Maintaining a real-time picture of where you sit financially is time-consuming and difficult. I suggest you sit and have a visit with your financial statement at least monthly. But even then it can be a real chore. There are paid software programs such as Inuit Quicken that you can use that will make your life easier but again it becomes a to-do. So, what alternatives are available that can ease the burden, keep you from data-entry work and get you back to simply analyzing your finances?
I have to admit I was a bit skeptical when I first signed up but since then (just a little over a year ago) this free online budget tool has taken off. In my opinion, they have become the Google of online budget tools. Okay, enough said, it's http://mint.com, surprise, surprise by Inuit. As an Information Technology guy I love that they constantly spend time improving the application. As a finance guy, I love that it is 100% absolutely free!
Budget is a word I am not fond of using. It's synonymous with work to me. I would rather put the system in place, make it automatic and then monitor the results. Mint takes care of the tedious task of entering all of my transactions. You can enter all types of accounts (checking, savings, 401K, credit cards, etc). The only real work you have to do is categorize all the "uncategorized" transactions which usually includes any checks you make from your online bank or paper checkbook. This is a great tool and being free is an awesome bonus.
Free Online Budget Tool
How to Get Started on Mint.com
1. Create an account on Mint.com
2. Enter your account information for your checking, savings, etc
This will allow Mint to download all of your transactions to their system.
3. Once a month go and update any uncategorized transactions, and then review your spending trends.
If you are really inclined you can even set up a budget for different categories, set goals (ie. for paying a debt off), and even view your spending trends. Mint also suggests ways for you to save more money. As far as safety of your data is concerned, Mint uses Truste which is one of the best in the industry for security.
Click here to visit Mint.com. What other programs do you use?