The software option can keep your cash in check

You'll benefit from packages that help to sort out your home finances, says Nick Clayton

It is never too early to start organising your finances. You do not have to wait for the big three annual calendar reminders: the end of the tax year in April; 30 September, the last date when the Inland Revenue will work out the tax owing on self- assessed income; and the end of January, the cut-off point for tax returns.

It is never too early to start organising your finances. You do not have to wait for the big three annual calendar reminders: the end of the tax year in April; 30 September, the last date when the Inland Revenue will work out the tax owing on self- assessed income; and the end of January, the cut-off point for tax returns.

Of course, anybody who pays all their income tax through their employer has nothing to worry about except their credit card bills, investments, bank accounts, loans and - well, maybe everybody has a reason to get their finances in order.

Computer software packages can help bring order out of chaos. Most also have useful hand-holding functions that take users through the initial tasks of entering data.

Choosing which package to buy, however, is confusing. There is no point in getting something capable of running a corporate payroll, calculating VAT and amortising plant and equipment if all you want to do is track your household bills.

Probably the simplest and most popular package is Microsoft Money. For people whose finances are not too complex it is ideal. Set aside a couple of hours, and gather every current financial document representingyour income and outgoings. It is a scary process; fortunately you only need to do it once. Many of the figures do not change from month to month, others change only occasionally and many banks and credit companies allow you to download your statements straight into Money. It is worth checking whether your bank offers this facility as there are some surprising omissions. For instance, the internet-only institutions Egg, Smile and Cahoot do not provide accounts in a downloadable format.

Quicken provides many similar features and attracts a loyal following. At its full price, the basic package, Quicken XG Suite, can seem expensive - £70 against £50 for the equivalent version of Money. But it is currently being heavily discounted.

For these prices, Quicken and Money include modules to help you work out your income tax on investments such as share dividends or interest; if any of your income is from self-employment you probably need something a little more powerful. The main additional function needed is usually one for invoicing, but small business accounting also involves elements such as VAT, financial modelling and payroll. Prices also start to rise steeply.

Two companies dominate the small business end of accountancy software, Sage and Intuit - the publisher of QuickBooks.

Accountants and bookkeepers will feel most comfortable with Sage, but QuickBooks is more colourful and user-friendly. And there is MYOB;the program has been around long enough to mean there is little danger of being left with an unsupported package.

Any of these packages will help. But think carefully before you make your choice as changing can be time-consuming.


* Microsoft Money

Established way of keeping track of household finances. Lacks the functions to run a small business. Windows PCs only. From £22.29.

* Quicken XG

Main competitor to Microsoft Money. More online services, but most run out after a year. Some complaints about customer service. Windows PCs only. From £26.39.

* Sage

The favourite for anybody running a small business but can be daunting for people less well-versed in bookkeeping jargon. Windows PCs only. Price: from £90.30.

* QuickBooks

Easier to use and provides a wide range of reports for small business but some say it lacks flexibility. Mac or Windows.

Price: from £119.95.

'I use it to track all my finances

Glyn Simpson started to use Microsoft Money nine years ago. Now 35, and married with a two-year-old child, Mr Simpson, left, says: "I use it to track all my finances: my bank accounts, mortgage and some investments. I spend an average, I suppose, of about half an hour a week on it."

Such is his enthusiasm for the program that he says he would not use a bank with an internet service that did not support it. "I am with NatWest and can download directly into Money. I can use it to forecast how much money I'm going to have at the end of the month. It would take longer if I couldn't download it.

"It does require a little discipline, but it really is useful to see all my financial information at a glance, including what bills are coming up and how long it is going to take me to pay off my mortgage."

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

Arts and Entertainment
Lena Dunham
booksLena Dunham's memoirs - written at the age of 28 - are honest to the point of making you squirm
Arts and Entertainment
A bit rich: Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey
tvDownton Abbey review: It's six months since we last caught up with the Crawley clan
Frank Lampard and his non-celebration
premier leagueManchester City vs Chelsea match report from the Etihad Stadium
Life and Style
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
techNew app offers 'PG alternative' to dating services like Tinder
Jacqueline Bisset has claimed that young women today are obsessed with being 'hot', rather than 'charming', 'romantic' or 'beautiful'
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden sings his heart out in his second audition
tvX Factor: How did the Jakes - and Charlie Martinez - fare?
premier league
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvOnly remaining original cast-member to leave crime series
Mario Balotelli celebrates his first Liverpool goal
premier leagueLiverpool striker expressed his opinion about the 5-3 thriller with Leicester - then this happened
Britain's shadow chancellor Ed Balls (L) challenges reporter Rob Merrick for the ball during the Labour Party versus the media soccer match,
peopleReporter left bleeding after tackle from shadow Chancellor in annual political football match
Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says
tvSpoiler warning: Star of George RR Martin's hit series says viewers have 'not seen the last' of him/her
Plenty to ponder: Amir Khan has had repeated problems with US immigration because of his Muslim faith and now American television may shun him
Finacial products from our partners
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Money & Business

    Senior BA - Motor and Home Insurance

    £400 - £450 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: **URGENT CONTRACT ROLE**...

    Market Risk & Control Manager

    Up to £100k or £450p/d: Saxton Leigh: My client is a leading commodities tradi...

    SQL Developer - Watford/NW London - £320 - £330 p/d - 6 months

    £320 - £330 per day: Ashdown Group: The Ashdown Group have been engaged by a l...

    Head of Audit

    To £75,000 + Pension + Benefits + Bonus: Saxton Leigh: My client is looking f...

    Day In a Page

    A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

    Not That Kind of Girl:

    A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

    In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

    Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
    Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

    Model mother

    Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
    Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

    Apple still the coolest brand

    Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
    Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

    Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

    Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
    Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

    Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

    The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
    The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

    Scrambled eggs and LSD

    Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
    'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

    'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

    Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
    Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

    New leading ladies of dance fight back

    How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments