Choosing Tools to Help You Create a Budget

Budgeting Expenses Online & Desktop Tools
source: emdot

Before I get started sharing the pros and cons of various budgeting programs, I wanted to point you to the comments on Monday’s question of the day. Many readers have been sharing tips for budgeting, and it’s definitely worth the read!

In the past, I’ve used software programs like Quicken for our personal and business finances, but most recently I’ve just been using pen and paper for our personal budget. However, I love the tools that are offered with some of these programs, especially since the visual elements would make it easier to share our budgeted expenses and actual spending with my husband!

1.You Need a Budget

You Need a Budget is a desktop budgeting system designed to help you create a “virtual” envelope system, save for large purchases, get out of debt and eliminate spending leaks. The software costs $59.95.

Pros

  • On your desktop, so you don’t have to be connected to the internet.
  • Allows you to upload your transactions rather than entering them by hand.
  • Reports and charts to help you get more out of your budget.
  • YNAB is more than just expense-tracking, offering tips, tools and even free classes to teach you about the four principles of budgeting that their software is based upon.

Cons

  • Desktop-based, so it’s only available on your home computer.
  • Doesn’t connect or download your transactions automatically.

2. Pear Budget

Pear Budget is a simple, easy-to-use program designed to simplify your budgeting for just $3/month.

Pros

  • Clean & simple interface without a lot of extra “stuff” that makes setting up and updating your budget quick and easy.
  • Flexible system that allows you to assign your own categories and tags.
  • Internet-based, so you can access it from anywhere, with an export feature so you can review it offline as well.

Cons

  • Unlike some automatic systems, you’ll have to enter your income and expenses by hand.
  • No extra bells & whistles like charts, grafts or reports.

3. Outright

Although this is not a personal budgeting tool, I wanted to include it anyway because I’m sure there are others out there that could use it. Outright is a free, online bookkeeping and tax record tool for small businesses.

Pros

  • Use it for basic bookkeeping as well as preparing your taxes.
  • Connect to your financial institutions to download your transactions.
  • See charts & graphs of your income and expenses.
  • Get help with basic tax topics and filings.

Cons

  • The service is free now and plans to remain that way, but some future developments will only be offered under fee plans.

4. Mint

Mint.com is a popular and free personal budgeting program that offers dozens of graphs and charts as well as tips for saving on your expenses.

Pros

  • The charts and graphs are a great visual summary of your budget, your spending and areas you could improve.
  • The program automatically downloads your transactions straight from your accounts (this especially appeals to me since we have multiple accounts).
  • It’s FREE!

Cons

  • Mint.com is able to provide all of these services for free because of their partnership with various banks, credit cards and other financial institutions, so you’ll see advertisements and recommendations for those while you’re using the program. If you’re trying to get control of your spending and may be tempted by “great” credit card offers, this program is probably not the right one for you.

This is an incomplete list of budgeting tools available. What other online or desktop tools do you use for budgeting? Do you have feedback about any of the ones listed above?

Mandi Ehman at Organizing Your Way

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