Doin' the Moneydance


A dance to joy

My frustration with Microsoft Money reached the boiling point, and I have switched to Moneydance to manage my personal finances.

My previous battles with Microsoft Money are documented here, here, and here. The annoyances were many:

  • It took forever for the program to load: the screen display would change willy-nilly all the while
  • It took forever to enter a simple transaction: entering a new check could take as long as a minute from "OK" to ready-to-do-something-else.
  • It insisted on doing things I didn't want it to do: although I de-selected automatic updates, it would go online every time anyway

The final straw, so to speak, was when the program started displaying clearly erroneous data:

account balance error
Checking account shown overdrawn when it wasn't

Items shown "auto-entered" when they weren't and months before their time

What good is financial management software if it cannot correctly calculate an account balance or keep track of the date?

At the start of the new year, I downloaded a copy of Moneydance, the "distant-third" personal finance software program. Alas, it did not have Addison Avenue Credit Union in its list of online banking institutions, so I gritted my teeth and decided I would "put up with" Money a bit longer.

But eventually I just couldn't stand it anymore. I downloaded a new copy of Moneydance; I would use it even if I had to enter every transaction manually. But I don't have to — it now knows about online banking with the credit union!

Moneydance banner

The transition was not a smooth one. Although setting up the accounts in Moneydance was a piece of cake, I could not get it to connect and download transactions. Help and online help were no help at all. Once again I was about to give up. Then I recalled that the one time Moneydance had been able to connect and download transactions was when I had first imported a file of transactions into the account I was trying to download into. Aha! That was when I discovered that Moneydance apparently as a secret, inviolable rule: Moneydance will not download transactions into an empty account — there must be at least one transaction in it, even if it's a bogus one.

I've now got all my banking and credit card accounts in Moneydance, and it works great! The program is very functional — it is not bloated with lots of pretty cosmetic features like animated paperclips or links to Microsoft's MSN website. It simply records transactions and summarizes them in simple, useful ways.

Moneydance home screen
Moneydance home screen

More pain

I decided that I would leave my investment accounts in Microsoft Money. The historical record is very important for tax purposes, and I rarely have to make manual entries — I just download transactions from the brokerages.

It should have been a simple matter to delete the credit and banking accounts from the Money file and be done with it. Oh, no! Not so fast!

It took three hours of trial and error to perform this simple task. It, too, seems to have secret rules about deleting! Every time I would get part way through deleting the accounts I didn't want to keep in Money, it would suddenly make that clanky error alert and then display "Unable to perform transaction" about twenty times, at the end of which the program was hung. I would then have to use CTRL-ALT-DEL to abort the non-responding Microsoft Money and start over again with a backup copy of the original file.

What worked for me — your mileage may vary — was to (1) Un-do all the online banking connections; (2) "Close" each unwanted account; and then (3) Delete the account, except — the checking account! Then (4) "Repair" the file; and finally (5) Delete the checking account.