As important as it is, closely monitoring your finances and maintaining a thorough budget isn’t the most fun activity for some people. But if you have small or large financial goals in view, it’ll likely be hard to achieve them without a budget. This doesn’t mean it’s always easy, though. The time and effort it takes to create and keep up with a detailed budget can be a lot of work, and not everyone has the patience or the know-how. The good news is that this becomes a lot easier when you have access to a budget planner to help you through the process. While it’s important to use the digital resources you have access to, some people are better suited to more traditional tools. So here are eight budgeting tools to help you create a budget that’s suited to your financial situation.
If you’re looking for simple budgeting tools that’ll allow you to customize your budget to track your specific expenses, then a good old fashioned spreadsheet may do the trick. Even if you want to use a more sophisticated budget planner, it may help you to sketch out a simplified version of your expenses and income in a spreadsheet.
You can find a free budget template through Google Sheets or Microsoft Excel, or you could make your own using one of these budgeting tools, however there might be a bit of a learning curve. But if you’re determined to learn a new (and useful) skill, you can find free training online on Microsoft’s website for free. You can also find a nearly endless number of online tutorials on YouTube. It might feel like a little more work to maintain your budget on a spreadsheet, but learning to use one properly may give you more insight into your spending.
The envelope budget is a very tangible way of managing your monthly expenses. The idea is to have an easy way to physically see how much money you have for every spending category in your budget.
The process is simple. First, you’ll need to know how much money your spending on essentials like bills, savings, and investments. To do this, it helps to break down your budget into percentages and assign a different percentage to each spending category in your budget. This will also help you figure out how much money you have leftover for discretionary expenses.
You can then decide how much of this money you want to split between different budget categories. This can be things like:
The next step is to assign an envelope to each category and put the cash you’ve allocated for each category into the corresponding envelope. Now you’ve restricted yourself to only that amount for the month, and if you run out, you have to stop spending on that category until your next pay period. Any extra money you save can be used to pay off debt from online loans, start an emergency fund, or contribute to your retirement fund.
This can be one of the better budgeting tools if you’re trying to stop yourself from overspending. It may also help you make more intentional decisions with your money. When you’re restricting yourself to cash, you may be more in tune with your spending because you’ll be reminded of exactly how much money you have left every time you reach for the envelope to make a purchase.
If you’re looking for free budgeting tools, you may not have to look any farther than your bank’s website. Plenty of financial institutions, like Connex Credit Union and Bank of America, give customers access to budgeting tools that can keep track of your expenses, create spending reports, and can be exported to spreadsheets or other computer software.
They won’t automatically conjure up your budget for you, but they’ll give you important information that can help to inform how you spend your money moving forward. For example, they may split your expenses into different categories, so you have more insight into how you’re spending your money.
Your bank can also provide you with tools that aren’t directly for budgeting, but can be useful when managing your funds. For example, if you’re looking to set a certain amount of money aside everyone month to be put into an emergency fund, you might be able to set up automatic transfers from your checking account right into your savings. This may help you stay on track when it comes to your savings.
There are plenty of free budgeting tools all over the internet, and Mint may be one of the best known budgeting apps out there. All you need to do is link basic information like you bank accounts, investment accounts, and any other financial accounts you may have, and this budget planner will automatically begin tracking your money.
It comes equipped with default categories to sort your finances, but if you feel like there’s something missing, you have the option to add more categories that are specific to your finances. There are also built-in tools that are designed to help you set and keep financial goals. Your data will even feed right into TurboTax during tax season to make a sometimes tedious process that much easier.
If you like the envelope system that we went over earlier but don’t like the idea of having to handle and maintain physical envelopes, this might be one of the budgeting tools you’re best suited for. Goodbudget will allow you to put your money into virtual envelopes that are assigned to different portions of your budget, and then it’ll share and sync this info across devices. The free version of this budget planner starts you off with 10 regular envelopes, 10 additional envelopes, a year worth of account history, and access to their support forums to answer any questions you may have about the tool.
Many of the budgeting tools on this list are primarily suited to managing your personal budget, but GnuCash is a unique free option that can also help you mange your personal and business finances. It can be used to keep track of your income, your spending, your investments, and bank and retirement accounts. While this tool is a bit more complicated and robust then some of the other options out there, it’s still simple enough for many people to use.
When you don’t have a thorough budget in place, it can be very tough to keep track of your spending. But if you neglect this incredibly important part of your financial life, there’s a good chance you’ll have a much harder time achieving your short or long-term financial goals. The good news is that there are plenty of free budgeting tools to help you through this process! Whether you want to handle this digitally through budgeting and personal finance apps, or you prefer to take a more hands on approach with something like the envelope budget, the key is to figure out what works for you and your financial situation.
Do you use any budgeting tools you don’t see on this list? Share below!