Saturday, August 28, 2010

On Software Pricing

This post is inspired by an email discussion I had with my brother.

I recently had to upgrade my financial software ('education' version of Quickbooks turned out to be a trial version with the 5 day limit turned off, but the 250 entry limit left in there). This resulted in trying to find a suitable alternative to keep my spending on track. One of the alternatives was You Need A Budget (, which I'd heard glowing praises of on a couple of the personal finance blogs I read. For some reason I had to price of $30 in my head, but when I actually got to the checkout, it turned out to be $60. This gave me pause.

After thinking about it, YNAB is the first non-video game related piece of software that I've paid money for in quite some time! The main programs that I use (other than games) are iTunes (free), Firefox and IE (free), Steam (itself free) and Outlook (bundled with the computer, so having the appearance of free).

After so long buying only video games, the thought of spending full price on software seems rather odd, considering that I regularly buy games at large discounts, either through Steam sales, first week release sales, or just waiting until the price drops. Sometimes I don't even do that and the prices are already bargain basement, usually PSN and WiiWare titles! So while I was tossing up whether to buy it or not (I did), I came to the conclussion that since my copy of Quickbooks was essentially dead, it was either this or a couple hundred for a new version of Quickbooks.

Now things take an interesting twist! I found out yesterday that Microsoft released their last version of Microsoft Money for free (their answer to Quicken), after they decided to stop making it. Now, if I'd known that before paying for a YNAB licence, I would've downloaded that and tried it out, most likely ending up using it for realsies.

Quickbooks is full-on double entry accounting (what I'm at home with, being an accountant). Quicken is (I think) single entry accounting, but mostly just transaction recording. I'm fairly certain Money the same as Quicken. The recording aspect of YNAB is the same as Quicken, but it has a major focus on zero-based-budgeting, and comparing your transactions to a budget, with the emphasise on budgeting your paycheck going forward and trying to live that, rather than merely looking backwards at what you've spent.

So YNAB is going to be the best for me in the long run as I'll finally make an actual budget, rather than just roughly planning when bills are coming in and spending a bit less than I did before I started tracking my spending. This is opposed to one of the others that I'd be more comfortable with, being my accounting background - trust me, there's been a few concepts that I've struggled to get my head around in YNAB. But the thing is, I doubt that I would've gone with this new thing had I known about Microsoft Money a week earlier...

In summary: video games changed the way I look at software to such an extent, that I woul've used a product for free that was less conductive to my long term well-being, than one that I actually had to spend a chunk of money on which is going to set me on a better path for life.

Funny how things are all connected-like, isn't it?


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