Category Reporting in Moneydance

Categories aren’t new to personal finance software.  A category is just a bucket in which to track spending.  You could have categories for Food, Entertainment, Auto, Utilities, and more.  I won’t go into great detail here; you can read the Moneydance documentation for more information.  I’m going to assume you have a rudimentary understanding of what categories are and how they’re used.

The point of this article is to provide examples of useful categories and subcategories, and some tricks on reporting on them.  This is by no means a definitive guide on the subject; rather it’s more of a set of examples to illustrate how I’ve come to use them.

Categories are easy to create.  Click on Tools -> Categories from the main menu.

You’ll be presented with a list of existing categories.  Moneydance also displays the type (Income or Expense), the balance, and the grand total.

One thing to keep in mind is that categories are really just accounts in category’s clothing.  Moneydance presents them as logically different, but functionally they’re the same.  But I don’t want to get off-topic here; it’s not important for this purposes of this article.  It just explains why there are balances in your categories.

So let’s say you want to track your spending on your car.  You can create a category called Auto then, when you spend money on your car, you assign that spending to the Auto category.  To create a new category click on the “New” button at the bottom of the box showing your categories.

Click “Next”.  Enter the name of the category, plus any comments.

Now that’s fine, if you only ever want to track one car, or if you don’t care how much each car cost you.  I want to keep track of how expensive each car is, plus I want to track certain types of spending for each car.

To do this, I’ll select Auto from the list of categories, then go through the category creation process again.  This time I’ll create a subcategory called Kia Sorento EX under Auto.  A subcategory looks just like a regular category, except that it’s parent is another category (and not the Root account).

Once that’s complete, I’ll then click on Kia Sorento EX from the list of categories, and go through the new category creation process again, creating a subcategory under my subcategory.

I track things like repairs, maintenance, fuel, depreciation, inspections and more for each car, so I’ll run through the creation process until I’ve built all my subcategories.  I try to keep my subcategories to no more than four, if possible.  When I’m finished I end up with this:

I can now, for example, track how much I spent on repairs for my car for the past year or so.  If I’m spending too much, I might decide to buy a new one.  I don’t send any money into the parent Auto account, nor the Kia Sorento EX account.  I create subaccounts for all my spending, so I can more easily graph it (more on this below).  In this case the parent accounts become more like category groups.

Graphs

So now I want to make a useful graph in order to visualize my spending on my Kia.  Let’s say I want to see how much it’s cost me over the past twelve months.  I can create a graph with a pie chart showing the distribution of spending between my subaccouts, along with a line chart showing the spending totals by subcategory per month.

To create this graph I’ll first select Tools -> Graphs and Reports from the main menu.

 

You’ll be presented with a list of available graphs and reports.  Click the Expenses graph.  Change the Date dropdown to Last 12 months, then deselect the Show Top option.  Leaving this checked will show the top N number of expenses; we want to explicitly choose ours.  I’ll also choose to group this by month.

Click the “None” button to clear any pre-selected categories, then scroll down to your newly-created subcategories.

Here’s where we select our subcategories for the graph.  Graphing will automatically rollup, so you only want to check the subcategories at the same level.  In other words, selecting Kia Sorento EX by itself will sum to the same total as all the subcategories underneath it.  Of course then you wouldn’t be able to see how the expenses break out.  If you include the parent, you’ll overstate.  Again, this report is only to show us the distribution of expenses within the subcategories under Kia Sorento EX.

When we click “Generate” we see the report.

So what I’ve done now is create a graph that shows me the distribution of expenses for my Kia Sorento over the past 12 completed months.  The “stacked” option shows effectively “unrolls” the pie chart above onto a period with intervals below.  If you uncheck the “stacked” option, you’ll get a simple line chart:

You may find this more to your liking.  I haven’t found any use for the “cumulative” option.

Memorize

Now I want to save this report so I can run it again, right from the Moneydance home page, with a single click.  I’ve chosen a dynamic date range (last 12 months) which is relative to the time I’m running the report.  It’ll always give me the last twelve completed months relative to the current month.

Click on “Memorize” at the bottom of the report.  You’ll br presented with this box:

Give your report a name you’ll remember, then click “OK”.

I prefix my reports with a “group” name so they’ll sort together on the home page.  I have four distinct groupings: INCOME & EXPENSE, NET WORTH, RETIRMENT & INVESTING, and BUDGETING.

Now that you’ve memorized the report you can easily rerun it from the Moneydance home page.

I find that categorizing things in this fashion allows me the ability to track expenses at a very granular level.  I can keep things simple by budgeting at the parent category, while still tracking the lower-level expense distribution.

I can also re-create this for any kind of spending category, reproducing the same type of graphing.  I could do this for Utilities (electric, phone, gas, trash, water), for Food (Dining Out, Grocery, Snacks), or most anything else.  You can memorize reports for all of these groups of subcategories, so you won’t have to build them from scratch each month.  The software provides you the ability to be as general or specific as you want when tracking expenses, along with the ability to create some useful graphs.

