House Expense Manager
Edward S. Baiz
shows how to track your personal finances with
this powerful software
once again fellow Atarians. I am back to discuss
yet another great program for Atari
computer owners. When I first got married I
decided it was time to put my computer
to some practical use. I was mainly just playing
games and sending/receiving
messages. I wanted to keep track of my household's
expenses and also if we were
making/losing any money on a month to month
basis. Programs like this for the
Atari were almost non-existent and the ones
that were around were not something
I wanted to use or were not what I was looking
I decided that if the program I wanted did not
exist, I would just use a spreadsheet program.
I am a pharmacist at a local hospital and I
had created/used spreadsheets
before. They are a very easy way to keep track
of almost any kind of data and work
very well if created correctly. The best spreadsheet
program for Atari computers
was Texel. I could kick myself for passing up
a chance to buy version 1.6 at
a MIST show in Indianapolis, but I was told
it was buggy and that a newer version
was coming. Well that did not happen soon enough
for me, so I ended buying
LDW Power. I created my spreadsheet and used
it for almost ten years.
December of 2002, I got that feeling again and
felt I needed another kind of program
to do my expenses. The spreadsheet was nice,
but it had its flaws. For example,
I had an expense area for the kids. When I made
the spreadsheet I
figured I would need about ten lines for this.
This worked most of the time, but
sometimes I needed more, I either had to combine
entries on one line or else
put the entry on another line in another category.
The final numbers were correct,
but the data were messed up. I decided to look
for another program.
figured it would be a little easier now to find
an expense program than it was ten years
ago, but I was soon to find out different. There
were more expense programs,
but now I had to find one that ran on my Hades.
Most did, but they just were
not what I was looking for. I needed one that
would let me create expense accounts
and revenue accounts, enter figures into these
accounts, calculate whether I made
money or lost money each month and then give
me a final figure at the end of the
year. I need that final figure as I use it to
determine whether I have enough to
invest or else use it for some other useful
search ended when I came across an old program
called PHEM. This stands for Probe House
Expense Manager and is by William Wong. I had
run across this program before,
but passed it up because it seemed too hard
to understand and use. At this
point, I was determined to learn this program
since it seemed to be what I was looking
for. After some intense experimenting, I got
to the point where I was able
to understand the program and how to use it.
PHEM is mainly to be used for keeping a budget
in a household or even a small
business from month to month in a given year.
It is designed to let you know if you
are over or under the budget that you have set
for yourself to follow. Its
concept is simple. Accounts are created from
which money flows out. Examples would
be petty cash, or a flower fund... Next there
are categories. These are expenditures
that money is used on. Examples would be lunch,
dinner, gas... Then
there are transactions. These are when money
flows out from a particular account
for a particular category - like taking money
from petty cash to be used for
lunch. Let me say that PHEM allows a check number
to be attached to a transaction
if a check is used and allows tracking if/when
the check clears.
And last but
not least, PHEM takes all the accounts, categories
and transactions and keeps them
in a book. It can then produce reports and charts
of any account, category or transaction.
This makes it very easy to keep track of all
expenses and to keep a
nice monthly budget.
of the features of PHEM are:
- Fully supports the desktop with
3D look and feel.
- Multiple windows for reports and
- Window icon style bar.
- Number of transactions are limited
only by available memory.
- Unlimited account and category types.
- Sort transactions by account, category
- Edit transactions at any time.
- Field for check numbers with cleared/uncleared.
- Pie and bar graphs.
- Graphs are self-scaling to fit windows.
- All reports are generated by report
- GDOS printing supported.
- On-line help with ST Guide.
- TOS, MultiTOS, Geneva
MagiC operating systems supported.
There are many
more features listed on the hypertext file included
with PHEM, but the above shows
just how powerful and how good a program
right. You can all see from my description so
far, what kind of program PHEM is and how
it can be applied to a budget. That is all and
good, but I wanted to be able to
enter expenses, revenues and have PHEM give
a total at the end of each month
to see if I made or lost any money. I also want
to see my total for the whole year.
I use this figure to see if I can invest any
money or else use it for a vacation,
home improvement or whatever... I am going to show all
of you how I got PHEM to do this
and with my explanations and screen-shots, you also
will be able to learn how PHEM
was really intended to be used.
first thing to do is create your accounts
and categories. Remember that accounts
are where the money is coming from (income in
my case) and categories are
where the money is going to (expenses). To do
this, go to the drop-down menu
Lists and click on either Accounts
or Categories. Doing this will bring up
a box. Just click on Add. You will
then be able to type in the account or category
name. When finished, click on OK.
