Tax season is far from anyone’s favorite time of the year, but it’s a good opportunity to take stock of your finances. In the past, this may have meant visiting an accountant or sitting down at the kitchen table with shoeboxes full of statements and receipts. Fortunately, technology has made it easier to track your banking and expenses and to even keep your credit secure. All it takes is your internet connection.
There are several money management tools on the market. Some, such as Quicken — quicken.com — are software applications that offer web and mobile options, but full functionality requires their desktop version. Others, including Personal Capital — personalcapital. com — are online services accessed through a web browser.
Regardless of which you choose, these personal finance managers allow you to view and track your spending, savings and investments in a single screen, without the need to visit different sites or remember multiple passwords. The main dashboard for Personal Capital, for example, lists your bank accounts, investments, credit card balances, personal loans, mortgage and other assets, and its colorful graphics correspond to your net worth, budget and savings.
Along with a quick-glance view of your finances, Quicken allows you to organize and pay all your bills online, as well as manage a small business. The company’s Home and Business option tracks assets and liabilities in a complete balance sheet.
Even if you are only looking for a simple way to manage your budget, these tools are worth a try. Personal Capital is a free service, and Quicken offers a starter plan for $34.99 a year.
If your income is $69,000 or less, the IRS offers a free way to file your return: www.irs.gov/filing/free-file-do-your-federal-taxes-for-free. While the IRS offers a free option for those earning more, it is far from easy to use.
For those with a higher income who want to file from their computer, the better option is to use a commercial service, such as TurboTax, E-file.com or H&R Block.
Credit is an important part of your financial life, so protecting it from improper use is a must. You may have heard of “freezing” your credit, but you can also “lock” it. Both prevent creditors from accessing your credit report — protecting you from new accounts being opened without your knowledge — but there are differences between them.
Freezing your credit with all three major credit reporting bureaus — Equifax, TransUnion and Experian — is free, but Experian charges $19.99 a month for a credit lock.
Whether you choose to freeze or lock your credit, remember you are entitled by law to a free copy of your credit report every 12 months from each of the credit reporting companies.