Ask the Readers: Do You Have the Tools? (Chance to win MS Office!)

By Linsey Knerl on 10 November 2009 (Updated 17 November 2009) 96 comments

*** Congrats to our winners! ******

The winners of the $10 Amazon GC are:

Comment #62: Freelancer in need of money to track  Submitted by Minal Bopaiah on November 12, 2009 - 08:31. 

Given the slow economy, freelance writers like me don't have much in our bank accounts to track--which is why Chase banking online seems to do the trick for now. But I just started my own freelance business (www.brevityandwit.com), and imagine the business I could drum up with a free copy of MS Office on hand! :)

@IFartFairyDust favorite tool for keeping my finances in order? Excel. @wisebread #WBAsk 6 days ago from web

And the winner of the MS Office prize is:

Comment #68 Yodlee and open office calc  Submitted by TL on November 13, 2009 - 17:56.- Two of my favorites.

 

Do you have the tools to succeed?

There are many ways to go about managing your personal and business finances. We often share our best tips here on Wise Bread, and we also love to hear how you tackle the messy task of keeping all your pennies in a row! In addition to the more popular software and online solutions that are currently offered, we have enjoyed trying out some of the more customizeable solutions available via sites like SlideShare. Just recently, we were able to present a versatile and simple family budgeting tool via SlideShare, and we loved telling you about how it can be used to simplify family finances.

Since sharing is really what we want to be about, we don't just want to give you ideas — we want to equip you with tools, as well! That's why in addition to this week's prizes of Amazon Gift Cards (which are perfect for stocking up on paper, pens, or any other "tools" you use to stay organized), we are giving one lucky reader their own copy of Microsoft Office for the Mac or PC, compliments of SlideShare and Microsoft.

Just let us know your favorite tools for keeping your finances in order via our comment thread or on Twitter, and you'll be entered to win! Dozens of readers have already won. You could be next!

Win a $10 Amazon Gift Certificate or a Copy of Microsoft Office for Mac or PC

We're doing two giveaways for the Amazon Gift Certificates — one for random comments, and another one for a random tweets.  We will also be giving away the copy of Microsoft Office to one person randomly selected from all entries received. (Value of MS Office is approx $125.)

How to Enter:

  1. Post your answer in the comments below, or

  2. Tweet your answer. Include both "@wisebread" and "#WBAsk" in your tweet so we'll see it and count it.

If you're inspired to write a whole blog post, please link to it in the comments or tweet it.

At the end of the drawing, we'll update this post to include (and link to) all of your helpful responses.

Giveaway Rules:

  • Contest ends Tuesday, November 17th at 7:59 am CST. Winners will be announced after this time on the original post and via Twitter. Winners will also be contacted via email and Twitter Direct Message.

  • You can enter both drawings — once by leaving a comment and once by tweeting.

  • Only tweets that contain both "@wisebread" and "#WBAsk" will be entered. (Otherwise, we won't see it.)

Good luck!

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Guest's picture
adi

My favorite tool is simply MS Excel. I have one main worksheet with various tabs. Tabs include Budget, Networth, Retirement, and Goals.

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JuliAnn

I downloaded an excel budget template from office.microsoft.com and customized it to suit our needs. Works really well.

We also use Bank of America's online banking options. They recently introduced a 'My Portfolio' section where you can track expenses by categories as well as combine all your financials, even from other institutions, into one screen. Very nifty and easy to use. Plus, it's all free! What more could you ask for?

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David

GnuCash does everything I need for personal finance.

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lloyd

Mint.com. I've been using it since it debuted on TechCrunch andI'm hoping the acquisition will make for a stronger site.

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Manal

My favorite tool is Excel I use it for writing notes, budgeting, to do lists, sorting any data.
Office 2007 is really cool. At first I couldn't find any of the stuff I usually use. But once you get used to it, it is so easy to find things. They are all at the top in icons.

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Q

I've been a loyal Quicken user for years. I use it to balance accounts and export spending reports to Excel for budgeting.

(and I sure could use Office for my new Mac!!!)

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Ghosts say Boo

I use Google Docs spreadsheets to track my finances. It's available at work or at home, which is nice.

