Budgeting tools to get your finances on track in 2020
Budgeting tools demystify the budgeting process. Read on to find out how.
7 min read
In uncertain times, having a clear understanding of your financial health can be particularly reassuring. And when it comes to improving your relationship with your money, finding the right budgeting tool to match your lifestyle can do wonders.
Yet, what are budgeting tools exactly, and how can they help us keep track of our money and plan for a better future? From the manual to the digital, read on to learn more about the handy budgeting resources available to support you in sorting out your finances.
What are the best online budgeting tools and personal budgeting tools?
While manual tools offer a degree of simplicity, they can also be time-consuming. Consequently, many people opt for the ease of budgeting apps and digital spreadsheets. Thinking of making sense of your finances on your computer or mobile phone? Here are some digital personal budgeting tools to consider:
Save up with Spaces
Budgeting apps are designed to help you take control of your finances. And with such a wide variety available, it’s easy to find one that compliments your lifestyle and makes budgeting a breeze. Here are some options worth checking out:
You Need a Budget
This budgeting app is based on the zero-based budgeting system. This means that you assign every penny you own a job, so that by the end of the month, your bank balance should total exactly zero. This is a great way of keeping on top of your savings goals, and holding yourself accountable for your financial health.
Founded in 2013, Wally links up to your bank accounts and creates a detailed, personalized budget based on the data it extracts. The opposite of the pen and paper budgeting method, Wally helps you create a budget in a fraction of the time, and with much less effort. What’s more, it also allows you to integrate photos of your receipts, which is particularly useful if you are a freelancer.
Budgetbakers are behind this smart budgeting app which creates practical visual depictions of how you are spending your money each month. Android users can also enjoy in-depth financial reporting, goal-setting, and the ability to track up to three bank accounts simultaneously.
A digital bank which offers all the features of a budgeting app, N26 makes managing your money effortless. Available on both Android and iOS, The Mobile Bank offers a wide range of budgeting tools including:
- Insights, a feature that automatically categorizes your spending in real time and shows an overview of your financial habits.
- Instant notifications that inform you each time money enters or leaves your account.
- Spaces sub accounts that you can use to set separate savings and budgeting goals.
Of course, if you’re looking for a budgeting tool that’s both digital and manual, a budgeting spreadsheet is also always worth considering. Once you input all of your income and expenses, spreadsheet software such as Excel or Google Sheets helps you calculate complex figures and generate financial reports.
Additionally, many of these spreadsheet programs offer pre-made budgeting templates. Google Sheets, Microsoft Excel and Apple’s Numbers, for example, all come with pre-existing templates in which you simply enter your data and the program does all of the complex math for you.
The best budgeting tools that don’t require a computer
It’s important to remember that not all budgeting tools are digital—many of them are probably sitting under your nose right now. Taking it back to the basics, these manual budgeting resources help you create a straightforward budget, where no screens are necessary.
Pen, paper, ruler and a calculator
While these utensils may seem glaringly obvious, we often underestimate how much we can achieve in the absence of a digital safety-net. To create a solid budget, all you need is a pen, paper, ruler, your bank statements for the previous month—and if math isn’t your forte—a calculator.
Now, use one piece of paper to list all of your monthly sources of income, and the other to list all of your monthly expenditures. Using your ruler to log all of these figures in neat, legible tables, you’ll end up with two totals: the total coming into your account, and the total leaving your account each month. You’ll also have a clear idea of what you’re spending your money on, and where you might cut back to boost the amount you can put towards your savings goals.
The envelope budgeting system was created by the best selling author Dave Ramsey, and makes you feel more accountable for your money. While envelopes are not the most obvious budgeting tool, here’s how to use them to your financial advantage:
- Work out how much is coming in and out of your account every month, and exactly where that money is going.
- Create categories for your expenditures—for example, money for groceries, nights out, health and fitness, and your saving fund.
- Decide how much you want to spend in each category per month.
- Get as many envelopes as you have categories, and write the name of each one on an envelope
- Take you monthly income in cash, and divide it up according to the amount you want to spend in each category, putting it into the corresponding envelope.
- Finally, only spend the money you have from each envelope on its designated category.
This approach makes you appreciate the tangibility of your money. By physically dividing it and spending it, you become more disciplined and more informed about your financial decisions.
How beneficial are budgeting tools?
Regardless of whether you’re a budgeting expert or new to the game, there’ll be a budgeting tool out there to match your lifestyle. While these offer the advantage of simplifying our finances, they also come with a range of benefits that may not at first be so apparent:
Budgeting tools reveal the truth about your spending habits
Budgeting tools act as a mirror to your finances. They show you exactly what you choose to spend your money on each month, and reveal areas where you are perhaps spending more than you realized. While this can be a bit of a shock, being properly informed about your money helps you make better financial decisions.
Get extra encouragement to think about your goals
Nothing helps you think more clearly about the future than a clear, thorough budget. Knowing how much money you have left over each month, or how much you’d like to have left over, encourages you to visualize what you’d like to save up for.
While this could mean saving for short-term goals such as for a new piece of furniture, it could also mean saving up for an emergency or a rainy day fund, getting out of debt, or saving up for a variety of goals as part of a comprehensive personal financial plan. In setting these savings goals, you have to ask yourself what kind of a lifestyle you want to lead now, and in the near and distant future. These are important questions to ask, and can help you live a more fulfilling life.
Find new ways to reduce anxiety
Feeling in control of your finances is essential to feeling in “control” of your life. By using budgeting tools to manage your money, you reduce your stress levels and improve your overall well-being. What’s more, putting some money aside each month to contribute to an emergency fund gives you a financial buffer against life’s little surprises, which can prove invaluable in a time of need.
The bank you'll love
Your money at N26
In tricky times, we all want to have greater control of our finances—and N26 is an online bank that provides that, while offering all the benefits of a budgeting tool right on your smartphone. Thanks to instant push notifications, the Insights feature, and Spaces sub-accounts—which allow you to set yourself savings goals—discover an easier, streamlined way to take care of your money in times of upheaval, and in times of calm.
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