Many of us resist looking at our finances on a regular basis. We ignore looking at our bank accounts and just “hope for the best.” This strategy leads to financial anxiety, even though that’s often what we’re trying to avoid when we do this! Using a money management software is often the secret ingredient in transforming this anxious-avoidant cycle so many of us engage in. Money management software provides us with an easy way to keep track of our money, where it’s coming from, and where it’s going. Getting an easy glimpse at this on a regular basis can simplify financial decision-making. In the long-term it can help us significantly reduce our money stress. If you think I’m being hyperbolic with the title – I’m not. I’ve seen serious transformation happen when people start tracking their spending.
So, what are some money tracking software options? If you read my last blog post, you’ll know that I have a few tried and true options I recommend to my clients. Here, I compare and contrast these:
- Good old-fashioned manual tracking. You can do this with paper and pencil or in a spreadsheet. Some people who have a lot of cash transactions in their business or personal finances might prefer this one. Especially in your personal life, it can be nice to keep a notepad or a note on your phone to record cash transactions so you don’t forget about them. However, this is definitely the most laborious way to track your money, and the amount of time you need to put in to do it effectively can prevent people from keeping up the habit. For this reason, I generally don’t recommend it, unless you know you’re someone who will keep up with this system at least once a week.
- I have personally been using Mint for the last five years. It’s free, it connects to all your accounts and automatically imports your spending information, and it’s very easy to use. It has an app, which is really convenient. However, what I don’t like is that in order to get all the info that’s really valuable, I need to download the data into a spreadsheet. I personally do this at the end of every month to wrap-up my finances. It’s also important to note that as a free program, they are keeping (and likely monetizing in some way) data on your spending habits, and they are constantly advertising to you on this platform. It’s important to be wary of the barrage of credit card offers, banking deals, etc. It’s very basic, but it’s a great tool to get started with tracking your spending.
- MoneyGrit is a new software from Karen McCall who runs the Financial Recovery Institute, and I’m loving working with it so far. The interface provides a more intentional and hands-on experience when it comes to planning your spending. They actually lead you through a process of reviewing your intentions when setting up your spending plan! This emotional dimension can be really helpful in creating a connection between you and the decisions you make with your money. The program also includes extras like worksheets to set goals and plan out financial self care action items. Lastly, this software factors periodic expenses into your spending plan, which is something a lot of money tracking softwares miss completely.
- Your Need a Budget, or YNAB, does a great job of emphasizing putting your money to work for you. While I’ve personally never used this tool, a lot of people love it for that reason.
- Quickbooks is the standard when I’m working with clients on their business finances. This is less tailored to personal financial self care, but worth mentioning here because business and personal finances are interrelated!
The main takeaway here is that there are many different tools you can use to track your spending and make financial clarity more accessible. I definitely recommend using an automated software over manual tracking, because most people are more likely to actually use an automated program. Tracking your finances is truly life-changing. You can see the effects of the financial decisions you’re making in real time. When you choose to save money, pay down debt, or spend on something you really value, a tracking program reflects that back to you. Using a tool helps you keep track of your financial growth and provide transformative motivation.
If you’re interested in doing this work with an accountability partner, we go deep into looking at your spending from a non-judgmental point of view in my private coaching offering, 4 Week Refresh, which I am offering through the end of January. Check out the details of that program and reserve a space here.
Image: Ben White