What is the best Mac personal finance software ? (Updated for 2011)
July 5, 2011 6:32 AM   Subscribe

What is the best Mac personal finance software? I need recommendations from the Thoughtful on a personal finance software package for Macs that is actually worth the investment and the time taken to learn and use. And yes, I know this has been asked at least a couple of times before, but the last related query I see is from 2008.

Since MoneyStrands is now kaput, I'm missing not keeping an eye on my spending. For those of us in the UK, the only other web-based money management site out there is Moneydashboard.co.uk which is a neat idea, but is rather let down by egregious use of MS Silverlight and iffy account updating.

So, thinks I, let's move to a local application based solution. There are a range of packages out there from the fully featured small-business management apps to rather more personal finance oriented versions.

So far I've trialled MoneyDance, Moneywell, iBank, and YNAB. They've got their individual merits, but all seem let down by failing to autocategorise a transaction into a particular spending category. Must I really highlight every transaction at Sainsbury's I have made and label each one "Groceries"? Really? YNAB claims to do this, but not for previous transactions. I have 4 years of data I need to update...if I label one payee as, for eg, 'Eating out', I expect every transaction against that payee to be labelled the same way.

This seems a pretty obvious feature to me. Anyone have any further insight here? Any easy to use packages that auto label/categorise transactions when they are entered (either individually or in bulk), and that come with monthly budgeting and half-decent reporting capabilities?
posted by 5imon to Work & Money (5 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
I believe YNAB allows you to batch-categorise things. If you change a category against a payee (say from nothing to 'Groceries'), it should ask you if you want to change all other transactions with the same payee. Failing that you should be able to do a search within each account for the payee, select all transactions (checkbox at left) and change the category at once.

I will note though that YNAB is very much a forward-looking budgeting tool so you may want to consider putting your historical data into a separate file (useful for getting average spends etc) and create a new budget file for ongoing use. The downside of AIR as a platform is that it gets slow with big data files. I've had 18 months worth of data before and it was noticeably slower.

All that said, I can heartily recommend YNAB. The 'Rules' that go with it take some getting used to and the reporting is very limited, but it's an incredible tool for effective budgeting and spend tracking, the community is AMAZING and the team that manage it are small, private, very responsive and very committed to their product. The iPhone app is very useful too.

Seriously, YNAB is the app that allowed me to 'get' budgeting and money management for the first time, after years of fiddling with my own homebrew Excel sheets and random freeware. It's saved me probably in the thousands by now and is the main reason I'm nearly out of debt for the first time in my adult life. Recommended.
posted by Happy Dave at 6:48 AM on July 5, 2011

Response by poster: No - the feature to block-categorise was only present in v 2...there have been a number of people on the YNAB forums requesting its reinstatement for v 3.
posted by 5imon at 7:04 AM on July 5, 2011

You can do it with right-click, I just did it.

Do a search for your Payee name. Select all by ticking the box at top left. Right-click on selected items, select 'Categorise As' and change to 'Groceries' or whatever, which should change the category for all selected items. You'd need to do it by payee of course, but you can do each one in three clicks or so.
posted by Happy Dave at 7:22 AM on July 5, 2011

You might check the long, ongoing thread at Macintouch. The one I'm trying as an alternative to Quicken 2007 is SEE finance. Don't have enough experience with it yet to offer an opinion.
posted by nightwood at 7:30 AM on July 5, 2011

I use GNUCash, and it appears to have an OSX build. Instead of categories you have books. When I'm entering new transactions, it offers autocomplete based on the previous transaction that matches the description, filling in the split destinations and numbers. For some transactions thats superbly helpful, for others less so. The online transaction pull also features automatic categorization, though I can't recall what it does when confronted with an item you regularly split.

One trouble spot may be when GNUCash "learns." It may only update the classifier between imports and not during a single import, and so if you do one large transaction import you'd possilbly see no benefit until after you've done the bulk of the hard work. Technically GNUCash can use sqlite as the storage backend, so you could just write a few update SQL queries to fix up your data.
posted by pwnguin at 4:02 PM on July 5, 2011

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