‘You need to budget your money’ must be one of the most given advice of all time – probably up there in the ranks of ‘you need to eat healthy’ and ‘you need to stop smoking’.
It’s a great advice, but rarely followed by ‘how’.
Sure, you can do rough mental calculations in your head as you spend your money. You can practice frugal habits and use all the money-saving tips. But here’s how you can budget your money: use budgeting tools.
‘Tools’ are, by definition, items or actions that help you to do what you want to do in an efficient manner. A budgeting tool will allow you to budget efficiently.
But which budgeting tool should you use?
Choosing the Right Budgeting Tool for You
There are a lot of budgeting tools out there. Some are free, some costs money. At the end of the day, the best budgeting tool is the one that works for you.
At its core, budgeting tools help you to do one thing: track your incomes and expenses. That’s it. The rest of it is pure preference. Which budgeting tool, or tools do you prefer?
Simple Budgeting Tools
Simple budgeting tools appeal to people who just want something straightforward. They see little need for fancy graphs and auto-generated charts.
- Pen and paper notebook. If you are new to budgeting, this is probably the least intimidating option. Have a spending notebook, bring it with you everywhere, and jot down all your income and expenses. At the end of the day/week/month, tabulate the total. For many people, this is a great first step on budgeting and knowing their spending habit.
- Envelope system. This budgeting tool works best for people who receive their income on a regular interval and prefer using cash over digital money. The idea is that you cash out all your money and place them in dedicated ‘envelopes’ that are earmarked for only one type of purchase. Once the money runs out, you have to stop using spending in that category. The envelope system helps you to think of your purchases in advance.
Intermediate Budgeting Tools
Intermediate budgeting tools require some knowledge and proficiency with gadgets and smart devices. The tools are created with usability in mind so that the average person can easily learn how to use it with relative ease.
- Simple Excel Spreadsheet. Many people find the humble spreadsheet perfect as a budgeting tool. If you can do simple formulations, you can probably make one that is optimised to your own liking. For best results, you should pair this with a spending notebook – this way, you won’t forget any purchases you made through the day. You can also get free Excel templates online – here are 10 options to choose from.
- Budgeting apps. Here we refer to apps that help you to track your spending, income, or both. This budgeting tool is perfect for someone who brings around their smartphones or tablets in their daily life. Some apps require you to manually insert all your purchases as you go along. Some apps can automatically record your expenses and place them in neat categories. However, you have to check and edit often – both human error and computer error can and will occur. Here are some app options to look at – different apps will have different features, so choose the best one for you. The price ranges from free to a few dollars.
Advanced Budgeting Tools
Advanced budgeting tools can do a lot more things that budgeting apps. Use these if you want to track all aspects of your finances.
- Premium budgeting softwares. These softwares don’t come cheap – expect to invest around $50 for one. Also, you need a computer to use the software optimally. However, they are great for people who want to have complete control over their finances. Like budgeting apps, different budgeting softwares will have different features, so choose one that is suitable for you. Some softwares allow you to link to your bank/investment/retirement account while some use an advanced version of the envelope system. Some allow you to use multiple currencies while some come with their own app for on-the-go budgeting. Here are the top 10 best budgeting softwares for comparison.
Which of the above budgeting tool or tools are you currently using? If they are working, that’s great, keep at it. If they are not working, you should explore other options to find a budgeting tool that works for you. If you are not using one right now, try a simple or intermediate option first to try out. With technology being fast-paced as it is right now, there will be more apps and softwares in the market, so we are confident that the perfect budgeting tool for you is out there!