Often people purchase Quicken with the intention of using all of its versatile tools, but end up using it as merely an electronic checkbook. There's nothing wrong with that, but Quicken does so much more and is a time-saving tool. Quicken allows for accurate budgeting, showing users exactly how their money is spent. After proper initial set up, Quicken can give the user information to make informed financial decisions.
Before You Begin
Before you begin to use Quicken, set aside the time to put all the necessary financial data in. To set up the software so it works best for you, a minimum of four hours is necessary. In today's busy world, that may seem like a large chunk of time, but in the end it will allow a smooth transition from using a regular paper checkbook system to using Quicken to its full potential.
Collect all of your financial documents, either from physical files or downloads from financial websites you use. Most banks and financial institutions allow online access. If you're not online yet, this may be the time to quickly sign on to your bank's online system. This will also allow you to use Quicken for downloads and will streamline your financial tasks considerably.
Collecting and Entering Data
The documents you've collected should include: checking, savings, credit cards, loans of any sort including a mortgage, and investment statements. All of this financial information will be stored in one place and will help you accurately calculate and plan in Quicken. The software gives you the tools to get out of debt, plan for a vacation, buy a new car or do home repair. Once you have all of this information, begin to add the data to Quicken through the SET UP tab, click the ADD ACCOUNT button. One feature that you might want to set up immediately in Quicken is the bills and deposits schedule. The reminders help with on-time payment of bills, which will prevent late charges and penalties.
Quicken utilizes categories to allow you to know where your money comes from and how it's spent. Take a look at the default categories, go to the BANKING menu, click on CATEGORY LIST and decide if you need to add, edit or delete some of the categories. Most of the categories correspond to line items in tax forms. This makes tax time very easy, especially when you're using Quicken in conjunction with TurboTax. Even if you're not using TurboTax, you'll be able to compile reports that will make filling out your tax forms easier.
What makes all of the hard work worth it is when you use Quicken reports to find out what your cash flow is or if you're on target with your budget. Go to the REPORTS menu, and click on REPORTS and GRAPH CENTER. This gives you each area and the reports available. You can even customize them for your particular needs.
Remember to Backup
One of the most important things to consider is back up. You should do it often, at least each time new information is added to Quicken. Quicken usually prompts you. Don't ignore it. Create your back up system procedure and stick to it. Go to FILE menu, click on BACKUP, to insure that all of your data is saved, and be sure to save to an EXTERNAL hard drive. You don't want to lose your financial data if your hard drive crashes.
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