One of the hardest ever problems of a household is managing a budget. Yeah, that thing that helps you tracking your spending and seeing what you have and what you don’t.
How do you do it?
There are several ways of doing it. For example – you can not do it at all. You don’t have to, nothing is forcing you. Except that annoying feeling at the cashiers’ when your card gets declined. Other than that – nothing. So, some people don’t do it.
Others make spreadsheets, or use plain old pen and paper and write things down.
I use these two things:
1. Personal Finances Free – a nice free utility from financessoftware.com that helps you record all the transactions on all of your accounts. It is very intuitive and easy to use, and the beauty of it in my eyes is that you don’t have to limit yourself to the existing accounts. I, for example, set up some “virtual” accounts that don’t exist in any bank, but allow me easily see how my cash flows in different directions. However, the free version doesn’t support budget planning and recurrent transactions, and doesn’t support direct import of data from your bank, you have to enter all the transactions manually. For me that was not a big issue, and some of these things are covered by the more advanced versions (for which you have to pay though).
2. Mint – Mint is an on-line budget manager, that does all what’s missing in the previously mentioned tool, and much more. It imports data automatically from your on-line banking accounts, organizing transaction, managing budgets over various periods (monthly, over several months, with or without rolling-over, etc), and does it all seamlessly and through a very intuitive interface. Not only that, but the transactions are categorized automatically as they’re downloaded, and applied to the relevant budget, your investments are tracked daily (with a graph showing the daily performance), and you can set up alerts and reminders for your bills, and of course – set up goals and track the advancement towards achieving them.
The other nice (I think) feature of Mint is that it also provides some offers that can save you money (some of them sponsored, though, so look closely). It does that by analyzing your transactions and suggesting offers that will help you pay less for what you’re buying anyway. For example, cheaper fees, lower insurance premiums, etc. That’s neat.
These two tools are perfect for me and complement each other, and if you still haven’t got a budget managing tool that you like, take a closer look.
Your Little Advisor
PS: Additional online budget managers are discussed here.