As I mentioned in an earlier article about Moneydance, I am an admitted software junkie. I like software programs that work as designed and do the job I want. Personal finance managers have always been a favorite of mine, especially if they work correctly. In the comments following the Moneydance article, I promised to write an article about KMyMoney, which is the other personal finance manager I use, so here you go.
KMyMoney is a true open-source program that surprised me when I first started using it. I didn’t even know it existed until my brother told me about it and I didn’t really know what to expect from the program, but I was very pleased by it’s feature set and by it’s overall look and feel. There are two different versions of the program that are available for download. The first is Version 0.8.9 and it is listed as the stable version. The other is the 0.9.3 development version and it is the version I use. Although it is considered a development version, I have found no reason not to use it. It is designed to look and fit well into KDE and it does a good job at that. KMyMoney has the basic functions of any personal finance program, ie. bank register, payment schedules, online stock quotes, budget functions, etc. Some of them, I do not use, but I will outline those that I do.
Before actually entering transactions or schedules, a new money file has to be set up. It’s a very simple operation and one KMyMoney prompts you to do when you first open the program. From there, you can create a new account, which is also very simple to do. It asks the usual questions and has places for the account number and the opening balance. I use three accounts; one bank account and two credit card accounts. After setting up the accounts, you are ready to start using the program.
The first thing that is seen when the program opens up is the Home screen and it is highly configurable. I have it slimmed down a lot, as you can see in the screenshot below, but there are a number of ways to set it up. Just go to Settings/Configure KMyMoney and pick and choose. It is very straight forward to choose the items you want on the home screen and configure the order in which they appear. I will say that some of the items appear to be redundant, but keep in mind that KMyMoney is very much of a work in progress and I fully expect the appearance and configuration options to improve as the program is developed over time. Here is what the prefs look like, as well as the home screen itself.
If you have been using a personal finance program for any length of time, you will know that the bulk of your time in the program is spent in the bank register or what accountants may call the ledger. This is where you enter transactions.As with the home screen, there are a number of configuration options for the register. The user has the option to insert group headers into the register that break the transactions up into groups for past and future transactions. I find these group headers useful, but it is really a matter of user preference. There is a transaction form at the bottom of the register and it is navigated by using the Tab key, although there is an option to navigate through the form by using the enter key.
One thing that I have found in the register that I am not yet comfortable with is the way it handles the transaction type or number field. Most of my transactions are in the form of a debit card and it would be useful for me if the program would remember transaction types. Although the prefs has the option to insert a transaction type into the number field for new transactions, the option doesn’t seem to work for me. It isn’t something I can’t live with because it doesn’t take very long for me to type in five letters. If you use an actual check more than I do, KMyMoney has the option to automatically increase the check number with each transaction. Here is a screenshot of the register.
As you can see in the image, I have my cleared and reconciled transactions hidden, but with the keyboard shortcut of Ctrl + R, they can be shown. (That shortcut is configurable, by the way.) For those of you who prefer to have all of your transactions showing for certain time periods, such as the current fiscal year, there is an option in the prefs that allows you to show all the transactions and filter them with a date filter. As I have said, KMyMoney is highly configurable and I have found myself learning new things about the program every time I use it.
Another thing I like about KMyMoney is how it shows me the balances at the bottom of the register. I do my best to keep the program synchronized with my online bank statement and showing the register and cleared balances in plain view helps me do that. I can see in an instant if the cleared balance is different than the online balance. This helps prevent any mistakes I might make from being undiscovered and keeps me out of trouble.
KMyMoney has a reconciliation tool which can be very useful if you have a lot of transactions to clear at one setting. It allows you to enter an ending balance and it shows you the difference at the bottom of the register as you mark each transaction cleared and reconciled. I use the the tool if I have been away from the computer for several days and have more than just a few transactions to catch up on. Otherwise, I have configured a keyboard shortcut of “R” to mark individual transactions as reconciled and I can see at a glance if my cleared balance is in error with the actual bank balance. Each method works just fine, it’s just a matter of user preference.
As with any personal finance program, KMyMoney would be incomplete without scheduled transactions. I find them very useful in keeping my finances straight and I use them for more than just normal bills that I pay every month. For example, my wife usually spends around $100 at a grocery store called Aldi’s every two weeks. I use the scheduled transaction feature to enter that transaction into the register every two weeks and I can adjust the transaction amount as needed. The schedule can also be used to keep track of the payments I make to credit card companies. I use the transfer feature to enter a payment from my main bank account to the credit card account and KMyMoney has handled them flawlessly so far.
KMyMoney has a number of reports that can be accessed and customized to fit the user’s needs. You can choose betwen pie or bar charts or a simple list, it’s all up to you and how you like to view the reports. You can also save a default or customized report as a favorite and have them shown on the home screen for easy access. I don’t use the reports all that much, but they are there if I need to see a detailed view of what I have been spending.
One of the things that I believe is a basic necessity of any personal finance program is the way it saves and backups it’s files. KMyMoney has the option to automatically save the file I am working on at an interval set by the user. I have it set at five minutes, but it is easily changed. The program also has a button on the toolbar to backup the file, which I do before I close the program. It will ask you where you want the backup to be saved and I find it better to save it in a completely different location than the main program file. That allows me to have a backup if I change Linux distros. I have also had the occasion to use the backup when the main program file was corrupted. I was able to restore the backup with no problems and went right along with my business. If I could make only one request to the developers of KMyMoney, I would ask for automatic backups. Those would really be handy to have, but that doesn’t stop me from using the program.
If it’s not plain to see already, I like KMyMoney. I have found it every bit as easy to use as Moneydance, which I paid $29.99 for. Paying for a program isn’t necessarily a bad thing and being free and open source doesn’t necessarily make KMyMoney a good program, but I have found it to be a good and dependable piece of software. It is made all the more so by the fact that there are only eight developers working on the software. If you use Windows, you are simply out of luck, but if you use Linux, I suggest you give KMyMoney a try. I don’t think you will be disappointed.