Flummoxed by your finances? Then log on

Emma Lunn on software programs that make it easier to monitor all your spending, savings and borrowings

How do you keep up with your money? With savings accounts, spending on credit cards, loan repayments, transfers from a current account and investments, it's hard to keep track of all your cash.

How do you keep up with your money? With savings accounts, spending on credit cards, loan repayments, transfers from a current account and investments, it's hard to keep track of all your cash.

Many have turned to a computer for help, using sophisticated software that streamlines their finances. A typical program lets you download bank transactions and track particular payments, while others will tell you if you're sticking to a budget and offer financial projections.

But you need dedication. Quentin Pain, managing director of Accountz.com, the firm behind the Personal Accounts program, says that if you rely on personal finance software to check what you've spent against bank downloads, you're going to have to put in the effort to record every transaction you make.

The choice of package is limited. First, it depends on compatibility between your computer and the software, and second, the market has been dominated by two big players: Microsoft and its Money package, and Intuit with its Quicken software. And now this choice has got smaller. Last week, Intuit announced it was getting out of personal finance to focus on business account software, although it will support existing users until January 2006.

That leaves Microsoft in a robust position against a few smaller rivals. Money costs about £26 and lets you download records of your bank transactions and play out "what if?" scenarios that show what would happen to your finances if you earned £500 less one month, say, or spent £1,000 on a holiday.

Kelvyn Taylor, deputy editor of Personal Computer World (PCW) magazine, says the product is fairly easy to master as long as you understand the basics of money management.

Cheaper alternatives are available, however. A package called Bank Genie - www.ideasgenie.co.uk - costs £9.95 and runs on PCs with most Windows packages from Windows 95 onwards. It allows you to download bank statements and reconcile them with your own spending records. You can also see which standing orders and direct debits are due before your next payday and manage your cash accordingly.

Elsewhere, Personal Accounts can be downloaded from the internet for £19.

Before you buy any such package, check with your online bank that the software can work in conjunction with its own package; some banks offer better integration than others.

For those who don't want to take such a hands-on approach but simply to monitor their cash at a glance, it could be worth looking at an "aggregate" account. For example, online bank Egg's Money Manager lets you collect all your account details from different banks on one site, view them on one screen, and click through to relevant websites.

Another, similar, alternative is the "wrap account". Popular in the US and Australia, this online service is run through an independent financial adviser (IFA) and allows customers to see all their investments, from shares to property, on one page - even if the assets are managed by several firms. But there is a fee: Abbey and Seven Investment Management both provide the accounts, and charges start at 0.5 per cent of the value of the total investment. However, wrap providers can negotiate reduced charges with fund managers and other product providers, which means account holders may pay less for their investments.

What to go for out of these different packages will depend on what you need, says Mr Taylor at PCW. "Is it just to reconcile accounts or to do financial planning?"

Independent Partners; request a free guide on NISAs from Hargreaves Lansdown

PROMOTED VIDEO
Sport
Club legend Paul Scholes is scared United could disappear into 'the wilderness'
football
Life and Style
food + drink
News
video
Sport
Malky Mackay salutes the Cardiff fans after the 3-1 defeat at Liverpool on Sunday
footballFormer Cardiff boss accused of sending homophobic, racist and messages
Arts and Entertainment
Martin Amis: Taken to task over rash decisions and ill-judged statements
booksThe Zone of Interest just doesn't work, says James Runcie
Finacial products from our partners
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Money & Business

    Business Analyst / Project Manager - Financial Services

    £40000 - £45000 per annum + BONUS + BENEFITS: Harrington Starr: One of the mos...

    Lead Business Analyst - Banking - London - £585

    £525 - £585 per day: Orgtel: Lead Business Analyst - Investment Banking - Lond...

    Service Desk Analyst- Desktop Support, Helpdesk, ITIL

    £20000 - £27000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Service Desk Analyst- (Desktop Su...

    Service Desk Engineer-(Support, ITIL, Software Vendor)

    £30000 - £35000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Service Desk Engineer-(Support, S...

    Day In a Page

    Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

    We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

    Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
    Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

    Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

    Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
    Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

    The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

    Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
    Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

    Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

    Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
    eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

    eBay's enduring appeal

    The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
    Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

    'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

    Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
    Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

    Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

    Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention
    Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

    Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

    After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
    Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

    Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

    After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
    Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

    Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

    Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
    7 best quadcopters and drones

    Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

    From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
    Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

    Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

    The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
    Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

    Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

    British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
    Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

    A descent into madness in America's heartlands

    David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
    BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

    BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

    Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home