Switching from Quicken to Budget

Continuing from my earlier posts on the decline of Intuit’s Mac versions of their products and on my quest for replacement software, here are some specifics on making the switch.

Budget is significantly harder to transition to from Quicken than to another ledger-based program like Liquid Ledger. It is a completely different mental model and it takes some getting used to. You really have to “unquicken” your mind. For that reason, I actually do not recommend migrating your existing history into it. Start with a clean slate at a logical breakpoint such as your next monthly checking account statement. Here are the steps I would recommend for a new Budget user coming from use of Quicken or a program very like it:

1. Understand that Budget does not work on a ledger model. It is all about keeping track of where you are planning to spend your money, where you really spend it and if that leaves you money left over for anything else.

2. I do not recommend the start-up wizard (as it currently exists, at least) because it doesn’t support as smooth a mental transition to this new way of doing things. Instead, read the user manual. Not all of it necessarily, but just the Getting Started section and those on working with different kinds of accounts, especially the Complete Detail section of “Handling Credit Cards”. I know it’s frustrating not to jump right in, but, trust me; you need to shake loose some assumptions about how things work because they are very different than Quicken. It’s just going to take a couple days to wrap your head around Budget and decide if it will work well for you.

3. Understand these key concepts:
Accounts – these are the closest things to the Quicken model.
Envelopes – these correspond basically to categories in Quicken.
Pay Allocations – this is where we’re in brand new territory. Remember that this is a live view of your budget, so every time money comes into your bank account, you will be allocating it to envelopes from which you’ll take the money as expenses arise.

4. Agree with your bank. Make sure that in Quicken you’re up-to-date with reconciling with bank statements. Ideally do your Budget setup within the first week after getting your checking account statement. I did it the same day as reconciling in Quicken and it meant I didn’t have to keep track of things in two places for a while.

5. Begin in Budget in the most familiar territory: create accounts. Make a new account for each of your active bank accounts and credit card accounts. I also made an account for my student loan debt (checking the “allow account to go negative” box for this kind of debt account) and my security deposit. Do one new transaction in each called “opening balance”. When you have an account selected in the left column, the Available envelope in the upper right corner represents the funds which you can allocate to expenses. I only allocate to expenses from my checking account, so 90% of the time I have the Checking account selected. The Total at the top of the column of accounts tells you your net worth.

6. Next, create your envelopes. To keep the display uncluttered, I found it helpful to move some things into two new envelope groups: Once A Month and Rare. I did not create envelopes for payroll tax expenses. Perhaps I’ve misunderstood something, but Budget seems to deal with net, not gross pay. Since I just watch my paycheck stubs during the year and enter my totals straight into my tax forms from my W-2 at the end of the year, that’s one hassle I no longer have to deal with.

7. Set up your regular pay and pay allocations to the various envelopes. This is really the “make your budget” step.

8. Now that you’ve got the framework for everything in place, select your checking account and drag allocations from the Available envelope to the various envelopes. This step is catching up with the fact that the balance that is in your checking would have been distributed through past allocations had you been running Budget back then.

9. Now you’re ready to begin using Budget. Enter any transactions since your bank statement and you should see an up-to-the-minute view of what’s happening with your money.

I expect it will take a few months of using Budget for me to settle in and perfect using it – it certainly took at least that long with Quicken! – so I may post some additional tips in the future. For now, a couple little notes:
– I made envelopes for all my regular monthly bill categories including one for my student loan. When I pay that bill, I make a transfer from that envelope to the student loan account.
– I also made an envelope for the amount I want to move into my savings account every month.
– I follow the recommendations for dealing with cash on hand in the example from the “Handling Cash” section of the help.
– Note that Budget, unlike Quicken, doesn’t autosave your work. There’s a handy save button in the top left corner of the display; use it frequently!

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Dinah from Kabalor

Author. Discardian. GM. Current project: creating an inclusive indie fantasy ttrpg https://www.patreon.com/kabalor

6 thoughts on “Switching from Quicken to Budget”

  1. I went thru a similar process when Dollars & Sense couldn’t handle Y2K, switching to Quicken for two frustrating years. Now I’m in my 3rd year with CashWorks. I can say more to anyone who’s interested.

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  2. Your article provides some good information for switching from any accounting application to another.
    During the past two plus years, I’ve developed and updated numerous times on VersionTracker, my accounting software, Corona.
    Corona will meet the needs of many Mac owners, and it has the added benefit of a non-proprietary file format. Corona’s files may be opened easily by Excel or Filemaker.
    Features? Uh, check register, invoices, addresses, correspondence, financial repots for starts. Need payroll? Federal payroll and quarterly reports for those nasty 941s.
    Corona works great on OSX. Lot less expensive than the corporate developers’ products. I personally support Corona, but frankly nnot many customers have questions on how to use it. Must be easy, maybe the popups for oft used descriptions and accounts. A reasonably good help facility built-in.
    I never cared for proprietary file formats, so I designed Corona to work without one. Simple, tab-delimited data. No mysteries, no locked information. As it should be, it’s your information and not the software’s.
    I know what I developed is good, my undergraduate work in Oregon was in accounting and finance. And if you need to supply an accountant or CPA with a copy, Corona has a Windows version also, no charge.
    My policy has been, pay once and all support, upgrades and versions your needs require are yours. All is avilable electronically at the web site: http://www.designersdomain.com/corona
    Thanks for letting me make an announcement here. The magazines can only afford to review seriously inferior products so they won’t lose ad revenues from the corporate developers.
    Yours truly
    R Charles Flickinger
    Corona Accounting

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  3. Yes, I’m still using Budget.
    I like it, though it doesn’t have all the features I would like (e.g. voided check) and isn’t intuitive to me the way Quicken was. However, it is more reliable and good enough for what I need.

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  4. For others that come across this post at a later date as we did. Think about this: Whatever happened to writing a budget on a piece of paper and sticking to it. It may not be as tech savvy but it works. Just a thought. 🙂

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