In the good old days, personal finance for most people meant simply balancing their checkbook once a week and making sure they had enough money in the bank to cover the monthly bills. Of course that was long before the days of multiple credit cards, electronic fund transfers, PayPal, and the dozens of other complicated financial transactions made by even the average person on a daily basis. These days, keeping track of person finances can be quite a chore and can often overwhelm you, leading to a less than perfect financial situation.
Modern life has created additional headaches in our daily lives, but fortunately it has also provided new tools to use to control them. Personal finance software is the best option for keeping one’s personal finances organized and up to date.
Personal finance software comes in many varieties, each offering a specific set of financial tools. The simplest forms simply keep track of multiple bank accounts, including credit card accounts. The most complete versions offer tax tracking, investment tracking, budget analysis, electronic banking and a long list of other features. How much you need depends on your situation and how closely you want to track your finances.
Most banks now offer free electronic banking to their customers. Make sure that whichever program you choose, it is capable of taking advantage of electronic banking. The vast majority of programs offer this feature as standard so you shouldn’t have to look hard. With electronic banking, you can easily check your balance, automatically download statements, transfer funds among accounts and have all your information seamlessly transferred into your electronic account register.
The two powerhouses of financial software are Quicken from Intuit Corporation and Microsoft Money. Both companies offer several versions of the program and generally offer the same features. The interfaces are slightly different and one’s preference will likely come down to which one appeals to you most. New editions are released each year to account for changes in banking and tax law and owners of the previous year’s edition will receive discounts to upgrade.
Another option that is growing in popularity is software that is kept entirely online. You never actually download a program to your computer and can access your information from any computer connected to the Internet, including SmartPhones. This is referred to as “cloud computing.” Some websites offer a low monthly fee to use the software and other sites are free and entirely advertising supported. Some people prefer this method for its convenience and other people stay away from these programs due to security fears.
Once you begin to use personal finance software you’ll wonder how you ever managed your finances without it. People become addicted to seeing the computer generated reports of exactly where their money goes each month. They often find this makes it easier to create a budget and stick to it. Even if you simply want to keep your basic checking account up to date, personal finance software is worth the small price.
If you’re looking for debt settlement, one great place to start is with your own finances. Getting your finances organized is a key step in getting yourself on the road to financial freedom. If you’ve never done something like this before, it will take some time to set up your system, but once you’ve got yourself organized, keeping track of your money will be much easier.
First, decide whether you want to track your finances electronically or on paper. There are advantages to each method, but in the long run, an electronic record of your transactions will probably be more versatile. Also, if you’re married or otherwise in a relationship with another person, and you share finances, your system will have to work for two people.
If you decided to go the electronic route, there are several free programs you can use to help you keep track of your expenditures and your budget. Though the two are related, they’re not the same. Your expenditures are your actual purchases and payments. Your budget is the plan you’ll use to make spending decisions.
The free programs run the gamut from very basic checkbook registers, to complicated budget planning and expense tracking programs. You may also be able to import statement data from your bank, and export data from your finance program to other software tools. These tools do take longer to set up, so don’t lose heart if this takes longer than you think it should. You can find a wide selection of these programs at Web sites like Tucows.
Make a list of your established electronic payments and the date(s) on which these payments are withdrawn from your bank account. Don’t forget to include any periodic payments that may happen only once or twice each year.
Collect your bank statements from the last 6-12 months. You may want to enter some starting data to get your finance program rolling. If not, your statements are still good to have on hand, because they’ll help you when you start planning your budget.
Have a calendar handy. You’ll need to mark specific dates that bills and special payments are due, and you’ll also need to mark paydays. This will help you keep track of your cash flow from paycheck to paycheck.
When you’re ready to start, you’ll need to track all of your expenses, the date they occur and what effect they have on your bank account. It may take a month or two to get into the habit of maintaining your own financial records. If you get into the habit of doing this regularly, you’ll find that balancing your checkbook each month will be easier and you’ll have better control of your finances.
Most of us were raised in a world where we had to touch and feel our bills and statements. We received our monthly bills in the mail, opened the envelope, reviewed the information and set it aside to pay at a later time. When it was time to pay our monthly bills, we would review the bill, write a check and then enclose it in an envelope and mail the payment. Until very recently, that is all we knew – that is how we lived our lives.
With the creation of the personal computers and other personal electronic devises, and of course the internet, what we have always done may not be, today, the smartest way of handling our finances. It certainly is not the “greenest” way of handling our monthly expenses.
