Money Manager Ex - Personal Finance Management Freeware

Before you can really start setting financial goals, you need to determine where you stand financially. -- David Bach, author of the personal finance works The Armchaire Millionaire and the Finish Rich series.

Like nearly everything else in our modern Western world, personal finance becomes more complicated by the day. Tracking and managing your finances is a must.  But how should you go about it?  Filing your receipts and statements is a good start, but the paper just accumulates and becomes cumbersome to sort through.  You could use pencil and paper to calculate a budget or your net worth, but this is neither powerful nor flexible; you cannot, for example, simply alter one figure and see how all associated totals change in response.

Really the best way to track your personal finances is via a computer. Computer-based personal finance management offers power and flexibility that paper alone cannot match.  Once you decide to use your computer to manage your finances, you will have to choose from an intimidating number of software or online options for tracking your finances, some available for a fee, others for free.

I have tried several methods and my favorite, though it is not perfect, is the portable freeware Money Manager Ex.  I like Money Manager Ex for several reasons:
  • It’s free.
  • It’s portable, meaning do not have to install it on a computer, but can simply copy it on to a USB thumb drive and tote it anywhere.
  • It's cross platform, working on Windows, Linux, and experimentally on Mac OS X.
  • It’s open-source.
  • It’s not crippled trialware.  There are no disabled features and it does not expire after a trail period.
  • It’s very simple and doesn’t suffer from the bloat seen in many other financial management programs.
Also, from trying out other options, I see other advantages. First, Money Manager Ex lets you manage multiple accounts, unlike the free AceMoneyLite, which is practically worthless because it only allows for tracking of a single account.  Second, it is very easy to get up and running and use, unlike another free offering, GnuCash, and it runs much more quickly.  Third, you can not only track past expenses like with the free online offering, but you can create recurring expenses and budget for the future.  Fourth, you can encrypt the data.  Lastly, there is little concern about the program no longer being developed and having your data stuck in some proprietary format.  Money Manager Ex uses SQLite, so you can access the data with any SQLite administration program.  (And because it uses SQLite, you can create custom queries.)

There are some annoying aspects to using Money Manager Ex, however.  First, it is easy to use but requires a lot clicking to enter data.  Second, all the data has to be entered in manually, either by hand or by importing from CSV or QIF.  You cannot just append data during an import, either.  Instead, you would have to export to, say, CSV, then append your new data, then import.  There are certain quirks, too, in the way data is managed, so that you sometimes cannot simply delete an entry.  There is no easy way to transfer a transaction between accounts.  The creators say that these problems stem from trying to keep the program as simple and small as possible and that it would suffer from bloat if they rectified all of these gripes.

If you are willing to do put up with these quirks, I think that the program will definitely be very useful.  I have used it for about two years and feel that the pros definitely outweigh the cons.  I like the portability I enjoy without having to go online to access or edit data.  And the program has terrific reporting capabilities.

I recommend that you download Money Manager Ex and try it.  It might not be what you are looking for, so do not just cut over to it if you are using another application.  Instead, run it in tandem for a few days to see if it will work for you.  If not, then just stop using it.  If so, then you now have a very useful tool for managing your finances for free.

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