If you're looking for some budget-friendly financial management assistance, Quicken Starter is probably the best place to start. A trimmed-down version of Quicken Premier, the all-inclusive application that we rate as the best personal finance software around, Quicken Starter offers all the same basic tracking, budgeting and organizational features, but none of the investment and tax planning features that come at an extra cost.
Quicken Starter review: Getting started
As with Quicken Premier, the Starter option allows you to sync directly to your financial institutions, importing transactions and balances as you go. While this should mean that nothing gets missed, you also have the option of manually adding transactions should you need, or simply don't want to use the sync option.
You're free to connect with banks, credit unions and credit card issuers, but as we've already noted, this package doesn't allow for you to automatically join together with any investment providers with whom you may hold money. One potential way around this is to create an account that could reflect the investments that you hold - if you are then willing to take the time to enter the data yourself, this could provide a way to keep track of your investment trades and balances, alongside your other finances.
Quicken Starter review: Creating a budget
When it comes to budgeting, Quicken Starter makes it quick and easy. You can choose which categories to budget and which to hide, and then you simply enter the budget limit for each category. When you are at or below budget, the category is green in the system, indicating that you haven't exceeded the allotted amount. If you exceed your budget, it goes red. You're also able to set email or text message alerts for when you near or exceed a specific budget limit.
Quicken Starter review: Reports
The reporting options with this financial planning software are top notch, offering reports for the most vital financial data as well as some additional helpful information. You can run reports that detail your income versus expenses, spending by category and budget reports. There's also the option to export your data directly to Excel for further interrogation if you so wish.
Quicken Starter review: Accessibility and price
All of the Quicken packages are now available on the web, rather than simply on the desktop where you install the software, albeit with a slightly stripped back functionality. Through the web-based platform you can keep tabs on your balances, budgets, accounts and transactions, and study your spending trends.
You can also manage the account on your mobile if you are willing to download the app relevant to your phone. Here, you can also add transactions, view your budget and balances, and use additional features, including the ability to photograph and store receipts for your records.
From a cost point of view, the Starter package currently comes in at $34.99 a year, and so is the most affordable of the Quicken range of personal software management options. If you think you need a little more functionality, the Deluxe package, which includes the option to track loans, investments and retirements, costs $44.99 for the year, while the Premier option, which further includes investment performance tools and market comparisons, costs $67.49.
Should you choose Quicken Starter?
Quicken Starter has impressive budgeting and reporting features, allowing you to sync your checking, savings and credit card accounts to automatically transfer your balances and transactions into the system. Creating a budget is simple, and alerts and warnings help you stay within the budget you've established. While it doesn't have the advanced features on offer from Quicken Premier, most notably in relation to investments and tax, Quicken Starter is therefore lower in price, and so offers excellent value for money as a result.