There isn't a shortage of home budget software options, but no two are created equal. Some are so simplistic that there's little to gain from the investment. Some have a host of features, but you might never learn what half of the features do.
You shouldn't have to settle for mediocrity just because you're not a financial wizard. The best software takes some of the most complicated and beneficial features, and transforms them for the layperson.
Here are 5 features that make home budget software worth the time and effort.
Money management isn't your favorite activity, so why make it more difficult? Home budget software should be simple, intuitive, and not require a degree in accounting. If it looks complicated, it probably is.
Features should explain what each step does and why, and you shouldn't have to read a textbook-size manual first. That gives you confidence and puts you in control. Entering information by going through the motions can make you scratch your head, and it doesn't offer much toward true personal finance management.
Importing Your Information
When information is automatically imported, it saves time and reduces errors. From bank accounts to credit cards, budget software should let you enter account information, then it should do the rest.
Information import not only populates each account in the program with accurate information, it automatically updates when changes happen. For example, when you use your debit card, your checking account automatically reflects the purchase in the budget software. That's intuitive financial management.
Nothing wrecks a budget faster than miscalculation. Home budget software shouldn't ask you to add and subtract. Ever. Not even to project what would happen if you paid off one credit card or got a new mortgage. Otherwise, you might as well use a pencil, ledger and calculator, and wing it on your own.
Automatic calculation is more than simply keeping your checking account balance straight. It's what gives you an accurate snapshot of your finances as a whole, and shows how each budget factor affects the others.
You probably don't speak Latin, and some budget software might as well present information in a foreign language. Simplicity is key, so the best programs help you make sense of the information. This lets you make better decisions instead of only seeing the results of past ones.
Graphs and charts package strings of numbers and percentages into a format that's easier to process. Think of it as a visual aid. Instead of just line items on a spreadsheet, look for software that puts information into logical groups.
You might spend more time examining the budget at home, but mobile access keeps you in the loop when you're not at your desk. This means the software should be web-based, which is the only way you can access the same information from different devices.
Mobile access is streamlined. You might not have every feature that you have at home, but you're still informed and in control of your money on the road.
Think that's a lot to ask of budget software? Not when you rely on Mint.com. All these features, and plenty more, are at your fingertips 24 hours a day.