Budgeting Tools for Beginners
Do you think you can manage your money? Or maybe you do budget but you’re looking for more guidance. Either way, budgeting tools for beginners will help greatly. In fact, there’s a lot of very useful features that aren’t easy to use on other financial management applications out there. Without a budget, you’re taking an emotional approach that could affect your finances in the long run. You need a plan, and that’s where these budgeting tools come in.
Budgeting Tools for Beginners
Pen and Paper
While budgeting apps and software are popular, you don’t need anything more than a pen and some paper to write a budget. The basic budgeting process involves 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. Earmark 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 to make. You may be able to balance your budget by cutting out wants, such as dining out or a gym membership, but in some cases, you may need to consider more significant changes such as moving to an area with a lower cost of living.
An envelope system involves placing cash into envelopes marked for major budget categories such as groceries, clothing and dining out. It makes it easy to see how much money is available for each spending category.
“The envelope method is a great tool for budgeting because it forces people to take control of their spending with cash in hand,” says Howard Dvorkin, CPA and chairman of Debt.com. When money in a particular envelope is gone, it signals that no more spending should occur in that category until the cash is replenished.
For a highly customizable way to track income and expenses, use a spreadsheet. “People can download budgeting spreadsheet templates that come formatted with formulas, dates and labels,” Dvorkin says. “This 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. Microsoft provides free online training lessons on its support website for Office products. Otherwise, plenty of tutorials can be found on YouTube.
If you’re making a budget for the first time, a worksheet can eliminate some of the guesswork. These papers often have recommended percentages to indicate how much of your earnings should be spent on each category each month.
Several organizations offer free budgeting worksheets online. American Consumer Credit Counseling, a nonprofit credit counseling provider, has sheets for household budgeting, expense tracking and budgeting for specific needs. Meanwhile, Regions Bank has free worksheets anyone can download from its Next Step Financial Education website, including a personal spending plan worksheet and daily spending tracker.
“The resources and tools we offer through Regions Next Step, like these worksheets, can help people improve their financial skills, stay organized and take the next steps to meeting their goals,” says Joye Hehn, vice president of financial education strategy and implementation at Regions Bank.
Banking Tools and Apps
Free budgeting tools may be as close as your bank’s website. Bank of America, Chase and even local credit unions are among the institutions to provide customers budgeting resources that can track expenses, run spending reports and export data to spreadsheets or computer software.
“At Chase, we are constantly enhancing our digital banking features to help our customers make the most of their money,” Divilek says. With the Chase Mobile app, customers can use a budget feature to track their spending throughout the month and determine how much is available after bills and transfers.
By paying bills online, banking tools may create charts and graphs that categorize spending, and this information can be used to develop a household budget. Banks may also offer other tools that aren’t specific for budgeting but can be helpful to manage money. For instance, you may be able to set up automatic transfers to savings or receive alerts when account balances are low.
No list of free budgeting tools would be complete without mentioning the many free budgeting websites and apps available today. Mint may be the most well-known of the internet and smartphone-based budgeting applications, and it offers comprehensive services at no cost.
Mint users can link multiple financial accounts to the service, which then tracks and categorizes spending. It includes a payment tracker with bill reminders, and its calculators allow people to see how their decisions may impact progress toward goals.
Designed specifically for partners who are managing money together, Honeydue helps couples stay on the same page financially. The free app allows people to link multiple accounts to share balances and spending information. A chat feature allows partners to discuss specific transactions if needed.
In terms of budgeting, Honeydue categorizes expenses to make it easy to ensure your monthly spending stays on track. The app will also send bill reminders. For those who are looking for a joint bank account, Honeydue offers those as well, with deposits insured by Sutton Bank.
SoFi Relay is another free budgeting app. It allows users to link accounts, review balances and set spending targets. It aggregates accounts and makes it easy to review spending by category.
The app also provides access to VantageScore 3.0 credit scores and makes it simple to connect with a professional to discuss financial goals and strategies. SoFi Relay users are entitled to a complimentary 30-minute call with one of the company’s in-house financial planners.
This savvy 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.
Instead, 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.
Reducing expenses is often an integral part of creating a workable budget, and Truebill is an app that helps users identify sources of spending that may fly under the radar. Once you link a bank account, Truebill will automatically search for recurring payments such as subscription services and, if you want, cancel those accounts.
Truebill can also create a budget based on your transactions and monitor your spending. Through its bill negotiation feature, it may be able to lower monthly expenses for wireless, cable and insurance bills, among others. While the app is free to download and use, Truebill will collect 40% of your savings if it successfully negotiates down a bill.
Although Quicken’s reputation was founded on a desktop version, it is now accessible to operate as an app on your mobile devices. Quicken is a well-known application for managing personal finances.
