apps-finance

This article was written by Heather Spohr and originally published on Citi’s Women & Co.

One of the things that used to scare me the most about becoming an adult was the thought of having to manage my family’s finances. I remember gawking at my parents’ office desk—at the bills strewn about, the piles of bank statements, the legal pads filled with endless calculations—and dreading the day I’d have a desk like that of my own. Luckily, now that I’m an adult, managing my family’s finances it’s a whole lot simpler than it used to be thanks to technology, which allows me to manage both big-ticket items (like investments and loans) and smaller, day-to-day money issues (like household spending) with ease.

See the big picture.

The primary way to avoid having a desk like the one my parents had is to start with a personal finance management program. Quicken is a top-selling, sophisticated software program that can manage everything from daily household spending to business income and rental properties. However, I’ve found that most families can manage their household finances just fine by using a free, web-based money management tool.

Mint collects all of your financial information in one place. With a single login, I can see all of our accounts simultaneously, from checking and savings to investments and home loan. I love the immediacy of being able view my family’s entire financial picture in seconds. Mint does other cool stuff, too, like alert you to large transactions, help you create (and stick to) budgets, and find ways for you to save money on things like insurance. In addition to Mint, there are other quality money management websites that offer slightly different features and benefits.

Manilla.com lets you track much more than your financial accounts. While you can manage your bills and finances, Manilla also helps you track your daily deals, subscriptions, travel rewards programs, Netflix queues, OpenTable reservations, and more. Manilla will send you reminders when your bills are almost due, and you get unlimited online document storage forever, for free.

The site moneyStrands analyzes your spending and helps you set up budgets and a 12-month spending plan. I’d suggest familiarizing yourself with each of these options before deciding which is best for you and your family.

I’ve found that most families can manage their household finances just fine by using a free, web-based money management tool.

Manage on the go.

My favorite thing about these money management websites? They each have a mobile app that can simplify your financial life even further, and spare me from having to log hours at my desk like my parents did. It’s great to be able to view information about my finances on my phone at any time, anywhere. If I want to buy something but don’t know if I can afford it, I use the app right then and there to see if the purchase will fit into my family’s budget.

New mobile applications make it easy not only to monitor your finances, you can actually take care of most business right from your phone or tablet. Who knows if you’ll even need that home office desk anymore? Citi® Mobile for smartphones has Mobile Check Deposit, which can spare you from having to make an unnecessary trip to a branch or ATM.

Running an inventory.

In addition to managing these meatier financial items with technology, I also use some tech tools for smaller, day-to-day transactions. I used to buy my groceries, put them away, then not give too much thought about how my family consumed them. As a result I often found myself at the store a week later buying items we didn’t need, or neglecting to buy ones we’d gone through quicker than I realized. The result was a lot of waste and inefficiency.

I’ve since started to keep an inventory of all the items we buy stored in Google Docs. I update it with notations on what we eat quickly and what we don’t. By looking at my inventory as closely as a restaurant looks at theirs, I’ve been able to streamline my shopping tremendously and get the grocery category of our household budget under control. I also use a number of grocery apps, like Ziplist, which organizes my grocery list and helps me find money-saving coupons, and GroceryPal, which helps me find items on sale.

I should mention that technology hasn’t just simplified my financial life—it’s simplified my parents’ as well! You should see their office desk today. It’s absolutely spotless.