By Steve Freidell
Land Line contributor
How many times have you been driving down the road when you realize you forgot to pay an important bill? Or you need cash but don’t want to leave your spouse short on funds? Or you need to buy new tires or pay for a large mechanical breakdown but have no way to transfer funds to pay for it? Luckily, now there are tools that make these worries a thing of the past.
Without a doubt, two of the most important electronic devices invented during modern times are the personal computer and the cell phone. I’m sure most of you remember the days when driving down a highway without a cell phone was no big deal. After all, if you needed to make a call you could just stop at a pay phone. But today, you couldn’t imagine leaving home each day without a fully charged phone.
Many feel the same way about their computers. As these technologies advance, they’re changing the way we go about our daily lives. Nowhere is this truer than in the arena of personal finance. Computer finance applications and online banking services are quickly making the checkbook register and the regular visit to your local branch obsolete.
I cannot imagine the difficulty today’s truckers face when trying to both manage a business and stay in touch with the family’s finances while traveling around the country. Many do so by having different checkbooks and parties controlling the finances. However, it doesn’t have to be like that.
One of the tools I’ve mentioned before is personal financial software, namely Quicken or Microsoft Money. These work great on the home computer; however, they’re not always practical while on the road. Fortunately, mini versions of these same programs are available online, accessible from any computer in any location. And best of all, they’re totally free.
Web sites such as QuickenOnline.com and Mint.com automatically download all of your checking, debit card, credit card, automated withdrawals, transfers, and any other bank transactions and categorize them into several different groups. For example, they will recognize a purchase made at a restaurant and categorize it under “Food and Dining.”
With all your purchases organized, it only takes a couple of clicks to set up a budget that automatically monitors how much you’re spending in each category.
This makes it incredibly easy to see exactly where your money is going and to find new ways to save. Along with these online money-management Web sites, most major banks also allow you to access your accounts and make transfers online free of charge. Check your bank’s Web site for more information.
Again, these services are all web-based, meaning there is no need to download any software. You access them just like you would any other Web site. So if you don’t have a laptop in your truck, you can always access your finances from any public computer with an Internet connection. And with the advent of mobile broadband cards, and smartphones capable of accessing the Internet and running computer-like applications, it’s becoming easy to stay online even in the most remote parts of the country.
These services also provide a great way for you and your spouse to stay connected in achieving your family’s financial goals. No longer will it be up to just one person to pay bills or stay up on the latest budget expenditures. Both of you can use these services to stay informed, and remain goal-oriented.
Just as it’s difficult to imagine leaving home without your cell phone, it should be just as difficult to leave home without full control over your finances. These tools make it possible to stay in control and keep your financial wheels turning. It’s like having your own personal financial assistant available 24 hours a day from anywhere on the planet. Once your finances are placed at your fingertips, and you can solve concerns before they become crises.
Both Quicken Online and Mint are owned by the same company and offer similar services. Check them both out and see which one works best for you. After all, they’re completely free. LL
This material has been prepared for informational purposes only; it is not intended to provide and should not be relied upon for accounting, legal or tax advice.
Steve Freidell has assisted clients in their cash management, trading, and portfolio management of fixed income securities since 1975. Steve started his career at the First National Bank of Kansas City and later served as first vice president with Commerce Bank where he served his clients for 25 years. In 2006, he joined the DeWaay organization, the financial management company utilized by OOIDA.