Once I finally decided to stop ignoring my finances and take control, I knew I needed a little assistance. Okay, a lot of assistance. It turns out, ignoring your bills does not in fact make them go away.
Not at all.
But how do you know where to begin?
For me, it was pretty simple. Start where I was. Figure out the total amount I owed, and the total amount I saved. It was no surprise to me that I owed more than I had, but when I input my finances into Mint, I did learn a few things.
- I had been paying $89 per month (!) for some service on my credit card I didn’t need. Actually, let me take a moment to say that there are no services on credit cards that you need. This was some sort of job-loss protection something or other. No way, friends! Don’t do it!
- I had been putting $200 a month toward an IRA. I honestly did not remember doing this. It’s funny to look back now, because the 2013 Kathleen knows exactly where her money is going (especially $200 a month!) but the head-in-the-sand Kathleen preferred not to pay attention.
- Because I hadn’t been paying attention, all of my IRA money was sitting in “cash reserves” which means it hadn’t been invested. I was initially irritated by that, but then I realized that I’d been out of the market when people lost half their portfolios.
The moral of this story is, don’t be like me. Try one or two of these 10 money management tools. Most of them are free. All of them are great ways to visualize where your money is going every month.
10 Best Money Management Tools 1 of 11
Best for Beginners: Mint 2 of 11
Mint.com is the first money management tool I've ever used. The system allows you to set budgets and goals, categorizes your spending, alerts you when your spending patterns become abnormal, and, best of all, track those pesky fees banks try to sneak past you from time to time.
Image by Mint
Best for Digging a Little Deeper: Personal Capital 3 of 11
Best for Getting out of Debt: ReadyforZero 4 of 11
ReadyForZero focuses much more on the "get out of debt" stage of personal finance, so if this is you, and you're starting your journey out of debt, check this out. Enter all your debts, and ReadyForZero will make a payment plan. I'm sad that I didn't know about this tool when I was on my own debt journey, because I would have made an excellent case study.
Cost: Free, with additional features costing extra. Their additional features include tracking your credit score and allowing you to pay your bills directly from their site.
Image by ReadyForZero
Best for Hands-On: You Need a Budget 5 of 11
Best for Budgeting: BudgetSimple 6 of 11
Best for Looks: PowerWallet 7 of 11
Best for Categorizing: InEx Finance 8 of 11
InEx Finance is very comprehensive, and keeps track of your transactions in a color-coded way. It's visually appealing like PowerWallet, but has more to it. This definitely has an international bend to it, so if you're feeling limited by the US-only capabilities of Mint, you might want to try this. It's a great way to see exactly where your money goes.
Image by InEx Finance
Best for Business: Yodlee 9 of 11
Best for Investing: Jemstep 10 of 11
I am a user of Jemstep. You can read my full review here. Jemstep takes a look at your IRA, then it tells you where you should be investing instead. It gives you a roadmap, telling you EXACTLY what to do in your retirement planning software, and seriously demystifies the entire process. This year, I've actually earned notable interest in that account, and I definitely wasn't seeing any interest growth last year.
Cost: Free if your portfolio is under $25,000, then a sliding scale based on your portfolio after that
Image by Jemstep
Best for BillPay: MoneyDance 11 of 11