Computers are incredibly well suited to helping us plan and track our finances. Computers of course like to work in numbers, and at the same time they are great for looking for patterns and remembering things. This means that we can use a variety of software to input information regarding our finances and spending and we can then rely on our computers to keep track of these figures and ‘remember’ them for us. At the same time we can then apply algorithms and other functions in order to find patterns and to predict future changes based on these.
The main way many of us accomplish this using technology is through the use of spread sheet software such as Excel. Here we can enter our data into a range of cells, and then simply apply an equation in order to manipulate those cells.
This is a very basic form of programming, and particularly where the spreadsheets allow you to use ‘IF’ and ‘THEN’ statements. Still though it is not programming ‘proper’ and it has its limitations. If you really want to keep track of your finances then and avoid over spending or losing information, then even better is to program your own financial management software. Here we will look at how to do that and why you should.
Benefits of Programming Your Own Financial Management Software
Using a basic programming language it’s very easy to accomplish all the things you might accomplish using a spread sheet – in other words you can calculate totals, you can subtract totals and you can multiply these numbers over a series of days or months in order to see how changes might affect you going into the future.
However what you can also do with these programs is to make things a lot slicker and improve the interface to suit you. For instance what you could do is to have a window pop up with an input dialogue to ask how much you spent today. Simply answering that question would automatically update the internal spreadsheet you’d created and then tell you whether you were in positive figures for that day. At the same time you would this way be able to request just specific data – by clicking on ‘earnings for the year’ for instance, or you could automatically back up the information as you go.
This then means that rather than looking around a spreadhseet for the right column or row and praying you don’t accidentally delete the wrong thing you can now simply answer a series of questions that are specifically tailored to you and you can have all that information organized instantly in the way that you need it.
At the same time this allows you to add more functions and to do more complicated things. You can go a lot further with those ‘IF’ and ‘THEN’ statements and start introducing ‘AND’, ‘OR’, ‘WHILE’, ‘WHEN’ and more – so that your new simulation of your finances could also take into account costs that only happen every few months, or even charges that occur when you go above a certain total in your bank account. Likewise you can get the software to alert you when you go below a certain amount or when you aren’t going to make rent and much more – again you simply have more options and it’s all tailored to what you need.
How to Do It
The thing is, that if you are currently using a spreadsheet with algorithms then you’re just one step away from programming already and it shouldn’t be too hard to learn. All you need now is a cheap (or better yet free) programming option such as Visual Basic, QBasic or Perl, and a ‘For Dummies’ guidebook. Learn how to store files, manipulate variables and input strings and integers and pretty much you’re ready to start making your very own financial management software that will do precisely what you need it to.