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5 Surprising Benefits of Tracking Your Spending

5 Surprising Benefits of Tracking Your Spending

Quick: How much money did you make last month? Too easy? Okay…how much money did you spend last month, and on what, exactly?

If you’re struggling to answer that one, you’re in good company. According to a poll from Gallup, two-thirds of Americans do not track their monthly spending. This blind spot may seem benign, but it’s often to blame for problems like snowballing credit-card debt, family fights, daily stress, and anxiety about the future.

The solution might be easier than you think: taking a few minutes each day to monitor and think about where your money is going can improve your life in dramatic ways. Tiller Money recently announced the results of a survey that asked 100 people, all spreadsheet users, about what they’ve gained from tracking their finances for at least 3 months.

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1. 93% Agree – You’ll Have Better Insight into Your Spending Habits

Most of us have only a vague idea of where our money goes each month. But look around: Are you surrounded by overflowing closets, fitness devices gathering dust, and cosmetics spilling out of bathroom drawers? These are a result of your spending decisions.

In an era of one-click purchasing and automatic billing, it’s easier than ever to spend mindlessly: while we’re at work, eating dinner, sitting on the couch, or even sleeping. But when you pay attention to each and every outlay of cash – just a few minutes a day is all it takes – you’ll see trends, identify waste, and notice expenses that are misaligned with your values and priorities. Before long, you’ll find yourself questioning your spending decisions before you hand over your credit card.

2. 80% Agree – You’ll Have a Better Relationship with Your Spouse or Partner

Money is the leading cause of relationship stress, according to a survey by SunTrust Bank. Not kids, affairs, or household chores – money! It’s only natural that you and your partner will have different approaches to spending and saving, but this doesn’t mean finances have to cause friction. Eliminating this particular stressor demands open, transparent communication about money. Take the time to sit down with your partner and agree on savings goals. Then look back on your spending decisions together, without judgement or recrimination. This will force you to have a healthy discourse about your respective priorities and make compromises as a team.

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3. 79% Agree – You’ll Spend Less Impulsively

We all spend impulsively from time to time — that’s not a bad thing. But making frequent or large or purchases on impulse — “What a cute car! I’ll take it!” — can ruin you. So before you make each purchase, pause and ask: “Did I come to the mall looking for a new pair of boots or did they catch my eye as I was walking past the store?” “Do I really think an Apple iWatch will make me more productive, or am I just trying to keep up with my friends?”

You may be spending more impulsively than you realize — and using money that was earmarked for more important uses. No one, regardless of wealth, likes to waste money! Tracking your purchases will force you to acknowledge unconscious spending, and with time, you’ll find yourself naturally spending in ways that don’t leave you feeling guilty later.

4. 81% Agree – You’ll Be More Confident About Reaching Your Financial Goals

We all have goals for the future. Perhaps yours is to retire early, travel around Europe, or take a year off to write a book. But while our goals often depend on money, few of us know exactly how much we’ll need or how much we have to save each month to get there.

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People who track their spending know how much they’re earning, spending, and saving. So when they’re faced with a pay cut or unplanned medical expense, they know what levers to pull to keep saving at the right pace to achieve their goals.

5. 75% Agree – You’ll Feel Less Anxious About Money

Most of us avoid discussing or even thinking about money because it makes us uncomfortable. According to a survey by the American Psychological Association, the vast majority of Americans reported feeling stressed about money during the past month. We feel stressed about bills that are due and things we want to buy for ourselves or others that we can’t afford, and we feel anxious about our future financial security. But burying your head in the sand isn’t the answer. As Tiller’s survey shows, facing your financial fears head-on by owning up to and taking control of your spending is a proven way to reduce anxiety and stress.

If you’re among the majority of Americans who don’t have a process in place for keeping tabs on your cash flow, take a few minutes each day to adopt this powerful new habit. There are many, many tools out there that make it quick, easy, and yes – even fun. You can use a slick app with pre-built reports like Mint or YNAB, or create your own custom dashboard with Tiller, which lets you link your bank accounts to Google Sheets.

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Featured photo credit: alejandroescamilla.com via hd.unsplash.com

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Sharen Ross

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Last Updated on January 2, 2019

How Personal Finance Software Helps You Get More Out of Your Money

How Personal Finance Software Helps You Get More Out of Your Money

Do you know what mental health experts point to as the biggest cause of stress in the United States today? If you said “money,” then ding, ding, we have a winner!

Three out of four adults today report feeling stressed out about money at least part of the time. People are either worried about not having enough money or whether they’re putting the money they do have to use in the best possible way.

Your money is either in charge of you or you’re in charge of it, there’s no middle ground. Using some type of personal finance software can help alleviate some of that money stress and better allow you to manage your money effectively. Without it, you may just be setting yourself up for constant financial worry. Life is already tough enough and there’s no need to make it more difficult by simply hoping your money issues will all work out in your favor. Hint: they won’t.

This guide will help you to understand how personal finance software can better assist with both accomplishing long term financial goals and managing day-to-day aspects of life.

Whether it’s tracking the savings plan for your child’s college fund or making sure you won’t be in the red with the month’s grocery budget, personal finance software keeps all this information in one convenient place.

What Exactly is Personal Finance Software?

Think of it like the dashboard in your car. You have a speedometer to tell you how fast you’re going, an odometer to tell you how far you’ve traveled, and then other gauges to tell you things like how much gas is in the tank and your engine temperature. Personal finance software is essentially the same thing for your money.

When you install this software on your computer, tablet, or smartphone, it helps to track your money — how much is going in, how much is going out, and its growth. Most personal finance software programs will display your budget, spending, investments, bills, savings accounts, and even retirement plans, levels of debt, and credit score.

