Checks And Balances

Checking It Out

The checkbook register is the core of these programs. From here, you can enter payments and deposits while tracking which categories and subsets the transactions belong to. For example, an expense can be listed as "Healthcare: Dental" or "Business Supplies: Computers." Deposits are set up in a similar way, making it easy to track where your money is coming from and going to. This data feeds into the extensive charting and reporting features for visualizing and reviewing your income and expenses. Predetermined charts and graphs make it easy to track income vs. expenses, monthly cash flow and budget. If you're diligent in giving transactions the appropriate category descriptions, it'll pay off big at tax time--Quicken 98 can interface with all the popular tax software and can directly import the data into the correct fields of your tax schedules and returns if you spend the entire year doing your books appropriately.

An obvious subset of the checkbook register is the registers of all your other accounts (i.e., savings, credit cards, investment accounts, etc.). The beauty of keeping tabs on your finances via computer is that the scheduled transactions that occur every month, such as automatic withdrawals and direct payments, will all be entered without your having to think about it. (This can sometimes be a disadvantage if you tend to forget the withdrawal is going to occur and then come up shortchanged. For this reason, these programs alert you to upcoming scheduled transactions.)

Further automating the management of your finances is online banking. Both programs let you interface electronically with major banks to view your account statements.

But these programs are far more than glorified checkbook registers; they are tools to help you get in charge of your money. Let's take a closer look at each program to see which one best suits your needs.

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This article was originally published in the May 1998 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Checks And Balances.

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