Quicken Course for Farm and Ranch Record-Keeping

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Quicken for Farm & Ranch Financial Record Keeping

Self-paced virtual course
Time limit: 60 days


An online Quicken course is being offered by Nebraska Extension for farmers, ranchers and agricultural business managers who want to learn more about the program and financial record-keeping.

The course is led by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Center for Agricultural Profitability and was first developed by Oklahoma State University. It leads users through hands-on sessions to develop a simple set of financial records and reports using Quicken. Exercises based on scenarios from a case farm allow participants to practice many of the steps that they might use to keep records on their farm or ranch.

The course is available through NU Advance, the University of Nebraska’s non-credit and professional development learning system. Course elements include videos, engaging learning activities, quizzes, a Q&A board as well as access to content experts. The course is divided into seven modules which can be completed at your own pace. The total class time is approximately 3 ½ hours. Participants have 60 days to complete the course.

“Strong financial management is the backbone of any successful farm or ranch,” said Jessica Groskopf, an extension educator with the Center for Agricultural Profitability. “Our course empowers farmers and ranchers with the necessary tools to come away with a strong foundation in Quicken, tailored for the demands of the agricultural industry.”

Course development was funded by a grant from the Southern Risk Management Education Center.

About Quicken

Software created specifically for agriculture is often expensive or cumbersome. Quicken is a popular commercial record-keeping package that is:

  • Very user friendly. Quicken is easy for people unfamiliar with accounting terms to use, making it a good place to start when changing from a hand-kept cash accounting system to computerized records.
  • Inexpensive and readily available.
  • Flexible, allowing record-keeping for a wide variety of agricultural and non-ag business enterprises.
  • Widely used. Users can compare notes with neighbors on its application and use.

Quicken Features

The Quicken interface looks like a checkbook register and makes for a familiar environment to begin computerized record-keeping. Although Quicken includes only home and general business income and expense categories, farm income and expense categories are easily added. Import options allow you to add a farm category list created at Oklahoma State University that matches the Schedule F, minimizing the effort required to develop a beginning chart of accounts.

The “tag” feature in Quicken can be used with categories to further identify and sort transactions to allow cash reports by enterprise, by partnership share, or by farm. QuickFill features recognize and complete repetitive transactions to reduce the typing required. Splits of transactions allow a specific transaction to be divided into as many as 30 components with different category and/or tag assignments. For example, a check written to a farm supply store could be separated into expenses for fertilizer for wheat, feed for hogs and fuel for checking cattle.

Reports—transactions, cash flow, account balances, balance sheet, comparison, tax summary—are easily generated, information filtered and layout modified. Although tax schedules are not generated, tax schedule reports summarize information recorded that pertains to a specific tax schedule, and data can be exported to other software such as TurboTax.

Built-in financial planning and monitoring features are also useful. Loans can be amortized with scheduled payments retained for future use. Whole farm budgets based on historic Quicken data can be generated quickly and easily, as can budgets developed from “scratch.” Comparison reports highlight budget versus actual figures. Quicken files can be imported easily into QuickBooks, a popular small-business accounting package, if a more sophisticated financial record-keeping system is required in the future. 

Quicken Shortcomings

For agricultural users a major shortcoming in Quicken is the inability to easily summarize physical data associated with individual financial transactions, making it hard to integrate production and financial records in reports and analysis. Physical quantities and price per unit information can be stored in memo lines and exported to spreadsheets for further summary and analysis. Likewise, it is difficult to maintain a depreciation schedule for individual assets.

Quicken Versions

Several versions of Quicken are available. Quicken Deluxe has standard features to record transactions, run reports, print graphs, and reconcile your checkbook.  In addition, there are time-saving entry features, account-tracking alerts, and online banking features. Payroll features can be added if you have Internet service and pay a tax table subscription. The Premier product includes the Quicken Deluxe features, plus additional tools, information, and advice for investment decisions with its online features. This includes tax advice, alerts, and a capital gains estimator to evaluate stock purchases and sales for tax liability. The Home and Business product adds features for small business use such as invoices, estimates, accounts payable and receivable tracking, and business reports. Access to the web within any of the versions is an optional feature with the necessary computer hardware.

Quicken or Quickbooks

Deciding whether to use Quicken or QuickBooks is a matter of your accounting needs and abilities. Some accountants suggest clients use QuickBooks; however, not everyone is comfortable with accounting terminology or procedures.  The following paragraphs highlight some of the differences in Quicken Deluxe compared to QuickBooks Pro (these versions offer the most features and flexibility).

First, consider your computer and accounting skills.  If you can navigate through basic computer programs, know what a file is, can operate a mouse, know the X in the corner of a window closes it, and know how to write a check, then you can learn to use Quicken.  QuickBooks is also user-friendly if you understand accounting terminology.  However, with QuickBooks, it is important to get the set-up right from the beginning.  Quicken is a little more flexible and can grow as you learn to use it.

Consider your accounting needs. What do you expect from the program? If you need to track simple income and expense records on a cash basis then Quicken is easier to set up, simpler to use, and less expensive.  QuickBooks can be used for single-entry cash accounting, but it is intended to function as a double-entry system for business.

Some important Quicken features that are not available in QuickBooks:

  1. The ability to record and track investments (including the capability to download investment information from the Internet).  QuickBooks allows for no investment record-keeping.
  2. The ability to easily generate cash flow reports as well as budgets based on past transactions.

QuickBooks has the following features that Quicken does not:

  1. The ability to create invoices and track payments received.  (If you only need simple and infrequent invoicing features, then you may want to look at the Quicken Home and Business program.)
  2. The ability to create accounts payable and track the payments as they are made.  Payroll features are provided as a for-fee service, ranging from downloadable payroll table updates to complete payroll services.  Other payroll features include the ability to track time for employees and link the time spent with specific projects.
  3. Inventory features.  However, this feature is of limited value to most farmers and ranchers as it is designed for a retail business.  It can be helpful to producers selling certified seed, for instance.
  4. The ability to accept credit card payments (with the use of QuickBooks Account Manager).

What Quicken and QuickBooks both offer:

  1. The programs are affordable.  Quicken Deluxe is subscription based and costs $49.99 per year; QuickBooks subscriptions can be purchased from $30 to $60 per month, based on needed features.
  2. Both have features which allow you to track income and expense information by enterprise for better financial analysis (tag in Quicken, class in QuickBooks).
  3. Both include a variety of reports for tracking income and expenses and tax information.  However, the QuickBooks reports are more business oriented and tend to resemble standard accounting statements.
February 19, 2024