The name you just typed will then appear in
the box. If you ever want to delete or modify
any account or category,
just highlight the name by doing a single click
on it and then click on
what you want to do (modify or delete). Once
you have all the names typed in, you
probably will want them in alphabetical order.
To get this done just go under
the drop-down menu Special and just
click on Reindex.
after I typed in all of my accounts and categories,
I had to add one name to each
list, but first let's take a look at how we
enter a transaction.
As you can see from
the screen-shot here, you need
to enter both an account and a
category. You can get the complete list for
both by clicking on the symbol to the right of the account or category name
showing. If you are taking
money out for an expense, then you highlight
Payment, and if you are putting money
in, then you highlight Deposit.
Notice also that not only can you enter the amount and check number for the transaction,
you also can enter a comment
for the transaction and also highlight
whether or not the check has cleared.
When you are satisfied with the entry, click
on Add. The number next to
Entered will go up 1. This signifies
the transaction has successfully
been added into the books. The Repeat
option in the entry window, is used for those
transactions that are performed on a monthly
basis like a house payment. Now
in my case when I had an expense I had to take
it from somewhere and I was not going
to take it from my paycheck account or any other
income I had
for that particular month, so I created an account
called "Income Out". Now
the same goes when I wanted to add my paycheck
or my wife's. I had to have a category
to go with any income I had for the month, so
I created one called "Income
In". Now the "Income In" and
"Income Out" entries are just bogus,
but do provide
me with a total figure for my expenses and incomes
on a monthly and yearly
we have some transactions entered, we can
use the report generator. To bring this up, go
to the drop-down menu Report
and then click on Generator. You will get a screen that looks like this:
that all the
accounts and categories have a check mark beside
them. This means that, in the display
screen (more on this later), they will be shown.
This makes it easy to view
and keep track of certain areas of your books.
The first thing I always change
is the date. PHEM, when initially loaded, sets
itself to a two-week period. The "To"
date is always the present day and the "From"
date is always two weeks before.
I like to be dealing with the present month
so I always first change the date to go
from the first day of the present month to the
last day. To do this is simple. Just
click on either the "From" date or
the "To" date and a calendar will appear.
To change the day just click on
the correct day and then click OK. The same
goes for the month and year. After
the date is set you can click on Display and you will get a screen
that looks like this:
You now see why I wanted the date changed. I
wanted the display screen to show all the details for the particular month I am
working in. The reason for this is that I wanted the "Grand Total"
to be a reflection of the whole month and not part of it. Notice that the amounts in red
are expenses (payments) and
the amounts in black are income (deposits).
If the "Grand Total" appears in black,
then you are making money for that particular
time period. If it is red, then
you have lost that amount. The way the data
are presented in the display screen
can easily be changed, by adjusting the entries
in the Sort area in the report
generator. The first and second sort can be either
one of four entries (Account, Category,
Date, Remark (comment)). I prefer the first
to be Category and the second to
be Account. This groups all of the same expense transactions
makes it easier for me to see where my money
is going. The best way to understand
this is to play around with different combinations
to see how you would want the
data to look.
the next things that should be discussed are
the graphic symbols in the display (details)
screen. Each of these has its own function.
To find out what a particular
symbol does, put the mouse pointer on it
and a box will appear telling
what the symbol is used for. Skipping the first
symbol in the upper-left of
the screen and going from left to right, the
symbol meanings are: New Transaction,
Delete Transaction, Modify Transaction, Split
Transaction, Combine Transaction,
Filing Result (files to disk the text of the
display window for use possibly
in a word processor), Print and Export. For
the most part they are straightforward, but the Combine Transaction
option deserves a mention.
You may want
to use this option if you have a number of transactions
that are basically the
same. For example, in my expense book, I draw
out money for myself under the category,
"Expense (Ed)". Now I may draw out
money for myself a number of times in the
month. At the end of the month when I am going
to print everything out,
I will use the Combine Transaction option to combine all of
into one entry. Of course if I want to reverse
this, I would just use the Split
back to the first symbol (which looks like a bar graph)
in the upper-left of the display screen.
Using this will allow you to graph the result
of the display screen
in either a bar chart or a pie chart.
But in order for this to work, the display
screen must consist of either subtotal
or summary data. To do this you must
choose either Subtotal or Summary
in the report generator before you click
on the display option. If you have chosen Details
and you try to use this graph
option, nothing will happen. If you have done
things correctly you will get
results that look like the following:
These of course can be
printed out. If the names are a bit crunched
and cannot be read, just drag one
of the corners of the graphic picture and make
it larger until things are clearer.
thing I liked to look at when the year ends
is the total dollar figures for each income
account and expense category. I also pay particular
attention to the end figure
that lets me know if the household made or lost
money for that particular year.
