Popular Features of Personal Finance Software
More and more people are discovering the advantages of using personal finance software to monitor their finances and save for the future. There are a number of excellent programs on the market. But first we've described the main benefits of using this type of software below.
For most people the big advantage of using personal finance software is to be able to track their spending. All the little expenditures can really add up and keeping on eye on spending is the first step to cutting back and saving money.
Many programs today offer mobile access so users can access their records on the go and make more informed purchasing decisions, before handing over their hard earned cash.
Online Banking & Balance Reconciliation
Many users like being able to import transaction details directly from their bank, brokerage or credit card company into their personal finance program. This can save a lot of time and effort. However, a number of banks may charge fees for the online connection feature, so that is something to verify. Alternatively, you can also visit your bank’s website and import a file of your transactions every few days.
Some users prefer to enter their transactions manually and then synchronize them with the bank downloads. The benefit of this is that entering every transaction yourself shows you clearly exactly how much you're spending, and this also allows you to double-check any new bank transactions. It may be uncommon but there may be times when you wish to query any extra bank charges that you do not recognize.
Additionally, if you add your expense receipts to the program every few days, as well as adding future bills into the program register before they actually come out of your bank account, this gives a more accurate picture of your balance.
Print Your Own Checks
Some people prefer to make bill payments by check and to save time and money it can be a good idea to print your own checks. You can also add that personal touch by choosing your own check design, or adding your own photos for the background design. Printing can save time as compared to handwriting and it's easier to keep better records as all details are automatically saved in the program. You will need magnetic ink toner and special check stock paper. See our Check Writing Software
page for examples of advantages of using these programs and recommendations for check creation software.
Setting up budgets and tracking progress is made much easier with personal finance software. Some programs will analyze your current spending to set up an initial budget for you automatically which you can then revise. Graphs and reports quickly show which spending categories you need to watch out for.
Creating reports helps users keep an eye on various different types of financial information such as cashflow, net worth, budgets, capital gains, investment portfolio values and tax summaries. You should look for a program that allows for lots of customization so you can decide exactly what information you want reflected in the report. If you can save your most commonly used reports then you can re-run them quickly without having to customize them every time.
Personal finance software can also be used to track investment performance, cost-basis investment returns, capital gains and losses as well as for downloading stock quotes and relevant news headlines. Most programs will show your entire portfolio value on one screen for easy monitoring. If you're following the progress of any specific stocks you can set alerts in your finance program to receive emails with the recent stock performance.
Asset Allocation and Portfolio Analyzer tools provide further assistance to help users make better investment decisions.
See our Personal Finance Software Recommendations
Tips for Choosing Personal Finance Software
1. Decide what you need and what you don't. If you're more computer-savvy and have lots of investments, go for something with lots of options such as Quicken Premier. But if you just want help budgeting and saving, consider YNAB or similar more straightforward programs. Or consider whether the free options such as Mint, Geezeo or Quicken Online will have enough features for you.
2. Read personal finance software reviews on the internet. Find out what other users like and don't like about the software currently on the market.
3. Find software that's compatible with your computer. For Mac users, consider Quicken Mac, Moneydance or iBank (amongst others).
4. Do you want web-based personal finance software and online access to your financial information? If so, consider Mvelopes or Quicken Online.
5. Compare the different versions of the products to find the one best suited for you. If you're not sure what you'll need now, it may be possible to buy one version and upgrade to a more advanced version later.
6. Check what technical support is available for each product and decide if it will be enough for you based on your computer experience. Consider if it's worth purchasing additional support - it may save you headaches later on.
7. Try any free trials. The best way to get a feel for a program and see whether or not it will be right for you is to give it a go. Most of the top personal finance software programs currently offer free trials.
8. Check the return policies. Many personal finance software programs now come with up to 60-day money back guarantees.
9. If complete manuals don't come with your software, it may be worth buying guides separately. These can help you get a lot more usability out of your software than you would otherwise.
10. Whatever you choose - make sure you use it regularly! You'll only get out of it what you put in. For the best in monitoring spending and developing savings plan, prepare to put aside time every few days to keep your financial data up-to-date.
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