Keeping Your Financial House in Order

Sep 24, 2012 | Personal

Your home may be nice and tidy, but can you say the same for your financial “house”?
Just as the space within the four walls that is your home becomes messy if not for regular upkeep, your financial space ends up in shambles if you don’t stay on top of what’s going in and what’s going out of your accounts.
But we recognize that managing your personal finances is far easier said than done. Tracking transactions, entering receipts for purchases, remembering when various payments are withdrawn automatically from your account, and even what those payments are in the first place – all that takes good recordkeeping, time and diligence.
Don’t keep a close eye on your accounts? You won’t see the identity thief that’s been stealing your hard-earned money. Don’t regularly check on your checking? You may end up incurring overdraft fees when you don’t have enough money in your account to cover purchases or payments posted to it.
The good news is there are more tools and applications to help you manage your personal finances than ever before. While some prefer the traditional pen and paper checkbook register method, many tech-savvy folks are now choosing personal finance software, cloud-based programs or even smartphone apps to keep tabs on their accounts.
Personally, I’m a former pen and paper gal, now long time QuickBooks user. For me, having a great tool to track and analyze spending (I am a complete data nerd) is just the ticket.
Here are a few things to consider as you endeavor to better manage your personal finances.
What’s Best for You?
First, consider what you want to get out of a personal finance tool.
Functionality. SmartMoney recently reviewed a number of mobile and web-based programs that enable one to clearly see the transactions being made from various accounts, manage bill paying, reconcile account balances, and provide a “snapshot” of spending habits.
You may not be as hung up on web-based programs. If that’s the case, this Wall Street Journal article also lists popular software programs to assist with budgeting, financial planning and banking.
If you’re looking for a way to track your investment portfolio, some of these tools may be helpful, tracking transactions, linking multiple accounts, and analyzing allocation data resulting in a clear picture of the state of your investments in one place.
Aside from functionality, there are other practical considerations:
Accessibility. To start, it is helpful to consider whether you want to opt for downloading software onto your computer, or the convenience of accessing your data on-the-go; from your smartphone or iPad at no or low cost via a cloud- or app-based financial management tool.
Compatibility. Take heed, not every piece of software or app will fit with your smartphone or computer. Some apps may only be compatible with your iPhone, but not your family member’s Android, for example, and some software may be compatible with your PC but not your Mac.
To pay or not to pay? Many of the aforementioned options offer both a menu of solutions available for purchase as well as free or “lite” versions of their paid programs.
Generally speaking, the key elements to consider are: functionality, accessibility, compatibility, and cost. 
You Can’t Go Wrong
Regardless of the method; traditional or “techie”, you’ll be one step closer to tidying up your financial house. By leveraging these helpful tools, you may save previous time and money, and earn a little peace of mind.
What are you waiting for? Get a handle on your personal finances today, and you’ll reap a strong return on peace of mind for your efforts.