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Nate

I would love to win!

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Kasey K

I use the most basic of them all... an Excel spreadsheet. :-)

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Selena

I use Mint.com & to be honest, good old-fashioned paper & pencil, but then again, I'm also one of those die-hards who still balance their checkbook by hand.

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Emily

Yodlee.com

Love the charts, graphs, and how it keeps all of my accounts together (including things like airline miles and rewards points!)

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fairydust

Really, excel is such a versatile tool, it's perfect for everything.

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Nicholas

I mostly just use my head to keep track of the basic spending stuff. However, to help keep track of all the bigger expenses I use the Google Documents Spreadsheet.

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lailaie

My favorite tools are a moleskine notebook (to record all notes and storage for receipts on the go!), a pen, and MS Excel for all records.

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eeek

I used to use Microsoft Money, but ever since discovering Mint.com, I haven't looked back.

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Jo

Mint.com and good old MS Excel. I love how mint aggregates info from all my accounts and displays it visually.

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mylegs

It's fully customizable and all my financial sites download information into it with no problems.

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Kristy

I use mint.com, my bank's website, my credit cards' websites, and OpenOffice. All completely free to use!

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Jen

I still like to stick to pencil and paper/check register. I have not quite gotten the same feel from any product

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Patrick Maguire

Many people have said Excel, but the PivotTable functionality is the best way I have found for analyzing my spending history. I categorize my expenditures using Mint, then I do most of the analysis using PivotTables. They allow me to easy manipulate presentation of the data, and the drag and drop data labels allow me to see trends more quickly than in Mint. Once I have the data how I want it, I can easily generate a graph or chart.

If you don't know how to use PivotTables, I highly recommend that you learn.

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lisa

I love quicken. It's easy to use and I can see where my money is going. I also use a simple excel spreadsheet for budgeting, although we've been trying to live under budget and it needs to be redone.

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Heather

I use Google documents religiously - particularly a spreadsheet that I update with expenditures. Google docs is perfect because I can easily input expenditures whether I'm on my home machine, work machine, friend's machine...anywhere, pretty much. I modeled my current budget ledger on Vertex42's Expense Tracking spreadsheet. Check it out here, if you're curious.. I'm really enjoying it!

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Kath M

I have found that using my online banking has helped tremendously. Although I have planned to set up a monthly budget and bill paying program, I find that simply keeping my dayplanner up to date with bill due dates and a set plan for our bill payments/ paydays each month helps keep me better on track.
Blessings,
Kath

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Potterarchy

My personal favorites? JustThrive.com and Open Office Calc.

I used to use Mint.com, but as good as it was for providing personal budgeting tools, I needed something that showed me what I was saving for. Now I can divvy up my savings account according to what goals I have (like next month's rent, driving to a friend's for Thanksgiving, etc). I'm a very visual person, so while seeing the total amount in my savings account does make my heart all warm and fuzzy, I get curious as to what percentage is going towards what goal, and how much left I have to save. Thrive does exactly what I want it to do.

Open Office Calc I use to put in what I'm spending each month so I know what to save for each new paycheck. Having each cell calculate instantly the totals and averages of each "outcome" (rather than income) helps me plan for what I need to save (or mostly, not spend as much on!) for next month.

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doughie54

My wife and I built a simple Excel spreadsheet from scratch about 12 years ago. We've modified it occasionally here and there, but it is basically the same as it was when we started.

It has helped keep us in line financially for the last 12 years, and hopefully for the foreseeable future...

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Margaret

I also use an excel spreadsheet, but I use OpenOffice instead. I keep track of the different categories in which I spend and make sure I don't go over my monthly budget.

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Sarah

I've just started using Excel. Chase's online system is enough for me.

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Kelli

I do my banking and payments online but the old school nerd in me still uses pen and paper as well to keep track of account balances, bill due dates, etc.

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Dana

I still use pencil and paper and a check register, mostly because I have a vague notion how to use excel. However, if I got free software, I know I could learn quickly!

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Ryan

I'm a bit ashamed to admit that my favorite finance tools are my overpriced graphing calculator (had to buy it for calculus long ago) and a pen and paper. I've used google docs spread sheet, but since I had a child no longer find time for that.

