded the demo version, but we can't import our mega history because it's far more than the 100 transaction limit. And I'm not even sure how to try/test out the software from a blank start.

So where to we begin? Do we import Quicken and then add the Yellow Book accounts after the fact? Do we just start from scratch and lose our history (or have to keep an old copy of Quicken around)? I'm sorry if this is really simple and I'm just too apprehensive to figure it out. But just looking at the software and user's guide and I'm feeling overwhelmed. Any advice or guidance would be greatly appreciated!

  1. 1 Posted by dwg on 23 Jan, 2016 09:38 PM

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    First the really easy bit, the 100 transaction limit only applies to manually entered transactions, imported transaction. including those migrated from Quicken do not count towards the limit.

    Bank and credit card accounts are generally the easiest types of account to work with in a migration, so that is some good news.

    The type of categorizing you are performing should be easy enough to do in Moneydance, you will probably have to add and refine the categories as you go along but that is pretty easy to do.

    The first question I have is how have you been categorizing the items in Quicken?
    Quicken does have categories, so is it a case for example that the are not split enough or???

    I'm not sure what could be done about getting data from your spreadsheet, but in any case I would look to migrate out of Quicken first.

    There are some knowledgebase articles that may help you:

    Look to importing account and category information form Quicken without any transactions then checking to make sure everything is right before going any further.


  2. 2 Posted by Eric Jack on 23 Jan, 2016 11:21 PM

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    Des, my wife was the one who tried the initial import a few weeks ago. She doesn't remember exactly what happened, but looking at her demo copy, it looks like all she imported was the accounts and categories.

    As for importing the Excel spreadsheet, I don't think that's necessary. The entries are duplicates of what we did in Quicken. But the spreadsheet keeps track of how much money we have for each category, like Auto Loan, or Dining Out.

    After my initial post, I installed the demo on my laptop as well and was playing with a new file. Being a real dumbhead when it comes to accounting was really showing through. I found that I could create a checking and credit card account. I could make a $200 deposit into checking, and split it $100 each into Auto Fuel and Auto Maintenance. Then I added the expense accounts to the left list display. But then I got confused. My checking account showed a +$200 balance, but the expense accounts showed -$100 each. I thought I had "put" money into those categories.

    When I entered a charge on the credit card for $35 and put it on the Fuel category, the Fuel expense account went from -$100 to -$65. So the expense account is showing exactly opposite of what I was expecting.

    Right now, I'm thinking I need to get a handle on how the software works first before I even think about importing 20 years worth of Quicken history...

  3. 3 Posted by dwg on 24 Jan, 2016 10:30 AM

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    The User Guide can be found at:

    That is a good place to start to get a feel for the software.

    What your wife has done would be a good first step to importing the data from Quicken in any case.

    The basic account & category structures records what money you have received,and what you have spent money on and who to, you do not have categories with available funds in them, to plan for spending you would be more likely to create a budget, that is where you "allow" for spending of your $100 on fuel.

    Hence a $200 deposit into the checking account is just that, it would not be split out into expense categories, if it was salary you would record it as such in the category field. If you then drew out $100 to pay for fuel with say a debit card you would record that as a Payment with a expense category of something like Automotive:Fuel

  4. 4 Posted by Eric Jack on 25 Jan, 2016 02:59 AM

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    Yeah, I had checked out the user guide. But I'm still confused over how to get things working the way I'm hoping/expecting them to.

    I could have done budgets in Quicken two decades ago. Budgets aren't what we want. We don't want to estimate what we should spend in a year for a category and see how close we are to that budget. We actually track exactly how much money we have set aside for each category. I know I have exactly $238 available for Auto Fuel, and $150 for Dining Out, etc. When I go out to eat and enter my receipt into the software, I want it to subtract the $35 so that I know I now have $115 available. Etc.

    That's what we're accomplishing by using the "Yellow Book" spreadsheet. And that's what I want to eliminate in something other than Quicken. In my research, I was told I needed double-entry accounting software, and the recommendation for a home user was Moneydance.

    So I guess the question is: can Moneydance really do what I'm hoping? Or am I stuck using spreadsheets because my wife and I are so detailed with our finances?

  5. 5 Posted by Eric Jack on 25 Jan, 2016 03:47 AM

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    Doing a little more research, it seems that the method my wife and I use is actually called the "Envelope System", or I think I saw it called Zero Budget or something like that as well.

    Funny, as I learned this system from my mother. When I was a kid, she used to cash the paychecks and put cash in envelopes for everything (bills, spending, etc.) and keep it under the hutch! Well, our spreadsheet is those cash envelopes virtualized.

    So now that I actually know what it's called, does Moneydance support the envelope system?

  6. 6 Posted by dwg on 25 Jan, 2016 09:07 AM

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    I have a passing knowledge of the Envelope Budgeting System. As far as I am aware Moneydance currently does not have direct support for this. Users however have asked for this and some have worked out systems that meet their requirements, I do not use budgeting myself so will have to leave it to these users and/or Moneydance staff to explain what they do and how it works.

    FWIW I studied Book keeping as part of a commerce course back in high school in the middle ages :) and first year accounting as part of my University studies and budgeting does not have a direct relationship to double entry bookkeeping. Budgeting in a program like Moneydance or even Quicken is facilitated by how these programs use the principal of double entry book keeping to assign categories to transactions.

  7. 7 Posted by Eric Jack on 06 Feb, 2016 02:33 PM

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    Okay, so it looks like my question needs to take a different track. Importing data from Quicken isn't the issue. The import will happen like it should and the program will work much like Quicken does.

    My real question is how to then implement an Envelope System in Moneydance. I'll do some searching through the forums and post if I have specific questions.

  8. System closed this discussion on 07 May, 2016 02:40 PM.

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