Setting Up Your
Quicken Data File
Opening a Quicken
The Quicken Guided
A Quick Guide to
After you install Quicken (see Appendix C for instructions), you
have just a few more steps before you experience the joys of electronic
personal finance. Quicken stores all your information and settings in a
data file, which is like an electronic version of the
filing cabinet that contains your financial papers. (Actually, behind the
scenes, it's a small set of files, as the box on
Despite the awkward name, a data file is a good thing, because it
lets you back up your Quicken data, move it to another computer, keep
different family members' info in separate files, and so on. The first
time you launch Quicken, the program asks you to help set up your data
If you've used a previous version of Quicken, your setup process is
shorter, but even existing data files require a quick conversion to work with the new
version of Quicken. If it's your first time using Quicken, the program
asks you a few questions, creates a new data file, and then launches the
Quicken Guided Setup to help you tailor the file to your needs.
How Accounts and
Creating Cash Flow
Quicken abounds with tools to help you plan, track, and analyze your
finances. If you use the Quicken Guided Setup as described in Chapter 1, it creates an assortment of
accounts and categories for you. That arrangement's a mere starting
This chapter defines Quicken's various account types and shows you
how to set up new accounts, as well as manage existing ones. You'll also
learn how to organize your finances by category, so you can see where your
money's coming from and what you're spending it on.
Armed with this knowledge, you can make changes to your data file as
your financial needs change over time. For example, whenever you switch
banks, succumb to a fabulous credit card offer, or take out a home equity
loan to get your mobile dog-grooming business going, you'll need a new
account. Or say you get married and need new accounts and categories to
track your husband's salary, taxes, and all those salon facials.
Backing Up Data
Once you start using Quicken, paper and pencil rapidly start to look
like an unthinkable hassle. You can now balance your checkbook, prepare
your taxes, plan for a comfortable retirement, and have enough time left
over to go spend some moneyand dutifully enter those transactions into
Quicken, as well.
The pleasure of doing your finances in Quicken evaporate instantly,
though, if you lose your data to a hard-disk crash or other computer
disaster. Good backups, as this chapter outlines, get you back to work
GEM IN THE ROUGH: Why to Back Up
You're probably reading this chapter so you can be prepared when
your PC's hard drive crashes and takes your Quicken data file with it.
But keep in mind these other situations when backup files can restore
your adrenaline level to normal:
Quicken backups are also the easiest way to move a Quicken data
file from one computer to another; for instance, to load it onto your
laptop before leaving on an extended business trip. Back up the data
file on the first computer, copy the backup file to the new computer,
and restore the backup file there.
Quicken's Quicker with
Paying with a Credit
The Transaction Edit
Paycheck in Quicken
As you run errands, you probably write a few checks, swipe your
credit card, and hand over some coins and bills. When you get home, you
can record all your transactions to keep your Quicken account balances in
sync with your wallet and the accounts at your financial institutions. You
can create Quicken transactions as easily as handwritten oneseasier, in
fact, since the program automatically completes entries for you, lets you
schedule transactions to happen automatically, or downloads them from your
& Debt in Quicken
Setting Up Asset and
Setting Up a
Making a Loan
As you learned when you set up your Quicken accounts in Chapter 2, you use asset accounts to
track the value of your property (the things you own)
and liability accounts to track your debt (the money
you owe). Quicken has many advantages when you're managing these accounts.
For one, if you set up a loan in Quicken to pay off a liability, the
program reminds you when it's time to make a payment. In addition, if you
track both your liabilities and assets, Quicken can calculate your net worth (the value of
your assets minus the balance of your liabilities), which is a telling
indicator of your financial health.
Although borrowing can get awfully complicated with adjustable-rate
mortgages, interest-only loans, refinancing, and so on, Quicken can handle
just about anything you throw at it. Most people have a hard time
understanding the underlying accounting. Once you know how to follow the
money, you can easily set Quicken up to track it. This chapter explains
What Quicken Can Do
Connecting Quicken to
Setting Up an Account
for Online Services
Updating All Accounts
with One Step
Incorporating Downloaded Transactions
Setting Up Online
Setting Up Online
Canceling an Online
Before online banking, your bank balance was like the surprise
ending of a film thriller. You had to wait until your bank statement
arrived (by snail mail) to discover how much money you had on hand, which
checks and deposits had cleared, and whether you were overdrawn. But with
Quicken and almost every financial institution offering online banking,
you can view those balances and transactions any time, download them into
your Quicken data file, and take evasive action to avoid bank fees for
bounced checks and low balances.
You can also pay bills online without having to write checks, lick
stamps, or drive to the post office. For the ultimate in convenience, you
can set up recurring payments so you can go on a long vacation without
worrying about missing your mortgage payment.