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Angela

My favorite online finance tools are Mint and Google Calendar.

Mint-- I know there's the whole security issue, but I just love the way it captures all my investments and expenditures in 1 place. It really is such a pleasure to NOT have to load everything into 1 program and fiddle with it. Also, it's great for analyzing your expenses and tracking your budget.

Google Calendar-- I have a separate calendar set up for all the bills that have to be paid, and email reminders for all of the bills. That takes a bit of time, but then you're golden-- no more unpaid bills! This is especially useful for bills that aren't on autopay.

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Angela

My favorite online finance tools are Mint and Google Calendar.

Mint-- I know there's the whole security issue, but I just love the way it captures all my investments and expenditures in 1 place. It really is such a pleasure to NOT have to load everything into 1 program and fiddle with it. Also, it's great for analyzing your expenses and tracking your budget.

Google Calendar-- I have a separate calendar set up for all the bills that have to be paid, and email reminders for all of the bills. That takes a bit of time, but then you're golden-- no more unpaid bills! This is especially useful for bills that aren't on autopay.

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Theresa

I keep track in a google docs spreadsheet which I update weekly, I use good old paper and pencil to write in expenses and google calendar to list bill due dates which are set up to send me email reminders.

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Beth

I use excel too. (A lot of the free services aren't available here in Canada, alas.) I use a spreadsheet to track my spending, budget and savings/debt repayment goals. Simple and easy to use.

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Judi

We use Money and several Excel spreadsheets at home and at work I use Quickbooks and lots of Excel spreadsheets.

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THerese

We use Excel spreadsheets to keep things in order

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Mikal

I use Google Docs Spreadsheet since it is accessible at home, work, or on the road (via notebook). It works well for most of my needs.

My local bank also has a financial tracker on their website. Simply called FNB Financial Tracker, it looks and works much like Excel.

Both are free applications and freely available to me whenever and wherever I need them.

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Carole

We just use pencil, and paper, and try to be as frugal as possible.....

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jules

I had an excel file that I used for years (totally second the comment above about using pivot tables), but once I got MS Money, I found it did a pretty job of tracking transactions and was slightly less labor-intensive.

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Marissa

After graduating from college, I started keeping a tally of all of my expenses using microsoft excel. However now that I've switched to a new computer and don't have Office, I'm working on finding a new system.

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Melissa S

I'm really basic with my tools. I just graduated, so until very recently, I haven't had much to budget (and it's only a little more now), but I still use the same methods: a combination of a good ol' fashioned legal pad and digital-desktop-sticky notes to keep track of when things are due/paid, etc (a different color for each type of thing!). It works for me, especially since I only budget month-to-month.

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vijay

I use Quicken to manage my finances daily.
and also use Yodlee for online tracking and account related alerts.

Guest's picture

I keep my finances simple a few ways:
* notepad - I create simple views of budgets and spend.
* monthly burn - to keep it simple, I figure out my ballpark monthly spend so I know the ranges of goodness (and so I can do quick adjustments or calculations.)
* pay myself first - I treat myself as my most important bill and auto-pay myself each check.

The notepad technique surprises people, but I've managed million dollar budgets very effectively. It's all about the views and info organization.

Carlos Portocarrero's picture

Excel. I tried Mint but it didn't make sense for me: I log into my individual accounts so much that there was no added value to having them all in one place.

The Writer's Coin  |  Follow me on Twitter

Guest's picture
M.Moawad

Notepad & pencil and Google documents

Guest's picture

We use an excel spreadsheet customized to our income/expense categories and how we want to track it. Very similar to the one you show on Slideshare.

Thanks!

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Christie

For many years, we used cash! If you have cash for spending in envelopes, when it is gone, you stop spending. Since we have a credit card with a rewards program right now, we use it for everything we can so that we can build up our rewards for a vacation, but using cash for so many years help keep us mindful of how much we spend and where we spend it.

Guest's picture

My bank's website has everything I need for budgeting and to track spending.

