You’ve probably heard the phrase “What gets measured gets managed.” It certainly applies to your money. Many people groan at the mention of creating a budget but it’s still important. The good news is that tracking your money can be effective too and it’s less groan worthy.
Paper and pencil
Excel home-brewed spreadsheet
I know that some choose old fashioned paper and pencil but I think that’s too manual and adds physical clutter. Others choose their own spreadsheet that is fully customizable. I respect that but it’s still a tremendous chore to keep up with. Plus the benefits of custom come with the risk of spreadsheet errors. You also have to do all the work. Why not have experts write a software for you that does most of the work, provides analysis tools, and suggests improvements?
This is why I prefer to use a tracking software. There are several great options to choose from and most of them are free to use. You could even sign up for multiple at first to compare, then later drop all but your favorite.
YNAB - You Need a Budget
I started with Mint around 2011 but I stopped in 2014 after trying Personal Capital when it was new. In most ways they are similar but I preferred PC’s simplicity, use of graphs, and later its investment account fee analyzer. That said, Mint is a solid tool and I’m sure it has continued to improve since I left. Whatever you choose I recommend sticking with it because having years of history to reflect upon is valuable. It can really help you see how far you’ve come; probably farther than you realize.
Case for it being important to track your money.
Everything in one place —all accounts synced and tips for manual assets and card points
Understand where it’s going
Eliminate waste or undervalued spending
Early fraud detection
Suggesting personal capital:
More accurate transaction category assignments
Investment account fee analysis