It’s the beginning of a new year—and this is certainly the season for resolutions galore. Whether it is personal, work-related or financial, your new-year financial objectives need solid preparation, strategy and effective implementation to be successful. Personal finance software gives you the tools and mindset necessary to fulfill your economic resolutions, from managing your expenses to paying off your credit card debt to planning for retirement. This article provides you a collection of tips and best practices so you can get your financial new year started in the right direction.
Do your homework and set up goals
When it comes to personal finance, the most important tip is preparation. Do your homework, figure out your goals and formulate the best tactics to achieve them. You can use software to reach your objectives, but without effective planning, odds of a successful implementation are slim. Finance specialists often say a personal finance goal must be S.M.A.R.T.: specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound. Another aspect of personal preparation entails talking to friends and family, doing online research and reaching out to professionals.
Be mobile ready
In this day and age, the Internet has asserted its dominance on the way we live, make money, spend money and plan for the future. In addition, mobile devices are soon to be the predominant device accessing the Internet — you need only see the hundreds of millions of handheld devices that are currently active to assure yourself of this trend.
If you do have a smart phone, you can easily avail yourself of some wonderful apps that will allow you to, at a minimum, obtain real-time account and expense status of your various banking accounts. PCMag.com provides here a comprehensive, well-rounded list of personal finance software including some great apps. Be sure to take a look at the apps from Mint and Check.Me.
Remember that some of these apps are free, while others require that you make a one-time (often hefty) payment or remit a specific amount on a monthly basis. Check with the app provider or website before picking your program.
Choose your personal finance software wisely
PCMag.com’s Jill Duffy in her “Best Personal Finance software” article, gives a nice rundown of the pros and cons of some of the top software packages on the market including: Mint, Doxo, Manilla, Check.Me, and You Need a Budget. She doesn’t mention Quicken but you should know that this latest release from Intuit is also one of the most popular software packages on the market.
Take advantage of the cloud and niche websites
To track your money, you don’t necessarily need off-the-shelf software. Many websites now provide the same functionalities you find in a typical program using ‘cloud technology’. These cloud based applications range from expense monitoring and income planning to tax planning, debt management and retirement planning. The 2014 version of Quicken provides you a mobile app that syncs in the cloud. Mint and Check.Me use the cloud as well. Most of these programs also allow you to archive multi-year data—which is a good thing if you want to check progress made, identify weaknesses in your financial strategy or figure out what expense categories are “eating” your money away.
There are some great websites to bookmark as well. Personal finance connoisseur Laura Adams in her “7 Best Finance Tools” post, gives helpful tips on money management and recommends some of great niche websites such as: Mint.com, Checkingfinder.com, Dinkytown.com and Annualcreditreport.com.
The best tips for personal finance software start with effective preparation, goal definition and expert advice. To increase your chances of success, figure out what type of financial objective you want to achieve—curb debt or track expenses, for example—and seek the best tools to reach the objective. Remember that personal finance software comes in three types: desktop applications, websites/cloud applications and smart phone apps. The idea is to find a program that fits your budget (not all apps are free); is compatible with your device; and can help you input, track, analyze and summarize your financial information in an easy and effective manner.
Mr. Jay Wilner is managing partner at Out of Bounds Communications, a digital marketing agency based in Kansas City. He writes on a variety of financial, military and technology topics. He wrote this article on behalf of SET Financial, an up and coming community financial lender based in Fort Mill, SC.