Quicken for Mac 12-Month Budget: Overview and Getting Started
About Quicken Budgets
A Budget lets you set monthly goals for how much you expect to spend (or earn) and then track your progress against that goal.
The 12 Month Budget allows you to setup a comprehensive, yearly plan. You can budget recurring income and expenses, seasonal variations, infrequent events like Tax payments or special events like Vacations or Holiday plans. On the Budget Setup screen you can see your 12-month plan—including the net of your inflows and outflows per month as well as cumulative yearly total.
Once your budget is in place, the Budget View allows you to track your progress as the month progresses. Highlighting areas where you overspend (or spend less than expected) by month, drill down to see the actual spending in a particular category, or see see cumulative Year to Date total to see how you’re tracking across multiple months.
You can edit, change or update your budget at any time. You can also create multiple budgets to track different aspects of your financial life. For example, if you don’t need a comprehensive budget, you might want to create a budget just to track your various entertainment expenses, or just your work or small business income and expenses. Or, you might want to create separate budgets for different members of your family.
Categories: A Key Concept for Budgeting in Quicken
Quicken budgets are based on your categorized transactions. You create your budget by selecting the categories you’d like to track in your budget. Then, categorized Income and Expense transactions from all accounts will be included in your budget for that category. (Note: Only cash transactions in investing accounts for which you can apply a category are included.)
If you see a transaction that is impacting your budget and has been miss-categorized, you can change the category in your account Register.
A few “special” categories are always ignored by the budget and are not tracked:
- Transfer: Credit Card Payment
- or any other subcategory under the “Transfer” category
Creating a new Budget
If this is your first budget:
- Click on the “Budget” option in the sidebar.
- You will see a Getting Started screen that briefly introduces some budgeting features. You can click through these images by clicking the arrow buttons. When you’re ready, click Start Budgeting.
- Next, quicken will scan your existing transactions to automatically create a budget based on your past income and expense history. The rules for what shows in your budget are:
- Transactions from the last 12 months are scanned (older transactions are ignored).
- Any categories that were used in the last 12 months are included by default (you can change this later).
- The actual income/expense values from the past 12 months become your default budget values for the 12 months included in the budget (you can change these values at any time). Examples:
- If you had a single transaction for $75 each month in a category called “Phone Bill”, Quicken sets a $75 budget for this category for each month.
- If you had a $1,000 transaction categorized as “Property Tax” in April of of last year and a $1,200 transaction categorized as “Property Tax” in September of last year, Quicken sets a $1,000 budget for Property Tax for April, a $1,200 budget for Property Tax in September and a $0 budget for Property tax for all other months.
- If you have an expense category like “Shopping” that varies greatly from month-to-month, the default values you see in your budget for “Shopping” are the actual values for transactions categorized as “Shopping” in the previous year—and thus will vary from month-to-month.
- After Quicken completes the analysis (this could take a little time for large data files), you will see your default budget based on your historical spending patterns.
- Please Note: This is just a tool to get you started.
After the initial budget is generated, we strongly recommend you spend some time reviewing the budget and adjusting the values and categories to fit your particular situation. For example:
- Historical spending (or income) categories that are no longer relevant and can be removed.
- Adjust budgets in areas where you want to reduce spending.
- Remove unnecessary detail by budgeting just top-level categories.
- Make a plan for a reduction in spending over time.
- Add categories or budget items for upcoming life events which are not reflected in the previous year.
- Adjust or remove budget items for periodic spending events that may differ in the coming year—such as travel or vacations.
- Please Note: This is just a tool to get you started.
In short, the goal of this initial budget creation is to kick start your budgeting and goal setting process by providing information and details on what happened in the past. You will need to spend some time thinking about your own goals and your specific financial situation to create a budget appropriate for you.
We suggest that you revisit your budget at least monthly to see how you are progressing towards your goals and to make adjustments where needed.
The Budget View
You will see the Budget View screen after your initial budget is generated. Don’t worry if it doesn’t look perfect at first, you can customize it to fit your needs (see previous points and next section).
Here are some highlights of this screen.
Editing your Budget
To edit your budget, click the Edit Budget link in the header.
This will bring up the Budget Edit Sheet. Use the edit sheet to set change your budget’s name, start month, and budget values.
Using the Edit Sheet
To edit your budget values, simply type into the fields.
- Rollup values (Top-level category sums, income and expense sums) are recalculated as you make changes so you can see the impact of every edit.
- Use your keyboard to quickly move around the screen
- Tab > forward
- Shift + Tab > backward
- Enter to move down (when Quickfill isn’t selected)
- Navigate with arrow keys
- Quickly copy budget values with keyboard shortcuts:
- Copy selected value to months > ⌘ =
- Copy selected value forward > ⌘ . (or ⌘ > )
- Copy selected value backwards > ⌘ , (or ⌘ < )
- Let Quicken do the math with Quickfill options.
