The economy has headed south, and everyone could use some help with their finances. Don't despair, though, because we've collected 12 of the best downloads for weathering the downturn. Whether you want to put your household budget in order, extend the life of your PC by keeping it in tip-top shape, or save hundreds of dollars on a new productivity suite or operating system, we have what you need. And with a single exception, all of these downloads are free.
(If you're eager to grab several of these downloads, you can see them all in our "Downloads for Hard Economic Times" collection.)
Software for Managing Your Finances
Accounts & Budgets Free
One of the best ways to make sure you don't get into debt is to track your money, every day, properly. If you're looking for a simple, no-cost program to monitor your money, give Accounts & Budgets Free a try. It's no personal-finance heavyweight, but for keeping tabs on funds entering and leaving a single account, not to mention creating reports, it's a solid bet. Input every transaction in your account, and you'll be able to track your money by category (food, car expenses, insurance, and so on). You can also make visual reports, plan budgets, create reminders, and more.
The free software will manage only one account, but a for-pay version is available for handling more. This program is from a French developer, and the English translation isn't always ideal, but the application is easy to figure out despite the occasionally awkward phrasing.
Download Accounts & Budget Free | Price: Free
Debt Reduction Calculator
Have you gotten in over your head, be it with credit-card debt, a car loan, a mortgage, or the like? Pulling yourself out of such a hole can be tough; each month the problem worsens, as you pay off only the interest and not the principal. Often it feels like no end is in sight.
With some smart financial planning, however, you can erase your debt. If you can't afford to hire a financial planner--and if you're in debt, you most likely don't have the ready cash to do that--this free Excel spreadsheet is a great alternative.
The spreadsheet and accompanying documentation provide a variety of strategies and what-if scenarios to help you eliminate your debt, such as the "snowball" strategy (in which you pay the lowest balance first). Input your plans for paying off each of your debts, and then you can see the results, including the monthly payments, the total interest you'll pay, and so on. Follow the strategy, monitor its progress with the spreadsheet, and change strategies if you need to.
Download Debt Reduction Calculator | Price: Free
Family Budget Planner for Excel
In Charles Dickens's novel David Copperfield, a character speaks perhaps the greatest truth ever uttered about personal finances: "Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen six, result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pound ought and six, result misery."
If you want to make sure that you end up on the happiness side of the equation, you need to manage your budget. Getting a handle on your annual finances can be difficult, but this excellent, free Excel spreadsheet helps. It lists every category of income and expense that you can imagine. All you need to do is fill in your estimates for the coming year, and you'll see whether the likely result is happiness or misery. If the answer is misery, adjust your estimates until the numbers add up right--and then, of course, follow through on that budget.
This spreadsheet has one shortcoming that you should keep in mind: It has no area for your taxes. So when you fill in your income, input only your net income (including your interest income and dividends), not your gross income.
Download Family Budget Planner for Excel | Price: Free
Have you lost your job, or are you worried that you will at some point? If so, you need to have a good résumé at the ready. If you're like most people, however, creating a résumé might not be your strong suit. With this program ($25 after a 10-day trial period) you can assemble a well-written, good-looking resume in an assortment of formats, so that you can distribute it via paper or e-mail, post it on the Web, or use it in any other way you see fit.
The program uses wizards to build your résumé for you. For example, you start by choosing what type of résumé you want to create--one based on chronology, one geared toward the kind of job you're seeking, or one tailored for a specific job. From there, you choose your job level (from student through executive), and answer a series of questions. After that, you enter an executive summary, your job history, your awards and recognitions, and so on.
You then see a preview of your résumé. At that point you can make any changes, as well as alter the layout's fonts, colors, date format, header styles, and more. When you're done, you can output your résumé in various formats, including Word .doc format and HTML.
The program does more than just create your résumé: It also includes a contact organizer to keep track of the people you're in touch with during your job search, and it includes sample cover letters as well.
Download Resume Builder | Price: $25 (10-day free trial)
This free budgeting program is ideal for people who like to see their monthly budget at a glance. After you enter your income and expenses, you can see it all on a single screen, portrayed graphically. The utility also shows you what percentage of your budget each expense takes up, so if you need to cut costs, you can quickly see where to begin. For tracking your monthly expenses and determining where to reduce them, SimpleD is as easy as it gets.
Download SimpleD Budget | Price: Free