Quicken 2012: A Lot to Offer the Budget Weary

If you're really on top of your money, never run up balances on multiple credit cards, don't miss payments and never bounce checks, you probably don't need the new version of Quicken, the popular personal finance software program from Intuit. But if you, like me, could use a little help, Quicken 2012 has a lot to offer.

Several new versions of Quicken went on sale this week. Shortly before they did, I got a preview of Quicken Premier and found it powerful, replete with useful features and with a few exceptions, easy to use. If you are already using Quicken 2011, it's probably not worth upgrading. Intuit gave Quicken a lot of new capabilities last year, and while there are some useful new features in the 2012 edition, they're probably not worth the freight. But if you're running an older version of the software, or have never purchased it, give it a look.

I noticed that the new versions of Quicken were available on Amazon.com even before you could buy it directly from Intuit. And it was cheaper on Amazon, as well. The Premier edition was priced at $89.99 on Intuit's press release announcing the products, but cost $20 less if you download it from Amazon. If you really want to save money, it's already easy to find Quicken 2011 selling at a hefty discount. Generally speaking, it isn't cheaper to download the program than to buy a version on a CD, an option I prefer because it's much easier to reinstall if you change computers or suffer a hard drive crash.

The best thing about Quicken is its ability to get information automatically from multiple accounts - credit cards, bank accounts, brokerage statements, and so on - and use that information in various parts of the program. Quicken supports approximately 13,000 financial institutions, so there's a good chance that yours is one of them.

Adding accounts is pretty simple. Just find your institution in the menu, give the program the required information, including accounts numbers and passwords, and you're good to go. Once you've added your various financial institutions, you'll be able to see a unified few of your assets and transactions. Transactions are downloaded nearly as quickly as they are posted, so you won't have to wait for a monthly statement to see what you're spending or taking in. Mint.com used to offer similar aggregation features, but it's now owned by Intuit, which has integrated many of the site's strengths into Quicken.

Is it secure? Quicken uses 128-bit SSL security, a high standard, and the company claims its system has never been compromised.