There was a time you could make the excuse that managing your money was too complicated. Those days are not only long gone, but personal finance software and apps keep improving, getting more user friendly, as well as more comprehensive. Now you have to look yourself squarely in the mirror and get on with the matter of taking charge of your money.
Here is a round up of some of tools out there that can help you chart the course for your financial future.
Quicken Deluxe 2015, $74.99
Intuit’s Quicken is perhaps the granddaddy of personal finance software. Quicken makes it simple to track your money, what’s coming in and where it’s going. You can know when paychecks and bills are scheduled, expenses can be categorized. You can customize your budget and the system creates a debt reduction plan for you. Quicken can show you how much it will take to reach your retirement goals. The deluxe version includes a free mobile app that you can sync information between your computer, tablet and smartphone. You can have all your financials at your fingertips like savings, checking, credit card, loans, investments and retirement accounts. Another plus, information can be imported to Intuit’s popular TurboTax when you’re ready to deal with Uncle Sam at tax time.
"Quicken gives you some decent reports, net worth, capital gains, transactions, asset allocation, and an internal rate of return," says Quicken fan Victoria Rogers, a certified financial planner with Schneider Downs Wealth Management Advisors.
Intuit’s free online personal finance solution is Mint.com. "Mint excels in terms of customer service and feedback. The service takes a mere second to sync with your bank accounts, allowing you to view a quick snapshot of your personal finances and providing insightful analytics regarding your spending habits when it comes to food, entertainment, utilities, and other facets of your monthly budget," raved Joe Donovan, a tech buff, in an article for Digital Trends.
Much as you hate to pay your bills, the sooner you deal with them the better. Late fees are wasted money and not insignificant if you’ve got a bad habit. PrismMoney, a free bill pay and budget app, works hard to make it easy for you to be, "master of your money," as it advertises. You’re notified when a bill has been created and again before it’s due.
Prism makes plain how much each bill represents relative to the others and relative to your paycheck. The home screen allows you to see all your monthly bills and how each fit into your budget and income. You can track paydays to better synchronize with bill due dates. Prism takes away the guess work. It will calculate how paying bills late or early will affect income and budget before you start paying bills.
Prism works by going directly through the biller’s website, to ensure that your account is properly credited.
iBank, $59.99 for Mac, $19.99 for iPad, $9.99 for iPhone
Developed by IGG Software, iBank helps people budget better, save more and invest. Not only can you see what’s doing with your credit cards, bank, and investment accounts, you can get reports on income and expenses, your investments’ performance, your net worth, as well as budgeting and bill management.
"You can use iBank to track your spending patterns, (including assigning categories or sub-categories to every transaction), use enhanced import rules for speedy categorization, and split transactions multiple ways for detailed budgeting and reporting, says Alexandra Gardell Kreuter, a spokesperson for IGG Software.
iBank’s Envelope Budgeting feature makes it painless to visualize a way to monitor your regular spending and build savings. For example, you can create expense categories for various items like mortgage/rent, groceries, car payment, and use the income to fill their digital envelopes, apply scheduled transactions automatically, move cash as needed, adjust budgets on the fly and track your progress.
AceMoney is being a called a top alternative to Microsoft Money and Quicken. Earlier this year, the Tom’s Guide ranked AceMoney No. 1 in personal finance software. Why did it get such kudos? "Easy installation, interface and robust tools will suit your need. You can set and achieve financial goals, while monitoring your spending habits with the program’s various reports." Its spending, investment and transaction reports, that provide an overview of your finances, along with detailed breakdowns of various subcategories that let you view specific information like individual transactions from particular payees or payment due dates, were also highlighted in the rankings. The software also exports to different file types which is helpful come tax time when you want to integrate that information.
YNAB (You Need a Budget), $60
Wherever there’s an internet connection, YNAB works to get you off the financial rollercoaster. It too, was a favorite of Tom’s Guide. Not only is your budget updated but YNAB is designed to help you set aside money for infrequent expenses, like quarterly or annual bills. For monthly bills, you can create a scheduled transaction that is done automatically.
Go to school. A unique offering is YNAB University, which boasts a 10-day course designed to help you get control of your finances by maintaining a budget. Community forums also provide support. One downside notes Tom’s Guide if you’re looking for tax integration features, that’s not one of the product’s strengths.
This free personal finance app assists you in tracking your money by keeping tabs on your daily spending and saving. The app automatically updates your spendable cash as you make purchases each day, providing a simple, accurate balance. Level also offers an Insights feature that allows you to monitor past spending and balances, project your future spending and balances and track spending categories.
The Bottom Line
Technology gives you the tools to have the knowledge you need to manage your finances. Knowledge is power, but only if you put it into action.