Simple budgeting tools can help you create a budget that works for you, and stick to it. Explore the top tools below.
Budgeting apps and software
As you learn how to budget, finding the right tool for your situation can make all the difference. When you have a tool that suits your needs, budget planning doesn’t have to feel like such a chore. Instead, you can lean on the app to automate calculations and handle expense tracking for you.
Below you’ll find some of the top budgeting apps.
Once your accounts are connected, Mint will automatically categorize your spending into specific categories. You can put spending limits on the categories you create. As you approach the spending limit, Mint will send a reminder your way.
Mint is helpful if you want to track your expenses for free. However, the app doesn’t offer any insight into your future expenses.
You Need A Budget (YNAB) offers a comprehensive platform for zero-based budgeting decisions. As you earn money, YNAB tracks your income through connected accounts. From there, you’ll map out a plan for each dollar. With this plan, YNAB can help you forecast your future financial situation.
YNAB offers a hands-on experience. But it comes at a cost of $14.99/monthly or $99/yearly, after the free trial.
Empower, formerly known as Personal Capital, has earned a great reputation for its investment monitoring tools. However, the free app also offers a way to track your spending. Through Empower, you can have your spending automatically categorized into categories. It’s easy to see a snapshot of your spending categories.
If you are looking for a comprehensive budgeting tool, Empower likely isn’t the right solution. But if you want to track your spending and monitor your net worth as you build wealth in the same tool, Empower might work for you.
Budgeting alone can be a challenge. But when budgeting with a significant other, you might encounter challenges. Honeydue is a free app designed explicitly for partners learning to budget together.
When you set up a joint account, you can each sync your bank accounts, credit cards and more. If you are concerned about sharing information, you can limit how much is shared with your partner. As a couple, you can set up spending limits for specific categories.
Honeydue will pull your spending information from linked accounts. If you or your partner are approaching a limit, the app will notify you both. The app also sends reminders for bills on the horizon. Plus, you can chat with your partner directly through the app about financial planning.
EveryDollar, like YNAB, offers users a zero-based budgeting approach. If you opt for the free version, you’ll need to enter your incoming and outgoing funds manually each month. But you can pay $12.99/month to upgrade to the premium version, including automatic syncing with your bank accounts.
If you are looking for an app to track your expenses without syncing to a bank account, EveryDollar’s free version is a good option.
An app isn’t the right solution for everyone. If you want to manually track your spending information, spreadsheet templates are an option.
Be prepared to enter your income and expenses regularly. Also, you’ll need to sift your spending into different categories on your own.
There are plenty of free budgeting spreadsheet templates, which can serve as a starting point. Of course, you’ll have the option to customize the templates to suit your needs. For example, you might adjust the categories to reflect your spending patterns.
Personally, I use a spreadsheet to track my budget. The chore of entering my expenses each month tends to keep my spending choices on track throughout the month.
Before the dawn of the internet age, people used plain old pen and paper to track their budgets. If you prefer low-tech methods, that’s still an option. For some, writing down each expense is necessary for sticking to their budget.
A simple ledger with room to include your income and expenses is often a good place to get started.
If you’ve trouble sticking to your budget, consider using the cash envelope method. The cash envelope method includes putting your cash funds into categorized envelopes each month. When you run out of cash in the envelope, you are out of funds for that category until your next paycheck.
Don’t be afraid to make tweaks to your pen and paper budget. Find a balance that works for you.
Budgeting doesn’t have to be a chore
Budgeting paves the way toward long-term financial success. Without a budget, it’s challenging to stick to a financial plan that prioritizes saving money and covering your expenses.
Luckily, budgeting doesn’t have to be a labor-intensive process. With the help of simple budgeting tools, you can avoid diving into the math while staying on track toward your financial goals.
Written by Sarah Sharkey and Edited by Rose Wheeler
Sarah Sharkey is a personal finance writer who enjoys diving into the details to help readers make savvy financial decisions. She lives in Florida with her husband and dogs. When she’s not writing, she’s outside exploring the coast. You can connect with her on her blog Adventurous Adulting.
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