Take control of your financial future by getting your bills and bank accounts in order with personal finance software. The programs – which range from free to low-cost to the type with all sorts of bells and whistles – help you get a handle on where your money is being spent and stick to a budget.
You might think you’re doing a good job at saving money, but financial software – which comes either online or as a desktop program – can show you those everyday lunches out of the office and weekly manicures are really putting a dent in your financial health.
The most helpful money-management software offers a variety of services. It creates a budget by setting a spending limit and helping you manage your cash flow, pays bills online automatically, and reconciles account balances. Some software can help your monitor and pay down debt, as well as plan for the future, such as retirement or major life expenses. It will also export all your financial data into tax-preparation software so you don’t have to spend time transferring it yourself.
Not every type of personal finance software will be right for each person. Do you need something that offers a mobile account for finances on the go? What about a software that exports into your tax-preparation program? Each option has its programs and cons. Scrutinize the features of each, taking price into account, and figure out which option is best for you.
This free online program (it has apps, too, for Android and iPhone) tops a number of personal finance software lists. Although it works for U.S. residents only, it can provide a helpful hand in connecting and managing nearly every financial account you have: checking, savings, credit cards, investment, loans, retirement plans, and more.
Mint.com automatically categorizes your spending, helpful for those who can’t seem to figure out where their paycheck is going. Mint.com is likely one of the best choices for financial newbies because it does most of the work for you – no math required. Its free price tag does mean putting up with targeted advertising; however, you don’t have to worry about hackers – the website and apps use bank-grade security.
When it comes to brand names in finance software, Intuit’s Quicken rules the roost. Although it was once feared that Quicken actually offered too many features, its newer versions have been pared down while still retaining the advanced options and being easy to use and set up.
There are multiple options from which to choose: The deluxe software – around $35 – works well for tracking checking and savings accounts, as well as bill pay, budgets, and retirement accounts. The advanced version, Quicken Premier – around $50 – adds ways to track complex investments or property. For the most basic of needs, try Quicken Starter Edition, which helps organize accounts and schedule bill payments. The program, though, does not have a mobile application for on-the-go money management.
Have a debt problem? Spend your paycheck before you buy your groceries for the week? You need a budget! The aptly named financial software, You Need A Budget, which costs around $60, can help you design and maintain your budget while paying down debt and increasing your savings. This is really for the novice budgeter because it doesn’t download transactions or track your investments; however, it does sync your financial information across a variety of devices.
Before you commit, check out the 34-day trial; YNAB also comes with a 60-day money-back guarantee for those who don’t love the program.
AceMoney might be a good starter financial software, but its usefulness doesn’t end when you’ve graduated to expert. After you pay for the software (around $35), every upgrade is free – so you won’t go broke trying to keep up with the latest and greatest. (There’s also a free version, AceMoney Lite, that obviously doesn’t include all the same features.)
The program is easy to install and use, helps maintain a budget, manages investment accounts, and includes a variety of loan calculators.
If you’ve ever heard of the envelope system – that is, putting a certain amount of money in envelopes earmarked for specific items – then Mvelopes is the technology-era version of that. It’s an online personal finance program that offers both a very basic free version and a subscription service, meaning you pay monthly for additional features.
It tracks all your personal financial accounts, such as credit cards, bank accounts, retirement accounts, investments, loans, and mortgages; information can be downloaded from more than 14,000 financial institutions. The program only supports U.S. dollars; however, it has a handy debt-payoff tool, great for those looking to dig themselves out of a financial hole.
You might not think you need to spend any time tracking your financial health – after all, you’re tracking it in the ol’ noggin, aren’t you? However, an article from the Wall Street Journal says that studies show that people who wisely keep track of their money, accounts, and investments actually end up being wealthier in the long run – likely because they’re not blindly loading themselves up with debt or spending beyond their means.
Additionally, don’t make the mistake of thinking you can ignore your finances just because you have a financial advisor or certified financial planner. Their job is to focus on the big picture and make sure your wealth is growing, not keeping track of everyday expenses.
Kelsey Castle is a freelance writer and editor who tracks her spending using mobile banking apps and personal finance software. Her degree is in journalism.