If you’ve read our previous article on the pros and cons of keeping a DIY budget, then you know just how important budgets are to your overall financial success. While the concept of budgeting has been around for decades, with the help of modern technology budgeting has taken on an entirely different look and feel over the past few years.
A new business sector called FinTech (Financial Technology) has emerged, and businesses are rushing to fill it by providing digital solutions to everyday financial woes – budgeting, saving, investing, life insurance and much more.
It used to be that if you wanted to maintain your budget online you were limited to using Microsoft Money (no longer available) or Quicken. While those programs do a great job of managing your money, they aren’t very nimble. The last few years have brought us [YNAB (You Need a Budget), Mint.com, Level Money and countless other apps and programs to help make budgeting easier than ever before.
Each of these programs has their pros and cons. However in this article we are going to cover the pros and cons of relying on technology in general to maintain your budget.
The pros of budgeting apps and programs
When technology works, it's a great solution for managing your money. With many of the apps on the market, you can categorize your spending, see your budget in real time and also take pictures of your receipts for easy entry. Since we are all somewhat addicted to our phones, with an app, there isn't any excuse for not keeping up with your budget because it's literally in your pocket all day long.
Apps help you keep easy track of your spending by automatically breaking out your expenses in logical categories so you can search how much you've spent on eating out, or shopping or travel in any given period. If you're self-employed, technology can allow you to print easily off category lists of expenses that you can hand over to your accountant at tax time (this will make you a CPA’s dream client.)
Apps do cost more than a free DIY budget, but there are some perks to apps that allow you to cut the costs. For instance, with YNAB if you are a student you can access the program for free. Mint.com also offers free budgeting and throws in a free annual credit report as well.
The cons of budgeting apps and programs
When technology doesn't work, it's not a great solution for managing your money. There's nothing worse than needing to access your budget, and you can't find your phone or it has landed face down in a puddle of water. (That's why keeping a backup copy of your budget is pretty critical).
While a technology budget is great, it needs to be regularly updated . It's not good enough that you have the app on your phone, or the program in your computer. You have to create positive habits around updating your budget, so it all stays current. If you stop updating then, your budget stops working.
Lastly, many people have concerns about the security level of apps and programs. Some apps integrate with your bank and various other lenders, and while that is a positive because it keeps your budgeting accurate, many fear security concerns over the company’s access to your information. You can rest assured though because all the programs and app use high-level security encrypting just like your bank does (not to say that a security breach couldn’t happen.)
Which should you choose?
There are many pros and cons to either approach. So which should you choose? What usually works best is a combo – borrow a little from the DIY budget and integrate an app in the mix. This way you can keep a paper-based version of your budget for your records and use an app for the great features like categorizing your spending and the ability to take a picture of your receipts and instantly have it register in your balance.
Whichever approach you try, remember to stick with it for at least 30 days and pat yourself on the back for making a solid move in bettering your financial future.
Illustration: Owni /-)