How much time do you spend each month going through receipts, bank account transactions, and credit card statements?
Staying on top of your finances is wise, but spending hours upon hours doing it makes the task seem like a waste.
Thankfully there are many great tools available to help you automate and streamline the process of staying on top of your finances.
Today we’re going to take a look at Quicken 2014 Deluxe for Windows.
How You Can Take Charge of Tracking Your Money – Quicken Deluxe 2014 for Windows Review
What is Quicken Deluxe 2014 for Windows?
Quicken is all about tracking and planning where your money goes each month.
This helps you stay on track financially, get out of debt faster, and avoid late fees and overdraft fees. (All great things!)
Intuit is the company behind Quicken. They put out several versions of the software:
- Quicken Starter Edition 2014: Let’s you see all of your bank and credit card information in one place and categorizes your spending automatically.
- Quicken Deluxe Edition 2014: Does the above plus let’s you add your retirement account information, set up a budget, and create custom plans to reduce debt or beef up your retirement savings.
- Quicken Premiere 2014: Does all of the above plus tracks deductions to make filing your taxes easier. Also helps you make buy/sell decisions on your investments.
There are also more specific versions for managing your business finances or managing rental property. For the average user on of the three above options will handle all of the financial tasks you have.
Quicken Deluxe 2014 is a great option to not only see your past spending, but to plan for spending in the future.
Features of Quicken Deluxe 2014
The software has three main steps:
- See where your money goes – looking at past spending
- Stay on top of monthly bills - anticipating future recurring spending
- Budget your spending – planning and prioritizing future spending
Under each section there are additional tools and reports available to get down to the nitty gritty details as well. There are additional sections to track property, debt and your net worth.
Setting Up Quicken Deluxe 2014
When you first install you are asked to sign in with an Intuit Quicken ID. Setting up a new ID takes just a moment and is done within the program. After that, Quicken will load for the first time and walk you through the three main steps above. You need to link various accounts and check various settings along the way, so it can take a few minutes.
However, compared to doing all of this by hand or in a spreadsheet it is a huge time saver.
See Where Your Money Goes
This section is under the Spending tab.
This is where Quicken downloads financial transaction data from your bank accounts and credit cards. To connect these accounts you need to provide Quicken your online username and password to each account. The software then logs in and downloads the data.
Providing your account credentials to Quicken might make you a little nervous, but the company uses extensive security to make sure your account information isn’t stolen. Essentially you’re trading automation of this financial process for a very small security risk.
Quicken had access to every bank account, credit card, and retirement account I threw at it. Even my smaller local credit union was in their system. You shouldn’t have any problem connecting to your financial institutions.
As the transactions loads it will ask you to identify certain transactions that it cannot automatically categorize.
During my setup it was able to figure out a vast majority of my spending; the only exception was a $100 withdrawal from a savings account to my Lending Club account. I was able to create a category specifically for that with a few clicks.
After the transactions are downloaded and categorized you get a nice pie chart that shows your total spending over the last 30 days. You can change this report to show over the last month, 30 days, 60 days, and so on to give you a better overall picture of your total spending.
Stay on Top of Monthly Bills
This section is under the Bills Tab.
Once your transaction data loads, Quicken attempts to figure out what your consistent monthly bills are. Assuming you’ve loaded a few months of transactions this becomes pretty easy to determine. The software picked out my Verizon Wireless cell phone bill and AT&T U-Verse cable and home internet bill right away.
Once all of your bills are identified Quicken will project out when the next bill due date is and project what your bank balance will be.
For example, if you have $500 in your checking account and have a cable bill of $100 due in the next two weeks, not only will Quicken give you a heads up of the due date but it will also project your checking account falling to $400 during that period of time.
This is a huge feature that can save you hundreds of dollars in overdraft fees on your bank accounts. If you notice your projected balance getting close to zero you know you need to transfer in some money from your savings account or find ways to cut back on your spending.
Budget Your Spending
The third main section gives you the ability to create a budget and track your spending against it. This is found under the Planning Tab.
If you’ve ever been frustrated by getting to the end of the month before you realized you spent too much on eating out, this feature is a big deal.
First, Quicken sets up the foundation of the budget based on your spending and bills.
