Stacks is super easy to use … says the guy who wrote it. But hopefully everyone should be able to pick it up in a few minutes and start budgeting. First things first, download the program. You can grab it here.
UPDATED for new Windows Installer:
Unzip the file you’ve downloaded. Double click the stacks.msi file within and agree to install it. With that done you’ll find Stacks in your Start menu. Start the program and you’ll be greeted by a pretty bare slate that should look like this:
Click on the Budget tab at the top to the left of center. That will bring you to a bare budget page like this:
At this point you can use the +Category and +Line Item buttons to create a fully customized budget for yourself. However most of us have many of the same expenses (rent/mortgage, groceries, cell phone, etc.) so it’s easier to start off with a default budget and then make modifications from there. So click File in the top left and then “Load db”. Select the “default.db” file in the same directory as Stacks. Your budget screen should now look like this:
So now you’ve got some Categories and Line Items in your budget but no money to budget with ($0.00 Available to Budget). You need to add some accounts, so click the Add Account button in the bottom left.
Add your checking account, create a name for it and fill in your current balance. You can click on the drop-down box to see all the different types of accounts in Stacks but fundamentally they boil down to two types: On-budget and off-budget. On-budget accounts are any account that you would use to pay your expenses such as your checking/savings accounts or your credit cards. Off-budget accounts are really there for tracking your networth – they could be your mortgage or investments. Now that the fields are filled in click Create Account. You’ll see your budget page now looks like this:
Whatever balance you entered for your checking account you’ll now have that much money to budget with for the current month. Whatever money you don’t allocate is carried over to the following month. Let’s budget the grocery money.
Simply double click the “Budgeted” column for the current month corresponding to the Groceries line item and enter the value. Should look something like this:
You’re on your way to creating your budget. You’ll want to add all of your accounts before going too far with the budgeting process that way you’ll have an accurate number to budget with.
The next tutorial will be about credit card accounts, the Pre-Stacks Debt line items that get auto-generated and calculating your credit card payments as you pay them off. With Stacks you’ll never carry a balance again!