You are here: Home / Finance Explorer / Tutorial

Our software is free. We do kindly ask that you visit our sponsors (above) so that we can recover some of our costs.
Thank you.
Metalogic Finance Explorer Tutorial
1. Setting up your accounts

There are two main ways to add an account to MFE: manual and import. Import is the easiest, you simply download a file in Quicken or Money format from your bank then import it. When you import the file, if the account is not found, you will be prompted whether you want to add it.

Simply select Create a new account, choose an account type and enter a description. That's it. Your bank account will be added and your transactions imported.

If you would rather create the account manually, select the account type (Bank, Credit Card, etc.) from the tree at left, and go to the top "add" row. There type in your accounts information.

Note: MFE ships with some sample data to showcase its features to new users. Once you are ready to start entering your own information, delete any existing accounts first so they will not affect your data.

2. Entering Transactions

As with accounts, adding transactions can be done in two ways, manual and import. Again, import is the easiest, by downloading and importing your data from your bank, you ensure error free data and save time.

If you need to add transactions manually, select the account to which you would like to add the transactions and go to the top "add" row. There type in your transaction's details.

The example above shows some typical entries. You can see these transactions reflected in the budget (see below).

3. Setting up your budget

First, a little theory. The heart of MFE is its budget. The goal is to have a balanced budget for every month. No money should spill over from month to month.

It is important to setup a budget correctly and refine it over time to make the most out of your finances. The way the budget works is by organizing your transactions into groups and then further into categories. A group is like a bucket which contains categories. For example you could have Income, Bills and Personal as three groups. Groups are useful for totalling transactions and getting a more general view of your finances. Within each group you have categories. Your transactions will all end up in one category or another. Each category has a budgeted amount, an actual amount which is the sum of the transactions in that category (for that month) and also a difference between the two. The budgeted amount is your goal for that category. For example you could budget $400 a month for groceries. The actual amount will show you how much you have actually spent so far in the month you are viewing. And the difference will tell you how well you are doing against your budget. Ideally your total budget should be zero. That means you have perfectly balanced your income and your expenses. This does not mean that you should spend all your money every month, rather, if you have any money left over after budgeting for all your expenses, you could add an entry for savings. So instead of carrying money from one month to the next, move whatever is left over to a savings account. Growing your savings and paying off your debt could be the most important things you achieve by organizing your finances.

Let's go through an example:

In the example above, we have a $2000 a month salary. Once all bills, loans, etc. are paid and you take some money for yourself, there are still $50 remaining. Whenever the budgeted total doesn't balance out to zero, you have a couple of choices: If it adds up to a negative amount, you have budgeted more than you earn. You need to review your budget and reduce one or more of your categories' budgeted amounts to balance it out. If the budget total adds up to a positive amount, you can either increase some of your budget amounts or put the difference in a savings category. At the end of the month, you can move the remainder to a savings account for example.

Now, if you compare the budgeted against the actual, some columns match exactly (Water, Internet) while others vary from month to month (Mobile phone, Gas). So at the end of the month when all other transactions have been entered, you should modify the Savings category as to make the actual add up to zero. This means that from month to month, you will be saving more or less than what you budgeted, depending on the other variable categories.

To add a new budget category, select Budget, and go to the top "add" row. There, enter the catetory's details. If you need to move a category from one group to another, simply update the Group column to either a new or existing group.

Note: Amounts which reflect earnings (such as salary, interest, etc.) are positive. Amounts which reflect expenses (such as loan payments, bill payments, etc.) are negative.

4. Starting a new month

As previously mentioned, the budget is set on a monthly basis. When a new month starts, you need to copy the previous month's budget. To do this, make sure you are in the new month, then select Edit/Copy Budget From Previous Month from the menu. Once you have the new budget, you can update it if there are any changes from the previous month. Otherwise you can just start using it.

The advantage of having separate budgets per month is that you have a history of your budget for previous months and you can review how you have been doing for the year for example.

Also, you may want to move the remaining actual balance on your account to a different account so that you don't have any overflow from month to month.

5. Setting up your investments

Investments help you keep track of any investments such as retirement accounts and saving for tuition.

Let's go through an example:

Select Investment and enter "Retirement account" for a description and enter some details in the other columns.
Now select your newly added account and enter "IBM" in the Symbol column, 1000 for the quantity and $50 for a Purchase Price.
Go to Tools->Update Quotes and see how the current quote (delayed by at least 15 minutes) is retrieved from the internet for you.
6. Setting up Category Rules

Most of your transactions will reoccur every month. Manually setting their categories is time consuming. Since these transactions will likely have some consistent attributes such as description or amount, you can setup rules to assign the category automatically for you. This has the potential to save you some considerable time by letting you focus on transactions that are unique to a certain month. The categories are assigned when you import transactions. They are also assigned whenever you modify them from the Category Rules dialog (transactions that already have a category are not modified).

Let's go through an example:

Open the Category Rules dialog from the menu: Tools > Category Rules...

Your salary is exactly $2000 every month. So we can setup a rule to match an amount of 2000 and assign it to the Salary category. The rule can be setup as follows:
Column: Amount
Rule: is
Value: 2000
Category: Salary

You shop for groceries at several stores. The transactions from those stores have descriptions like "Grocery store ABC" and "Grocery store XYZ". So we can setup a rule to match the beginning of the transaction description. The rule can be setup as follows:
Column: Description
Rule: begins with
Value: Grocery store
Category: Groceries

You fill up your car at various stations. The transactions from those stations contain the word "gas" in the notes. So we can setup a rule to match the word in the notes. The rule can be setup as follows:
Column: Notes
Rule: contains
Value: gas
Category: Gas

Lastly, note that a transaction could qualify for more than one rule. For example, you could have a grocery transaction that happens to be exactly $2000. Only the first qualifying rule will be considered so you can move the rules up and down to prioritize them the way you prefer. In our example, if there is a transaction for "Grocery store ABC" with an amount of $2000, we would want that to be categorized as Groceries not Salary. So highlight the Grocery rule and move it up (or highlight Salary and move it down).