To do this in PHEM is quite simple, but you
have to go about it in a certain
way. First thing to do is to bring up the budget
report to see where things are. To
do this, go to the drop-down menu Report
and click on Budget. You will get
a screen that looks like this:
This report is meant
to reflect if
you are over or under the budget you have set
for yourself. If the total figure
amount is red, then you are over budget and
if it is in black, then you are within budget.
You set your budget by going under the drop-down
menu List and then clicking
Budget. You will get a list of all
the categories and accounts with the budget
amounts for each month of that year. To adjust
an amount for a particular account or category
just click on one of its dollar figures and
you will get a window
containing all of it's figures for each month
of that year. Then click the figure
in the month you want to change and type it
in. To put the same figure for each
month use the All option.
for my purpose, I do things a little differently
in order to get the results I want. If look at the details screen
you will notice that the grand total for March is $10 in the black. As far
as I am concerned, I would want the Budget Report to give me the same amount for
March. If you look at the sample budget
screen, it is the same. This means that at the
end of year I can use this
budget report to look at and see how I did for
the whole year and print it out.
But originally, the dollar total amount in the
budget report for March was not
the same. To get both amounts equal I first
have to go to the budget list.
I then must make the budget list entries of
all of my income accounts to be
the same as the totals in the details screen.
For example, let's say I received
a check for $500 from my employer on March 2.
I would enter this using the
Add Entry screen as usual, but would
then have to enter that amount in the
Budget List screen under March.
Now when I receive another check (let's say) on
the 16th for $500, I would still enter that
as a separate entry in the Add
Entry screen, but I would have to change
the Budget List entry for March from $500
to $1,000. By doing so for each income account I
put money into, the total amounts
for the details screen and the budget screen
will be the same. You can see this
if you look at the detail screen and budget
you want to adjust how PHEM looks, feels and
functions, you would want to bring up the
This done by going to the drop-down menu
Specials and then clicking on Preferences.
If you want to use the PHEM desktop
just put an "X" in the box next to
Desktop. As you can see, you can adjust
the color of the PHEM desktop. You can also
adjust the date format, the font,
the font size, the field size of accounts, categories
and comments and
adjust the left and top margins. You can also
have PHEM number all the pages printed
and also print the date.
is probably a good time to talk about the bugs
in the program. When I first decided to use PHEM (December 2002), it was loaded with
a lot of them. In the Details
screen, if you had a negative number as the
grand total, it would appear in black
and not red. This made it difficult to see
if any money was made or lost. You
could change the font so the Details
screen would look better, but when
it was printed, PHEM would still use the regular
When making an
entry, it will not appear in the Details
screen if there is nothing in the
comment field. This can be worked around if
you just put the cursor in the
comment field and hit the space bar once.
If you are going to add a comment,
then you have nothing to worry about. When printing,
PHEM would just want to
print one page only no matter how many pages
were in the file. In order to get
my file printed, I had to use the Combine Entry
option to make sure everything
was on one page. In the help file, it says that
PHEM will work under MagiC,
but it crashes a lot for me. This may be because
William uses a Falcon and I
have a Hades. PHEM does run great for me under
regular TOS, so I use that. It also
runs fine under Geneva and should also run under
I experienced these bugs, I e-mailed William
about them. I think he was surprised to
get an e-mail about PHEM. He had written the
program back in 1996 and had not looked
at the code since then. However, just for me,
he went back to it, and fixed a lot of the bugs I have mentioned. PHEM
in the font you have set, it will
print all the pages in your file, it now has
margins that can be set, the grand
total on the Details screen appears in red if negative, the bar
and pie graphs
work correctly, plus much more. The last version
saw the appearance of a few more
bugs and I let William know about it. He told
me he would look into it.
hope this article gave everyone some insight
about this wonderful program. I would ask that
you please give it a try as it deserves our
attention and support. William was great
to fix the bugs in PHEM and he did it just for
me. I am hoping with more support,
he will continue to make PHEM better and better.
Please go to the Probe House
web site and download PHEM and give it a try.
Also look at the other great programs
William has written for Atari computers. If
you have any questions or
comments about PHEM, please e-mail me at email@example.com.
will change as ComCast bought out AT&T,
so if the e-mail comes back, just go to the
ST groups on Usenet and leave a message there. Also,
leave William an e-mail from his web site.
I am sure he will be more than happy to hear
from you. Take care all, until next