I hope this article gave you some ideas on how to utilize categories in Moneydance.  Good luck.

 

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9 Replies to “Category Reporting in Moneydance”

  1. Hi,

    I have found your post very useful; I switched to Moneydance from Money 3 years ago, with 8 years of multi currency data.
    I am always on the look on how people track their expenses (and I keep re-organising my categories)
    I you were willing to show us you categories and sub-categories (confidential data redacted, of course).

    Cheers,

    Charles

    1. I went through a lot of category reorganization recently too. I could post a list of the important ones that I think might have value to others (some of my categories are very specific to my own needs). Generally I try not to go deeper than three layers where possible. I also utilize transaction tags to augment my categories, usually for one-off type situations. That allows me to maintain fewer categories and keep them more generic.

      Let me get something together and I’ll get it posted, hopefully within a few days or so.

  2. I’m a little late to the game, but I just wanted to express my interest in getting some guidance on parent/child budget categories. I’m just getting started with Moneydance for Mac – FINALLY converting from Quicken. I’d like to overhaul my current budgeting categories, as they’ve just been hodge podged together over the years.

    Any advice you have time to offer would be most appreciated.

    Thanks!
    Kevin

    1. I overhauled a lot of my categories after I switched from Quicken. What I found is that I ended up consolidating more than a few of them. Sometimes I straight up merged them, other times I kept them somewhat separate by making them subcategories beneath a single parent category. That simplifies reporting and budgeting.

      I tend to sub-divide my categories, but I like to track things down to a minute level. If I were giving advice though, I’d recommend keeping fewer categories. It’s easier to maintain and analyze. Besides, you can alternatively group transactions with tags. (I wrote about transaction tags here on this website a while back).

      So the short version…I’d simplify the categories and use tags to alternatively roll up multiple transactions. Tags are theoretically unlimited too. The sums aren’t additive, but that’s not a huge deal.

      Hope that was helpful. Let me know if you have any other questions.

      Brian

  3. Brian,

    I deal with multiple currencies regularly (USD, INR, THB). Our finances and budgets are all in US even though we spend a majority of the year in India and some in Thailand. I’ll give you an example of my situation… I receive my pay in USD from the USA. I budget out how much money I want to spend on food… lets say $200/month. Out of that I may spend 50usd, 3000inr, and 3000thb (total roughly $200). When I spend my INR, or THB, i would like not only that my USD food budget to decrease accordingly but I would like to have a running total of my food budget “balance”… this isn’t such a big deal with my food budget, but is it a much bigger deal with medical expenses, and other expenses. My work around is that I have created multiple savings accounts with capitalone360 that I am always adjusting the balances of at the end of the month. This is overly complex and it seems like moneydance should be able to work in this way. My challenge with “asset accounts” is that they can only have one currency in them. In a test, I fiddled with a category for food, making sub categories for different currencies, which seems to have some promise and the expense report comes out nicely, but I cant find a way to see a running balance of the parent category.

    Any thoughts are greatly welcomed.

    david

    1. just for clarification… I would like to have a running balance of my “account” which would include all of my expenses and incomes such as medical, insurance, communications, food, clothing, etc… as well as be able to input expenses and income in multiple currencies and see a running balance in USD for each of those categories. It seems a bit complex, but basically moneydance is already doing all of this, it just isn’t tallying my running balance for the categories. My “asset” account setup is like this “Main USD account” with a sub-account for both INR and THB expenses. When i enter the INR expenses/income is directly effects the parent account which is good, but I have not been able to get the budget to work across currencies. I have also set up parent categories such as food, then below that Food:INRgroceries and Food:USDgroceries, etc.

      What happens is that if I want to Budget 200usd for food… that is the parent category, yet if I spend 3000inr ($50usd) on the sub category INRfood, it doesn’t adjust budget for the parent category. Anyway, any suggestions are appreciated.

      David

      1. Hi David,

        To be honest, I’ve never used multiple currencies in Moneydance. I’ve used the budgeting feature in the past, but since my wife handles most of that on pen and paper outside of MD I kinda just stopped updating the MD budget.

        I’m thinking you might be better served by posting your question to the Moneydance forums. There are some real heavy-hitting power users over there who might just have some experience with or suggestions for the challenges you’re currently facing. You can find the forums here: http://infinitekind.com/help

        Sorry I couldn’t be more help on this one. It’s just outside my range of experience and I’d hate to send you in the wrong direction.

        Take it easy,
        Brian

  4. Hi Brian,

    Thank you for your helpful post. I am new to moneydance and was wondering if you might be able to offer some advice. I am using the program to run the finances for a small non-profit. I need to develop a yearly budget for a fiscal year.

    I have set up all of my needed categories and created a budget. I went into the advanced section of the budget and added all the items I needed. However, when I click on the budget, only one categorie shows up. I would like to manually set budget amounts for each category but can’t seem to get them to show in a list. When I select to edit the budget it only shows the one category and when I click the plus sign it just keeps adding this one category over and over.

    Any thoughts on how to correct this?

    Thanks,
    Katie

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