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Guest

I use Quicken to keep track of bank accounts and Excel for budgeting and investment tracking. Works for me but would rather have one tool to do all of the above and more.

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berizel

Mint.com is for me the best way to track all my money. You link up all your online banking and bills and it calculates all types of graphs and even emails you alerts if a certain category of your budget like groceries goes past what you've set up for yourself.

It's really neat and gives you all the money in one place.

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Derek H

I use mint.com because it is easy to use and imports all of your transactions for you.

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eliza p

quickbooks + mint.com + iphone apps for citibank + websites for all my cards...

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Jennifer

Mint.com and old-fashioned pen and paper. :)

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TightwadGal

My husband and I have been using Quicken for over 15 years. The budgeting tools are pretty cool, though we've not been as good as keeping to strict budgets in the last few years. Luckily, we've been fortunate to save money for so long that we have pad built up. We mostly use budgets to compare how our spending is changing from year to year and when we see particular categories grow more than we'd like, we start reducing that kind of spending.

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jewels mc

I keep everything in MSMoney, down to the last cent. All in categories, with memos, etc. I also keep an Excel spreadsheet for things like medical mileage, gas mileage for all of our cars, and how much the eggs my chickens lay cost me... so far it's about $15 per egg so it's a good thing they also serve as entertainment and pest control. Anyway, MSMoney and Excel.

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Tony

15 years ago i'm using Lotus 123. Since 1995 until now i'm using Excel.

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peggy

Albeit, an older version (2007, I think). Works well and the graphs are easy to create. Also good old pen and paper to keep track of daily expenses.

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Mariel Martinez

If you think about it, most peoeple have some kind of tool to succed, either physically, mentaly, emotionaly... But it does not matter, if you do not have the DRIVE to do it.

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Guest

I only use online banking. Can websites like Wise Bread be considered tools? I have learned so much from your emails.

Debra L

Guest's picture

I track all of my spending via my checkbook log. I double check all items via online banking once a week. I pay nearly all of my bills online... except for the few that charge me to do so. I track my bill due dates on a printable calendar that I keep with my checkbook.

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Barbara S

I use MS Excel to track my financial activities. I have created several spreadsheets to address revenue, expenditures and then further breakdowns for savings, retirement plans, etc. This gives me a total view of my financial status at any time.

Guest's picture

Given the slow economy, freelance writers like me don't have much in our bank accounts to track--which is why Chase banking online seems to do the trick for now. But I just started my own freelance business (www.brevityandwit.com), and imagine the business I could drum up with a free copy of MS Office on hand! :)

Guest's picture
zzipper

I have used MS Excel for years to track all of my finances. I love pivot tables and can't imagine giving them up.

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starsapphire

I'm old school. Pencil and paper. Although I do love online banking.

Guest's picture
tools

We have our money at a bank and a large mutual fund company, so I just keep track of our statements online. By simplifying where our money is, I don't need to rely on spreadsheets and such.

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Rebecca W

We've just started using MoneyDance in the last few weeks and find it's working great. It's helped us a lot to have a summary of all our accounts in one place, as well as to communicate with each other about how we're spending or saving money.

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Guest

I have made a simple 'Personal Budget' Excel spreadsheet add-on that automatically subtracts the little personal out-of-pocket stuff that you buy without thinking from the sum that I have allocatted for my 'Personal Spending Allocation' ( PSA, for short )for that pay cycle.

I can alter my PSA, BUT I can ONLY do this at the beginning of each pay cycle. That way, I can't cheat.

As I see myself getting close to the wire I simply curtail what 'I must have right now' instead of going to the ATM and getting a quick $20.

I was surprised how those Starbucks lattes and pizza slices added up AND how I really didn't need them!

Guest's picture
TL

Two of my favorites.

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Laura

We use Quicken at home, and mint.com on the go. Both work well for what we need.

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Peter

Mint.com has become my major source of information, though I wish it auto-updated my account information a little more often without me needing to log in. Still, it really helps to get a good picture of where my money is going.

