Budgeting Software Buyers Guide
Last updated: September 23, 2023
Budgeting software is any computer program that helps an individual or business design, manages, monitor, and alters their budget. The best budgeting software helps you manage your money in a way that is organized, provides the detail you require, and displays the information that you need in a way that allows for quick comprehension and analysis.
Types of budgeting software
There are two main categories of budgeting software: business and personal.
Business software is typically significantly more complex and more expensive and often requires a high degree of customization.
Personal software, on the other hand, can be much simpler and more affordable. This guide will examine options on both sides, starting with business software and then moving on to personal.
Features of Budgeting Software
There isn't a shortage of home budget software options, but no two are created equal. Some are so simplistic that there's little to gain from the investment. Some have a host of features, but you might never learn what half of the features do.
You shouldn't have to settle for mediocrity just because you're not a financial wizard. The best software takes some of the most complicated and beneficial features and transforms them for the layperson.
Home budget software should be simple, intuitive, and not require a degree in accounting. If it looks complicated, it probably is.
Features should explain what each step does and why, and you shouldn't have to read a textbook-size manual first. That gives you confidence and puts you in control.
Entering information by going through the motions can make you scratch your head, and it doesn't offer much toward true personal finance management.
Importing Your Information
When information is automatically imported, it saves time and reduces errors. From bank accounts to credit cards, budget software should let you enter account information, then it should do the rest.
Information import not only populates each account in the program with accurate information, it automatically updates when changes happen. For example, when you use your debit card, your checking account automatically reflects the purchase in the budget software. That's intuitive financial management.
Nothing wrecks a budget faster than miscalculation. Home budget software shouldn't ask you to add and subtract. Ever. Not even to project what would happen if you paid off one credit card or got a new mortgage. Otherwise, you might as well use a pencil, ledger, and calculator, and wing it on your own.
The automatic calculation is more than simply keeping your checking account balance straight. It's what gives you an accurate snapshot of your finances as a whole, and shows how each budget factor affects the others.
You probably don't speak Latin, and some budget software might as well present information in a foreign language. Simplicity is key, so the best programs help you make sense of the information. This lets you make better decisions instead of only seeing the results of past ones.
Graphs and charts package strings of numbers and percentages into a format that's easier to process. Think of it as a visual aid. Instead of just line items on a spreadsheet, look for software that puts information into logical groups.
You might spend more time examining the budget at home, but mobile access keeps you in the loop when you're not at your desk. This means the software should be web-based, which is the only way you can access the same information from different devices.
Mobile access is streamlined. You might not have every feature that you have at home, but you're still informed and in control of your money on the road.
Think that's a lot to ask of budget software? Not when you rely on Mint.com. All these features, and plenty more, are at your fingertips 24 hours a day.
Benefits of Budget and Planning Software over Manual Spreading
For starters, budgeting software is designed to simplify and streamline the budgeting process, a process that is typically a tedious and time-consuming exercise whereby the resulting annual budget is often put aside and not looked at until the following year when a new budget needs to be created. With that one could understand why you wouldn’t think you’d need budgeting software, the budget is never looked at after it’s been completed.
The biggest benefit of a true budgeting system is the collection and analysis of data that can be used for insights and business decisions backed by real-time data. Decisions based on actuals vs budgeted variances, what-if analysis, trend predictions, and more.
It makes the management and control of your budgeting process easier, more flexible, and less prone to errors.
Users may download the budget file from the system, create a spreadsheet version of it for manipulation and editing by other users, and then upload the altered budget file back to the system.
A Budget System can be beneficial in the following manners:-
- Tracks budget iterations, thus eliminating version control challenges.
- Creates budgets by item, products, customers, cost centers, etc.
- It allows you to base your future costs and revenues on different rates, standards, volumes, and user-specified factors.
- Uses historical budgets and actuals to create reports predicting trends.
- A number of buckets are user-defined which allows for multiple forecasts and variance analyses.
- Allows comparison of actuals and commitments to budgets throughout the year.
- Real-time budget alerts notifying management when your budget goes off track so management can better analyze whether changes need to be made to areas impacting your budget.
- Maintains budget for multiple years.