Money, Expenses and a Corrupted File

On Molly On Money I would occasionally update my readers on our spending.  We track our expenses in Quicken and post updates on our whiteboard in the kitchen.  I like sharing the information.  I feel it keeps our spending in the foreground rather than letting it slide into the background.  I mean come on, where your money goes tells a story about you.  It’s interesting!

So…have you noticed we have no updates here?  Well, we don’t because I haven’t tracked our spending since the beginning of June. (Hello guilt and shame come sit down next to me on the couch.  How have we been?) It’s not because I haven’t wanted to it’s because I’ve become dependent on a piece of software called Quicken.


Our white board...blank!

Our white board...blank!

The Story of How Quicken Wags the Dog:

Since college I’ve kept a real close eye on my expenses and income even when I was in the red.  In the early years I had a ledger where I input my financial information by hand.  That morphed into an excel spreadsheet and in 2005 I went over to Quicken.  I love the ease of downloading my information into one place, running reports and seeing my cash flow all at a click of a button.  I don’t do anything too fancy (I do have 117 subcategories of spending) but I love how easy Quicken has made my life over the last 6 years.

Ooops!  Did I speak too soon?!

This past June I went to download my banking information into Quicken and Quicken told me that it couldn’t connect to my bank.  What the Hey?!  You guys always played so well together.

I took a break and came back, maybe the internet is being flaky.  I tried again.

No Luck!

No download love.

Two conversations with a Quicken tech rep and 10 hours later I still was nowhere.  In fact, I was worse off than I thought.  My Quicken file was corrupt and my backups were a mess.  Somewhere along the way the program started overwriting the previous back ups rather than making new ones.

Mike:  What do they even mean that your file is ‘corrupt’?

Molly: Beats me.  The tech told me that It was something I did by going on Facebook.  (no joke)

Mike: Typical, blame the victim.

After more back and forth with the Quicken techs I found a 2009  file that was not corrupt.   It didn’t work either.   Somehow in the process of trying to use it under the careful scrutiny of the Quicken person it got corrupted too!   It was endless!  Everytime one problem would get solved another would pop up.  Sometimes I went into denial and would go weeks without contacting a Quicken rep.  Other times I would call them up and ride the poor tech rep like a pony until we made some progress.  We’ve had conference calls with the bank.  I’ve had my case upgraded twice, whatever that means. So far I’ve spent over 40 hrs speaking to the reps at Quicken.  Over the past six months I think I may have been passed off to every single rep in their office in Bangalore!

I still pay our bills but I’ve reverted to a choatic paper system.  I stopped entering anything into Quicken.  I looked for other options: I switched over to Quickbooks but found the learning curve too frustrating.  It was like learning a dialect of a foreign language.  The words were similar but not the same as what I had already learned.  I went over to cause I’m a 21st century gal and was irriated to find you cannot track cash.  Apparently cash isn’t used anymore in the 21st century.  In the end I made a new friend in India and he follows our blog now (a big shout out to Raj!)!  My bank is involved in trying to see what they can do on their end and Quicken has given me the latest version for free that still has issues even when downloaded on an entirely different computer.

It seems that this particular piece of software has become my undoing.  I can’t find a replacement that I can live with and I can’t get anything done with the program that I depend on to organize my financial life.  I’m throwing in the towel and doing what I should have done months back.  I’m going old school and entering all of our expenses & income into Quicken by hand and reconciling my accounts with my paper records.  I feel so 2004.  It doesn’t take long to forget that we did things a little different just a few years ago.

Am I worried about where we are financially?

Yes and no.

Yes, because tracking our spending weekly or bi-weekly keeps Mike and I from overspending on things like going out to eat, hobbies, and groceries.  We are on a very tight budget and if we stick to it we won’t have to dip into our emergency fund.

No, because we’ve already established reasonably good spending  habits and since I’ve been unemployed we’ve hardly bought anything…I think.  It would be good to know though I’m not a big fan of worrying.  It’s always seemed like energy wasted on something that can be solved.

