Personal Finance - Arla Wallace
Arla Wallace is an accounting professional with over 20 years experience. She spent several years working for both publicly-traded and private entities before founding her own business. Today she partners with small business owners so they can focus on operations while leaving the responsibility of staying on top of accounting tasks to her. She is a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) and a Certified ProAdvisor for Quickbooks Online.

Selecting Home Budgeting Software and Apps

Selecting Home Budgeting Software and Apps

Budgeting is for everyone. Planning for how you will spend your money can help you not only pay off debt and save for the future, but also help keep stress levels down. By controlling spending  and increasing your savings over time, you will be better prepared for retirement, for managing emergencies, and you will be able to identify and correct bad spending habits.

What’s more, budgeting software and apps can help individuals and families get organized and develop a financial plan so that money can be put to good use. Choosing the right financial apps and software may prove to be easier said than done, however. Depending on your stage in life, family dynamics, and your financial goals, selecting the best budgeting software and/or financial app should be an important personal decision.

When reviewing budgeting software or financial apps, you need to compare the various features so as to determine which product will best suit your needs. To minimize the manual importation of data, consider software that will enable you to import data from multiple financial institutions (including banks, brokerage accounts, mutual funds, and 401(k) accounts). Automatic connections to your financial information will allow you to check expenses in real-time and flag problem transactions quickly. For those who prefer to view and analyze data in Excel, look for budgeting software that can export data to Excel for filtering and sorting. Integration with mobile devices is another plus of a  good software program. Being able to access financial data anytime and anywhere will allow you to maintain control of your budget and buy decisions. Do your research to determine which security features are available with differing software and financial apps. Make certain apps are up-to-date, be wary of scammers, and always use a unique password or passcode to protect your account.

Budgeting tools do not have to be expensive. Free resources are available both on the web and on mobile devices. Google Sheets is free and is a great place to start, organize, and manage a simple budget if money is tight. Smartphone apps, available in both the App Store & Google Play that can be used for free, include Intuit Mint and Goodbudget. Intuit Mint allows users to link bank and credit card accounts and categorize expenses. Although Goodbudget also allows for categorizing expenses, and uses the Envelope Method for allocating personal income, linking to accounts is not currently a feature. Personal Capital is an app best used for investing. This app can link to multiple financial institutions and can track both your spending and your personal wealth. GnuCash is a free accounting software suitable for small business owners. The program is compatible with Windows, MAC OSX, GNU/Linux, BSD, and Solaris, as well as via an Android app. Unlike cloud-based accounting programs, GnuCash runs on your computer and data lives where you store it—on your desktop, on a hard drive, or in Dropbox.

For those looking for more robust budgeting tools, Tiller is one such alternative. This software uses Google Sheets to manage your daily transactions (from unlimited accounts) in one place. Users log in using a Google account and data is protected with 256-bit encryption and two-factor authentication. Pricing after a 30-day free trial is $59/year. You Need a Budget (YNAB) is an award-winning software program that offers members free and live workshops for personal support. YNAB teaches individuals to stop living from check to check, to pay down debt, and to save money. Pricing for YNAB is $84/year following a free 34-day trial.