We should all be concerned about identity theft. It is known that some of the ways our personal financial information is obtained is through the theft of our paper receipts, bills and statements. Certainly bills can be shredded to protect against identity theft, but perhaps the real answer is not have your bill in paper form at all. The following are five reasons on why to keep your finances online…
My five reasons are:
1. You will eliminate your cost of paying bills with paper. If you pay ten bills a month, in postage alone you will save over $50 annually by switching to a bed-based payment method. That does not take in account the cost of your checks and envelopes. In fact, you may actually receive some rewards by signing up for paperless billing. I have to believe all banks and credit unions now offer bill paying services and if you are with a bank that does not, most likely your credit card company, mortgage or utility company takes payment right at their website.
2. You will not need to go to the post-office as often. Okay, this may not amount to a big savings, but keep in mind there is talk that the US Post Office is going to be delivering mail five days a week instead of six. The cost of gas is certainly a factor for all of us when deciding to drive now-a-days so the idea of not having to go to the post office and leave mail in an unattended box makes good sense.
3. You will reduce the cost and clutter of paper filing. By creating folders on your computer or in a free email account, you save the cost of purchasing a file cabinet. Electronic files are easy to transfer and even easier to back-up. Keep in mind, in case of a fire in your home you may lose your records, however, if it is stored on a web-based back-up system your files remain protected.
4. You have access to your files literally anywhere. You can eliminate the tireless searches through receipts and invoices by creating an electronic storage system. If you use a free email account or a web-based back-up system, you can literally access your files anywhere there is internet access.
5. You will deter theft. By now most people realize that mail is stolen from mail boxes and those wanting to steal someone’s identity often rummage through garbage. With your information secured by password on a computer you are protecting yourself and deterring theft.Of course if there was a sixth reason to become paperless when it comes to maintaining your financial records is that we all should become more “green.” The fewer paper bills and statements you receive means the fewer trees cut down and ultimately the less waste deposited in landfills.
With the right security on your computer and a little re-training of how we were raised, switching your bills and statements to a paperless method will prove to be more secure, easier to manage and better for our environment.
James Campanella is a twenty-five year veteran of the mortgage lending industry. He is the Branch Manager (Rolling Meadows, IL) of Supreme Lending, a national mortgage banker.
When not originating residential mortgage loans, Jim hosts the mortgage blog, “The Mortgage Messenger.” Jim is the author of the e-book “The Mortgage Messenger’s Home Buyer’s Handbook.”
If your car insurance is due for renewal and you are considering buying another policy then this article will provide you with important facts that you should know about. Car insurance policies are getting increasingly expensive and you should do all that you can to reduce your costs. How much you have to pay for your car insurance is dictated by a variety of factors as they apply to you and your vehicle.
In this article we will examine coverage limits, your age, gender and marital status, your location and insuring other household members. All of these factors will have a great influence on how much you will have to pay for your policy.
Coverage limits are generally dictated by the price that you are willing to pay for your insurance. A higher level of coverage will generally result in higher premiums. The best way to find a good value policy is to comparison shop. Nowadays it is generally accepted that the best way to do this is by using a car insurance comparison website.
Your age, gender and marital status will have a great effect on the auto insurance rates that you are offered. Insurers rate drivers using a variety of criteria, if you are a young single male driver you will usually have to pay higher rates. If you are a middle-aged female married driver then your rates will be lower. Insurers calculate the best car insurance rates for you by comparing levels of risk. Those groups which are statistically more likely to be involved in an accident have to pay correspondingly higher rates.
Location plays an important part in deciding how much your premiums will cost. Drivers who live in an urban environment will usually pay more than those from a rural area. This is because drivers who live in cities and heavily populated areas are more likely to be involved in an accident, or to have their car stolen or vandalized. Insurers generally offer better rates if you’re able to demonstrate that you keep your vehicle in a garage at night. You may also be able to improve the security arrangements of your automobile by fitting an alarm, immobilizer and steering wheel lock.
Insuring other household members will have an influence on the cost of your policy and the best car insurance rates that you offered. If you have teenage family members living with you and they are added to your policy, then your costs will increase. This may still work out cheaper than if your teenage driver were to have a separate policy in their own name.
In conclusion, there are a variety of different factors which can affect your ability to be offered the best insurance rates. Some of these are coverage limits, how old you are, whether you are male or female and whether you are married or single. Your rates will also be affected by the area where you live and whether other household members are included in your policy.