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Why Budget-Watching Business Owners Should Give the Latest Quicken a Look

Quicken 2012

If you've been searching for an easier way to keep track of your budget and managing expenses, then you might consider buying or upgrading to the recently-released 2012 version of Quicken. While it isn't a major overhaul compared to last year’s unveiling of its amped-up Web-friendly capabilities, the latest version of this popular finance management software includes a significant face-lift to the tools that help users plan spending and reduce debt.

Quicken 2012 pulls in financial data from the Web, primarily from online bank accounts and credit cards, and then analyzes it to render a “real-time” picture of a user’s finances. Then it helps make budgeting decisions, pay bills and save money. These aren’t new features, but Quicken has updated the look and feel of some of its budgeting tools to make them more intuitive.

Considering Quicken is a favorite of small business owners trying to stay on top of their finances, we arranged for a prelaunch demo. Here’s a look at what makes it a worthwhile investment for your business, and also why it may not be.

What’s new: The budgeting tool -- which generates a suggested monthly spend based on your financial data -- renders spending visually using colored bar graphs. Things like interest rates are adjusted by a number of colored sliders and can be viewed over a number of periods, including a 12-month outlook. 

The debt reduction tool, which helps users design a repayment plan for credit cards and other debt, has been simplified. Users now can input their credit card information, download interest rates and minimum payment information and then Quicken formulates a payment plan. The tool allows you to see how you can prioritize debts, such as paying off smaller debts first. 

Quicken 2012 starts at a one-time fee of $30 for the starter edition, which is aimed at consumers, $60 for the deluxe edition, which includes debt reduction tools, and $90 for the premier edition which includes more investment management options.

What you might like: The look and feel has been improved over previous versions, including the overall experience of the budget and debt tools. For example, the colored debt reduction line graph makes it easy to see how much interest you will pay over time. Quicken also says the new software is faster and can handle larger data files than last year’s version, which is probably true.

What you might not like: We encountered the same problem we always do with Quicken software: You have to double check your entries. As powerful an automated tool as Quicken is, it makes assumptions on how it categorizes spending and expenses it imports from credit cards and checking accounts, grouping expenses into categories such as food and dining, automotive or entertainment.

These labels are correct a lot of the time but, to be IRS-ready, you’ll need to sit down each month and confirm that Quicken is modeling your finances properly.

Bottom line: While these improvements are nice, they aren’t dramatic. If last year’s model -- or really any model of Quicken -- is doing the job for you, then you may consider sticking with it.
 

Jonathan Blum is a freelance writer and the principal of Blumsday LLC, a Web-based content company specializing in technology news.
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