Managing Expenses and Cash Flow – Part 3: FinanceBase


Managing Expenses FinanceBase Plan GraphThe spreadsheet discussed in Part 2 is very flexible and provides very good insight into how your actual cash flow compares to the plan on the many tables and charts provided. However, there is more that can be done to help you, especially if you have an at-home business or want to keep a long-term record of your income and expenses. If you want a more robust and full-featured application as an alternative to the spreadsheet, FinanceBase is a very good option and is discussed in this part.

This is Part 3 of a four-part post.

  • Part 1: Why – The reasons for managing your expenses and why it is difficult to do so are given.
  • Part 2: Spreadsheet – An explanation of how to use the Cash Flow spreadsheet is provided. You may download it by clicking on Download Spreadsheet.
  • Part 3: FinanceBase – Only so much can be done with a spreadsheet. A more robust and full-featured application as an alternative to the spreadsheet is discussed.
  • Part 4: Design – A summary of the design of some of the features of the spreadsheet and the posts is presented.

September 5, 2018 Update

The links to the FinanceBase products have been changed because the website was redone a few years ago to move all of the products to posts.

FinanceBase Overview For Cash Flow

You can view all of the features of FinanceBase by clicking on this link to FinanceBase-Finances Overview. The product discussed here is FinanceBase-Finances.

The spreadsheet of Part 2, which is provided free of charge, was inspired by the features included in FinanceBase which was developed a few years ago to keep track of expenses, accounts and cash flow involved in personal or small business finances. Download and try FinanceBase as a Demo for 31 days. If it suits your needs, order a License for $30.00.

The specific features of FinanceBase that relate to Cash Flow, Income and Expenses are as follows:

1) Within-Month Cash Flow by using the Transactions window to record Income and Expenses and assigning them to Categories and Accounts. This is not provided by the spreadsheet of Part 2.

2) Transaction Cash Flow is shown on a separate window from Transactions and is updated each time a transaction is changed. This is similar to what the spreadsheet of Part 2 provides but is more extensive, for example, you can select which Categories to show.

3) Monthly Plan vs Actual Cash Flow is done in the Cash Flow Planning window by using a spreadsheet-like area for setting the planned income and expenses for a year, by month. Charts are also provided. The actuals as entered in the Transactions window (or via the download feature discussed below) can be compared to the plan. This is equivalent to what the spreadsheet of Part 2 provides but is more extensive.

4) Cash Flow Actual is also a separate window but it is not updated immediately. It shows only the actual income and expenses for a year, up to the last recorded Transaction plus the change to Accounts. Categories and Accounts can be selected and the year or specific dates can be set. There are monthly and daily charts as well as a detail listing by day or month. The spreadsheet does not provide this capability.

5) Year to Year Lifetime Cash Flow is provided by including FinanceBase-Lifetime Finances that takes your present income and expenses and projects them from now to up to 40 years after your retirement. It shows how your assets, income and expenses will change for whatever inflation and interest rates you set and takes into account income taxes, registered deposits, pensions, mandatory retirement payouts and much more. The cost of both Finances and Lifetime Finances is $50.00. This is not provided by the spreadsheet of Part 2.

The description that follows is taken from the User Manual that is available when the application is downloaded. It is also provided by a context-sensitive Help.

Each screenshot shown below is explained in detail in the manual. This brief overview is only intended to show what is available. Depending on your screen size, the screenshots may be too small to see. You can view them in a larger size by using the “contextual menu” to open a new Window with the screenshot. Hover over the screenshot and right-click if you are using Windows or control-click if you are using a Mac.

Transactions

Transactions are used to capture detail on expenditures and income by assigning them to Categories. These categories are then used throughout the application, for example, to perform a Cash Flow analysis and determine taxes.

The Transaction table can be thought of as a ledger for recording all financial items of interest and assigning them to Categories, Jobs and Accounts.

When the Transactions menu item is selected from the Finances menu, the Finances-List window opens and will show all records, unless a default search has been set. The records found will not be sorted unless a default Sort has been set.

Each record is shown on one line, divided into four areas as shown in the screenshot of a Transaction-List window. You can preload transactions for a month using a menu item with utility and major expenses as well as income. Because each transaction can be assigned to an account, you can see the “within-month” cash flow and you can take action to ensure that there is always enough money or delay expenses until there is enough.Managing Expenses FinanceBase Transactions-List Window

New Transactions can be entered and then changed at any time by using the Transactions-Input window which is shown in the screenshot below:Managing Expenses FinanceBase Transactions-Input Window

Downloading Transactions

Using receipts to enter transactions can often be a time-consuming effort. For those receipts that were applied to an account (such as a charge card, or a chequing account), and there is internet access to a statement of the account, this time can be significantly reduced. By downloading the data from the account to a Transaction Download window, each receipt can be quickly saved as a transaction record, by a simple drag-and-drop of one item to a new Transaction record or saving many items to new Transaction records, rather than by typing.

