MONEY MANAGER from Creative Sparks is designed to help you plan your household budget. The program, which is not microdrive compatible, runs on the 48K Spectrum and is packaged in a plastic wallet. The manual is finely printed on a single strip of paper.
While the instructions are clear and concise I found them difficult to read because they are underprinted with the words Money Manager in a variety of green and blue inks. The most useful option of all, that of analysis, warrants only a passing mention while every other option is described more fully.
The program is menu-driven and although there is very little single-key entry, to select options a prompt line and flashing cursor are used to indicate that an entry is expected.
Money Manager allows you to define up to 50 categories of income and expenditure and to set monthly targets for each one over a twelve month period. On first loading the program you are asked to enter a filename, of up to 10 characters, for the data. That is used as the program name when the program and data are saved. It is also displayed when a version of the program that has been previously saved is loaded. When the filename has been entered the Main menu is displayed. That enables you to start a new financial year and set the opening balance, name the categories and assign budgets to them, and set the amount you actually spent or received in a month. Two other options allow you to compare aspects of your spending - or income - against the budgets and to calculate the approximate interest paid or received in a year. The standard option of 'save' is included but there is no 'load' option. Saving the data also saves the program so that by loading a saved version of the program the data is automatically loaded.
Selecting the near year option allows you to define the first month of your financial year, clear the actual and budget values (clear all) or clear the actual values and keep the budget values (carry forward). Selection of the clear options must be confirmed before the values are cleared.
Defining the categories and setting the budgets is easily done in option 2. Adding a category involves giving it a number between one and 50, a name of up to 12 characters, defining it as an income (i), or expenditure (e) category and assigning a letter as a class identifier. The class seems to have no practical use other than being necessary for the interest categories. It is not possible to analyse by class although that would seem to be a necessity and would make the program far more powerful.
Choosing to set a budget displays a list of months with the actual, budget and differences. One of the months is highlighted to show the budget which is to be set. Alternatively the same budget figure can be set for all months at once. Other options allow categories to be deleted, names to be changed and, if more than 21 categories are used, to display the next page of categories.
Any attempt to add a category number which already exists is ignored. However, a bug in the program causes any valid category number used after that to be rejected as well. It seems the only way out of that loop is to enter 'n' or 'x' to exit the main menu. When a category is deleted the actual and budget values are not. Consequently setting a new category using the old number has the same effect as changing the category name. That is a fault in the program but as new values have to be entered anyway it is hardly a major one.
Setting the actual values is done in the same way as the budgets without being able to set all values at once. That option is also used to change the actual values should you need to. All amounts are entered as whole pounds and minus signs are not used to denote expenditure as in some programs.
The analysis section is used to look at the differences - either absolute or percentage - between the budget and actual values in seven ways. Those include monthly income and expenditure, total income and expenditure, as well as monthly and cumulative cashflow - the difference between income and expenditure. An analysis can also be done for any category. The analyses can be displayed as graphs and both can be printed to a ZX printer.
At first sight the Interest Calculation option looks quite useful - after all, most people would like to know approximately what their bank charges are or how much interest their building society accounts are going to give. To use the option two special categories must be added before doing the interest calculation, one for income and one for expenditure. The interest rates for both categories are entered in the same way as for the set budget option. A budget figure for both overdraft and deposit interest is calculated by taking the simple interest on the monthly cashflow. Once the budget figures have been calculated the actual monthly values can be added. The main problem with the option is that it assumes all your excess money at the end of a month will earn interest and will therefore give a greater figure than can reasonably be expected.
A major disadvantage of programs of this type is that of adding individual transactions to obtain the actual monthly values for each category. Overall, however, Money Manager is easy to use and the screen displays are clear and uncomplicated. The error trapping is very good and although there are a couple of bugs in it they will not corrupt your data.
Creative Sparks, Thomson House, 296 Farnborough Road, Farnborough, Hants GU14 7NU.