This is a guest post by Sarah Pass at IdealDS.co.uk.
Managing your finances can often feel like an uphill struggle. When you’ve got bills piling up, and with food and fuel prices rising all the time, keeping your finances in check is more important than ever.
From basic budgeting to making sure you’re not paying too much tax, taking the time to get a firm grip on your finances will always pay dividends – you’ll have more money in your pocket at the end of each month, which you can put into savings and investments for your future.
There are plenty of tools out there that you can use to help make sense of your money. In this article, we look at 10 of the best…
If you have a Windows PC or laptop, there’s a good chance you’ve got MS Excel (Microsoft’s industry-leading spreadsheet software) installed on your machine already. If you have a Mac, it’s available on that platform too.
Excel is as simple or as complex as you want it to be, but as a tool for monitoring you’re overall income and expenditure, and making forecasts for the future so you can budget effectively, it’s hard to beat. It’s accessible enough to be used at home, but powerful enough that big companies use it every day as well.
Don’t worry if you’re new to Excel – you don’t have to worry about setting up complex formulas and layouts yourself. Simply download a ready-made budget template here.
Quicken is one of the best-established personal finance tools around – the first version was released in the 90s, and it’s still going strong today, available on both Windows and Mac, as well as on iPhone and Android. For most people, Quicken Starter will be sufficient – this will help you see where your money’s going, make income and expenditure projections, and set alerts to remind you when bills need to be paid etc. If you want to manage all your finances (current account, savings account, loans, credit cards etc.) in one place, Quicken is a flexible and intuitive tool that doesn’t cost much at all to buy.
Shoeboxed is a neat smartphone app that lets you create digital copies of all your receipts, plus business cards and other bills, using your phone’s built-in camera. This is great if you’re on a business trip and need to claim things back on expenses, but it’s also just a useful tool for keeping a visual record of what you’re spending. You can input this data into something like Excel or Quicken.
Yodlee is a powerful system that can automatically pull data from all your different accounts and investments onto one screen, and their aggregation engine is used to power a number of other services. Unlike most other software, Yodlee can process and present your finances in real time, making its reminders and alerts especially useful. Some features are only available in the US, but the free MoneyCenter tools are still well worth a look.
ToshI is another tools that lets you track outgoings and income, but the way it visualises this information is far more intuitive and nice to look at than many of the alternatives. You can even produce custom infographics to help you get a quick, visual snapshot of your finances. ToshI offer free and Pro versions, as well as apps for all major mobile operating systems.
Marketed as “personal finance software for people who hate personal finance software,” CashBase is another slick option for anyone who wants to track their expenses, create budgets, project cashflow, and check the state of their finances from any location. Budgets, cashflow projections, weekly reports and 12-hour customer support are only available for paid users – a Pro account costs $5 a month. However, there are still more than enough features bundled into the free version for this to earn a place on our list.
Xero is aimed more at self-employed users and small businesses, and is billed as “the world’s easiest accounting software.” From payroll and expenses to stock control and asset depreciation, this software allows you to monitor and manage your business finances in one place. A free trial is available, and the most popular price plan costs £19/month.
eBay is a great tool that can both save and make you money. Download the app, and use it when you’re out shopping to see if you can get the same items or an acceptable alternative cheaper from an eBay seller. You can also use this to sell any unwanted items and make a bit of extra cash.
Amazon Price Check
The Amazon Price Check app lets you scan the barcode of a product in your local store and check whether you can get it for less on Amazon, giving you the best of both worlds. Smaller retailers aren’t exactly delighted with the concept, but it’s great news for price-conscious consumers.
Your Bank’s App
If you only use one tool on this list, make it this one. Most major banks have mobile banking apps now, allowing you to check your balance, make transfers between accounts, and pay other businesses and individuals, wherever you are. With a mobile banking app on your phone, there’s no excuse for not knowing the state of your finances. No more unopened statements and no more unauthorised overdrafts – it’s time to take control and this is a fabulous first step.
Image by Images_of_Money