A good selection of financial reporting options are provided by Quicken. These are organized around a variety of topics, including budgeting, bills, accounts, and even investing. It gives you the opportunity to input your purchases and income for budgeting so you can compare them both and get a better understanding of how much you are spending in relation to how much you are making.
When it comes to bills, you can also check which utilities and other entities you frequently pay, as well as the remaining funds in your account and the amounts still owing. You can even combine your credit card and bank statements for accounting needs so that you have a very clear sense of how much you’re spending. This is especially useful because people frequently underestimate the financial impact of everyday minor expenditures.
It also gives you the option to track your investments, whether they are a part of your savings, investment portfolio, or 401(k) pension plan. This means that you are aware of the value of your savings and investments, yet it is reasonable to argue that you shouldn’t be alarmed by brief changes in the stock market.
In total, Quicken combines your banking, investment reporting, and budgeting into a single dashboard that you can access from a PC or even a mobile device via the mobile app.
YNAB, short for You Need A Budget, is here in case you need to be instructed exactly what to do. Because, hey, you really do need one if you don’t want to spend every every penny you have and more. Perhaps you have more money than you anticipated as well.
As you may anticipate, YNAB’s main goal is to assist you in reducing your expenditure and avoiding living paycheck to paycheck. Maintain the plan and moderate your spending, and soon YNAB will realize that you are using last month’s funds rather than those you just received.
It is simple to install, supports the bulk of transaction data that can be downloaded from banks, and automatically adjusts for use by either individuals or small businesses by altering its monetary categories in accordance with your requirements.
If you stray from your course, YNAB, which is surprisingly understanding and forgiving for a piece of software, will inform you what to do to get back on track. You’ll have to make some compromises, but if direction is what you need, this stands out from competitors like Quicken.
Why we advise it: Let’s start with Mint’s extremely positive reviews on Google Play and the App Store. (It has also received by far the most reviews of any software we examined.) It syncs numerous types of accounts for free, including credit cards, loans, investments, and bank and savings accounts.
In terms of budgeting, Mint keeps track of your expenses and categorizes them. These categories, which are infinite, can be customized. You can specify upper and lower bounds for these categories, and Mint will alert you when you’re getting close to them.
Along with those budgeting capabilities, Mint may aid users in tracking objectives, increasing savings, and paying off debt. The software also displays the user’s net worth and credit score. Bonus: Mint offers a ton of assistance for using
Why you may want to think twice: One of the many outstanding features of Mint is that it keeps track of practically everything for you. But if you want to budget more actively and directly, that might not be the best option. Other applications on our list might suit your needs better if you’re looking for an app that helps you manage your finances in advance rather than just track them after the fact.
Why we recommend it:
Goodbudget focuses more on financial planning than transaction tracking. This program is based on the envelope budgeting method, in which you allocate particular expenditure categories a portion of your monthly income (called envelopes).
Your bank accounts are not connected to this app. You manually enter cash amounts, debts, income, and account balances (which you can retrieve from your bank’s website). Then you allocate funds for the envelopes.
Both the web and your phone can be used to access the app. You can use the app with the help of a lot of articles and videos that are available.
A limited number of envelopes, two accounts, and two devices are available in Goodbudget’s free edition. Goodbudget Plus, the paid version, offers additional benefits including limitless envelopes and accounts, up to five devices, and more.
Why you may want to think twice: Every expense must be entered because financial accounts cannot be synced. The app probably won’t work for you if you’re not willing to put in the effort.
Mint is a budgeting program that includes a variety of functions to aid with spending planning and tracking, bill negotiation, and even credit monitoring. Although Mint’s owner, Intuit, mainly relies on advertising to make its service free, it does provide an ad-free paid tier as well as a premium tier that offers additional features—both of which are reasonably priced.
Here’s everything you need to know about Mint and whether it would be a good fit for you if you’re considering using a budgeting app to help manage your finances.
How the Mint Budgeting App Works
Although there are other budgeting apps with free features, Mint may have the most extensive selection. You may link all of your financial accounts to receive a complete financial picture, plan and track your income and expenses using resizable categories, and gain knowledge about potential ways to enhance your money management.
Along with a VantageScore credit score, Mint also provides a credit monitoring service. Though the VantageScore might provide you a good picture of your credit health overall, bear in mind that 90% of the biggest lenders utilize the FICO Score, which is generated in a different way. To put it another way, your credit score may not necessarily reflect the same situation that lenders perceive when you ask for a loan.
Mint comes with several helpful tools you can leverage to make the budgeting process go more smoothly and also to make better decisions about your money. Here’s what you can expect:
- Direct import: When you connect your financial accounts, Mint will automatically import transactions as they post, so you don’t have to check each individual account every time you update your budget.
- Automatic categorizing: When transactions get imported, Mint will automatically categorize them for you based on transaction data. You can make changes if you need to, but the automatic feature can save you a little time whenever you review your spending.
