The other day I was hanging out in my parents' kitchen when I looked over and saw my mother balancing her checkbook by hand.
My immediate thought was, "What the heck is she doing? I've never balanced a checkbook by hand in my life!"
My mother isn't a huge fan of using tools to better manage her money; she likes to be able write stuff down. I'm the exact opposite. The more automated the better.
If you happen to agree with me, here are some tools you can start using today to better manage your money.
Online Budgeting Software
I have tried many desktop versions of accounting software and I always end up going back to my online choices. I personally like having the ability to check my finances from anywhere and hate feeling tethered to a particular computer.
My two favorites in this case would be Mint.com for just about everything and then Quickbooks Online for anything business related. Both systems integrate easily with bank accounts and begin to automatically categorize transactions based on what you tell them. Quickbooks also makes it easy for my accountant to have access and do any necessary reconciling.
They also come with apps, so whether I need to see how my retirement account is doing or what the balance of my business credit card is, I can just whip out my phone and find what I need.
Online Bill Pay
This isn't so much a tool as much as it is a service. Either way, you'd be surprised at how many people don't take advantage of this and then end up paying late fees on their bills. What's worse, people are still wasting time writing checks!
I once had to convince a boss to stop paying the business expenses with checks because we were wasting time and the checks would get lost in the mail (which then meant I would have to get on the phone with customer service and try to contest a charge to no avail).
By switching over to online bill pay we saved ourselves valuable time and significantly decreased our fees. It also made it a lot easier to keep track of everything because it would automatically sync with Quickbooks.
You can save yourself time and money by signing up for automatic payments for your bills. You can do this by giving the service provider a credit card, linking your checking account, using something like Mint Bills or using your bank's online bill pay service.
Credit Monitoring Service
There are several free credit monitoring services that pull your scores from the three major credit bureaus (even Mint.com offers this now). Granted, they aren't going to give you a detailed credit report, but they can give you a pretty good idea of what's going on.
Credit is extremely important for your financial life, and it's in your best interest to make sure everything is in tiptop shape. Additionally, these tools can help you catch fraud before it gets out of hand.
If you've had issues with fraud in the past you may want to consider a paid credit monitoring service, otherwise a free version will probably do just fine.
You can begin to easily improve your financial life simply by using these three tools. While some of them (like the budgeting software and online bill pay) may take some time to set up, once it's complete you can start enjoying the bliss that comes with automating your finances.