I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase “you can’t manage what you can’t measure” by now. It’s boring. It’s infuriating. And it’s true. Getting your finances under control really does start with knowing what the heck is going on with your money, setting benchmarks and measuring against them…in other words, making a budget.
I’m guessing you already knew that because you’re a smart cookie. Which means you’re putting it off for one of a few reasons:
- You don’t have enough time in the day
- You’re worried about what you’re going to find out
- You have no idea where to start
Let’s tackle #2 first. Would you hop on a plane to an overseas destination without booking a hotel or having an itinerary? Does it really make sense to do the same with your money? Probably not. If you feel like you’re always running out of money, you’ll be able to see patterns and address them (root cause analysis, anyone?). Maybe your student loan payment is out of control and you need to refinance. Maybe you’re eating out more than you thought you were. There’s probably someplace in there you could make improvements, but you’re not going to know until you dig in.
The last 2 reasons you might be putting off making a budget are probably a little wrapped together. That’s where digital tools come in. Really smart people who think about budgeting all of the time did all of the work for you. Most of them allow you access on your cell phone, tablet or wherever you may be, so it’s more convenient than the old envelope or spreadsheet methods.
Let’s take a look at what’s out there. We restricted our list to those with both a desktop and an app version. When you’re inputting data en masse or analyzing, we think it’s important to be able to log in on your desktop. Likewise, it needs to be mobile-enabled so you can input data on the road. Here are our top picks for using technology to create and manage your budget:
Free. Visually appealing. A nice “one stop shop” for most all of your accounts. Has been on the market for quite some time and well-trusted. Addition of Mint Bills makes paying bills on time easier.
Photo Credit: https://pennyinyourpiggy.wordpress.com
People rave about this tool all over the internet. The big focus is “giving every dollar a job” instead of just letting things happen with it. Nice, clean layout. Free 34 day trial. $50 a year, free for college students with proof of enrollment.
Photo Credit: www.youneedabudget.com
Dave Ramsey's method revolves around “snowballing” your money. You pay off one item (usually the highest interest rate item) and then apply that payment to the next thing to be paid off. Another great looking site. Free-ish. $99 a year to make full use of the software – meaning it automatically pulls in your info from your accounts.
Photo Credit: www.everydollar.com
Uses the philosophy of budgeting envelopes, but it digital form. The gist is that when you’ve used the money in the envelope, it’s simply gone. Excess can be applied to another budget item. This is a fairly new entrant into the marketplace. Free for 4 accounts, but $95 a year if you have more accounts.
Photo Credit: www.mvelopes.com
Whether you use one of these tools or go old school, the important thing is that one of the very first to-do items to check off on the road to financial wellness is to make a budget.