Do you ever feel like you’ll never get a handle on your personal finances? You probably know that there’s a better way to get the job done, if you only had enough time to figure it out. I’ll let you in on a secret: The answer to simplifying your finances might be right here, on the Internet. Digital financial tools can seem intimidating at first, but if you take the time to learn one or two, they can revolutionize your financial life.
I want to challenge you to go digital and ditch the paper. Getting rid of paper checkbooks, paper bills, and manual budgets can be easy. Going digital allows you to do more in less time and to take your financial game to a whole new level—and the best part is that it’s free or really inexpensive.
Start using the following five smart money management tools as soon as you can:
Tool #1: Online Banking
You probably know that most banks offer free online banking services. An online bank account allows you to check multiple account balances, view transactions, transfer funds between accounts, and get statements 24/7.
It’s great to have access to your financial information and to manage your money anywhere you have access to the Internet. Some banks even feature mobile apps that give you the power to take your money management on the go.
Tool #2: Online Bill Pay
If a financial institution has online banking, they probably offer customers free bill pay. This fantastic service allows you to pay any person or business in the country. It doesn’t matter if you need to send a small check to your neighbor or a big one to your mortgage lender—your payment can be sent with just a few clicks on your computer.
Bill pay works one of two ways: it can send a physical check via mail, or it can transfer money electronically. Bill pay means you never have to worry about finding stamps or envelopes, driving to the post office to deposit a large check in a secure mailbox, or even write a check again, unless you want to. Most banks also allow you to create e-mail alerts to remind you when your bills are due, ensuring you can always stay up to date and avoid missed payments and late fees.
Once you get used to working with online bill pay, you won’t go back. The convenience and security can be life-changing. To top it off, sending fewer checks and other financial documents through the mail is more secure and helps reduce the threat of identity theft.
Tool #3: Web-based Financial Software
Free online financial tools—like Mint.com and Adaptu.com—give you an overview of all your financial accounts in one place. These applications use bank-level security to import and store your financial information, such as your recent transactions, investment, loans, account balances, credit card due dates, and more. These tools can help you visualize how and where you are spending your money and help you make a realistic budget. If you like mobile apps, be sure to check out Pageonce. These financial web-based services aren’t banks, but they do allow you to get a handle on your cash flow.
Tool #4: Desktop Financial Software
Powerful desktop programs like Quicken for personal use and QuickBooks for businesses, give you the whole enchilada when it comes to managing your finances. They display your bank account, investments, credit cards, loans, assets, and liabilities in one place, automatically categorize your transactions, create reports, and make it simple to create and monitor a budget. There’s no better way to stay on top of your bills, get organized, and be ready for tax time. If you want to take a free personal finance program for a test drive, download GnuCash.
Tool #5: Investing Services
When it comes to investing, the easier you make the process the more successful you’ll be. It’s smart to use an investing service like ShareBuilder or Betterment that makes it super simple and affordable to grow rich over time. The key to building wealth is to choose diversified investments and automatically feed them on a consistent basis. But don’t procrastinate getting started because the sooner you begin the less money you’ll need to put aside to accumulate your personal fortune.
If you’re not familiar with any of the five types of digital money management tools that I’ve covered, why not clear an hour from your schedule each week to get familiar with how they work? Online tools are getting more intuitive and easy to use. With all this great technology to help you streamline your finances, what are you waiting for?