Budgeting Tools and Tips

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By Courtney Gonzalez

 

Budgeting is not always easy, and to a lot of us isn’t fun, but it’s a necessity. The good news is that in this wide world of innovation and at-the-tip-of-your-finger technology, there’s a budgeting solution to fit your style.

Before we get into the different methods you can use to keep your pennies in the piggy bank, let’s go over a few helpful tips. These will marry into any method you choose, even if that choice is to ignore it altogether.

Know what’s coming and going. A big part of budgeting is tracking your sources of income and debt. Know where you gain income (primary job, settlements, interest) and where you lose it (loans, rent, mortgage). Secondary to your debt in the “going” column should be revolving payments. Subscription services, bills, etc.; you should be aware of anything that could potentially pull your balance down.

Balance your bank account. Regardless of whether you write down every transaction in a notebook or use the world’s most hands-off app that imports directly from your bank account, you need to balance your own account to make sure everything is as it should be. Pick a day, preferably weekly to biweekly, to match up your budget with what your bank account is actually showing.

Budget for the unknown. It happens. Something breaks, fails, or otherwise implodes on itself. How you deal with a sudden expense will depend largely on your personal finances and the cost of the expense itself, but budgeting can provide a cushion where possible. Create a category in your budget that is for emergencies, or move it to your savings account whenever you balance your account.

Budgeting Tools

You Need A Budget (https://www.youneedabudget.com/)
Cost: Free for the first 34 days, then $6.99 per month
Good For: Hands on budgeters
One of the most robust tools on this list, YNAB follows four rules of budgeting – 1. Give every dollar a job, 2. Embrace your true expenses, 3. Roll with the punches, and 4. Age your money. For them, budgeting is not simply a task; it’s a way of life.

Mint (https://www.mint.com/)
Cost: Free
Good For: Budgeters who don’t like to budget
A favorite for years, Mint offers two types of services – budgeting and bill tracking. They offer an easy way to glance over your budget without needing to spend too much of your day thinking about it.

PocketGuard (https://pocketguard.com/)
Cost:  Free, Plus account available
Good For: Autopilot budgeters
A no-frills app that links all your financial accounts in one easy-to-reference place. Track your spending, make a budget, and see the big picture of your financial health.

Spreadsheet
Cost: Free
Good For: Budgeters who need ultimate control
Whether you use Microsoft Excel, Google Sheets, or a trusted notebook, you don’t necessarily need an app to budget your money. If balancing your checkbook the old-fashioned way sounds more appealing, here are a few great templates to get you started:

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