Using technology to support financial planning

How do you look after your money? Chances are, for many of us, the answer is ‘badly’. Whether you’re looking to pay your bills on time, clear your debts or plan for a big purchase, it’s important to try to get some sense of control for your finances.

The quest for financial control can be assisted by technology, however. The smart use of software and apps can help us all to have a better understanding of the money going into – and out of – our accounts and where best to put our money to make it go further.

Each person’s circumstances are different, clearly, but everyone can benefit from the following three-step approach.

Budget planning and a financial audit

Before you think about anything else, you need to have a good spending audit. Go through your last three month’s worth of accounts and make a note of everything you’ve spent – from regular bills right through to one-off meals out. Try to be as forensic as possible and track every last rand that has passed through your accounts.

From this, you can get a good idea of the amount of money you have to spend every month and, hopefully, the amount of money you have left over to spend and save with.

Regardless of what you do next, you should also look for ways to cut your outgoings. Do you pay for a gym membership you never use or a mobile phone contract that has spiraled out of control? Sometimes seeing your spending spelled out like this is the motivation you need to do something about it.

You can do all of this with a pen and paper, but it’s much easier – to log and analyze – if you use a budget planning app. There are many of these available – Goodbudget being just one example.

Banking and accounting software

The above process is a good starting point, but you can’t just leave it there. Download an app to your phone that allows you to have at-a-glance view of your accounts and you’ll be able to make informed choices, checking for an accurate balance figure before you choose to buy an item or sign up for a contract. Most banks have their own apps, but you might want to use an app such as Mint to pull together different accounts from different providers.

The same logic applies to businesses too. If you run a company, it pays to use accounting software so that you can manage your payments and accounts on the go.

Investing to boost your finances

Being aware of what you earn and spend is important, as is the ability to log, track and monitor your finances – but it’s also important to try to make your money go further too.

Typically, people have probably found it easiest to just put away some money in their bank in a savings account but technology makes it simpler to look beyond that. Trading software and apps make it easier than ever to be able to access the markets. Beginners can run a trial account to test the waters – and use things such as economic calendars to be able to plot trades and plan ahead for market movements.

The knowledge freely available online makes it simpler for people to be able to learn and access the markets – as well as compare and search out high interest savings accounts.