One of the biggest changes for me in moving from a PC to a Mac (other than the absurd amount of affection I now feel for my laptop) is the change in how I’m doing my budgeting. Since I got my Gateway in December 2002, I’ve been using Microsoft Money. It came pre-installed, and I was pretty happy with it. It’s easy to import data from my credit card companies, and there’s a lot of ways to manipulate the data and see what’s happening with your spending. But, no more Money for me.
I didn’t really want to buy a new piece of software — something about buying software for budgeting seems incongruous. And I didn’t want to set myself up on Mint.com. While I pay all my bills online and use the online access associated with all of my accounts, something about having everything aggregated into a single place online gives me pause. This is despite the fact that Mint doesn’t store your account numbers or logon credentials. Irrational, I know. So that left me with the spreadsheet option. But I knew I would drive myself batty making absurdly complicated and idiosyncratic spreadsheets. (I have them now, and am using them in addition to Money. It is absurdly complicated and I frequently forget what I’ve already done.)
So, I started searching around to see if I could find anything useful for spreadsheet-based personal budgeting. I went straight to Consumerist and took a look at the financial management sites & blogs they were pointing to. That very quickly got me to The Simple Dollar. I spent some time digging around in the archives and hit upon Pear Budget. They’re doing an online version which I assume is similar to Mint, but they started out as a spreadsheet. An amazing, wonderful spreadsheet that exploits what seems to be every nook and cranny of Calc (aka Excel). I spent a few hours getting started yesterday, slowly but surely transcribing the data from this year into Pear Budget. So far, it’s fantastic. Here’s a description of what you get, and some thoughts: Continue reading