It’s a ton of work to input all this information.  I’m used to tracking  our spending down to the penny and have a bazillion categories to organize them.  I’m going to drop some of my categories for the sake of getting it done.  My hope is that by January 1st Quicken will be working and we can start from scratch.

Maybe by Christmas I can give a picture of where we are financially!

Don’t hold your breath…

Is anybody else having trouble with Quicken?  

What system do you use to track your spending?  What would you do if it mysteriously became impossible to use?

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  1. Posted November 21, 2011 at 7:47 am | Permalink

    We’ve been members of a credit union for years, and we use Macs — the combo (without endless consultation with bank and Quicken) has appeared to mean that we have never gotten all that wonderful pre-sorting that you used to have. But I did get the date, an often-inscrutable code for the store involved, amount, and an occasional guess as to which category it might go to. So there was plenty of manipulation each month. Then, since we put everything on credit card to earn miles, I put all that in by hand. It’s not that bad. About an hour — it feels like longer thought. I put on good music, sometimes an audio book, and just go. The downside is that I do it much less frequently than you are talking about, but at least it gets done. 

    • Posted November 22, 2011 at 6:17 am | Permalink

      WHAT!  Apple is not the bomb! (Sorry, just had to get that in!).
      I do think we might revert back to credit cards for a while just so I can get caught up.  I have to do the bills when no one else is around to distract me too.

      • Noelle
        Posted November 23, 2011 at 8:41 am | Permalink

        Say it isn’t so Molly! You should of told me. We could of had another go at it with a different strategy……….What if we started a new file fresh starting January 1 and get you back up and running? 🙂

        • Posted November 24, 2011 at 7:41 am | Permalink

          No, no, no!  You’ve already done so much!
          I tried to transfer the data back from Quick Books to Quicken but it’s not the right file type.  OK, maybe I’ll have you over and see if you can transfer it.  A bottle of wine will be chilled and waiting, of course…

  2. Posted November 21, 2011 at 6:52 pm | Permalink

    How many categories do you have?  I have about 18 or so on my spreadsheet.

    • Posted November 22, 2011 at 6:13 am | Permalink

      31 categories and 86 subcategories. I got subcategory fever after reading ‘Your Money or Your Life’ a few years back.

  3. Posted November 22, 2011 at 9:29 am | Permalink

    I started using Mint a little over a year ago. I didn’t know that it had issues tracking cash, but then again I rarely use/track cash. The bit of cash I do spend is for stuff that I can easily recall and put into my budget as my weekly “mad money.”

    Before Mint I didn’t use anything. As long as I was seeing a surplus in my accounts each month I wasn’t too worried about exactly what I was spending money on each month. I’m a lazy budgeter. My retirement savings comes out of my paycheck so I never have a chance to spend it, and every few months I’d split up the surplus accumulated based on my high level goals. (“Hmm….haven’t added anything to the car replacement fund in a while, bettet put some in there.”) 

    It has been helpful to have spending tracked with Mint so I can look for trends, though, and I do use their budget feature even though it drives me nuts since I don’t spend money every month or every quarter on certain things and that’s the only way it allows you to budget. The other crazy thing about Mint is that it is always showing me as over budget in certain categories no matter what I do. It always shows me that I spent too much on doctors, for example, even though when I look at how I spent on doctors for that month it is less than it says I am over budget on. Also, it’s a challenge for me to track the reimbursements I get from insurance for medical care. (I really should write a blog post about this stuff, right?)

    My ex used Quicken to track all our income and expenses. At one point he decided that Quicken wasn’t robust enough for him so he switched to Quickbooks. I’m not sure why he bothered to track stuff since his approach to building wealth is to just let cash accumulate in his checking account forever and ever.  

    • Posted November 23, 2011 at 6:04 am | Permalink

      You need to write a post on this!
      I’m a huge advocate of tracking spending because I love the story it tells about me and Mike.  We can’t hide behind the facts.  It’s not a judgement good or bad but a real pulse on how we are doing.  If we didn’t track our spending it would be telling a whole other story.  

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    […] June our Quicken file was corrupted.  To make matters worse, by the time Molly realized it she had tried restoring from several […]

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