"Budget Planner ($14.95) is a useful application as an add-on to any financial management system you may have. Once you have set up a budget or a spend profile the software allows you to plan for those one time “big ticket” items that may determine whether you are going to stay within your budget.
"The planner provides a graphical way of dealing with upcoming financial events in a “what if?” manner. It provides a means of defining an event as something that is going to happen in the future and that lasts for a period of time. These events can be either positive or negative. A positive event could be an expected raise in pay. If you think you will have a debt paid off a year from now then the event would be the amount of the payment you will no longer be making. A negative event might be needing money for a new car a year from now, or those big college expenses that are coming later.
"The application is simple and straightforward to use and in the way it presents the data. In essence you set up a plan for a number of years, and it starts with an initial amount of money and the option of regular additions/savings at a given interest rate, over a number of months. This may be all that you set up as in its simplest form Budget Planner is a great way of calculating the value of a savings account over a number of years. To build on this further you set up individual events as indicated above, which show an individual amount, and the option again to set up monthly amounts over a number of months with predicted interest rate, and the added option to show an inflation rate, used when you are planning a purchase and want to track the impact of waiting before buying.
"Data is presented as a graph which you can click on to give the value of your plan at any given time. As new events are added they change the graph and each event is marked on the graph as a symbol, which can be selected from a number of preferences. There is also a “list” of events which you can use to select an individual event for editing later.
"Getting started is easy as the four examples in the “help” section effectively take you through starting a simple plan and then slowly adding events to it so that it builds up to be a long term view. Also covered is how to use the “what if” scenario by experimenting with changing individual events (e.g. increasing monthly payments to a savings account) to see if your aim e.g. to buy a new car can actually be achieved or maybe be brought forward.
"One thing that I did find slightly confusing was the fact that the “list” of events did not show the year of the event only the date and month so, if all your events are based on a number of years from when the plan was set up as in the examples, they appear to all have the same date in the list. In addition the events list shows the monetary value of the plan itself at the time of that event and not the value of the event itself. Both might be useful. This is carried forward into the graph, as by clicking on an event you get the value of the plan immediately before the impact of that event.
"Another thing to watch for is the effect of putting an interest rate into an event. This appears to change the interest rate used by the plan until the date of the next event. I think example 2 in the “help” section incorrectly asks you to put a 0% interest rate in to the predicted spend on a car. This seems to result in no interest on savings for the foreseable future! I am therefore also assuming that if I wanted to predict a change in interest for my savings I would have to do this by setting up another event?
"Something else that might enhance the application would be the inclusion of a deflationary option for an event in addition to the inflationary one. This would give me the option to predict how much an asset that I was planning to sell to finance something else would depreciate depending on how long I waited.
"Overall I liked Budget Planner. I use Quicken for Mac almost daily to manage my finances and set up detailed yearly budgets. Budget Planner will be a useful complement to that as I can take a much longer view and plan for specific large purchases and stages in my life, and I love the built in calculator for interest and inflation rates. A very interesting little application."
- Chris Marshall