My budget automatically imported by spending on my cell phone and cable bill, and assigned values to that spending for a month. As you import every transaction it sets up categories for groceries, eating out, doctor’s visits, gym memberships, and any other spending you do.
Having categories set up is only half the battle. You then need to go in and assign monthly totals for that type of spending.
Let’s say you spent $200 eating out last month, but you want to cap it at $125 this month. You can set a limit of $125 in that category. As you continue to spend in the coming month and assign transactions to eating out those amounts are deducted from your $125 monthly cap. Each transaction brings your bar graph closer to the total spend allowed, and if you go over the whole bar turns red to alert you that you’ve spent too much.
Additional Planning Options
Your budget isn’t the only option under the Planning Tab. You also have access to:
You first identify your high-interest debts, such as credit cards. (Quicken makes some assumptions based on your spending that you need to verify are actual debt accounts.) Then you provide information about the debt such as the APR and minimum payment.
It is critical to be accurate because the next section shows you how long it will take to get out of debt with just the minimum payments.
You then compare how much faster you could pay off the debt if you increased your payment above the minimum payment. The line graph shows you the payoff debt and interest paid for making minimum payments and making payments above that amount, plus the interest you would save by paying more.
Want to know how much you will need to save in retirement accounts to reach the standard of living you want during your golden years? Not sure what rate of return you need on those investments? This section tackles all of that number crunching.
It can take a while to go through the questionnaire, but when you’re done the details around what you need to do to retire on time will be much more clear.
One of my biggest frustrations each year is figuring out whether I’ve paid enough in income tax to avoid penalties from the IRS. I also try to avoid having a massive tax refund check, too. We added a child to our family this year and the total impact to our tax situation is as clear as mud.
Under Tax Center the software lets you provide some data about your tax filing status, anticipated salary, dividends, and deductions. You can see your anticipated tax rise and fall with each change you make under each section.
It isn’t perfect in terms of telling you precisely how much tax you will owe because your income and deductions will likely not be 100% accurate to your estimates. You will have a ballpark idea which can make future decisions easier. (Remember, these are the same guys who make TurboTax.)
These accounts are used to help you reach your goals without having to actually move money around in your various accounts.
You give the goal a name and a dollar total you want to reach before choosing a target date. The software then does the math to determine how much you need to save each month in order to hit that goal.
For example, I set a goal of $50,000 in College Savings by May 31, 2030. Quicken calculated I would need to save $252.52 per month in order to hit that goal.
Once a goal is set up there is are two buttons you can use to add/withdraw funds from the goal. The only potentially confusing part of using this for goals is it doesn’t set up an actual separate account with your bank. The money is still physically in your main bank account, so what shows up in Quicken as in your account is going to differ from what would show up if you got a bank statement from the bank itself.
For example, let’s say you have a checking account with $10,000 in it.
If you set up a savings goal of $1,000 for “2014 vacation” and move the money over into that goal within Quicken your account balance for checking inside of Quicken would drop from $10,000 to $9,000 while the goal account would rise from $0 to $1,000. If you later went to the bank and deposited $50 into your checking account they would hand you a deposit receipt showing your balance as $10,050 but Quicken would show it as $9,050.
Despite the potential for some confusion I think it is still a great idea to have virtual accounts to segment your money toward specific goals. Breaking up big savings goals into manageable chunks makes them a lot easier to successfully complete.
The Bottom Line on Quicken Deluxe 2014 for Windows
Quicken is a paid software that is competing with the likes of Mint.com (which Intuit owns as well), paper budgets, and Excel spreadsheets. I’ve been a longtime user of Excel spreadsheets to track my budget to the level of detail that I want. (I’m also a big spreadsheet nerd!)
That having been said, Quicken really impressed me.
Automation is a big time saver and having a majority of my transactions correctly tagged as the right kind of spending was very slick. I also like the reporting aspect. Instead of needing to create a new chart or spreadsheet in Excel, I can pull up a cash flow or net worth report with just a few clicks of a button.
For the average user that doesn’t want to spend hours going through spreadsheets and tracking individual transactions with their online banking system, Quicken Deluxe 2014 is a great tool. I’d recommend it to anyone looking to improve their finances.
Save $10 now by ordering straight from Intuit. You can download your copy or have the software mailed to you with free shipping. By the way, Intuit has a 60-day money back guarantee.