Since I run my own business, I need an easy way to track my spending and expenses. But even if you’re not an entrepreneur, you should still know where your money is going. Budgeting software is a great way to do this.
Over the past few weeks, I’ve hunted for the best options around. And after trying just about every free, low-cost, or professional service out there, I created this little guide. It should help you save time—and, in some cases, money—in your software search.
Personal, Business, Or Both?
To start narrowing down your choices, look at the kinds of accounts you have. Doing this will help you find out what kind of support you actually need.
For instance, I have two checking accounts: a personal one and a business one for respective expenses. I needed software that would show me both.
(Tip: If you only have a personal account, Mint.com is a great tool to track your expenses—and it’s free!)
Can It Connect With Your Bank?
Next, make sure the financial software supports your banking institutions. This is where I had the most trouble with online services.
Both of my banks are online, and the one I use for my business account isn’t well known. (I use it because there are no fees.) As a result, most software didn’t connect to both—not even a major one like Quickbooks Cloud!
If you run into a similar situation, just call up your bank and ask. When I called my bank, they explained that the software charged them fees to participate, so they don’t offer it to keep costs (and banking fees) low. In that case, I sided with my bank—and moved on to the next service.
Do You Need Features For Taxes?
While everyone could definitely benefit from software that tracks tax stuff, it’s not totally necessary.
Since I run my own business, I absolutely needed software that would help me figure out my tax situation. I found an online service that offered this option, but once again, it couldn’t connect with my bank.
Have You Considered The Company’s History?
You’ll want to choose software owned by a solid company. Seriously. It will save you tons of headaches later on. I didn’t think this would be an issue, but I was wrong.
Online software I started using for my taxes was bought out by a totally unrelated company—and they started changing things. Several of my colleagues also experienced their online financial software going out of business.
Is It Compatible With Your Computer?
If you buy software, make sure it can run on your computer, browser, tablet, and whatever else you use to check your money.
After having enough with all the online options, I finally gave up and got myself a copy of Quicken Home and Business. Unfortunately, I overlooked one problem: it doesn’t run on my Mac.
Luckily, I have access to a PC so I can use the program (which I love, by the way), but not everyone is in the same boat.
Don’t Forget About The Cost!
I spent a lot of money on solid financial software only after exhausting all other options. Again, not everyone needs to do this. By answering the questions above, you’ll get crystal clear on what features you actually need, which will make the decision way easier.
Do you use budgeting software? How’d you decide which one to go with?
(Photo: Keith Rowley)