We all know someone who still uses their checkbook ledger and catches a lot of flack for meticulously noting every line item. Why, in the age of online banking, would anyone resort to such a mundane task? While noting every purchase might air on the overly cautious end of the spectrum, simply logging into your bank account online doesn’t count as responsible financial management. Now there are several software programs available to synchronize all of your accounts, enabling you to toss the ledger and making it easy to stay on top of your spending.
Programs like Quicken (INTU) , Mint and Wesabe no longer require you to manually input every dollar spent. Register your online accounts and it will do a secure online sweep and regularly synchronize your credit card and ATM balances, deposits and charges onto one master ledger. “In three mouse clicks it goes to banks, American Express (AXP), and Visa and dumps it into the register,” says Liz Weston, author of Easy Money: How to Simplify Your Finances and Get What You Want Out of Life. These programs will even categorize your spending, to help you set budgets on expenditures such as gifts, travel, and food.Mint, Wesabe and Quicken Online are all available for free download and you can access them via your cell phone, leaving little excuse the next time you bounce a check. Instead, you can check how you stack up against your peers, budget-wise. Mint users can see if they spend as much per week as the national average on Starbucks (SBUX) or whether they spend more or less than their hometown average on their mobile cell phone plan, says Aaron Patzer, Mint's founder and CEO. “It’s helpful information when settling budgets, and it’s just kind of fun to know where you stand,” he says.