Not everyone loves the idea of proactively managing money and maintaining a budget. However, creating a budget – and sticking to it – are key first steps towards reaching that financial goal, no matter how big or small it may be!
From old-school methods to the latest apps, it can be a bit overwhelming. We are going to go over 7 simple and free tools to keep your spending on track.
Pen and paper
This budgeting process doesn’t require anything more than a pen and some paper. Start by writing down all your expenses, from monthly bills to small discretionary purchases such as morning coffee or lunches. Then, categorize those expenses according to whether they are needs or wants. Next, add up your income. Set aside your income for your needs first and any money left over can be spent on wants.
If your expenses exceed your income, you’ll need to determine what changes you want to make. You may have to cut out some wants to balance your budget, but in some cases, you may need to consider more significant changes.
This system has been very popular recently. It involves placing cash into envelopes marked for major budgeting categories such as groceries, clothing, and dining out. The envelope system makes it easy to see how much money is available for each spending category. When money in a particular envelope is gone, it signals that no more spending should occur in that category until the cash replenishes.
The Spreadsheet method helps take the guesswork out of organizing a budget, and it can also make it easier to edit a budget and track income. Both Microsoft Excel and Google Sheets offer free budget templates to users. You can also create your own, though there can be a learning curve to using the programs, but there can plenty of tutorials can be found on YouTube.
Mint is a very popular free budgeting service. It is available online as well as a smartphone app. Mint users can link multiple financial accounts to the service, which then tracks and categorizes spending. It includes payment tracker with bill reminders, and it calculators allow people to see how their decisions may impact their progress toward goals.
This budgeting software is intended for those who like the idea of an envelope cash management system but don’t want the hassle of carrying physical envelopes. Goodbudget lets users fund virtual envelopes that are used to track expenses and sync and share budget information across devices. The free version includes 10 regular envelopes, 10 more envelopes, one year of account history and access to community support forums.
Albert was designed with millennials and zoomers in mind. It can be a good choice for those who are new to the world of personal finance. The app analyzes spending habits, helps users create a budget and identifies where savings may be found. The budgeting interface provides a simple way to see a snapshot of your current financial picture. While the App is free, users can receive personalized guidance for as little as $4 a month.
This app is available on smartphones and tablets. It provides a full picture of your finances. If you want to pay your bills online and see what you owe, all in one place, this app is for you. After you sign up, you link your bills to the app. You can choose when to pay the bills or open the app and pay them when you get a reminder. There are no fees for using the bill pay option.
Alright. We know that was a lot of information, but it’s good information. Take things step by step and you’ll be well on your way to doubling your financial satisfaction.
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