When it comes to managing personal finances, very few of us are experts. Using some type of specialized software can be a cheap (or free) and easy method of applying some structure (and expertise) to our income and expenses. The benefits include easier tracking of monetary comings and goings, less time spent with bank statements, monitoring of checking accounts, credit cards and investments alike, and just having a picture of your financial status a mouse click away. In a nutshell, the right personal financial software can help you plan, help you monitor and help your bank balance.
Of course, there are a variety of options on the market (more on that below) but most will offer some version of the following features.
As many accounts as you need or have.
Constant tracking of your lines or credit and/or remaining credit available on your credit cards.
Budget planning and then tracking.
The capability to set up automatic notations for bills in your ledgers.
Programmed advance reminders for bill payments and automatic withdrawals.
Visual representations of your finances with graphs and reporting.
The basic premise of most such software is that you can manage your money (and debt) better when all the information is collated and clearly available. Better decisions come with being able to see your position ‘at a glance’.
Many personal finance applications also allow interaction via the internet, connecting to your bank accounts and any other relevant financial services. Deposits and withdrawal activity in your accounts are automatically registered in the software’s ledgers and changes are made in real time, leaving you in no danger of having an out of date picture of your financial position. One obvious concern about the online connection is security of information – can others intercept your information? Well, in the same way as you might have your wallet or purse stolen while walking down the street, the answer is yes, it’s possible. But with appropriate encryption measures built in as standard, it’s probably less likely. Just set a good strong password and always remember to log out when you’re done.
Some of the more popular software options are as follows:
Mint.com – Mint is US-only but comes with a mobile app for both iOS and Android giving you financial control on the move. What’s more it’s free. It connects to all your accounts: checking, savings, credit cards, investments, loans, retirement plans. It also monitors your spending, categorizing it for you. Mint also has features that help you budget, plan, deal with debts, and so on.
Check.me – This free package used to be known as Pageonce and is available online and again, as an app for both Apple and Android devices. Check.me is good if you want something a little more stripped down as rather than the full budgeting functionality it focuses more on keeping on top of payments, prompting you to pay them on time. It has recently been taken over by Mint, so functions may change soon.
Doxo – Also free, Doxo’s focus is on management of household expenses, connecting with utility providers, backing up your family documents and so on. Electric, gas, credit cards, cable, whatever the household bill, Doxo will keep it all in view for you.
Enodare.com, Although not strictly an application Enodare’s Personal Budget Kit operates directly from an Excel Spreadsheets proving much of the same functionality of the applications above without the requirement to provide online access to your financial accounts. The application works to identify and understand an individuals spending habits and then derive goals. The software provides visuals cues which help users to reduce expenses and monitor their progression towards the achievement of their financial goals.