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Quicken 2006 for Starters: The Missing Manual: The Missing Manual

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Intuit's Quicken is one of today's most popular and convenient ways to keep track of personal finances, and Quicken 2006 For Starters: The Missing Manual for Windows is the indispensable guide to using the program to simplify your finances and make the most of your money.

Whether you're new to electronic banking or just new to Quicken, this refreshingly funny and sensible book zeroes in on exactly what you need to get into Quicken fast. It teaches you how do such essential things as: balance your checkbook on your computer, keep tabs on your spending, create and manage a budget, monitor and pay bills on time, determine more ways to save and stick to your savings plan, manage loans and maximize investments, make tax preparation easier (even find hidden tax deductions!), and much more.

Financial-software writer and personal finance expert Bonnie Biafore delivers clear explanations and step-by-step instructions for the Quicken features you need, as well as relevant advice and plenty of real-world examples. Beginners will appreciate Biafore's clear guidance on how to set up Quicken to streamline their money management tasks. Power users will benefit from her insightful tips, tricks, and shortcuts for working around Quicken's idiosyncrasies and saving even more time and money.

The book is designed to help you get up to speed fast. Biafore steps you through the basics of Quicken. Then, as you become a more efficient and sophisticated Quicken user, she helps you take advantage of the program's little-known but powerful features. And throughout the book, she offers invaluable money-management principles. You'll be generating useful reports and graphs with ease; ensuring accuracy and consistency among all your accounts; and planning, saving, and controlling your finances like never before.

The book that gives you exactly what you need, Quicken 2006 For Starters: The Missing Manual helps you quickly make the most of Quicken 2006 for Windows.

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12 Slices

Format Buy Remix

1. Setting Up Your Quicken Environment


Launching Quicken

Setting Up Your Quicken Data File

Opening a Quicken File

The Quicken Guided Setup

A Quick Guide to Quicken Preferences

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 Section 1.2 explains.)

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 file.

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.


2. Accounts and Categories


How Accounts and Categories Work

Types of Accounts

Creating Cash Flow Accounts

Editing Account Information

Hiding Closed Accounts


Customizing Categories

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 point, though.

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.


3. Backing Up Your Financial Information


Backing Up Data Files

Restoring Quicken Backups

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 quickly.

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.


4. Banking, Credit Cards, and Cash


Transaction Basics

Quicken's Quicker with QuickFill

Recording Checks

Recording Deposits

Paying with a Credit Card

Paying with Cash

Splitting Transactions

Transferring Money Between Accounts

Editing Transactions

Voiding Transactions

Searching for Transactions

The Transaction Edit Menu

Managing Memorized Payees

Scheduling Transactions

Automating Your 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 bank.


5. Property and Debt


Understanding Property & Debt in Quicken

Setting Up Asset and Liability Accounts

Setting Up a Loan

Making a Loan Payment

Editing a Loan

Refinancing 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 both.


6. Online Banking


What Quicken Can Do Online

Connecting Quicken to the Internet

Setting Up an Account for Online Services

Updating All Accounts with One Step

Downloading Transactions

Reviewing and Incorporating Downloaded Transactions

Renaming Payees

Setting Up Online Payees

Paying Bills Online

Setting Up Online Transfers

Canceling an Online Payment

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.


7. Reconciling Accounts


Your First Reconciliation

Preparing for a Reconciliation

Starting to Reconcile

Reconciling Transactions

Modifying Transactions During Reconciliation

Stopping and 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.


8. Budgeting


Ways to Build Budgets

Creating a Budget Automatically

Copying the Current Budget

Creating a Budget Manually

Filling In Budget Values

Making a Budget Current

Choosing Budget Categories

Saving or Restoring a Budget

Comparing Your 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.


9. Investments and Planning


Why Track Investments in Quicken?

Choosing the Right Type of Account

Creating an Investment Account

Setting Up a Security

Recording Investment Transactions

Purchasing a Security

Selling a Security

Recording and Reinvesting Income

Recording a Stock Split

Placeholder Entries

Evaluating Your Portfolio

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.


10. Reports and Graphs


Running Reports

A Quick Guide to Quicken Reports

A Review of Report Preferences

Printing Reports and Graphs

Customizing Reports

Saving a Report

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.


A. Keyboard Shortcuts


Task Shortcuts

Working with Transactions


Moving Around in Quicken Windows

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.


B. Quicken Help


Quicken Help

Task-Specific Quicken Help

Quicken Product and Customer Support

The Quicken Forums

Other Quicken Resources

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.



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