Budgeting Software – Helpful or Time-Waster?

February 7, 2012

Do you know what’s way more fun than actually budgeting? Reading about budgeting. A Google search for “Budgeting Software” will give you 3+ MILLION results.  It’s clear that people are looking for something to make budgeting easier (or something to help them put off doing the actual budgeting work), but is there really any easy way to budget?

I’ve tried a variety of software types, and I have yet to find one that meets our needs perfectly.  Since we’re also pinching pennies (in order to get out of debt), I’m completely against paying for software, so there are a lot of software types I haven’t tried.  Here’s a few I have looked at, and my thoughts on them:

 

Quicken

We’ve used Quicken in the past. Though it’s the top result under “budgeting software,” in my mind this is really a checkbook register. Yes, you can print reports and see where you’re spending your money, but it doesn’t really help you actually create a budget. It’s still helpful, just not the ideal budgeting solution.

 

Mint.com

This one leans more towards budgeting than Quicken does, but it’s main function is still to help you see where your money is going.  It’s got a very streamlined interface, and you can connect all of your accounts to get a big picture of your family’s finances.  You can also set savings goals and see how well you are doing on reaching them.  One drawback here is privacy – you’re giving them all of your account information.  Though they tout “bank-level security,” it’s still going to make a lot of people nervous.  I’m not a dedicated user.

 

PearBudget.com

This one actually is budgeting software (well, technically, it’s a budgeting website). When you first visit the website, all you have to do is enter your expenses and income and it will create a temporary budget for you. In order to access the budget fully (including adding expenses and modifying your temporary budget), you have to subscribe. I couldn’t find any solid numbers for the subscription – their front page only says, “Under $5 per month.” As I said earlier, I’m too cheap to pay for it, so I can’t tell you how well this works.

 

Dave Ramsey’s Software

Though I don’t agree with Dave on everything, he does have some awesome spreadsheets and budgeting information available.  In fact, we’re currently using a modified version of his budgeting spreadsheet. It’s not perfect (which is why I’m always looking for something new), but it’s the best we’ve found so far. This is another one you have to pay for ($25), though. We’ve had it for years (since before our “spending freeze”), but I don’t think I would spend money on it if I didn’t have it already.

 

Rather than continue through all three million results, I’ll leave you with one more.  This is another one that helps you track spending, not decide how to budget your money, but this is one that our family currently uses:

EEBA

If you’re familiar at all with Dave Ramsey, you’ve heard him talk about the envelope system.  He recommends you take out cash for your budget categories and divide the money into envelopes. If you have $100 in your “clothing” category, you know you have $100 you can spend that month. When the envelope is empty, you stop spending.

We’ve used this method with various degrees of success in our family.  We like the idea, but the practicality of withdrawing cash, carrying it around, dividing it between spouses just got too complicated for us and we stopped using it.  This website has solved that problem for us.

Once we’ve finalized our monthly budget, I put the numbers into the “envelopes” on the EEBA website. It will track how much money we have budgeted that month, and we enter each transaction when we spend money and categorize which account it came from, so we always know how much money is left in that “account.” My favorite thing: there’s an app. Since my husband and I both have iPhones, we use the app to input our transactions.  This way, if he spends money at the grocery store, I know about it. Both of us know exactly how much money is left in each category.

 

So far, creating our own budget and using this app to keep track of our spending is turning out to be the best way for us to stay on the same page.

Is there any software that you can’t live without? What tools do you use to budget and track your spending?

12 responses to Budgeting Software – Helpful or Time-Waster?

  1. No mention of YNAB?

  2. I just use genetic spreadsheet software, like (the free) OpenOffice Calc. It is perfect for those who can’t find exactly what you are looking for: just create it yourself.

  3. MS Money Sunset is free now. It does include a budget, and helps you automatically set up “The 60% Solution Budget”. BTW I can still download bank transactions from my bank’s website.
    The 60% budget has worked great for me, so I’m sticking with MS Money indefinitely.
    Works great and free!

  4. I’m actually creating a budget software that is integrated into Excel. It’s taking me a while but should be ready in 6 to 8 months. I prefer this way because then people can make whatever graphs and manipulate it to look however they would like.

    I’m a big fan of “Your Money or Your Life” philosophy where there method is basically the anti-budget where you spend during the month, look at what you spent at the end and ask yourself three questions and then in the future when you spend you become more cognizant of your spending choices.

  5. The last budgeting blog post by you I reccomended some very good software. It’s been rated number one by many websites (don’t feel like posting the websites) and has personally changed my family’s life so that we’re able to invest and even consider having one parent stay home. “You Need A Budget” should seriously be on this list. It doesn’t have all the bells that many others do, because it’s just focused and centered on budgeting. Here is a review: http://personalfinancesoftwarereviews.com/ynab-3-review/

  6. By the way. You can try You Need a Budget for roughly a month, I think, for free. Just check out their website. They have tons of free online video coaching, money classes, etc. Their support is amazing and if you follow thier four rules of budgeting (which seem like no-brainers, but AREN’T) you’ll find that budgeting isn’t painful, but fruitful.

    Here’s their 4 rules explained: http://www.youneedabudget.com/method

    I swear I’m not an employee or anything. They are simply the reason we have spare money now to invest and why I found this blog. I really want to share with other families what has been a game changer for us.

  7. I’m actually looking closer at YNAB – it’s cool enough that it needs a whole post to itself.

  8. I have used an Excel spreadsheet version of the Dave Ramsey 3-page budget in the past. It didn’t cost me anything. I also use Quicken, but not for budgeting, just for tracking bank and investment accounts.

  9. @ Lindsay – Yay! Happy to hear it! It’s definately worth a look! 🙂 And good luck with your family’s financial goals! I do enjoy your posts.

  10. Hmm… Why does it say my comments are awaiting moderation? Are links bad?

  11. RE: Quicken, you can set up a budget in Quicken and I have. I vary income and expenses knowing when the biggies are going to happen like car and HO, bonuses in, higher natural gas in the winter etc. Of course it could be easier to use, but you do get actual vs budget out of it.

  12. I like using Quicken for budgeting purposes too. True it is really a transaction register and can compile reports and stats easily. However, the budget function takes your past average spending and creates a quick-budget for you. From there, you can adjust your numbers and easily track how spending/saving compares to your budget. Of course, it only applies if you are disciplined about entering or downloading your transactions.