Musings on Personal Accounting Software

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Blah! What a boring title! Why would I want to read more? …
Ok, so I’m not great at titles. But read on for some good suggestions.
In my current occupation of helping people create better home office spaces, my clients sometimes ask me for advice on how to better “organize” their personal finances. Maybe they don’t use the word “organize”, but they want to understand how they are spending their money.
There are many ways to track where your money goes – paper, Excel, accounting software. If my clients run a business, they likely already use business accounting software like QuickBooks (or I strongly suggest they do). So when it comes to personal finances, I’m biased in favor of personal accounting software. From my perspective, it can do so much more than paper or an Excel spreadsheet.
Before I get into the suggestion, how about instead of calling it “personal accounting software” we punch up the name to something jazzier. Like “ninja finance accelerator” or “responsible fiscal accountability facilitator”.… Ok, I’m not good with names either.
There are a great many options for “responsible fiscal accountability facilitators”. So which do you choose? Today I want to spotlight, Mint.com (now an Intuit product).
Maybe you’ve heard of Mint. Maybe you use it. It’s become a big player in personal finance applications.
Why should you use it?
• You can easily capture your income and expenses to see where your money is going.
• You can see if you are spending less than your income.
• You can easily create a budget to keep a tighter rein on certain expenses.
• You can track how much you are saving toward goals.
• You can easily track expenses that are tax deductible.
Why should you not use it?
• There will be regular maintenance involved to keep your financial information current. If you are not disciplined to update the information regularly, it can become more frustration than benefit.
A couple of other pros and cons to Mint:
Pro:
• Free
• Easy setup
• Online, access from anywhere
• Download transactions directly from bank, credit card, etc.
• Free credit score
• Track investment values including property
Con:
• Online
• “Ads”
Wait, did you put “online” as both a pro and con? Yes, I did. This can be a touchy subject for some. And while Mint uses 128-bit security encryption similar to many banks, some people are very reluctant to use an online application for sensitive data.
Bottom line – if you see a benefit to organizing your closet or file cabinet, there is benefit to organizing our personal finances. And with any method of organizing, you need tools – hangers, folders, labels. For your finances, the best tool is personal accounting software aka “ninja finance accelerator”.
What is your favorite way to track your personal finances?

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