For most Americans, the financial future isn’t looking great. According to one survey, around 77% of us are anxious about our financial situation.
What can you do to ease the stress and make your money work for you?
Personal finance planning software can help! Though these software options won’t work miracles by boosting your income overnight, they can help you take control of your finances. This, in turn, can help you spend less, save more, and invest in your goals.
Ready to get started? Let’s take a look at how finance software helps and how to choose the right option for your needs.
Why Use Personal Finance Software?
First things first: why use personal finance software at all? It’s possible to keep a detailed budget in a spreadsheet or a notebook, and your bank accounts track how much money goes in and out on their own.
The answer is simple: better money management.
Personal finance software keeps track of every aspect of your finances in a single app or program. The right software will display everything from your budget and spending to your investments and retirement plans. If your credit and debts are a source of concern for you, you can even find options that show your credit score, mortgage information, and more.
In other words, personal finance software makes it easy to understand your current finances at a glance without jumping from account to account or pulling out a pen and paper. It can even track expenses and other changes in real time.
This simple structure makes it much easier to improve your finances. As you can likely guess, people who monitor and manage their finances more often tend to be wealthier than those who don’t. The same is true of people who set and track progress toward financial goals, which is easier with personal finance software.
Moreover, most of us are less likely to track our finances if we have to do it the old-fashioned way. The tedium of entering data into a spreadsheet or writing down expenses on paper every day can prevent us from doing the financial monitoring we should. Why not simplify things with an automated program?
Types of Personal Finance Planning Software
There are countless software options available to help with managing finances. These options fall into a few main categories.
If you’re trying to get a handle on your spending, budgeting software might be your best bet. These apps and programs can help you keep track of every expense. Most budgeting software will allow you to sync various bank, loan, and investment accounts for easy viewing.
You’ll also have the option to categorize your expenses and set spending limits. This allows you to create budgets for different areas of your life.
If you’re hoping to save money toward a goal, budgeting software makes it easy to plan how you’ll set aside money each month. Depending on the program you choose, you can even schedule automatic money transfers to make saving a no-brainer.
Hoping to save toward retirement or other future plans? Investment software is geared toward helping you plan for your long-term goals.
Where you once might have needed a team of professionals to help manage your investments, the right investment software makes things easy. You can often trade, chose from a range of investment types, and even get help diversifying your portfolio within a single app or program. Like with budgeting software, you can often automate your investing to work toward a goal.
As the name suggests, tax software helps you file your taxes every spring. Rather than muddling your way through complicated forms, automated software makes it easy. This can help you avoid common tax problems.
You’ll often get simple questions to guide you through the forms. With some options, you may also have access to tax professionals for more specific questions.
How to Choose the Right Software
Now that you know the different software categories, how do you choose one? The software you pick will depend on your needs and preferences. Here are a few things to consider:
For many, a software’s pricing options are the biggest concern. You can find personal finance software at a range of price points.
Many options are free or offer a free plan with no premium features. Others ask for a flat fee or a subscription for use. You may want to start with a free version to decide if the paid version’s extra features will help.
Your financial goals will also dictate the option you choose. If you’re hoping to build good financial habits, for example, you may want to choose an option that offers tutorials and other educational tools. Do your research to see how well each option fits your needs.
Where do you want to look at your finances? Desktop programs can make it easier to see a more detailed view of your accounts, but mobile use can be more convenient. If you plan to log expenses on the go, make sure you can access your account from a tablet or phone in addition to a computer.
Some personal finance software options make it easy to create, share, and print reports. This can be ideal if you’re a visual learner or if you want to share information with your accountant or tax professional.
Many types of software offer a wealth of additional features that can make your life easier. You may want to integrate the program with other apps or software, for example, or have access to expert support agents. You can also choose options that let you share information with joint account holders or set up personalized notifications when you go over budget or miss a payment.
Best Personal Finance Software Options
Though there are countless reputable options on the market, a few personal finance brands have a reputation that’s a cut above the rest. Let’s take a look at a few options that might work for you, depending on your needs and preferences.
Automated software can be great for beginners, and Mint’s free tools make it easy for anyone to budget and save. From checking your credit score to tracking a range of financial account types, Mint can help you keep a closer eye on your money.
Quicken has been the gold standard for years when it comes to budgeting software. This paid program caters to power users who want a detailed look at their finances. Though Quicken has several tiers, Quicken Deluxe is a great choice for most people who want to see everything on a single dashboard.
If you qualify for IRS Free File, any of the IRS’s available options are smart choices come tax season. Free File is open to users who make under a certain adjusted gross income each year. If you don’t qualify, there are several other noteworthy options, including TurboTax and TaxAct.
Want a head start on investing? Betterment is a great app for automated investing, making it a perfect tool for beginners and beyond.
How to Get Started
As we’ve stated above, a great way to get started with premium software is to start with the free version. This allows you to get a sense of the program’s features, reporting options, and more. If you need more features, get an upgrade; if not, stick with the base version.
The majority of personal finance software options make it easy to jump right in, but a few money management tips can help.
Most beginners should start by tracking their personal expenses using the app for a short time. This allows you to see your current financial status, including how much money is coming in, where it’s going, and how much you owe.
From there, set a budget. This is often easier once your chosen program shows you where your unnecessary expenses are. You may want to create budgets based on your savings or retirement goals or to pay down current debts.
When your expenses and budget are under control, consider your long-term plans. Depending on your needs, this may mean automating transfers to pay off significant debts or saving for retirement.
With constant tracking, you may soon find your money mindset beginning to improve. Having your finances under control should make you feel better equipped to tackle your goals and even handle emergencies!
Get Control of Your Finances
Whether you’re trying to curb your spending, pay down your debts, or save for a major life event, the right personal finance planning software can help. Monitoring your money is a great way to stay in control of your finances. Check out the options available to you, find a helpful app or program, and start tracking your money today!
Looking for additional tips on money and more? Be sure to take a look at our other guides for more advice.