Moneywiz

Moneywiz
http://wiz.money

This is an update to these posts:
Personal Finance App
YNAB revisited

I seem to have a general habit of using an app for quite a while, feeling that it is falling behind or not doing what I really want it to, trying other apps and even moving over to one of them, only to circle back later and pick up the original app again. At least once I do that, I tend to come back with renewed commitment and the original app becomes permanent. This is exactly what has happened with me and Moneywiz. In fact, it has recently happened twice.

As I previously described, I began to feel that I was not fully in control of my finances, despite spending time every week ensuring that Moneywiz was a full and accurate record of my spending. I looked at a number of apps and concluded that I would stick with Moneywiz, but it did not really resolve the issue.

Feeling that maybe a different approach was needed, I decided, reluctantly, to give YNAB another try. Many things were good, and it made a tangible difference to being in control of my finances, but I found myself frustrated again with the obsessive and inflexible approach it has. Two issues emerged for me. 

My income arrives in the middle of each month. I want and need to think about how I use that income. I am lucky enough to have a "buffer" so I am not living from month to month, having to rob Peter to pay Paul is anything unexpected happens, but if I am going to restrict some spending, save more, spend wisely and without worry, it's what I do with each month's income that will make that successful or not. YNAB ignores the issue. Budgeting and monitoring is strictly on calendar months, so I would spend the first half of the month living on last month's income and the second half living on this month's but having to keep enough back to cover the first half of next month. Of course, that is reality but personally, I found it just did not make sense. I wanted to be able to budget and monitor (including saving from income) from mid-month to mid-month which is how I think about it in real life.

I also found that I was having to move money around much too much. If there was a slight budget overspend (e.g. in groceries) I had to move money from existing budgets to cover it and then move it back later when new income arrived. This is basically what envelope budgeting is all about. You cannot spend money that you do not have. The frustration was that I did have money or a totally realistic expectation that I would have money before a particular envelope would need it. Savings accounts and especially investments don't show on a YNAB budget until you move money out of them to put into budget envelopes, when it shows as income. Income can't be anticipated at all. So, for example, having bought groceries for my son, there was nowhere to even note that he would repay me in full as soon as I told him what I had bought. In short, there is no concept of prediction. You can only make budgets based on what you already have. 

When I reached out to YNAB and their support community I felt (mildly) treated as a heretic. No-one was interested in anything except helping me to conform to YNAB and its system and approach. It's not a bad system, actually, but I found I was keeping a parallel system in order to use it, of notes about what was coming up when, what I had to anticipate and how I should budget knowing what was likely.

Meanwhile. Moneywiz got better. Its reports and budgets made more sense and everything else I was familiar with. I was able to set reports or budgets to cover any period I liked, and to repeat. It was very easy and felt comfortable to stop using YNAB. I have not missed it.

One very useful thing came out of my revisiting YNAB. I had started to write budget notes for each period in which I would make a bullet-point list of significant changes or events affecting income or expenditure, key purchases or plans. I would end the period with a summary of income and expenditure and a summary evaluation. In YNAB this helped to ease the pain of one income and spending cycle covering two calendar months and the inability to use predictions. It's still a good discipline: it's not so much the note itself that is useful, but writing it forces me to think about and sometimes make decisions. I know what is happening and so feel much more in control. I know where I am and things are positive.

I would recommend Moneywiz. I do not use the premium feature of automatic linking to my bank and credit card accounts. I did try them, but I prefer entering transactions manually and immediately, making corrections if necessary several days later when the transactions have cleared through the bank. That makes it extremely good value. It took me a while to decide how to organise accounts and what categories and subcategories to create, but it works very well, and very reliably, for me with the same experience on Mac and iPad and just about useful on the iPhone - with nothing new to learn on any of those platforms and sync between them that "just works". The recurrent transactions (e.g. standing orders) work very well for me.

I have come to like Moneywiz's approach to budgeting. I had to create a separate spreadsheet to make the base budget, built around what it is useful to budget each period and what annually and how to group multiple categories together to make one budget heading.

I also need to give a shout-out to their support team. I have never waited more than 12 hours for a reply and all of them have been thoughtful, precisely addressing my problem and providing clear solutions.

As I said, when I circle around and come back to a long-term app I tend to re-commit. Moneywiz is definitely here to stay.