The Best Budget Planning Tools

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If you're not super number savvy, staying on track with your budget can be a challenge. Thankfully, there are several tools out there that can help make budgeting simpler.

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Need a budget? There’s definitely an app for that. But if you’re not grooving to the thought of forking over all your financial data, you’ve got options too. If an old-school Excel spreadsheet feels right, go for it.

Best Budgeting Plan Tools

If you’re up for sharing your data:

  • Mint: A popular free service that tracks your spending—you must share your credit card and debit account info—sorts everything into categories and gives you real-time tracking of how all that spending is doing against the budget goals you set for yourself.
  • PocketGuard: Basic budgeting on the fly is free; synching with your financial accounts is necessary. A premium service ($3.99 a month or $34.99 a year) enables you to create personalized budget categories and incorporate any cash transactions into your budget. 
  • Personal Capital: Better known for its robo-advisor service, Personal Capital also offers a free online budgeting app that syncs with your financial accounts.
  • You Need a Budget: Insiders often refer to this service as YNAB. Works best if you’re willing to always color inside the lines of the budget you create. A central feature is that whenever you get paid you must assign “a job” for each dollar across your important line-items in your budget. Then it’s up to you to not over-ride what you’ve allotted. A neat feature converts one-off spending into expenses you actually plan (that is, save) for. That can be saving each month for the inevitable car repair, or vacation or landing at the holidays with enough money to avoid costly credit card debt when gift shopping. However, all of this is not free; after a 34-day trial, YNAB costs $7 per month.

If you want to keep your accounts to yourself:

If you’re not ready to commit to full-blown budget tracking the FTC’s Make a Budget online tool is a super-simple way to get a snapshot at your current spending; it does all the calculations for you and you can download your results. 

Ready to dive into a spreadsheet you can use to track your spending against your budget? Their free services offer free excel files for downloading:

  • Vertex42: This Excel focused site has more than three dozen types of budget spreadsheets you can download for free.
  • Google Sheets: Free personal budgeting spreadsheets that you can customize.
  • Mint: Yep, the same folks who offer up a full-service app that requires syncing your info, have also created a suite of different budgets as Excel spreadsheets in the event you would rather not connect your bank accounts.

Budgeting for YOUR Needs

It’s important to remember that budgeting is a very unique and personal endeavor. Take the time to test out different tools and see what works best for you. Figuring out a tool that works for you is the first step to getting your budget under control.

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Disclaimer: the content presented in this article are for informational purposes only, and is not, and must not be considered tax, investment, legal, accounting or financial planning advice, nor a recommendation as to a specific course of action. Investors should consult all available information, including fund prospectuses, and consult with appropriate tax, investment, accounting, legal, and accounting professionals, as appropriate, before making any investment or utilizing any financial planning strategy.