geekery, drawing and then some

Posts about money

What not to spend money on...

I'm a bit of a compulsive spender. There, I said it.

Unlike others, I don't buy shoes or clothes. I buy boxes. And organising stuff. Sites like The daily planner and The container store make my heart beat faster. And Thinkgeek.

Oh, and pens.

And I buy a lot of food.

Only on occasion do I not use the things I purchase, this happens maybe a couple of times per year. I don't buy 50 pairs of shoes, new skirts because they're on sale etc.

But I am a compulsive spender and this has to stop. I have more pens than I could possible ever get empty (granted, drawing just goes a lot better with the right pen, but I have multiple so that shouldn't become a problem any time soon). I have a gazillion (lovely) boxes. No more buying food when I have plenty in my pantry. Make shopping lists and stick to them. Time to grow up ;)

Indy gifts for mother, sister and boyfriend.

My sister's due date is the 5th, bf's birthday the 7th and mother's the 9th.

I've started thinking about gifts for them. I have budgeted some money for these and want to try and gift a nice non-expensive gift (cheap makes it sound bad).

For my sister I can't really think of anything original, so I want to purchase a sweet little baby blanket at Ikea for 3.99 euro and then sew the name of the baby on it, to personalise. In all honesty I don't think it really matters what I give, she'll get swamped and I'll most definitely get 'outbid' by his family. I have no intention of trying to keep up with them (I don't even know them) and I do want to give a useful gift. I figured, baby blankets get puked on and dirty, she'll probably have use for one more anyway. I like the idea of a personalised blanket, so that's what I'll do :)

For my mother I want to sew something, but I don't know what. She's a pretty independent 50-something year old woman who enjoys hiking and drives a cab for a living. She enjoys going to Germany with her boyfriend where they have a caravan at some camping-site. I'm considering sewing maybe tablecloths for the tables there, with a set of napkins, or perhaps making a fancy laundry-bag (of a recycle shopping-bag and some nice fabric, for when she goes out to the caravan). Not entirely sure yet... Maybe something to pamper herself with, but what? (limited budget, willing to spend time and she'll appreciate that)

Speaking of fabric, I noticed Ikea has some pretty nice fabric. It's not all great and fab, but it can certainly compete with the store where I usually get my fabric. I also noticed they have nice cheap duvet-covers that I could buy just for the fabric. I thought that was pretty good thinking ;)

No clue for boyfriend's birthday though... What can one give a geek that basically has all he wants and needs?

So far, I've only purchased groceries and have not let my temptations get to me, hehe.

Still not sure about going out for dim sum in two weeks. I'd like too, but not sure if I want to spend that money right now. Also noticed it's pretty easy to not even consider things. At work we regularly have outings, that cost a little money. I saw the poster today and immediately thought 'Nope, can't do, No Spending Month!' It feels pretty liberating :)

Giving up.

Though I don't follow any religion I have had a lot of Christian influences in my life (has to do with where I live(d)). Growing up we had Carnival (which shows I grew up down south) and only later I learned this proceeded Lent. Ever since the concept of Lent has intrigued me, not from a religious point of view but more from the challenge point of view.

Lying awake in bed thinking about that and my current situation, I've decided to participate. I will give up frivolous spending and TV for Lent under the following conditions:

  • I read Lent is about fasting but Sunday doesn't count.
  • I will fast on TV shows except on Sunday when I can watch all I want.
  • I will postpone watching that Grey's Anatomy episode till the next Sunday and nobody will give me spoilers!
  • I will go for one dim sum lunch on Sunday march 15.
  • Boyfriend and mother have their birthday, will spend some money on that as well as the birthing day of my sister's child (not frivolous IMHO).
  • I will not spend money on anything else unplanned unless absolutely necessary, which means no booze, no craft supplies, no 'fun' stuff, no iPhone apps, no online ordering. Yes to medical things for me and Nano that can't wait.

As far as I know I'll start wednesday, which is exactly payday. It's a sign ;-)

Financial programs for the mac.

Many people have written about this before, and many more will follow. What can I say, I couldn't help myself.

I like staying on top of my finances, it reduces stress and makes life in general a lot easier. I won't go into the psychological reasons why people get into debt and how to use psychology or blackmail to get yourself out. I merely want to give my thoughts on some of the software for macs out there.

I always look for the best software to fit my needs. I like computers and I feel they should make my life easier. Software can actually do that (and also make us hate it so much we want to drag it outside and beat it to a pulp).

I've tried several financial programs for my personal finance:

  • iBank (OS X, Full version $59.99)
  • Moneydance (OS X, Windows, Linux, $39.99)
  • GnuCash (OS X, Linux, open source, free)
  • MoneyWell (OS X, $49.99 / currently $39.99)

First a list of what I want in personal finance software:

  • Easy to use
  • Easy to set up
  • Easy to maintain
  • Easy to see at a glance how I did in a certain month
  • Budgetting

The software should also not crash and lot eat up my data. Saving my data in some type of file that I can access outside the program scores a lot of extra points. Exporting to .qif or a similar common format sounds good to me as well.

