In times of economic hardship, it's more important than ever to keep track of your money. Married to an accountant, I have had this drilled in to me for years, and the current software we use is Money 2004.
The installation of this software is extremely straightforward, as the step by step guide takes you through the process. It utilises approximately 125MB of memory, so bear this in mind.
Creating an Account
Money 2004 works on the same principles as other Microsoft software, and if you are used to working through Excel, Powerpoint, Word, etc, then you will be able to set up an account without too much reference to the instructions. Money 2004 is as intricate as you want it to be, and I have found the more accounts and assets I track, the more complex it has become, and it may be worth starting with your most accessed account, for example, a current account, and get used to inputting the data for this account first before adding others.
If you have online access to your bank, you can set Money 2004 up to 'talk' to your online account and download your transactions directy to Money. This was very useful during the initial set-up stage, although it's still worth reviewing the downloaded data and categorising each transaction for budgeting purposes.
By assigning a category to each transaction, Money can establish your spending habits and creates a budget which can forecast future income and outgoings. You can further customise this and look at areas where you may be overspending, and set new targets. Money will then tell you if you exceed your budget on a monthly basis.
Each month, Money will produce a report summarising your activity for the previous month. I have found this extremely useful in assessing where I have been able to save and where I have gone over budget.
The bill payment feature enables you to set up regular bills which are paid by cheque, cash or direct debit. This is a useful reminder that a bill is approaching, and since using this feature I haven't missed a payment!
As well as tracking credit cards, store cards and bank accounts, I have also set up a mortgage account to track my debt, and have recorded other assets such as my car, so that at any given month I can view my true net worth.
Storing all my financial data in once place as made life extremely simple. I dedicate just a couple of hours each month to the task of balancing my finances, and Money 2004 makes the job quick and easy. Reconciling my accounts with those held at financial institutions has highlighted a number of discrepancies which would otherwise have gone overlooked if I didn't use this software. It has paid for itself in refunded incorrect charges!
You don't have to be an accountant like my husband to work this software, but you may feel like you have the brains of one when you do!