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The New Year will arrive in just a few hours. Most of us have been reflecting on the past year and setting goals for the coming year. Getting the financials under control is a common resolution. I have been researching some no-tech, low-tech and high-tech tools that will help with this goal. I even found an “envelope system” app for the iPhone/iPad.
Tracking income and expenses and budgeting are two critical activities for staying on top of your finances. You can do this with a checkbook register and spiral notebook or use one of the tools that I describe below. It doesn’t matter what tool you use. What matters is that you choose one and use it consistently.
I have used Quicken for years and found value in its ability to quickly help me balance my checkbook and tell me with a couple of clicks how I spent my money. It works like a check register. I’ve never been fond of its budgeting system. I have Quicken 2007 and it will no longer download my bank transactions. That is one disadvantage to Quicken software; the company forces you to upgrade every three years if you want to download your transactions. The basic version is around $40. There is a deluxe (around $80) and a home & business version (around $100) too. They do have frequent sales. I’ve looked at the 2011 version. It looks nice and seems to have a more user friendly budgeting tool. Check out Quicken
Mint.com is another product very similar to Quicken but web based. It has the added benefit of being free. Intuit the parent company of Quicken purchased Mint.com in September 2009. If you need access to your accounts from multiple locations this might be a good product for you. With Mint.com you can have all your accounts in one place. It works with banks, credit cards and investment accounts. Mint.com uses bank level security. The budgeting tool in Mint.com looks very similar to the one in the 2011 version of Quicken. Mint is designed for personal use. Mint has an app for the iPhone and the android phones. Check out Mint.com
Dave Ramsey is a financial expert that I have followed for years. He has several products and books that will help you get control of your finances. He is famous for his debt snowball system and his old fashioned envelope system. He has budgeting software that you can download for $18.95. Check out Dave
Speaking of the envelope system, another web based product is Mvelopes.com. It combines a check register with the envelope system. There is a video describing the old fashioned envelope system on their website. This product brings “envelope budgeting to a cashless world”. Mvelopes is designed for personal use. There is a free 14 day trial period. The average cost of this web-based product is $129 a year. It like Mint and Quicken will download your data from your financial institutions. Check out Mvelopes
Budget Map is a no-tech tool that combines a check register with the envelope system methodology. I discovered this tool years ago. It is an actual check register that replaces your current one. Budget map has an additional 12 columns where you split your deposits into categories. For example out of an $800 weekly paycheck, you might assign $200 to groceries, $400 to mortgage, $50 to utilities, $75 to gas, and $75 to car payment. Budget-map costs $33.95 plus shipping for three check registers and a user’s guide. Budget-map is designed to track checks, debits, cash and credit card spending. The biggest disadvantages are that you must manually tally all the columns and you can’t pull a report of your long term spending. Check out budget map
My latest find is a software based product simply called Budget. There is Budget for Windows and Budget for Mac. Budget is very similar to Mvelopes except that it is software that lives on your computer. It too combines a check register with the envelope system. The software is $29.95 and is designed by Snowmint Creative Solutions. It can download your bank transactions. With Budget you can create unlimited accounts and unlimited envelopes. Budget allows you to print reports of your spending. This product could be used for both personal and business accounts. There is a free tutorial and a forum on their website.
If you are looking for a new method of tracking your finances then I suggest that you take a look at these tools. Pick one that fits your needs and commit to using it consistently. It will save you money, time and stress in the long run. I hope you all have a healthy, organized, and prosperous New Year!
Read more articles like this one on my Organize It: Data, Time, and Space Website