Paying off debt and losing weight are very similar processes. With each you have to delay pleasure in order to achieve a long term goal. Both can be hard and involve sacrifice over time even when you don’t want to do it. I’ve struggle with both being in debt and being overweight but have happily made progress in both areas, which is why I like to share things that work to keep me physically and financially fit. Anything to make these processes easier is great and it’s even better when it’s a FREE resource.
Today I’m talking about Personal Capital, the free software I use to track my spending, savings, net worth and investments. Being financially fit and independent has been a goal of mine for several years. Along the way I’ve read magazines, books, and blogs about money and how to be better with it. I’ve tried several different software options and ultimately have settled on Personal Capital as my weapon of choice in staying on top of my finances and managing my money.
(Note: this post contains affiliate links but Personal Capital is completely free to use! Using the links will cost you nothing extra.)
Free Financial Management Software
I check Personal Capital every day. When you login to PersonalCapital.com you get to see an instant view of your finances – your net worth for the last 90 days, your monthly income, and your monthly expenses. It’s a free way to instantly see where you stand for the month and organize all your financial information.
This large scale picture of where you’re at gives you a lot of useful information. It’s kind of like using a calorie tracker to see what you’ve been doing with your food all month… and seeing where things add up. You can immediately see if you have a spending problem or income problem or if everything is going well (let me know if that happens for you, heheh). I love this view of the software since it gives me a lot of information at once and is impossible to ignore.
Track Your Net Worth
While I’m not exactly a high net worth individual, tracking my net worth has become a fun thing for me. I started with a negative net worth by many tens of thousands of dollars. Now? I’m in the opposite direction in the positive! While it’s not a lot I’m excited that I can track this number while still toward the beginning of my career and see it rise over time to even higher numbers. It’s very motivating to see the graph of your net worth and how it goes up over time with rises in savings accounts, retirement accounts and the reduction of loans. If you are paying off debt, seeing this big picture number can be really motivating as it goes down.
Tracking your net worth can also clue into problems you might be having financially and areas where you can improve. Are you not seeing a steady increase over time? Something is wrong and needs to change. Maybe you need to save more. Maybe your investments are not performing. Seeing this info can help you correct your path and get back to increasing your net worth.
Using Personal Capital to track my spending has been a life saver. I’m not a huge spender but I’m prone to make impulse choices when shopping after years sometimes. Knowing how much I’ve spent for the month already is hugely helpful in mitigating these impulse buys. If I know I’ve already used my shopping budget for the month it’s a lot easier to talk myself out of a purchase. You can also see how much you spent on a certain category that is important to you like health.
I also use this section to cut down on FOOD spending. I looooove eating out at restaurants and my city has a ton of good ones (just discovered a new Thai restaurant last night and it was delish!). My food spending can get way out of control when I’m enjoying life so keeping tabs on this area of spending is very important to my bottom line. That’s part of why I personally check my account every day. Knowledge is power and logging in gives me all the knowledge I need in one place.
You also can track your income in Personal Capital. This can be either motivating or devastating, depending on how well you are doing in this area. I admit that it’s been both for me. I’ve been using Personal Capital for a while and in the last two years I’ve gone up and down in income (getting laid off is the pits y’all) depending on my situation. Overall it’s definitely encouraged me to work harder and take on more freelance work and keep pushing to get those numbers as high as possible. It’s also made me much more of an investor because seeing your money earn money without you doing anything is really, really fun.
Investing Help & Tools
Personal Capital also gives you a lot of info about your investments. While mines are not substantial yet, it’s awesome to see how they are allocated and where I can do better as I buy more investments. I haven’t fully dived into this section of the site because it doesn’t apply to me that much yet, but I definitely plan to in the future. I know it’s been helpful to a lot of people older than me who have larger portfolios and care more about the asset allocation and such.
There is also an investment fee tool that shows you how much you pay in fees each year for managing your money. This will show you how much you are paying and how much you will lose in fees over the next two decades. That number definitely adds up quickly!
How is Personal Capital Free?
It’s really easy and quick to sign up for Personal Capital and honestly I kept expecting a catch like they would start charging to use the software. I’ve used other free software online that changed to a paid model after I got hooked on using it for a couple years.
Luckily, this won’t be happening with Personal Capital. All of their online tools are free and plan to stay that way. They make their money by offering low-priced financial advice and management services. These are totally optional and offered to those with over $100K in investments. You can use it or not, but those fees keep the amazing software free for everyone to use!
What are the downsides?
There is a downside to almost everything in life, and there are a few with this software.
You have to look through the transactions to make sure they are correct in categories. I’ve found they aren’t as good at this as Mint was (free software I previously used for this) at categorizing. I’ve had to change and categorize several transactions.
Cash transactions are hard to enter. You can’t just add a cash transaction so you have to categorize the ATM withdrawals to get around this. I’m hoping they decide to add some type of cash transaction feature.
They will call you if you have a lot of money. This hasn’t happened to me, obviously, but I’ve been told by people that use it with considerable portfolios that you will get a phone call about managing your money if you have over a certain amount. You might like this or you might not. If you don’t want their services then just tell them that – they do listen.
How do you sign up?
I know this is probably sounding salesy, but I really do love this software. When you sign up for Personal Capital it will take about 10 to 20 minutes to set up. You’ll have to link all your accounts to get the most out of it and make sure everything is accurate. I have several accounts attached from 2 banks, 2 brokerages, 1 investment account, and 1 credit card account (that gets my monthly set spending sent to it). You will have to find a code in your account for some banks but this doesn’t take long at all. You will also add any liabilities or loans you have like a house and mortgage or car loans.
The reason why this software is so brilliant is because you don’t have to log into those 5-20 accounts separately anymore! If I want to know how much is in my retirement accounts I go to Personal Capital to check instead of logging into other sites separately. It’s pretty much my favorite free software I use right now and if you want to be financially fit it’s worth trying out!
You can learn more about all of this here: Personal Capital
And if you’re ready to sign up for free, do it here: Personal Capital