Even just five years ago, there were only a few options that you had when it came to keeping an eye out for your money. Now, though, there are dozens of ways where you can track your finances without stressing out and sweating over the details. We’ve tried a bunch of them, so I wanted to highlight a few of my favorites in case you’re looking at making your finances simpler to manage.
I’m starting this off with the classic, low tech option – spreadsheets. I love them. We’ve been using a Google Docs spreadsheet that we share with each other for our family budget. There are plenty of fantastic and free templates that you can use with your finances. Right now my favorite is J’s family budget one - it can juggle two paychecks, bills, savings, and credit cards.
When I was started to get interested with personal finances, many bloggers at the time were using Quicken. If you’re not familiar with with it, Quicken is personal management software that not only allows you to import your banking and investment transactions, but it can help you create a plan to pay down debt and give you a highly detailed financial snapshot.
I liked having the option of simply importing my bank information into it, but I discovered that the bank I was using at the time charged a monthly fee. (That was motivation for me to start looking for another bank – I hated the idea that I was getting a fee because I wanted to have an easy way to view MY money.)
One of my current favorites is Mint. I’m going to be honest – I think being free and easy are the biggest reasons we use it to keep tabs on our finances. It took about 10, maybe 15 minutes to get all of our accounts imported and organized. Now I can log on and get a financial snapshot without any hassle.
With a few clicks we can check our month to month spending habits, getting an idea of where you may want to cut back on. Two features that I love are goals and budget (no, not the boring kind!). With goals, I can create a game plan on paying down a debt, building up savings, or investing more in less than 5 minutes. Mint updates me on a monthly basis on how I’m doing. I can also use their budget feature to help me keep some of my non-essential spending in check (like coffee runs and eating out). I just set the target and I’ll get a text if I’m getting too close to my goal.
If you want to use Mint to manage your budget, I’d say it’s a handy tool to use.
To me, Personal Capital is like Mint (easy to set up and use), but on steroids (more features). I believe Mint is more suited for general purposes and Personal Capital is focused on investments and growing your portfolio. While it does not have a budgeting feature like Mint has, Personal Capital does have cash flow report and there are some wonderfully useful ones that can help you optimize your investments (all free):
- 401(k) Fee Analyzer
- Asset Allocation Target
- Investment Check Up
The only cost is if you want Personal Capital to actually manage your investments (less than 1% of your portfolio). I’ve used to it get a second opinion about my retirement accounts’ asset allocation and to get a check-up. I found the advice very timely and handy. If you are fairly comfortable with your finances and you’re looking at optimizing your investments, you should definitely check out Personal Capital.
Thoughts on Managing Your Money
What do you use to keep and maintain your family’s budget? What do you find to be the easiest to use and what do you find to be the most effective for your family? Besides the options I mentioned, what are your thoughts on other budgeting tools?
PHOTO CREDIT: STOPNLOOK