Financial management is a top priority in my life. I would think that this a top priority of most people. Ever since I can remember, I’ve been reading books on managing my money. If there is one thing I have learned from these books is that the most basic tenet of money management is, before you can manage your money, you must have an awareness of where it is going. This is certainly not a remarkable revelation…
Back in 2006, I started using a financial application called Quicken. Quicken is a tool and a practical solution that
helps me keep abreast of how I am spending my money on a regular basis. Needless to say, I now have a comprehensive history of my spending habits for the past four years. I can't tell you how invaluable it is to have my financial history, broken down into categories, for this time range. It has really helped me understand my spending habits which ultimately allows me to make adjustments and better informed financial decisions going forward. So, what are the features of Quicken that have helped me manage my money?
Interfaces with your bank, brokerage, and mortgage accounts.
In your initial setup of the application, you set up any account that you may have including your bank accounts, brokerage accounts, mortgage, or home equity loans. If your institution allows an interface to Quicken, and all of mine did, you can set up all of your accounts in minutes.
One click update of accounts.
With one click you can run an update of all of your accounts which will retrieve all of your transactions from your last update.
Categories will identify your spending.
This is the one thing that requires a little bit of work. You have to set up different Categories that identify your transactions. I set up parent categories such as Fuel-Automotive and then have subcategories beneath which identifies each of my cars. When I buy gas for one of my cars I ensure that it falls under the proper car category. What is great about setting up parent and child relationships is that in the reports all of the child categories will roll up to the parent so, at a quick glance, you can see how much you are spending on gas per month. Most of the setting up of categories is done initially and what is great is that Quicken will remember if you have already categorized a particular payee and it will default in that category. It takes me roughly 10 minutes per week to run the update and categorize any transactions that may be new to Quicken.
Setting up a Budget.
There is a separate section in Quicken which allows you to set up a Budget. What is great is that it will use your past history to automate the process. You can then make any changes needed.
Reporting gives you the visibility.
Once you have a history of your transactions in the application, the reporting is phenomenal. There is a list of roughly 20 reports for Spending, Comparison, and Investing. To be honest, I use the Spending by Category report religiously. I also use the Spending by Payee report . I haven’t ventured into a lot of the Comparison reports but an example of one is Current Spending versus Average Spending by Category. It allows you a chance to see if there are any radical changes in what you typically spend on an average by category , to what your current spending is by category. This is a report that can really help you manage any changes in your spending.
Great at tax time.
When I am ready to do my taxes, I have found that I have all of my pertinent information already in Quicken. I am talking about my property taxes, mortgage interest, car registration, charitable contributions, etc. Basically anything associated with doing your taxes can be found quickly in Quicken. It has made a year-end pain-in-the-neck process, that much easier.
Quicken has helped me take control of my finances. I can also say that I have only scratched the surface of the features that Quicken offers. But, for taking control of your spending, and knowing exactly where your hard-earned money is going, there is no better tool. Put down that notebook, stop updating that spreadsheet, and choose the automated financial management solution to your finances. I have used it religiously now for years and you cannot go wrong if you want to take control of your financial life.
(Disclosure: The image at the top of the post is an affiliate link.)
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