Last year was terrible for me as far as my spending is concerned. I stopped budgeting in May. Seeing red month after month in my spreadsheet while we endured a home renovation that was WAY out of control, a new washing machine, a high school and college graduation, three children in college, not one but THREE new sets of tires on vehicles, and an unexpected surgery, was so upsetting to me that I just quit the spreadsheet. I swore to myself that I would get it together in 2024. Now that most of that is behind us (except the three kids in college), I am working on cleaning up the mess and organizing the chaos into something that hopefully my CPA can make the best of.
Fortunately, I keep good track of transactions throughout the year, so organizing is easy. Managing personal finances can be a daunting task, but one that I used to enjoy when I had “control.” Many of us avoid this. From tracking expenses to planning, staying on top of your finances requires organization and diligence. Fortunately, it is straightforward with the advent of personal accounting and budgeting software and apps. As a financial professional, I frequently listen to podcasts, read publications on personal finance and investing, and see ads for financial and personal accounting tools. There are many to choose from!
For my own personal accounting, I use more than one tool to budget and track my spending. That is certainly not necessary, but it works for me. These different software programs and apps vary in their offerings and complexity, and what works for one client may not work for another. Also, some people have relatively simple monthly expenses and income that are consistent and easy to track, which makes many of these apps work very well for them. Others with varying monthly incomes and expenses and more complexity may need something more robust. My advice to clients has always been to use what will allow them to succeed; it is undoubtedly not “one-size-fits-all.” You may need to test a few before finding what suits you.
Everyone has several reasons to implement personal accounting software or a personal accounting app into their financial wellness routine. Many of them are even free to use. These tools will allow you to be streamlined and organized! Having all your financial information in one place makes a significant difference. You can track income and expenses and even monitor investments and retirement accounts. Many of these tools often come with budgeting features that allow you to set spending limits for different categories, track your expenses against these limits, and receive alerts when you are approaching or exceeding your budget. By tracking my expenses, I can easily see where I overspend. One of the best things about using a personal finance software program is the time that it saves me. I have linked my accounts and do an “update” daily to download and “match” transactions automatically. I reconcile monthly with a click of a button. At tax time, I create reports to give to my CPA.
As part of ongoing investment management and financial planning, we provide our clients with our eMoney Advisor software. This allows our clients to have a free, personal financial website where they can aggregate their financial information and link accounts in one place. It also has a robust budgeting tool. I have been a user of Quicken since I was in college. Quicken allows
me to manage my different checking, savings, and investment accounts, download transactions, sync with my bank and brokerage, create reports, and share with my CPA. I use a simple spreadsheet for budgeting. Another software program worth investigating is Simplifi by Quicken. It’s inexpensive and has much of the same capability as the Quicken Deluxe version. This version, however, will allow you to share your information with your financial advisor.
If you have not already, make 2024 the year you master personal accounting and budgeting. I have renewed my commitment to getting back on track so that I will be doing this along with you. The time you spend now will save you hours in the future.