- Goals: If you have a savings goal, you can set it up in your Mint account and track your progress toward it. Ideas include a vacation fund, holiday spending, a down payment fund and other short- and mid-term savings objectives.
- Alerts: Mint will notify you when the cost of your recurring subscriptions increases, your bills are due, there’s unusual spending, your account balances are low and more.
- Investment tracker: Mint can help you keep track of your investment portfolio and even spot unnecessary fees your investment advisor, 401(k) provider or broker may be charging you.
- Resources: Mint offers a wealth of resources, including calculators to help you with retirement, paying off debt, investing and more, as well as articles that can educate you on just about any personal finance decision you need to make.
- Paid features: While most of Mint’s features are free, it does offer a premium version, which comes with a modest monthly fee. With that, you’ll get help with canceling subscriptions you no longer need, spending projections to help you avoid overspending and money spotlights to help you understand your spending habits as they compare to other Mint users.
The majority of Mint’s features are available for free. However, the budgeting software has numerous adverts, which might be bothersome. You must pay $0.99 a month if you don’t want to see advertisements. The monthly fee for Mint’s premium version, which can make your budget even more effective, is $4.99, which is still less than what many other budgeting apps charge.
Owner of both QuickBooks accounting software and TurboTax tax preparation software, Intuit, which also owns Mint, is well-versed in data protection.
The business employs a number of security precautions, such as multifactor authentication, security scanning with VeriSign, biometric authentication, security notices, and others.
You can remotely wipe your data from the app if you misplace your device. Your information will also be removed if you opt to close your account.
- Very easy to set up and use
- Once your accounts are connected, the approach can be very hands-off, meaning you can come back anytime and catch up
- Connects with an exceptionally large number of financial institutions, making almost all U.S. and Canadian accounts connectable
- Free to use
- Can only set a budget for the current month
- Because Mint can be used in a more hands-off way, it may not prove effective for some users in saving money, paying down debt, etc.
- Web interface design is less attractive and user-friendly
- Web and mobile interface includes ads and offers
Budgeting Tools for Young Adults
Money Under 30
Money Under 30 is a highly important online resource, especially for young individuals, as it covers a wide range of practical financial problems. Money Under 30 cuts through the clutter of more complex subjects you might not be interested in just now and gives straightforward, educational, and approachable content.
Do you require assistance in submitting your income taxes? You may read an article at Money Under 30.
You have a few thousand dollars to invest, but where should you begin? That is where Money Under 30 can help.
You won’t feel patronized or out of your depth after reading Money Under 30. It’s an excellent starting point for learning the fundamentals of financial planning, money management, and investment.
Gen Y Planning
When you’re a young adult, it could be necessary to look outside your parents for a financial counselor who can relate to you, your lifestyle, and your objectives and aspirations. lover of karaoke and fine food Sophia Bera, the founder of Gen Y Planning, is a young adult who strives to offer her peers the finest counsel and direction possible. Check out this list for more millennial and young adult financial planners.
Start Planning for Retirement
Retirement seems like a distant goal while you’re in your twenties, if you really consider it at all. Even if you don’t know what the coming week may hold, starting to save with your very first paycheck is a terrific approach to start making plans for the future. If your employer offers a 401(k) plan, sign up as soon as you can and make the maximum contribution, particularly if your employer matches contributions. You might have to forgo a few lunches or expensive bottles of wine each month, but in the long run, you’ll be extremely happy you did.
Wally: Track Expenses as You Go
Planning and budgeting need knowing where your money goes each month, especially if you are paid for costs associated with your job. Making a spreadsheet to plan your spending is fine, but seeing what you actually spend can serve as a wake-up call and inspire you to be more aware of your wasteful expenditures (those lattes add up). An app called Wally makes it simple to see how much money you spend each day. With Wally, you can do a lot of things, such log costs and take pictures of your receipts.
You Need A Budget
It’s time to begin preparing a little more carefully after you have a better understanding of where your money is going. An app called You Need A Budget makes creating and maintaining a budget simple, if not effortless. You Need A Budget is able to assist with:
- Planning expenses
- Planning savings
- Adjusting your goals
- Understanding the potential results
Home Budget for Families
Couples and young families just starting their lives together as adults have many financial worries. Of course, daily expenses are always a priority, but thinking ahead to their children’s futures gives them a new perspective on money. A collaborative software called Home Budget enables everyone concerned to contribute to the planning, assessment, and budgeting of family funds. Home Budget is an excellent platform for those who want hands-on experience and want to be very proactive in their planning because it has many possibilities for tailoring the program to your own needs.
Budgeting is an important activity for any conscientious person. It will help you prevent the feeling of being buried under piles of unpaid bills and improve your ability to make decisions about your financial future — whether you are a new investor or have been investing for years. Managing your own finances can be stressful and overwhelming. Budgeting tool helps you save money, keep track of your budget, and make the most of your income.