The top 3 budgeting tools for Canadians

The top 3 budgeting tools for Canadians
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As you all know, I’m on a quest to get my family’s finances in order since it’s a New Year. So, I started to organize all my receipts and pulled out my spreadsheets to start the data entry and guess what? You got it – I felt very overwhelmed.

I’m not sure if I’ve got myself into this mess but it sure seems like that’s what it is – a literal mess. I don’t think that my finances are that bad but it’s pretty hard to get organized when you don’t know where to start. Sound familiar? Like many of us know, the majority of people who make New Year’s resolutions tend to break them. The reason this occurs is that there’s a reason we put certain things off – because we don’t enjoy doing them. To be honest, I don’t think there is anything else I dislike more than sorting out my finances. Even when I had no major expenses or financial worries I didn’t enjoy it. I even caught myself procrastinating with cleaning at times – which my husband will agree is a rarity.

So, I sat down and had a chat with my husband. He is newly self-employed and suggested that I look into some online software programs. To be honest, this sounded like even more hard work since I’d have to research the software programs, possibly pay a monthly fee to use them and then also retroactively enter all my expenses and incomes into it. The thought sounded daunting. However, since my husband is quite smart at these things – this is one area where he excels while I procrastinate – I decided to listen and do a bit of digging.

As I started to search, I realized that there were quite a lot of tools out there. Many of them like outright.com was American but it seemed that Canada has started to get into the game. The best thing about researching things online these days is that I can easily watch demos and videos on how to use the service. Also, I was able to take a look at some reviews that had been posted so I could see if the software would work well for our needs.

So, what did I find out about these systems?

Well I looked at four software systems in detail – Mint Canada, QuickBooks, MoneyStrands and Budgetpulse.

All help you manage your money online and plan your expenditures through a similar platform to a Microsoft Office Suite. I liked this as I definitely didn’t want to start toying around with new technology in any way. Most of the sites I looked at would also integrate with your bank account, credit cards and PayPal accounts. This way you wouldn’t have to worry about manually entering information. Part of me liked this idea but was a bit worried about the security aspect – do I really want this budgeting software accessing my credit card and bank details? All of them assure you that the security aspect is covered and all their sites only operate with the highest level of security – the same as an online banking system.

Out of all four, I found that the top 3 for my needs were Mint, MoneyStrands and Budgetpulse. My husband currently uses QuickBooks but I felt it was better tailored for his needs as a small business owner. I wanted something a bit lighter and something that would give us the basics for managing our money better.

Let’s find out a bit more about these top 3 personal budgeting software systems:

#1 – Mint Canada 

Mint is offered by the same company QuickBooks is part of – Intuit. As a company, Mint is a well-known system and has grown in popularity in the US. You can see your financial accounts in one place, set budgets, and do more with your money. Best of all, it’s free to use. Mint does all the work of organizing and categorizing your spending for you. The platform also supports all major Canadian banks and accounts. One of the things I liked the most about Mint – and why I chose to use them to develop my family’s budget – is that they also have an app that they won an award for that I can use on my iPhone which will make it easy once I’m up and running.

#2 – MoneyStrands 

Working similar to Mint, MoneyStrands is also a good choice. They provide bank-level security to carefully guard personal information. However it is an American firm so I’m not that sure it will link to my Canadian online bank accounts or credit cards. However, if you manually enter the information the system will automatically categorize transactions into various spending categories and analyze how you can save. I liked this feature but I thought it may be too advanced from where I’m at right now.

#3 – Budgetpulse

Budgetpulse states that users can organize their cash flow, expenses and bank accounts in one place. Similar to the others, they also provide charts and graphs to enable you to visualize how you’re spending your money month-to-month. I thought that this could help me to track my progress, discover where I could make savings and improve how I manage my money. From what I could see, all the information needs to be manually entered into this system. It is also offered as a free service but I wasn’t sure it had as many features as Mint.

Why did I choose Mint?

If I’m honest, I liked Mint straight away. When I went onto the site, it just felt like it would be easy to use. As you can tell, I’m not that keen on getting all my expenses loaded into the system so ease of use is important to me.

So, I started to use the system and I’m finding it very easy to use. Since I can transfer transactions from my bank account and credit cards, it’s really easy to see where our money goes. I spoke to a friend who’s been using it for a while now and he said that it’s really helped him and his family better manage their money.

What about you – do you think software can help you manage your spending in 2014?

 

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