1. Computing

Quicken 2012's Budget Tool: Looks Aren't Everything

New Budget Baffles Users

By

This is a sample of what the new budget feature looks like in Quicken 2012.

Quicken 2012 Sample Budget

Intuit / Quicken
Updated: 01/30/2013

Quicken 2012 promised and delivered on a completely new and overhauled budget tool feature, but the implementation of that tool is no improvement over budgeting in earlier versions of the Windows personal finance software. In its current form, the budget in Quicken 2012 proves to be a hassle to work with.

Soon after I published my Quicken 2012 review, giving the software very high marks in part based on what seemed like a very slick new budgeting tool, the complaints started rolling in via reviews from my readers. Most complaints were about the new budgeting feature, which readers said was difficult to use, didn't allow for negative amounts, and making changes for one month would mess up the entire year. One reader noted that an added frustration was speaking to a support representative who did not clearly speak or comprehend English when trying to solve the currently unsolvable budget problems.

Complaints Online

Going beyond the reader reviews and out to the Web, Alan Bornmueller has filed a petition on Change.org to try to force Quicken to fix the budget in the 2012 version. The petition mentions that customer support is suggesting that until there's a patch, users should reset the computer system clock to remedy the problem. Asking people to change their computer set up to accommodate the software is reprehensible.

More users are voicing their issues with the budget on GetSatisfaction.com, where complaints mention the lack of ability to enter negative numbers into the budget plan, to see 12 months ahead in the tool as was the case in earlier versions, and the budget no longer tracks transfers between accounts. To make matters worse, when you upgrade from an earlier version to Quicken 2012, the amounts budgeted to negative numbers in the old version become positive numbers in the new version, effectively ruining the budget the user had in place.

Quicken Support Pages

Technical support pages for Quicken 2012 address some significant problems with the budget tool as well (some or all of these may be fixed in one of the patches which will likely be released throughout the next year or so):

  • 10/12/2011 Payroll Tax Expense Categories do not Report Transactions to Budget
    This issue affects Quicken Home & Business, where categories used for tracking employer withheld payroll taxes and other items that are reportable on a W2, are not reporting values on the Budget. Categories using some tax line assignments for W2, 1040 and Schedule A are involved. Quicken recommends three options to work around the problem. One is changing tax line assignments on the category, unless they will be exported to TurboTax. There is no mention of what one is to do if exporting to TurboTax is planned. For more information, use the link to the support page above and search on the article ID GEN83530.
  • 2/13/2012 Budget Report Displays Incorrect Values after Installing R5 Update in Quicken 2012
    The Quicken 2012 budget report displays a negative value in the budgeted column after installing the R5 update for categories set up using the Advanced Budget Setup using the Specific, rather than Average, option. Users were asked to edit the budget using Advanced Setup and enter the specific values as negative. This could be time consuming for the average to complex budget. If you need more information about this issue, search on GEN84104 from the Quicken Support page.
  • 3/15/2012 Quicken Windows 2012 Budgets Unexpected Category Usage
    Using the Simple Budget in Quicken Windows 2012, if you used a subcategory in a transaction, it would display as the total on the budget instead of the parent category. Advanced View and Reports will include all levels from the budget. Product Development is looking into improving the design in the future, based on customer feedback. See article GEN84348 on the support page for more information.
  • 03/15/2012 Quicken 2012 Budgets Update
    Some defects to the budget tool were inadvertently introduced by the R5 patch for Quicken 2012. If you receive the message "Update was not complete" or "Quicken not updated", please use the mondo patch (aka R6) for this release. This patch resolves an issue where editing a budget amount for a category set to "Specific" would subtract the amount, resulting in an incorrect total. The patch will correct the amount. If you need this patch, read the instructions and download it.

Final Observations and Refunds

When the R6 patch mentioned above was released an announcement in the Quicken Live Community acknowledged that other problems remained unsolved with the budget tool, are still being researched, and "may be resolved on a future patch release." The choice of the words "may be" in this message concerned me because it implies that the budget tool may never be completely fixed. I asked my contact at Quicken about this, but haven't received an answer.

If you recently bought Quicken 2012 and you want a refund, contact Intuit within 60 days of purchase, following the published refund procedures.

What's Next

I emailed my contact at Quicken and asked for her comments on the issue, but after several days, she has not responded. If I get a response, this article will be updated, and updates will be posted to my Facebook page and Twitter, and will be published in my weekly newsletter.

The bottom line is that the budget feature should have been thoroughly tested by users, which may have happened in Quicken's beta testing community. My opinion is that either testing was nowhere near thorough, or test subjects were ignored when reporting the problems with the tool to developers. I just don't see how bugs of this magnitude could have simply slipped through the cracks.

If you have a simple budget that you are unlikely to go back and adjust for the rest of the year, then the budget tool will likely work fine for you for the most part. But, if that's not your budgeting habit, stick with Quicken 2011, buy Quicken 2013 (budget tool was overhauled and is now functional, try another personal finance software for Windows or take your money management online.

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.