Looking after your money can be complex What with bank statements. plastic money, easy loans - to say nothing ol mortgage arrangements. Then there's all the living expenses, one off items like car repairs (since when were car repairs one offs? - ed.), savings. and buying a copy of AA every month.
This is the sort of task for which many people believe, computers are ideally suited. Looking after lots of simple calculations? Printing out a permanent copy7 Saving items onto tape or disk? Sure. sure, the jobs themselves are easy enough to do: but it takes a computer program - like Home Finance - that, can turn a pipedream Lnto reality.
Loads of trouble
It may seem unfair, but I'm starting this review with the worst aspect of the package - understanding how to get. it up and running! I loaded the program: no problems. Then Home Finance asked me for the name of a datafile. Now. you receive two tapes, one with the program on it. the other marked 'File tape". If I just press return, then try and load a demonstration file from the latter cassette...
Nothing happened. After some frenzied reading through the manual, and a word with Sterling Software, it came to light that the demonstration file is actually on the program tape, after the main file. It does say this in the manual - two pages from the end. But it's so obvious, isn't it?
I'm happy to say that that has been the worst part of using Home Finance. Other hair-tearing points include the manual, which is just a list of the functions available. There's not a lot on why you would want to do something, only on how.
Installing any computer budgetting program takes time and care. The data structure must be 'customised to exactly what you want: in layman's terms this means setting up and naming the various accounts.
An account is simply an area through which money passes. It can be an expense account (money going out), a storage account (where money is held until being spent) or an earning account (typically a salary). The organization is in two stages: a) an expense account is set up. with a name for example, travel expenses This is then tied to an account group - where the money really is such as a bank account.
Account and group account numbers can be in the range of 1 to 30. One of the more novel features of Home Finance is the ability to enter a statement, from a group account,. So, suppose you get a bank statement detailing all the cash that has been placed into and taken out of your bank account. You could then input this into the computer, and tie in the cheque numbers etc, with all the times you bought petrol, paid road tax, bought a season ticket, and so on.
This is a 'one off' payment. For regular payments, it makes sense to have a standing order or direct debit - these are authorizations enabling transfers of money out of your bank account without you doing more than signing a piece of paper. These can be accounted for automatically by Home Finance - but only ones that are monthly. This shouldn't be too limiting in practise, although there are people who need direct debits every week.
Way back, in the mists of time (AA18 to be exact) I reviewed something called Plan-It from Database, the people who did Mini Office II. This was similar to Home Finance in that you could enter various transactions from accounts into other accounts. You could only have 24 accounts (compared to 30 for Home Finance), and they could not be tied to different forms of payment like ready cash, bank account, credit card, etc.
Instead, payment for a given expense could come from any account. So Plan-It was more flexible in this respect, but Home Finance is actually better because of it! Why? Well, the whole idea of a budgeting program is to organise your accounts, rather than just record what a spendthrift you are. It's not just in this area - Home Finance really does discipline you.
There is no doubt, however, that Plan-It is immensely better in terms of presentation and documentation - so, like most things, you'll have to go for what you really prefer.
Up and running
Once you have got the accounts and any direct debits or standing orders sorted out, you'll have to start inputting all of your financial transactions. Generally you'll find that if you leave it at one day a month, the system works well enough.
I've found that one of the program's real strengths is its ability to look through all the transactions. The system for doing it is very easy. So, making sure transactions link from one account to another can be done quickly.
The capacity of Home Finance is 300 transactions, which may not seem a lot. but it should cope handsomely with most people's needs. It might be necessary to have one file per six months, but, T think that 300 transactions should last out for a year.
One point to bear in mind is that, the program is tricky to get working with a disk drive for the novice. The reason for this is that the program has been saved with protected Basic. Most tape-to-disk programs can't handle it - but some sort of effort by Sterling Software would have been appreciated.
Bear in mind that the purpose of the program is to keep track of all the regular, necessary expenses, and tell you just how much you have spare.
At this task, the program is competent, and for people who have used CPC utilities before it's a good buy.
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L'Amstrad CPC est une machine 8 bits à base d'un Z80 à 4MHz. Le premier de la gamme fut le CPC 464 en 1984, équipé d'un lecteur de cassettes intégré il se plaçait en concurrent du Commodore C64 beaucoup plus compliqué à utiliser et plus cher. Ce fut un réel succès et sorti cette même années le CPC 664 équipé d'un lecteur de disquettes trois pouces intégré. Sa vie fut de courte durée puisqu'en 1985 il fut remplacé par le CPC 6128 qui était plus compact, plus soigné et surtout qui avait 128Ko de RAM au lieu de 64Ko.