Use these simple tools to get your finances in order.
There are many ways to manage your money – everybody has their own method, but not everyone discusses their finances openly. Avoiding thinking about your finances is the surest way to manage your money badly. To keep your finances in check, you’ve got to find a method that helps you understand how much money you have coming in and where you are allocating it.
Unless you understand the ins and outs of where your money is going, your checking account is essentially a black hole. Fortunately, it is easy to get your finances in order with the help of personal finance tools. Use these options to bring some transparency to your spending and saving:
Ways to Keep Track of Your Finances
Mint.com – a free online service from Intuit, maker of TurboTax, QuickBooks and a trusted payroll software provider. One area where Mint really shines is giving you a bird-eye view of your finances, allowing you to see a high-level overview of your income, cash, investments, debt, and net-worth. With goal building walk-throughs that can be linked with your real account balances (securely), you can make clear objectives to hold yourself to. You also get the benefit of tracking your financial performance over time to track the state of your finances. You can easily create a monthly budget with categories that get suggested based on your actual spending. Mint keeps track of your ongoing purchases and tallies your totals for each area of your budget. You can easily see overages and your current spending pace for each category based on how far into the month it is. These features, along with weekly spending/saving summaries really allow you to take control of your finances and stick to a budget.
You Need A Budget (or YNAB, as it is more lovingly referred to) allows you to establish spending limits and create a budget. While its feature scope appears more limited than what Mint can do, YNAB is a powerful tool for creating a budget and is great at what it does. You can create notes, add scheduled payment information to avoid re-entering information, get a quick yet powerful overview of your budget and easily revert to prior versions of your budget if you make any mistakes. For extra power in taking control of your finances and spending, you can easily search through any information you have entered in order to find information effortlessly, as opposed to searching through old receipts you probably already lost or threw away. While You Need A Budget is not free, they do offer a 34 day free trial. You have the added benefit of having your finances rest on your own computer with software that you own rather than using an online service that is subject to potentially go away. Armed with a tool as powerful as YNAB, over the course of a year or even a month you can easily offset the purchase price with the savings you create from getting your finances in check.
Spreadsheets – while specialized services may appeal to someone who has no idea where to start with managing their money, spreadsheets allow you to manage your finances in a familiar way that is easily transferred between computers. For more analytical people, you have the flexibility of defining your finances in as detailed of a manner as you’d like, with built in graphing and reporting tools. For those who do not have their money under control but know the amounts of their paychecks and bills, a spreadsheet is an easy way to get started putting your budget into real numbers. Free templates can be downloaded as a starting point and you have the flexibility to add to the detail of your spreadsheet over time the more you leverage it.
While no method of keeping track of your finances is foolproof, these three tools can appeal to the majority of people. Mint, You Need A Budget, and Spreadsheets all form a solid foundation for you to begin turning your spending around and to make impactful goals. By getting started today, you can invest in your future and turn your debt and careless spending into something you are no longer afraid of. The most important thing is to find something that helps you truly understand the state of your financial house and to begin making realistic changes to make yourself accountable for your money. The ultimate tool at your disposal is your ability to have oversight over your money!