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Robyn

Is a simple tool. Excel. I can create whatever format works best for me. I found when I purchase budget software, I end up not needing certain things and I feel it was a waste. I can also color coordinate my entries (little bit nerdy :) )

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Jodi Bonjour

We use Quicken Deluxe. It took FOREVER to learn and set up but it was well worth it. I love that I can balance all our accounts in one place, generate budget reports for our family budget talks, and pay mu bills WITHIN the program.

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Jennifer E

I keep track of day-to-day receipts using Microsoft Money 2007. (I've been strongly considering switching to Mint.) Then, I enter monthly data into a Google Docs spreadsheet.

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Zed

I use Microsoft Money, and I like it okay (good reports, good search capability), but sometimes I feel frustrated with it. I certainly don't like that you only "buy it" (RENT it) for a couple of years and then you HAVE to buy it online again in order to keep using it. That's lame.

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nicole

My favorite tool on the computer has got to be excel- you can do JUST about anything with it- keeping finances together, inventory control when selling used kids clothes, assisting with blog giveaways, it's just my go-to business program!

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Amy

For the past three years my husband has used Open Office's spreadsheets to manage our finances. It's really easy to use and it's FREE. Can't beat that.

I'm almost embarrassed to say that I am nowhere near that organized. I keep my personal spending logged in a simple word doc. When I remember to, that is. Luckily my husband keeps track of that on his spreadsheet too, and gives me a heads up if I go too crazy in any given month.

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Sharon Kavka

I would love to win this. We use the earlier version and my son keeps bugging me to buy it so we can upgrade.

I have 4 children who are always using it for reports, etc...

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Tammy

My favorite tool is excel for Disney World vacation planning.

It's great to keep track of the early park openings and extended park hours, as well as all those great dining reservations, and especially the not to be missed parades and special events.

would love to win this software. Thanks for the opportunity!

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Tamrah T.

Yes, I wouldn't mind a chance at getting. A must have in this day in age. Thanks for a chance to win.

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Elizabeth Warren

We have used Microsoft Money for years. We couldnt live without it.

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Ken

The main way I keep up with checking is through online banking. Being able to download banking files directly into excel and tracking additional accounts really helps organize and keep on top of things.

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Marie

I love google docs!

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Rossana

Our favorite tool is Excel.

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dewey1973

I use Mint.com.

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Amy

Please discount my earlier entry (number 76). For some reason my not entirely reliable brain read MS Office, which I don't need, as Windows 7, which I do.

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Christina

I love excel. I use it at work. I use it at home and I love figuring out new things I can do such as merging different fields, different formulas, etc.

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SM

We use Excel... '97! Out of date, much?

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Susan

I do not have a favorite financial tool...maybe that is why I spend too much. ;)

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K2K

I love Quicken for my finances. Would love to have MS Office!
Kim

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Jackie

My favorite application is Excel, does everything I need and want. There are lots of other great tools out there but I go with Excel. Could really use MSOffice though. Pick Me!

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Hani Musallam

My wife and I have used mint.com to great success in getting a handle on our finances. Just being aware of how much is coming in and how it's going out really helps and mint.com does a great job of visualizing that information.

Thanks,
Hani

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Teapottery

I bank online and use the online budget software... sometimes excel too. I need to be better organized!

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Jessica

I use a Google docs template to track finances. It is easily accessible from anywhere.

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Krys

I use Excel for ALL kinds of finance projects. Checkbook balancing, tracking future income, managing retirement accounts... It's a great tool!

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Pat

My wife and I have been Quicken users since 1989, but we've been getting more and more dissatisfied with it as it has changed from a simple, easy-to-use checkbook-balancing tool into a bloated, resource-hogging application crammed with features we have no use for. Intuit forces you to upgrade every couple of years by disabling the online access features of older versions. The last straw was when Intuit crippled the least expensive version so that only new customers can use it. (It won't import your existing data files from a previous version.)

So we are now looking for a new solution. A Web-based tool seems like the best approach, but we haven't found one that meets our needs. Quicken Online doesn't seem to be able to handle two-income budgeting. Mint won't let us specify automatic payments for predictable monthly bills. The search continues . . .

Guest's picture
Pat

I'm curious: what are all of you Microsoft Money users planning to switch to when Microsoft stops supporting Money in 2011?