More points get acquired if the program works well on a smaller screen and older mac. I have a iBook G4, a bit of an oldie now, which still works pretty well, but I don't need some fancy new software that only runs on an Intel with 3gb of ram. Personal finance software should not push my mac to its limits.

Behind the cut I will describe my experiences with these four programs and wrap it up with a winner.

I will do the following actions to judge the program:

  • Installation.
  • Open the program (startup-time)
  • Import previous data (a sample .qif file)
  • Create a few transactions
  • Schedule some bills
  • Set up a budget
  • Set up a payment plan for my creditcard / loan.

The sample file has data on a savings account, a credit card and a joint checking account.

Comparison of the programs:


All except GnuCash install easily, GnuCash takes a day or say, not very convenient. It has plenty of dependencies.


Both MoneyDance and MoneyWell start up fast, iBank takes longer and GnuCash takes longest, due to having start up X11 first.

Creating new document.

When you create a new document iBank will create categories without asking. MoneyDance lets you choose between a standard account set and a minimal account set. MoneyWell will ask you to create buckets (categories), which you can deselect if you want. GnuCash lets you choose between a lot of sets of accounts, from basic to extended.


Importing didn't go very well for iBank, which created multiple accounts for the same accounts. Also, the other programs had some problems with transfers. MoneyWell takes considerably longer to import. MoneyWell, MoneyDance and GnuCash let you easily enter the date format, iBank had more issues with it. IBank also required a separate file for each account to import properly. Using one file caused iBank to create ten accounts for the same account, what a mess!

New transactions.

IBank, MoneyDance and MoneyWell let you create a new transaction by pressing :cmd:-N, GnuCash lets you press enter once you set this up in preferences (Register Defaults). Entering doesn't look complicated, the fields have clear names. GnuCash works according to the double-entry bookkeeping, which sounds really complicated but with the default settings the columns will simply say 'Deposit' and 'Withdrawl', which should make it easy enough. The others let you do it in a common people way, nothing wrong with that.

Deleting transactions.

MoneyDance and MoneyWell let you select multiple transactions and delete them easily. MoneyWell has an excellent 'undo' to reverse the deletions. GnuCash makes you delete the transactions one by one. When I tried to delete 20 and then 10 transactions in iBank it started to beachball and crashed on me several times. So this may or may not work.

(note)Due to iBank slowing down my system and crashing / beach-balling a lot up to this point, I had to ditch it. I couldn't handle it anymore after the above tests.


All of the three remaining programs let you schedule bills / payments very easily. You can either enter them by hand or right-click an existing payment and use that, which helps a lot if you have imported previous data. They all have several useful frequency options.

GnuCash will add the transaction into the register based on your preference, say 7 days ahead. Once added you can change it in the register, but changing the scheduled payment will not change the one in the register. GnuCash has no way of 'looking ahead' based on scheduled payments.

Moneydance will put reminders on your 'homepage' or auto-commit them, which will make them show up in your register where you can edit them, and like with GnuCash, it becomes a stand alone payment.

MoneyWell lets you schedule payments and have them show up at the bottom of your register. Changes you make here (apart from date) will trigger a pop-up asking you if you want to change it just for this one or for all future ones as well. By showing future transactions you can also scroll through the graph at the bottom to see your future income and planned spending.


Setting up a budget can help you prevent spending more than your income. MoneyDance lets you set up several budgets and track them in the top bar. It can calculate averages based on previous spending, and has plenty of frequency options (monthly, bi-monthly, weekly etc). You have a live graph at the top that shows how close you are to filling up your budget, but doesn't give you detailed information per budget. You can however create a memorized report to see how you do. It'll update with every transaction, so if you don't mind looking at the numbers, you can track your budget using the report.

GnuCash's budget options work similar to MoneyDance, you can set one up based on your average spending in the previous months. To track it you will have to create a report which does not automatically update, and which can take more than ten seconds to generate. I have not found a way to adjust the column-width, which makes it harder to read. It also does not have any real frequency options. You'll have to enter an annual payment once, in the month you need to pay it, or you have to divide it by twelve and fill it in for each month.

MoneyWell has an extensive budgeting options, its basis for existence. It lets you create a spending plan easily (with the help of your average spending over the past 12 months, or last year's spending) and keep track of your spending as you spend. It updates with every transaction you enter, so you can literally see your money blowing away. Always a nice sight ;). The graph at the bottom serves as a visual reminder for your buckets, which helps you keep yourself on track.

Setting up a payment plan.

MoneyDance allows you to set up a payment plan through an extension called 'Pay Off!' which helps you create a plan for your payments, but does not actually enter the payments into your register. You still have to do this manually, but the plugin does show (with a nice graph) how long it will take and how your debt decreases over time. You can easily create scheduled payments based on this information.