- Type a value and choose how that value should be spread across the 12-month range.
- For example, if you spend about $30 per week on gas, type “30” and select the “$30 per week” option and Quicken will calculate the monthly value:
- ($30 x 52 weeks) / 12 months = $130 per month
- Note that these calculated values always apply to all 12 months and will replace any existing budget value for that category.
- If you make a mistake, just click Cancel to discard your changes.
By default, quicken will create a budget for the current calendar year starting in January. Past months will be prefilled with the actual values from those months and will be budget neutral (no difference value) by default. However, you can change the starting month or year at any time—for example if you’d like to start budgeting this month (the month you start your budget in Quicken) instead of the calendar year. Or if you’re budgeting for a different fiscal year.
Adding or Removing Categories from Your Budget
You can add or remove categories from your budget at any time. Just click Select Categories.
Budget Category Picker
The Budget category picker will be familiar if you’ve ever created a custom report. Use the category picker to add or remove categories from your Budget.
Budgeting Top-Level Categories
Many categories in Quicken are arranged in a list or tree—with a Top-Level category that contains multiple subcategories.
When you add a Top-Level category to your budget, this will include transaction activity for all transactions in that category grouping even if you do not explicitly select the subcategories for inclusion in your Budget.
For example, using the “Bills & Utilities” example above, all of the subcategories are selected. Therefore, you will need to set a budget value for each selected subcategory and each subcategory will be displayed on the budget view. (Note: Any transactions categorized with just the parent category, “Bills & Utilities” in this example, are also included. Therefore, it is possible to have a Top-level category budget value that is greater than the sum of all the child categories.)
This is useful if you want to closely monitor each subcategory in your budget view, or if you tend to have set, fixed expenses in a subcategory that you want to plan for/project forward into the future.
Here’s a different example:
In this case, budgeting the Top-level only will still include spending from all subcategories in this group. However, you will only be required to set a budget value for the selected, Top-level category and only that category will display in the Budget View.
This is useful for variable expense categories like “Entertainment” where the total amount spent is the thing you’re interested in tracking—and when you’re not interested in the subcategory items. In this example, you may decide you want to spend only $100 per month on Entertainment, but you don’t need to plan whether that spending is on Movies, Music, etc. You just care about the total spending in this group. Budgeting just $100 for “Entertainment” will allow you to track spending from all the subcategories without having to define budget values for each subcategory.
This is also useful for a category grouping that you regularly add new subcategories to or for deep groupings (with many levels of subcategories). Budgeting the Top-level category ensures that spending from all subcategories are always included.
Budget View Graphs and Preferences
Click the gear icon on the far right of the Budget View filter bar to see Budget view Preferences.
Budget preferences are located in the main Quicken preference window and apply to all budgets.
There are three graphs options:
Graph Remaining – Graphs the value remaining or left over for the month.
- For expenses:
- This style starts full/green at the beginning of the month and gets shorter as you spend money.
- If you go over budget, the graph starts building back up in red as you go further over budget.
- For Income:
- This style starts full/red at the beginning of the month and gets shorter as your income is received.
- If you get more income than you budgeted for, the graph starts building back up in green as you exceed your income targets.
- This graph style always displays the proportion you are over or under budget and generally the more green you see the better—as these indicate categories where you have not met or exceeded your budget. The more red you see the more over budget you are.
- If your budget is met exactly, the graph displays as a neutral gray color.
- For expenses:
- Graph Actual – Graphs the actual value spent (or received) for the month. This is the style that is always used on the 1-Month view and is found in some other budgeting tools.
- For expenses:
- This style starts empty and begins to turn green and gets longer as you spend money.
- If you go over budget, the graph turns full red.
- For Income:
- This style starts empty and begins to turn red and gets longer as you receive your income.
- If you get more income than you budgeted for, the graph displays as full green.
- This graph displays the proportion only as your spending/receiving income. Once you go over budget (or exceed your income target) the graph is “full” and no longer displays a proportional value.
- For expenses:
- None – Displays no graph.
We encourage you to play with the available options and choose the style that you like best.
Delete a Budget
To delete an existing budget:
- Select the Budget you’d like to delete in the Sidebar.
- From the main menu bar select Budgets > Delete Budgets… (Or control + click the Budget name in the Sidebar and select Delete “Budget name”.)
Change the name of your Budget
To change the name of an existing budget:
- While viewing your budget click Edit Budget.
- While viewing the Edit Sheet just enter the new new name in the Budget Name field.
Or control + click the Budget name in the Sidebar and select Rename “Budget name” and make the change right in the sidebar.
Create more than one Budget
If you already have a budget setup but with to create an additional budget:
- From the main menu bar select Budgets > New Budget. This will display a new Getting Started screen.
- Click Start Budgeting (see also the Create a new Budget help topic for more on how a budget is generated.)
Or control + click on any existing Budget name in the Sidebar and select Create a new Budget.