Preparing for a
Restarting a Reconciliation
When Your Records
Don't Agree with Your Bank's
Admit it: Your least favorite part of having a checking account is
the monthly struggle to get your handwritten register to agree with the
bank's balance. No matter how careful you are to record every check, debit
card withdrawal, and ATM fee, the numbers never seem to match. Tracking
down the error is an exercise in frustrationdid the bank make an error?
Or do you have to redo your math yet again?
Every step of the way, Quicken takes the agony out of reconciliation. First of all, it does the math for you,
error-free. If you download transactions from the Web, you may even be
able to reconcile with a single click, since your register and the bank's
will always agree on which checks have cleared. And if you do transpose
numbers or forget to record an ATM withdrawal, Quicken has tools to help
you isolate the problem.
Ways to Build
Creating a Budget
Copying the Current
Creating a Budget
Filling In Budget
Making a Budget
Saving or Restoring a
Performance to Your Budget
If the word "budget" sounds like an unpleasant shackling of your
spending creativity, here are four words of advice: Don't skip
this chapter. A budget is nothing more
than a plan for spending, saving, and investing the money you make.
Whether you do it in Quicken, in another program, or on a piece of paper,
a budget gives you a sense of freedom that only comes from having a plan
for making ends meet. The only requirement is that your budget
worksfor you. If you can find a way to spend $5,000
a year on shoes and still save for retirement, your
budget's probably working.
Quicken's budgeting features help you estimate how much money you'll
make, and then subtract your estimated expenses. If you're a compulsive
shopper, your first crack at a budget may reveal that your expenses
outweigh your income. Armed with that knowledge, you can adjust your
budget to scale back spendingor take on a second job to help pay for your
purchases. On the other hand, if you've been pinching pennies and have
money left over each month, a budget helps you come up with a plan for the
surpluslike transferring some into savings or investment accounts.
Why Track Investments
Choosing the Right
Type of Account
Creating an Investment
Setting Up a
Recording a Stock
A Quick Tour of
Quicken Planning Tools
Quicken's just as good at tracking investments as it is your checks, charges, and ATM
withdrawals. You can keep tabs on investment gains and losses as well as the dividends and
interest you earn, which is a huge help come tax time.
But tracking investment transactions also means you can evaluate the
performance of your investments. If you hear dogs barking in your
portfolio, you can get rid of them and find better places to invest your
money. And by reviewing how you've allocated your portfolio among
different types of investments, you can tell whether you're putting too
many eggs in one nest-egg basket.
A Quick Guide to
A Review of Report
Printing Reports and
Quicken comes with dozens of built-in reports and graphs that show what's up (or down) with your
personal finances. The only challenging aspect is figuring out
which report tells you what you need to know and
where you can find it. This chapter demystifies reports and the many ways
of generating them.
If you're new to Quicken or financial lingo in general, EasyAnswer
reports were made for you, as explained in the box on Section 10.1. These reports
tell you what they do in plain Englishas in, "Did I meet my budget?" If
none of the EasyAnswer reports meets your needs, the Reports & Graphs Center lists all of Quicken's reports.
This chapter describes some of the more popular built-in reports, what
they're good for, and where you can find them.
If you're a Quicken veteran (or trying to become one), you can take
those built-in reports and customize them to your needs: tweak a date
range, remove unneeded columns, or add subtotals in different places. You
can then launch that report straight from the Reports menu or the
Reports & Graphs window. In this chapter, you'll learn
how to customize reports to get what you want and then save those reports
for future use.
Moving Around in
You can perform almost any task in Quicken simply by clicking somethingthe Icon Bar, a
toolbar, a shortcut menu, a menu-bar menu, or an onscreen button. But the
seconds you spend mousing around from click to click insidiously eat away
at your productivity.
If you spend even a few minutes a day with Quicken, keyboard shortcuts are your friend. They take you right
where you want to go in a fraction of a second. This appendix lists
Quicken's most useful keyboard shortcuts. Each section starts with the
best ones to commit to memory.
For a complete list of Quicken's keyboard shortcuts, search the Help
file (press F1 to open Help) for "keys" or "Quick keys." (Quicken Help
doesn't have an index entry called "keyboard shortcuts.")
These keyboard shortcuts open the windows and dialog boxes
for the tasks you perform most often.
Open a file.
Quicken Product and
Between planning your financial moves and recording them in Quicken,
you're bound to need some help along the way. Unfortunately, finding
answers to your questions isn't always easy. Quicken's online help is
renowned for telling you what you already know, while remaining
mysteriously silent on what you don't.
Quicken Help, which you access within the program, is best
when you're looking for step-by-step procedures. It falls short, though,
when you're trying to learn what Quicken can do and how to apply it to
your present financial quandary. The Quicken online forums, accessed via
the Internet, are a better source of answers to gnarly problems like how
to allocate a refinanced loan to pay off an old mortgage and a plethora of
closing costs. As you'll see in this appendix, there are many ways of
finding helpone of which is sure to suit your style.