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:
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.
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.
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:
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?