Ever since we wrote about Mint, the free finance management site, we have received a few requests from those looking for good software to manage personal finances. Sure there are popular alternatives like Quicken and Microsoft Money, but with those you have to fork out the same money that you’re trying to save. I just knew that there had to be something out there worth using that you didn’t have to pay for.
I spent a countless amount of time trying out feature-limited versions of software only to find that their restrictions rendered the software virtually useless for most people. Then I found exactly what I was looking for: Money Manager Ex. Not only is it free, but it is open source and available for both Windows and Linux!
I was able to get Money Manager up and running in no time at all. There’s a version available that requires no installation, and that’s what I chose to run. This is also great for throwing it on your USB drive and doing your finances wherever you are!
One of the first things that you’re going to do is create a database for Money Manager to store all of your information in. Don’t worry, you don’t have to be familiar with the workings of a database because it does it all for you. Just specify what default currency you want to use, and an optional username:
Then you’ll have to create an account that falls under one of two different types: checking/savings or investment. The checking/savings account can also be used for credit cards, or for that matter anything that you deposit and withdrawal money from. The investment accounts are for stocks which you’ll want updated daily.
Many of you probably already have some software that you use to manage your finances, but that’s okay. You can switch to Money Manager by exporting your current data in a variety of formats:
- Import information from Excel (Comma Separated Value -.CSV) format
- Import information from QIF format (Microsoft Money & Quicken)
–Homepage & Register View–
Money Manager has a homepage that gives you a quick account overview so that you can see financially where you stand. It tells you the balance of each account, and graphs the current month’s expenses against the income:
After you have created an account you’ll be able to manage the transactions in the register view. You can sort the transaction according to any of the columns, but you cannot reorder or remove ones that you don’t use:
Another interesting thing is that each of your accounts can have different currencies associated with them. That makes it a bit easier to manage accounts that are held in different countries.
As with most personal finance managers, adding new transactions is pretty cut and dry. When you go to add a new transaction you’ll have to pick from a list of payees, which are added by you, as well as categories. Money Manager comes with a pre-built list of categories that should suffice for most of your needs – there weren’t any categories that I had to add.
I think the stock portfolio is one of Money Manager’s shining points. You can have it “Refresh” the price of stocks automatically each day, which are fetched from Yahoo! Finance. It will update the price of every stock in your list, and tell you what the respective gain/loss is according to the price you purchased it at. You can also specify an automatic refresh interval if you want it updating the prices, let’s say, every 30 minutes.
With the budgets you’re able to keep track of your spending in each of the various categories, and you can provide estimated values for each one. That way you can see which categories you have spent more in than you had originally anticipated.
It’s always nice to know where your money goes so that you can try to find areas where you can cut back. Money Manager has several different types of reports that will tell you just that:
- Summary of Accounts
- Where the Money Goes
- Where the Money Comes From
- To Whom the Money Goes
- Income vs. Expenses
- Transaction Report
- Budget Performance
- Cash Flow
- Transaction Statistics
If one of those reports doesn’t satisfy your needs you can always create your own, given that you have some knowledge of the SQL syntax. :)
–Making it Better–
I realize that this is a completely free program and therefore shouldn’t complain, but there are some things that I think would really make this an exceptional program:
- It seems like the program is popping up with too many windows to enter in information. I should be able to enter in a transaction from within the register view without a popup window being needed. Similarly, payees and categories should be autocompleted as you type instead of opening in a popup window.
- Even though you can use the checking/savings account type for credit cards there should actually be a separate account type for those. That way the columns can read “charge” and “credit” instead of “withdrawal” and “deposit”.
- If you want to accurately track the gain/loss of your stocks you’ll need to to create a new entry for each share purchase. There’s no way to enter in multiple purchase prices (nor dividends) into the stock portfolio. This would be a nice feature to have though.