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Thursday
Aug122010

Technology and Your Finances

I love technology. I’m a sucker for gadgets, things that make my PC better, smartphones and anything else that promises efficiency but is really just a new toy. As of late, I have been eyeing the new DroidX but I haven’t figured a way to budget it in successfully yet. (Donations to the Droid Fund Welcome :)) I do have one gripe though and that’s software or programs (either locally or cloud based) that try to get people’s financial houses in order. Don’t get me wrong though I absolutely adore stuff like Mint.com, Money Strands, and QuickBooks – just to name a few.  My gripe is about the people who use them inefficiently and just complain about their lackluster results. So what you’ll find today are a few of the bigger tips that will help you make your experience using tech to juggle your finances a little easier.

1.)    Choosing Your Software – All of the software I’ve already mentioned have easy mobile app counter parts so being able to update on the go is no problem. My advice would be to check them all out, some are free and some you need to pay for. Everyone is different and even though most of this software does very similar things making sure you find one that you will have no problem acclimating to is important. Personally I have my business to account for as well so I really enjoy the flexibility and versatility of QuickBooks – yes I paid for it but it’s saved me lots of time so I believe that its efficiency has made up for the cost.

2.)    Be Honest!! – How many times have you started a budget or a savings plan and just “rounded” or better yet “guesstimated”. This is not the place to do that! These things have password protection so that should squash the worry of someone finding out your “real” financial situation. Places like Mint.com have the capacity to make suggestions about what credit cards or financial products might be useful for you. So, on top of the accuracy or your own financial situation to ensure the accuracy of the referred products you need to be honest. These things also help plan out time lines and plans to get rid of debt or to save for goals. If you aren’t honest then the plans can’t be accurate and you will lose that ownership in making your financial situation better because the data is flawed and distant.

3.)    Update Schedule – These programs have the ability to link up with and reconcile with all kinds of financial accounts. Don’t just forget about them when you link them up though. Whether you choose to update after every transaction or at the end of everyday you need to have a system. Oh, and one more important thing STICK TO THAT SYSTEM! The more information and the fact that it is being regularly (systematically) updated is what makes these programs tools. It’s just like anything else, the better the input..the better the output. It’s so very inefficient if you’ve screened your software, were totally honest in your set up, and then do a terrible job keeping it updated. Any information or report that the software generates is inaccurate and flawed.

At the end of the day though these programs are just tools. What really drives their, and ultimately your, financial success is the desire to do better for yourself. There is so much more depth you can get that you can’t get from an Excel spreadsheet or just a pencil and paper from these things. That depth can provide real insight and utility which is why I am such a fan of them.  So if you have tried these things and weren’t a fan going back through the process, maybe take a look at my tips, and give it another shot. If you are new to this then just go through the process with open and honest eyes. The fact that you at least try something like this is evidence of a want to get to a better place financially. Plus these things spit out some really colorful print outs – so I mean that’s a good thing right?!

Feel free to share any other tips that might help people use these programs more efficiently! I would love to hear your stories and experiences with the systems you’ve chosen to use to keep track of your finances too.

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Reader Comments (4)

I don't need none o' that "high tech" nonsense. My Excel spreadsheet has been doing me just fine- it works well for the less mathematically inclined (me) as it does all the adding up for you. I've never been able to find a more robust tool that I've been able to figure out/stick with.

Or, you could just kick it old school like my mom, and use the cash-in-envelopes strategy.

August 12, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMelissa C

Ha thanks Melissa! I'm happy as long as you are doing SOMETHING :) I just happen to be a techno-file so I figure why not try to get people to use this stuff the way it should be used. Money in envelopes isn't a bad idea either - its kind of automating just a little more dangerous then having more than one bank account because you have loads of cash on hand.

Oh and believe it or not some of these free tools require even less math skills then your spreadsheet...just saying :P

August 12, 2010 | Registered CommenterNunzio Bruno

I absolutely love Mint. I agree that it's not for everyone, but it's great for me right now.

When I got my first job after college I spent a lot more time actively managing my finances because I wasn't experienced enough to know what I didn't know. I found that a spreadsheet worked best for that because I wanted to know where absolutely every dollar was going, and I didn't mind spending time on all the tedious stuff.

Once I established sustainable financial habits, I started relying on Mint more. It involves a lot less thought. Basically, I just go on auto-pilot and Mint lets me know when something needs my attention.

August 13, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterTyler King

I'm another one of those in the "Excel" camp; I started doing that about 5 years ago, and just never found a compelling case to switch to anything else!

August 13, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKevin@InvestItWisely

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