Squirrel Away Your Cares
These are three separate well-written programs which lie between the personal finance and small business areas. Each does it job well and provides a useful, if limited, range of functions.
Cash Care is designed to keep a check on almost any kind of account where there are credit and debit transactions and although it is particularly suitable for bank and building society accounts it works equally well with credit records such as Barclaycard or Access. There are limits on its capacity and it will only take two separate accounts in a single file, but there is no reason why you should not have several files. Similarly each file can only relate to a one-year period, shown monthly. The program allows 40 categories of expenditure and 20 of income.
There is a facility to project your budget, to display any category in a three-dimensional bar chart or to print any account. Access is protected by a password which is visible when you enter it - so be warned!
Building Society Care covers some of the same ground but is designed for interest-earning accounts and would work with any savings account. It allows you to insert deposits and withdrawals on specific dates, and similarly to change interest rates. These in turn show interest earned and provide a check both on how things are going and also on the accuracy of calculations. If you think you could do better in another type of account, it allows you to set up comparisons.
To make life easier, you can either insert the data in response to prompts, or direct into the spreadsheet which underlies the system. You can save the data and produce convenient printouts showing all the changes.
VAT Care is quite different because it's a business package which has, it is claimed, been checked and approved by HM Customs and Excise. It is designed to produce the main totals needed for the quarterly VAT return.
It will produce two datafiles with 240 entries in each for sales and purchases which generate monthly figures showing the tax due, deductible and relevant totals.
Accepting their limitations, all three are quite impressive and perform as well as much more expensive packages. While praising their cost, it is only fair to say that this is in part due to the very cheap format of instructions for each in small, stapled duplicated booklets - but they are adequate.
The review copies tested were all together on a single dual format disc and ran with no problems. It is rather a pity that this was not the standard presentation and selling at around £20 since the company would not lose much revenue and users would have more choice.
My only reservation about these programs is to wonder how many people really want to double-check their various accounts when the banks, building societies and others provide such detailed statements already.