/ Money

Can computer software help you fix your finances?

Finance software

Money makes the world go round, or so the cliché tells us. Yet  it appears that a fair proportion of us are terrible at tracking how we spend it.

As part of our recent personal finance software reviews, we called on some Which? members to help with our testing.

We specifically asked for help from  those who struggle to organise their household finances. Some told us that they try and keep on top of their spending using online bank statements, while others were using spreadsheets or mobile apps.

But what was clear to us was that they were all after a quicker, easier method to monitor their money. And this is what personal finance software packages aim to do.

Personal finance software

With the help of a dozen Which? members we tested out some personal finance software packages to see if they could help untangle messy household budgets.

Our volunteers initially voiced concerns about taking the time to learn a new computer program. Some were also unconvinced that computer software could compete with the complex spreadsheets they’d created.

However, after a month of using our best-scoring software, their responses were generally positive. One told us they couldn’t see themselves getting on without this software. And another intends to use it to help run her business.

Having tested out many personal finance software packages myself, I’ve decided to splash out on one of our Best Buys.

In fact, I’ve already worked out where I can reduce spending in order to fund my summer holiday. And the associated smartphone app is enough of a prompt to make me think twice about those impulse purchases when I’m out and about.

But if you’re thinking of trialling personal finance software to help you monitor your spending, then it’s essential that you consider the available packages to find the most suitable software for you. And our reviews can help you weigh up your options.

Managing your money

So what methods do you use to organise your day-to-day budget? Have you ever used personal finance software? Would you recommend it to those who struggle with their finances?

Comments
Profile photo of Patrick Taylor
Member

The important point will be whether they are still using it a year hence.

They can be useful and I have used Quicken and Quickbooks plus one or two others over the last 20 years. The discipline to keep them going – in updating regularly can be a chore.

To be honest we run a future forecast and a budgetting spreadsheets in Excel however Excel is not custom made for the job and for most people one of the freebie home accounts would be adequate.

From my practical experience dealing with people with chaotic accounts I recommend:
– Just setting out an annual budget with paper and pencil and projecting from last years spending is perhaps one of the best exercises for anyone keen to see where the money disappears to.
– Cancelling Sky has solved many a families problems. : )
– Rarely spend on impulse and if so for small pleasures
– Always keep enough in the account to avoid any charges
– Credit cards are dangerous so keep them restricted and use them when you already know how the repaymrnt will be made.

Basic answer : software will not solve your problems. Facing up to problems is actually the solution.

Profile photo of malcolm r
Member

As dieseltaylor intimates, the key to keeping your finances under control is to know where you spend money. I created a simple Excel spreadsheet that shows this in categories – gas, electricity, council tax, food, car service, insurances etc. etc. by month. I keep a small notebook where I record spending and weekly put this into the spreadsheet. So each year I can create a realistic spending budget based on previous years plus inflation, new items etc. So I know pretty accurately what and when I will need to spend and, importantly, how I’m actually doing.

Separately I have another simple spreadsheet that records income and tax each year.

Look at the two to see what problems might arise and you can hopefully get round them.

Then keeping track of cash,current and savings accounts, any investments, ISAs, etc. I’ve used Microsoft Money for many years and it does a great job. It notifies you of regular payments when they are due, low balances in bank accounts, prints reports – but sadly no longer available so when my budget lets me buy a new computer I’ll have to learn something new.

A chore? Sounds it, but not really providing you regularly keep it up to date. Keeping control of finances is important, so the effort has to be worthwhile. More so if, like many, income and outgoings are finely balanced.

Profile photo of duncan lucas
Member

No not in my case all our financial structure ,development , and put into production is in both my wife,s and myself,s heads . My wife ,although badly handicapped has zero problems with her brain and was at one time cashier in an large electrical company in the city we lived in . She went on to be company secretary with a city office cleaning firm taking care of all aspects of the running of the company from telephonist, checking business orders , cashier, etc etc for the two managing directors whom owned the business leaving them to make executive decisions . My wife is an expert in instant monetary calculations and strategic accounting of bills, invoices etc . Everything is written down ,and I mean EVERTHING not even I can “get away ” with anything its down to the last penny accounted for .As a result of both of us being practical we have never built up a large debt and have always paid our bills weeks before they were due .

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

When personal computers were a bit of a novelty I recorded income and outgoings for about a year and then realised that it was not only tedious but making me think more about money and spend more. Nowadays I just keep an eye on money for tax purposes and look out for ISAs etc that need attention.

Software might help some, particularly if they can input expenditure as they go, via a smartphone, but my advice would be try not to think about ways of spending money and you might never get into debt.

Profile photo of banjo
Member

I’ve been using Microsoft Money continuously since 1992 and would not want to be without it. It keeps track of everything I spend and everything I plan on spending and does not need a subscription.

Although MS have discontinued the product they still make it available for download (for free) from their servers while support is provided on the official Money forum on Microsoft.com. The final version (for UK users) has been proven to work on Windows 10. Probably at least worth a try before splashing out cash.

Member
John French says:
25 April 2016

MS Money is a great product. However you need a registry tweak to get it running on Windows 10. Someone should take it on and keep it going properly, to include downloading bank info.

Member
dieseltaylor says:
25 April 2016

Can computer software help you fix your finances?

Hell yea!

” The fraudsters who stole $81 million from the central bank of Bangladesh allegedly hacked into SWIFT software, Reuters reports, quoting British defense contractor BAE Systems. BAE warns the criminals could strike again. …
“I can’t think of a case where we have seen a criminal go to the level of effort to customize it for the environment they were operating in. I guess it was the realization that the potential payoff made that effort worthwhile,” Adrian Nish, BAE’s head of threat intelligence said.

Profile photo of duncan lucas
Member

diesel they could only strike again if the UK banks were stupid , penny pinching and couldn’t care less about customer safety .Why ? because they were using second hand servers that cost approx £10 with ZERO protection in place .

Member
tony says:
26 April 2016

Have used Quicken since the early 90’s but found it increasingly troublesome and unsupported. Now use KMyMoney which is free and open-source.

Member
Adam says:
28 May 2016

I use Geltbox money -automatic download from any website in the world (banks,credit cards).

I like that I can keep my data locally instead of in the cloud.
An excellent home finance planner and tracker.

Member
Andrewdmacpherson@me.co says:
23 January 2017

This conversation may be over, but having downloaded MS Money this week, I’m concerned it asks for my banking security details. Is this correct/ secure?

Member
Andrew MacPherson says:
23 January 2017

This conversation may have closed but having downloaded MS Money as recommended, I’m concerned that it requests my bank account security details. Is tbis secure/ correct?

Member
George says:
28 July 2017

Moneyspire is excellent personal finance software, and a great alternative to Quicken and Microsoft Money – http://www.Moneyspire.com