Most Canadians do not have a firm grasp of where their money goes every month, says Jeff Cates, Managing Director at Intuit Canada.
Keeping track of spending and debt is a key area in which software can help individuals manage their finances, he says. Staying on top of investments and making use of all deductions and credits when paying taxes are two other areas in which software is proving especially useful.
“Whether you're trying to save money, manage expenses or learn more about investing, technology can help,” says Amber MacArthur, a technology writer and co-host of the BNN show App Central.
Understand your spending and debt
It’s not that most people are undisciplined spenders. But with the sheer volume of bills and multiple ways to pay (online, credit card, debit card and cash payments), it can be difficult to keep track of finances. “If you don’t know where you’re spending, you can’t budget,” Mr. Cates says.
Financial management packages can clarify all of that data. For instance, you can use various tools to download your card and bank transactions, aggregate all of your expenses, slot them into different categories, and create spending reports, he says.
Other popular functions allow you to set reminders for bills, calculate what you have left to spend after they’re paid, and improve debt management.
Setting a budget can be done in a clearer, more effective way, Mr. Cates says. By presenting your income and expenses in an array of charts and graphs, financial management tools make your household cash flow easier to visualize. That means you can more readily understand and act on the information, he says.
Technology can be invaluable in helping investors decide whether to buy or sell, with access to real-time updates of mutual fund and stock prices. That’s just the start. Tools can also help investors analyze the performance of companies or funds – by time period or industry sector, for example.
Financial institutions make their own tools available to clients to track investments and facilitate transactions, by linking a trading account with a bank account, for example. That’s useful, but if you have investments across multiple institutions, third-party software tools allow you to review your entire portfolio, Mr. Cates says.
Many vendors offer a trial version of their investment management software. Test it out to get an idea of the depth of the analysis, says Faisal Habib, Chief Operations Officer at Toronto’s QWeMA Group.
Whenever your personal financial information is in the digital space, “do some research to ensure the technology provider has a strong and satisfied customer base,” Ms. MacArthur says. A simple Twitter or Google search can find user feedback.
Pay minimum taxes and get maximum refunds
Is your tax return accurate? Are you catching all of your deductions and tax credits? Tax programs take you through the entry step-by-step, and conduct thorough checks to ensure that your data is as complete as possible, and that you’re also not missing any opportunities.
It can be worth your time to enter your numbers into a couple of top tax packages to see if the results match, or which package gets you the most back.
Whether you’re doing taxes on your own or using a professional, here’s where using technology through the year to review your expenses and investments can pay off too, by giving you easily accessible and organized records, Ms. MacArthur says.