With so many options on the market today, it can be difficult to know how to choose the best web based personal finance software. Before discussing how to find the right option for your needs, let’s explore why personal finance software is important.
No matter how much money you have, everyone abides by a budget to some extent. Even the richest of the rich have their limits. In order to maintain a comfortable lifestyle, it is necessary to manage and spend your money as wisely as possible. Numerous studies have shown people who get into the habit of monitoring their money wind up wealthier than those who don’t.
Personal finance software can be likened to a car dashboard – you are able to gauge your spending by tracking your transactions and receive warning signs when problems arise. You can also keep tabs on your journey while in progress by making sure you are not speeding toward your destination, aka spending beyond your means – especially with retirement looming in the distance.
The good news is in today’s digital age, it is more convenient than ever to keep track of how much money you have, as well as your expenses and investments. With only a click of the mouse or a tap of your finger, you can access all your accounts and view your financial profile with ease.
How to Find the Best Personal Finance Software for Your Needs
You know it’s important to have a clear understanding of your financial state, but how do you know which web based personal finance software is best for your individual situation? After all, every program comes with a unique set of advantages and disadvantages.
The key is to do your research in order to figure out which platform is right for you. Many personal finance web applications are free, so you can even download a few and take them for a test drive. If you’re not happy with the user experience, simply delete the program and explore other available options. No harm done.
For web based software, head to the site and find out if you can take an online tour or download a free trial version prior to making a purchase.
It’s easy to try out a number of alternatives when the app is free, but how can you be confident in your decision when you have to blindly fork over your hard-earned dollars? For your convenience, we have compiled a list of tips you should keep in mind when figuring out which web based personal finance software is right for you.
Like most things in life, you’re not going to use personal finance software if it’s not convenient. Whether web or mobile-based, you need to be able to easily access your information whenever you want. If the program is not user-friendly or you forget how to navigate the features every time you log in, you won’t use the app on a regular basis.
The most successful tools are those which are intuitive. Make sure the web based personal finance software you choose is easy to understand and access. At the end of the day, there’s no sense in paying for a program or service you hardly use – especially if you’re using the software to manage your expenses!
Keep in mind convenience should not supersede security. If you don’t need to go through several steps prior to entering your personal financial data, take a moment to think whether the site or program you are using is truly secure.
Before granting access to your information, a properly secured site will require you to enter your username, password, verify the accuracy of a unique security image you have chosen, and answer one or more security questions such as, “What is the first name of your best friend?” or “What is the name of the hospital where you were born?”
Evaluate available features
Personal finance software can vary widely in terms of available features, so it’s important to do your research and find a program with all the bells and whistles you need.
For instance, if you are doing your best to stick to a strict budget, a budget planning feature will clearly be useful. You will be able to create a personal budget in a way which is easier than setting up an Excel spreadsheet or using old-fashioned pen and paper. With a web based budget tracker, you can also assign specific budget categories to income and expenses.
If you are interested in making tax time easier, look for a program that categorizes tax-related transactions and other tax-deductible expenses. Annual income tax preparation is much more streamlined if transaction categories for taxes are included in your financial software. Keep in mind you need to be diligent about using tax categories over the course of the year or you may encounter tax return errors once April 15th rolls around.
For those who want to pay bills online or set up automated payments each month, look for a web based personal finance software with bill paying capabilities.
You may be able to pay directly through the software while automatically entering the transaction into the appropriate account at the time of payment – a great option if your bank charges a fee for online bill pay services.
Personal finance software also comes in handy when you need to quickly reconcile your bank account(s). You will be much less likely to make a mistake if a program is crunching the numbers on your behalf.
Keep in mind reconciliation features are most often found in Windows and Mac financial software – not as often with online apps. Automatic reconciliation allows you to easily determine whether your account balance matches the balance provided by your bank, credit card company, etc.
At a basic level, the software you choose should allow you to schedule reminders for bills, deposits, fund transfers, paychecks, and the like. Late payments are almost always accompanied by interest and fees, so save yourself a great deal of frustration by sending a reminder to your smartphone or email. Also, when you log onto your software account, a reminder should appear alerting you to an upcoming bill payment.
In order to receive regular reminders, remember to set up scheduled transactions for all bills you expect to pay on a regular basis. You can also set up deposits in scheduled transactions. You can seamlessly track your account balances and transactions for any number of accounts, because the software will automatically reflect current balances.
If you’re not thrilled with the idea of automatically downloading transaction information (although nowadays, it is a very secure procedure), you can choose a financial software program which allows you to import transactions once they are downloaded to your computer, or enter transactions by hand.
Determine goal-tracking capabilities
Sure, you use web based personal finance software to track your current expenses and determine where you spend and where you can save. But what about the future?
You need your money to work for you in both the short- and long-term, so it’s important to be able to plan ahead and allocate the appropriate amount of funds for the years to come. After all, you never know what’s going to happen tomorrow or the next day or the day after that, so it’s important to be prepared for any type of financial emergency you encounter.
Most programs on the market today do a good job of giving you the option to view past spending habits, but few have the capabilities to track future spending habits. If you are interested in looking down the road, keep an eye out for a program which gives you the ability to set specific goals, as well as monitor your progress toward those goals.
Whether you are focused on paying off your student loans, budgeting for your upcoming wedding, or buying a new car, it’s helpful to have clear benchmarks in place. Also, it will most likely be easier to stay motivated if you know how much progress you’ve made, as well as how far you have to go.
Plus, no matter how old you are, it is important to start thinking about retirement – even if you have only recently joined the workforce. Establish and track retirement goals with the help of your personal finance software to ensure you have enough money to live comfortably once you have clocked out for the last time.
If planning for the long haul is high on your priority list, do your due diligence and be sure the program you choose offers adequate tools for future expenses. Full-service software will allow you to track your money in the past, present, and future.
The Bottom Line
By this point, you have probably realized there is no right or wrong way to choose the best web based personal finance software. At the end of the day, it comes down to personal preference, as well as what type of tools you need. Everyone has a unique set of financial circumstances, so everyone will be looking for something different when it comes to managing their money.
The key is to determine which features are most important to you, so you can easily evaluate your software options. Whether it’s budget tracking, making tax time easier, or setting up automatic bill pay, personal finance software can easily streamline your finances and give you an accurate snapshot of your portfolio at any given time.
With a wealth of information so easily accessible in today’s day and age, it doesn’t make sense not to have your finances compiled in one convenient location. How you go about making the decision of which program to use is entirely up to you, but hopefully we have provided a good starting point, or at the very least, some good talking points.
If you look for a web based personal software program that is convenient, offers the features you are interested in, and gives you the option to track your money at various stages in your life, then you should be pleased with your decision.