Data from another application can also be loaded into this application by using the Transactions Download window. What is required is an output from the other application that places the data for each transaction on a single line. For example, a Tab-delimited or comma separated file or copied data would be appropriate. Even Quicken-line output can be used. Once the data is available, follow the instructions for using a file given below or the sections on Import and Export Header buttons.

When the Transactions Download window opens, five buttons, three drop-down menus and a text area are visible. If a file was saved above, click on the Use File button and find and then open the file. If data was copied, click on the Use Clipboard button. In either case, a number of items become visible and the Text area is filled with the data from the file or clipboard.Managing Expenses FinanceBase Download 1

For data from another application that is formatted properly as indicated in the Import Button area below, click on the Import button instead of using the Use File or Use Clipboard buttons.

When a format is selected, the window changes and the data in the text area is formatted into arrays. If the data does not match or an error occurs, try another format. There is an AMEX format file in the Examples folder when the application is downloaded. Other formats are easy to define using the Make Format window that is described in the manual. I am prepared to provide you with a format file if you send an example of the copied date to the support email address as found on the Contact page (under the More menu at the top of the page). This page has two parts:

  • – Drag and Drop Description to a Transaction Input Record and
  • – Save to New Transaction Records

Either can be used to create Transaction records from the downloaded data. The Drag and Drop area in the left-half of the window looks like the following:Managing Expenses FinanceBase Download 2

The Save to New Transaction Records is in the right-half of the window and looks like the following screenshot.Managing Expenses FinanceBase Download 3

Any lines in the formatted array that have a Ready in the Status column can be saved to new Transaction records. Any new Transaction records are shown in a Transactions-List window that opens automatically. The Ready Status is changed to Saved.

Transaction Cash Flow

This window provides a real-time cash flow for the current year as Transaction records are entered and changed. It graphically shows which months have more income than expenses, or vice versa and if the cumulative cash flow up to the latest month is positive or negative. Previous years can also be shown.Managing Expenses FinanceBase Transaction Cash Flow Window

Cash Flow Planning

Setting of a plan for a year and comparing it to actual transactions is done in the Cash Flow Planning window. The spreadsheet-like area is on the Arrays Page and it contains the Page buttons, the Plan array with a row of buttons and variable, the Totals array, the Categories array and a number of buttons and drop-down menus and the Extras array, also with a number of buttons. The complete page is shown below. Because it is hard to see, screenshots of each area are given later.Managing Expenses FinanceBase Cash Flow Planning Arrays

A plan can be saved for later use and changes to create different versions of a plan are easy to do. Multiple windows can be opened to compare different versions of the plan or different years. A listing by month that compares the plan to actuals is provided. All data can be exported and all pages can be printed.

How to use this window is fully explained in the user manual and is very similar to using the Excel spreadsheet that is described in Part 2. Some screenshots are included here to provide an overview of what is available.

Plan Area

Managing Expenses FinanceBase Plan Area 1

Totals ArrayManaging Expenses FinanceBase Plan Area 2

Categories Area

Managing Expenses FinanceBase Plan Area 3

Managing Expenses FinanceBase Plan Area 4

Extras Area

Managing Expenses FinanceBase Plan Area 5

Cash Flow Graphs Page

The Cash Flow graphs are similar to what is available on the spreadsheet of Part 2 but the monthly amounts are charted on a separate chart from the Cumulative amounts. The Actuals can be added or removed with the click of button. These charts can also be modified to show selected Groups, Subtypes, Names and Categories for detail analysis.

Managing Expenses FinanceBase Cash Flow Planning Graph

Cash Flow Actual

This window shows only the actual income and expenses for a year, up to the last recorded Transaction plus the change to accounts. Categories and Accounts can be selected and the year or specific dates can be set. There are monthly and daily charts as well as a detail listing by day or month.Managing Expenses FinanceBase Cash Flow Actual

Accounts

Assets and liabilities are kept in Account records. Normal accounts are those kept in a banking institution (e.g. chequing, savings), a credit institution (e.g. charge cards) or a brokerage institution (e.g. shares). However, anything can be entered that is to be tracked and managed. For example, property values can be entered.

There are a number of windows and menu items that are available to manage Accounts. The following describes only a few of them.

The Accounts-List window permits the display of these records based on user-defined search criteria.Managing Expenses FinanceBase Accounts-List Window
The Accounts-Input window can be used to enter a new asset or liability and then changed at any time.Managing Expenses FinanceBase Accounts-Input Windows
Selecting Accounts Summary from the Finances menu opens a window that shows the latest amount for the records in either all active Accounts, those that are used with transactions or those actually used in a transaction. This window is updated automatically each time an Account or Transaction changes.Managing Expenses FinanceBase Accounts Summary Window
The Accounts Analysis window provides a method of using all of the Accounts records to analyze and graph how the value of the accounts have changed over time. They can be analyzed by three of the account fields (Liquidity, Owner, and Type), total worth and due date.

Go to Part 4: Design