Have you had trouble budgeting in the past? You’re not alone. Around 67% of Americans don’t have a budget.
Maybe the idea of budgeting has prevented you from even getting started. Some people believe budgeting takes too much time or it won’t help them in the long run. Others think only people who have a spending problem need to budget.
These are both myths because almost anyone can benefit from budgeting in the long run. A budget is actually just a spending plan that helps you decide where your money should go.
Using a budget can help you reduce financial stress, pay off more debt, and save for future dreams and goals. It’s important to realize that there are different levels of budgeting. What may work for someone else, may or may not work for you.
The best solution is to keep your budget realistic and find the tools and methods that work best for your family. Here are 8 of the best beginner and intermediate budgeting tools to consider.
Beginner Budgeting Tools
Mint is one of the best basic budgeting tools for beginners. It helps you track and categorize your spending so you can create a realistic budget that works for you. Mint can connect to your bank accounts to automatically sync your transactions and adjust your budget.
Another benefit of using Mint is that it connects to other financial accounts so you can track debt like your student loans, car loans, and credit cards. Users can set up reminders for monthly bills to avoid late payments as well.
Every Dollar is another online budgeting tool that is great for beginner or intermediate budgeters. It helps you create a budget based on your goals and track your income as well. Every Dollar was founded by personal finance guru Dave Ramsey so the system is based on his 7 Baby Steps which include saving a $1,000 emergency fund, paying off all your non-mortgage debt, then saving up 3-6 months worth of expenses.
The free version of Every Dollar is limited, but if you pay for Every Dollar Plus, you’ll get more features and automations that connect to your bank account to help track spending.
If you’re not interested in using budgeting software or apps, you can always consider using a handwritten budget with a budget binder. Budget binders are great for beginning budgeters because it’s important to proactively track where your money is going and monitor expenses.
There are many different budget binders to choose from but the Clever Fox Budget Planner provides a full year’s worth of budgeting worksheets for you and your family to use. The planner starts at just $20 on Amazon
Another great tool for beginning budgeters is more of a budgeting method. It’s called the 50/30/20 method and it defines an easy way to budget and split up your spending priorities. With the 50/30/20 budget, 50% of your income goes toward needs and living expenses, 30% goes toward wants and variable expenses, and 20% goes toward debt and savings.
The 50/30/20 budgeting method is ideal for beginners who may not be sure how to keep their spending under control and budget for savings. You can put together a 50/30/20 budget in seconds and be well on your way to managing your expenses more efficiently.
Intermediate Budgeting Tools
More intermediate budgeters should consider using a spreadsheet system with either Microsoft Excel or Google Sheets. You can create your own spreadsheet budget with either of these. Choose one column to track your income each month then use the other columns and rows to list out your expenses.
After you’ve been budgeting for a while, you should get a good feel for which expenses you have and which areas you tend to overspend in. A budget spreadsheet system is great for making quick changes or adjustments as the month goes on.
Personal Capital is another money management tool that is similar to Mint but a little more advanced. Personal Capital will track your budget and cash flow. Another important thing to mention is that Personal Capital is also a wealth management tool so you can track investments and your net worth all in one place.
Money Patrol is another budgeting and money management tool that skilled budgeters may want to consider using. Money Patrol is like a combination of both Mint and Personal Capital. You can create a budget, view recent transactions and monitor your finances but you can also track investments and spending trends. Money Patrol gives you a free trial then it costs $60 to use it for the year.
YNAB stands for You Need a Budget and it’s a popular budgeting software that helps you get at least one month ahead on your finances. There are many benefits to using YNAB if you want to stop living paycheck to paycheck. YNAB is $84 per year but you do get 34 days to try it out for free. We recommend YNAB for intermediate budgeters because it does require a learning curve but uses a proven method that has helped thousands of people with their money.
Which Option is Best For You?
It’s clear that there are so many options when it comes to determining how you’ll budget. So how do you determine which strategies and tools would be best for you? Start by determining your level of comfort with budgeting. What do you like and what don’t you like about the process? Would you prefer pen to paper budgeting, using a spreadsheet, or an app?
Another important thing to consider is your experience level. Don’t feel bad if you are in the beginner stages with budgeting. Realize that your preferences will change as time goes on and you get more comfortable with maintaining a budget. Many of the tools mentioned above come with free trials so you can always try out a system for a few weeks to see how it works before you move forward.