Dear Workshoppers,

Nice to see you all in this alumni e-community. I'm sure you all are up to interesting things and look forward to reading/hearing/seeing more!

I'm writing because I'm on the hunt for an alternative to what has (until now) been my only tool for drafting and maintaining budgets: excel (insert eery music here).

Seriously, does anyone have positive experiences working with doc budgets using any of the budgeting programs on the market?

I was just speaking to fellow workshopper Rebecca Richman Cohen, who said she'd love to see a budgeting program that would work like Quicken (whereby it automatically lists and tracks expenses linked ot a credit card / bank account) to avoid manual data entry of EVERY SINGLE EXPENSE.

I would love that too, but mainly excel drives me nuts and it's easy to mess up once you want to customize a spreadsheet after formulas, formatting, etc. go across multiple sheets and grow more complex.

Any positive/negative experiences to share?

Thanks all!
Francisco Bello

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I just had a conversation with John Valadez about this (well, it was a little tangential), will ask him what he's using. Judith

Here's a bit on our experience. Excel was driving us nuts, too.

Even though we use our Macs running Mac software for everything else, we use QuickBooksPro for Windows (QBP) for our budgeting, bookkeeping and accounting software. We use QuickBooksPro for Windows via VMWare Fusion on Windows XP. On the front end it was sort of expensive, but it has saved us from so many time-consuming, frustrating nights with Excel and recreating work that was done previously each time we needed a new budget and/or report. Once this financial database was set up, it was just a matter of entering the information correctly.

• We had to switch from QuickBooksPro for Mac, which doesn't have the same features to make our budgeting scheme work.

• The reason we do not use Quicken is due to the fact that we our bookkeeping is double-entry on an accrual basis which is not available using Quicken. We use double-entry so that we can more easily track invoices and bill payments, and because that what is considered Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) and required by some funders and expected by others stakeholders.

• According to the bookkeeper who set up our system, we are not using QBP Online because it doesn't have enough features to support the complexity of reporting and income sources that most indie projects involve.

• We do use FreshBooks for free to invoice our own projects to be reimbursed for personal monies spent. Freshbooks unfortunately doesn't have enough features to use instead of QBP. We like this better than whipping up a Word/OpenOffice/Pages invoice cause none of those helped us remember if we'd actually paid ourselves back.

The short version of what we do is that we use the ESTIMATE feature already a part of QBP for the budgeting. If all of our bookkeeping is up to date, then the Estimate-to-Actual report gives us a Budget-to-Actual report without any extra effort. We can also export the report to Excel if the report is required to be an Excel document. If we have to change our budget for whatever reason, we can create a Change Order that allows us to keep a record of why we needed to change the budget, which is helpful when reporting back to funders later. We are set up to deal with one uber-budget as well as the smaller budgets from individual funding sources.

In order to make this work, the books needed to be setup appropriately. After much discussion with about the various types of money we receive and hope to receive, what are all the various kinds of reporting that we know that will be required of us short-term and long-term, IRS and state needs, our accountant's approval, and the features available in and limitations of the financial software, our bookkeeper set up a system for us. I'd be happy to share more if you are interested.

Even if we were to use the features in QBP or other software applications that would allow us to download credit card and bank statements, we have found that each entry has to be checked for accuracy. Moreover, the detail the bank or credit card company provides is not enough to explain purchases that may need to be justified at a later date. Target on 12/10/09 for $5.99 still has to be fleshed out to include a description like "AA Batteries for LA shoot." If I just think about what the IRS requires of reporting meals, the name of the restaurant and the amount, which is all that gets downloaded is not enough detail for them. We do think the automatic downloads save some time but there can be some deciphering too. We use the online site Mint to track personal spending, and so many items automatically download with a completely different name from the receipt, which is confusing and requires us to go in and "fix." So we have found that often downloading is not actually faster for tracking expenses.

We've also played around with Shoeboxed, but decided we didn't want to mail our receipts to another state. Even with that, there were details to enter.

Hope this is helpful.

Very helpful! Thanks Tracy! (and Francisco and Judith)

Wow Tracy, this is VERY helpful. One question, have you tried to run Quickbooks Pro for Windows on your mac? Just curious since Mac OS can run Windows as well, if your experience was that it didn't work well that way.

By the way, a colleague passed on a copy of EP Budgeting. I spent an afternoon reading the manual and trying it out, but ultimately it's not very doc friendly. It's a program designed by Entertainment Partners, a major payroll company for Hollywood features and the like. Its bragging rights as a program is largely based on the templates it has for the budgeting formats of every major film studio. The templates seem great if you are working that way. Doesn't seem very customizable for doc work though, and there are no doc budget templates available from EP (or eslewhere online, as far s I could see).
Anyway, just to share that info.


Yes, I was running QuickBook Pro for Windows on a desktop Mac. Fusion allowed me to load Windows XP which in turn allowed me to load the QBPW on the Mac. Fusion does slow my machine down a bit but I try not to run other apps when doing the accounting thing. Next time I upgrade my laptop, I'll get extra memory and will run it on that machine cause I'd like to enter things on the road sometimes.

Hey Tracy,

Just curious, why not QBP for Mac?
Hey Matt,

When we first set this up, it was not possible to Estimate to Actual Reports with the Mac application. The 2010 version appears to have the Estimate to Actual capabilities, which is great. I just checked it out online.

The other reason was that our bookkeeper and accountant were happy for us to change because the translation of our Mac files into their Windows QBP versions didn't not work as well as advertised which was frustrating. Maybe some of this has changed by now. For a significant period of time Intuit, the company that owns QBP, had stopped working on updating and fixing bugs the Mac products.


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