Whenever you’ve got a job to do, it’s always a good idea to choose the right tools. With the right tools, you can do pretty much anything you want. Most of us think of tools as things we use to make stuff in the physical world. But they can also be put to good use in the digital world of our personal finances. Digital tools are often effective, useful and even fun. And, importantly, a great help for those of us who sometimes struggle to manage our money effectively.
At the moment, there are all sorts of different budgeting tools out there to help you manage loans, investments, and income. Many of these are free or have free versions. Let’s have a look at some of the best.
Personal Capital brings together personal finances and investments into a single package. On the dashboard, you’ll find options to track your budget and your investment portfolio. And you can link various current and investment accounts to the program to better manage your finances. Personal Capital also has options for retirees or people wanting to hook up their retirement accounts.
The software also has some hidden productivity tricks, to make your life easier. First off, you don’t have to connect your bank account manually to the software if you don’t want to. It’s able to do this automatically. And like a lot of modern accounting software, it’s able to categorize transactions on your bank statement automatically. Again, this helps reduce the amount of time you spend manually entering transactions on your ledger. Right now it’s recommended by www.forbes.com.
Quicken was one of the first budgeting tools available on the market. And, even today, it can compete with some of the best. Quicken connects to your financial institution, and it has the usual features of a money management tool. However, Mac users should be wary. Quicken is not very robust on Mac devices and support is lacking. On the PC, however, it’s much better and should serve you well.
Mint is a tool very much like Quicken. In fact, the brand is owned by the same parent company. However, Mint is a tool that is much more a part of the modern age. Being online, Mint can be accessed from any device from any location. And this makes it a far more robust platform for managing one’s finances.
Mint collects up most of your financial information from credit cards and investment accounts. It then helps you to track things like spending habits, budgets, and loan repayments. As sites like personalmoneystore.com point out, short-term financial crises are sometimes difficult to avoid. That’s why Mint includes features to track both your assets and your liabilities and tools to view your net worth. Mint also comes with a feature that allows you to see how your budget breaks down so you can see where you’re spending.
There are two main drawbacks to Mint. First off, because it’s free, it relies on advertising for income. This means you’ll see a lot of financial products popping up. The other problem is that it can take the site some time to process your requests. Often you’ll have to wait a while for pages to load. Having said that, that’s pretty good for something that is virtually free.
You Need A Budget
According to experts, You Need A Budget, has many advantages over its key rivals. The first is that it is very much like a regular spreadsheet. And for those who are used to tracking their finances on a worksheet, this can be helpful. The program comes with a bunch of tools that help you set up an appropriate spreadsheet in minutes.
The next big advantage is in how the program allows you to budget. Rather than relying on money that you haven’t been paid yet, You Need A Budget only uses money already earned. Thus, when it comes to financial planning, it forces you to be a prude. If you’re not used to living within your means, this tool will soon force a change in your behavior.
Finally, like most other tools we’ve mentioned here, You Need A Budget comes with analytical tools. This allows you to make it easier to see where your money is going and where you are spending.
Unfortunately, the tool does come with some significant drawbacks. That’s partly thanks to its spreadsheet design. The primary problem here is that you’re not able to connect the software to your bank account. Instead, you have to download all your bank statements and then enter transaction manually. This shouldn’t take most people more than about 30 minutes. But doing this month after month can be tiresome.
Prepaid Card Features
Recently, we’ve seen the rise of prepaid and credit card vendors including budgeting tools in their packages. One of these tools is Spend Analyzer. Obviously, it’s linked to your credit card account. And like some of the other software out there, it can automatically categorize your spending habits.
But the company behind the tool didn’t want to stop there. They also wanted to provide users with a tool that would help them climb out of credit card debt should they fall into trouble. This makes a lot of sense since credit card companies want people who are solvent using their products. Paydown Planner is a tool that helps card users manage their credit card repayments. It allows customers to control the flow of their money over time to make sure that they can pay down bills.
But it’s not just the smaller players in the market who have started included tools and features to go along with their cards. Interestingly, bigger players, like American Express are also getting involved. What’s interesting about Amex’s entry into the space is the fact that this card provider usually targets the top end of the market. Despite this, they’ve introduced a tool called Insight. It’s not particularly feature-packed. But it does reveal that lenders are now seeing the benefits of helping keep their customers’ budgets in check.
Image 3 credits: By Lotus Head from Johannesburg, Gauteng, South Africa – sxc.hu, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=99950