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How It Leads to Financial Improvement

It shouldn’t come as a surprise, but people who regularly monitor their finances end up wealthier than those who don’t. When you were a kid, keeping track of all of your money in a porcelain piggy bank was pretty easy. As we get older, though, our money becomes spread out across things like car payments, mortgages, retirement funds, taxes, and other investments and debts. All of these things make keeping track of our money a lot more complicated.

Some types of personal finance software can help make things a little less complicated, setting you up to meet financial goals and taking away some of the stress associated with money.

Even if you already have a Certified Financial Planner (CFP) some type of personal finance software can be of great benefit. Whereas CFPs focus on the big picture of your money, they don’t handle the day-to-day aspects that determine your overall financial health.

It’s also not nearly as complicated as you might think and can take out a lot of the tedium that comes with doing everything on an Excel spreadsheet or with a pad and pencil.

Types of Personal Finance Software

When it comes to personal finance software, it generally fits into two categories: tax preparation and money management.

Tax preparation software such as Turbo Tax and H&R Block’s software can help with everything from filing income taxes to IRS rules and regulations and even estate plans. Plus, there’s the benefit of filing online and getting your refund check a lot faster than if you were to mail off your forms after waiting in line at the post office.

For the purpose of this article, however, will be focusing more on the personal finance software that aids with money management.

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Money management personal finance software will help you to see the health of your cash flow, pay down debt, forecast for expenses and savings, track investments, pay bills, and do a host of other things that 30 years ago would have practically required a team of accountants.

When to Use Personal Finance Software

So far we’ve gone over what exactly personal finance software is and how it can be a benefit to your money. The next logical step in this whole equation is determining when it should be used and how is the best way to go about getting started using it.

Below are four of the most common and practical ways to use personal finance software. If all or any of these apply to you and your money, then downloading some type of personal finance software is going to be a smart move.

1. You Have Multiple Accounts

There’s a good chance that when it comes to your money, it’s in more than one place. Sure, you probably have a checking account, but you may also have a savings account, money market account, and retirement accounts such as an IRA or 401k.

If you’re like the average American, you probably have two to three credit cards as well. Fifty percent of Americans also don’t have loyalty to just one bank and spread their money across multiple banks.

Rather than spending hours typing in every detail of every account you have into a spreadsheet, many programs allow you to easily import your account information. This will help to eliminate any mistakes and give you a bird’s eye view of everything at once.

2. You Want to Automate Some or All of Your Payments

Please don’t say that you’re still writing out paper checks and dropping each bill in the mailbox. While it’s noble that you’re doing your part to keep postal workers employed, we’re 18 years into the 21st century and you can literally pay every bill online now.

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There’s no need to log into every account you have and type in your routing number either.

With personal finance software you can schedule automatic payments and transfers between all of your imported accounts. Automatic transfers will help to make sure you have the necessary funds in the right account to ensure all bills are paid on the appropriate date. Late fees are annoying and do nothing but cost you money. It’s time that you said goodbye to them once and for all.

3. You Need to Streamline Your Budget

Perhaps the best feature of personal finance software is that it allows you track everything going in and out of your virtual wallet.

Nearly every brand of personal finance software out there has easy-to-read graphs and charts that allow you track every cent you spend or earn, should you choose. You might be pretty amazed when you see just how much you spent on eating out last month or if you splurged a little more than you should have on Christmas gifts last year.

Every successful business on the planet has a budget and using personal finance software can help you trim the fat on your spending in ways that affect your everyday life.

4. You Have Specific Goals to Meet

Maybe it’s paying off debt or saving for up something like a European vacation. Whatever your financial goal is, whether it’s long-term or short-term, personal finance software programs are one of the savviest ways to go about reaching those goals.

You can do everything from set spending alerts to notify you when you’re over budget to automating what percentage of your paycheck goes to things like retirement investments. The personal finance software that you choose should show you exactly how close you are to hitting those goals at any given time.

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How to Get Started

From AceMoney to Mint and Quicken, there ’s no shortage of personal finance software apps out there. Many of these programs are free to download and will allow you to pay bills, invest, monitor your net worth and credit profile, and even get a loan with the swipe of a finger.

Other programs may only offer you limited services and will require a one-time fee or subscription to unlock all that they offer. These fees can often vary from as little as two dollars to 50 bucks a month.

It’s best to start off with the free version and then gauge whether you’re able to accomplish everything you’d like or if it’s worth exploring one of the paid options. Often times the subscription programs come with assistance from financial planning and investment experts — so that can be a real benefit.

When deciding which personal finance software program to use, it’s also important to look at how many accounts you wish to monitor. Certain programs limit the number of accounts you can add. Be sure that if you have checking, credit card, and investment accounts to monitor, that you choose a service that can monitor them all.

Finally, when looking around for the right personal finance software that meets your needs, make sure that you’re comfortable with the program’s interface. It shouldn’t be expected that you recognize every single feature instantly, but if the features don’t seem readable and manageable to you, then you’re not as likely to use it and get the full benefits.

Final Thoughts

Personal finance software can go a long way in helping you to take control of your money and meeting your financial goals. It’s important to note, however, that some focus more on budgeting and expense tracking while others prioritize investing portfolios and income taxes. Explore several different programs and read reviews to find the one that’s right for you.

In this day and age, managing one’s personal finances in a secure manner that allows the user to have a real-time visual representation of their money is easier than ever before. With the numerous applications that are out there — both free and subscription-based — there’s no reason that every person can’t take control of their money and ensure they’re making smart money moves.

Featured photo credit: rawpixel via unsplash.com

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