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Budgeting Apps that Will Make Your Life Easier

Have you ever tried to keep a budget? It starts out with the best of intentions, but then you lose track of your notebook for a couple of days and you can’t for the life of you remember if breakfast was $8 or $9. Or maybe you do a great job of recording everything but at the end of the month you can’t work out where your money went, your tallies are a mess and you can’t figure out if you remembered to pay rent or not.

There’s an app for that. A few in fact.

You Need a Budget

You Need a Budget (YNAB) has an annual subscription fee of $50. It might sounds counterintuitive to spend when you are trying to save, but YNAB brags that on average most users save $200 in their first month of use and go on to save over $3,000 in nine months. If your money is completely out of control this might be the one for you.

YNAB doesn’t do anything super fancy, it tracks your income and expenses just like any budget should. However it runs some nice maths in the background for you, so you can see at a glance what your monthly utility bills are, even if you pay quarterly. YNAB tells you to set aside money each month so when the bills come, you’re ready to go. Of course, it can’t force you to save – that part is still on you.

Personal Capital

If YNAB is the basics that you need to get started with your finances, then Personal Capital is the master class that will last you from now till you’re raking in your third million. Personal Capital is free to use, and not only does it show you your spending category by category, track your income and give you regular spending reports, it tracks you debts and investments as well.

Personal Capital can hook into all your banking systems, track your investment returns, uncover any hidden fees and even help you plan for retirement. From your first pay check to your last bill, Personal Capital has your back the whole way.

Mint

Mint is another free all in one tool that helps you make a budget you can stick to, track your upcoming bills and will even keep you on top of your credit score. Mint will also track down fees that are eating away at your investments, throw out warnings when you’re going over budget and will even let you pay bills direct from the app.

Next to the budgeting and investing assistance, Mint also offers credit card analysis tools, a selection of brokerage accounts to review and tips on new savings accounts to try. They are hitting every side of the personal finance world and they’re doing it well.

While you might feel wary about handing out your bank details to a third party, they are all well known, well established companies with super stringent security protocols. You’re probably safer giving these guys your details than logging into your bank directly, that’s how serious they are. If you’re looking to get ahead on your finances, pick up a budgeting app and see what difference it makes to you.

How to Set Up a Family Budget

If you’ve been living without a budget for a while, you might be experiencing dread when it comes to looking at finances, especially if you need to plan for your family. You should already know that you need a budget regardless, but it’s a bit different when kids are thrown into the mix.

Making a family budget doesn’t have to be painful, and it could even be fun once you get the hang of it. Budgeting is not about making your family’s lives harder. Rather, it’s about planning so that you have money for all the things you want to spend on. In this post, we’ll look at some different ways to budget, talk about how to set it up, and give you some good ideas on how to bring your family into the financial planning.

Budgeting Tools

There are many ways to budget in 2017, and you can find one that suits your personality. Finding the best one for you means you’ll be more likely to stick to it. Here are some choices of family budgeting tools:

Software Budgeting. Software has been around for years and can be a very comprehensive way to budget. Two of the best budgeting softwares are You Need a Budget and MoneySpire. They contain perks such as bill pay and customer invoicing if you run a home-based business.

The only drawback to software budgeting is that it costs money, so you might want to choose another method if you have limited funds.

Excel. Do you love creating and analyzing through spreadsheets? Then, this is the tool for you. There are hundreds of ways to create a personalized Excel spreadsheet, but here’s a good one to begin with: Excel Family Budgeting Planner.

Mobile App. There are many budgeting apps to choose from, and they could be effective for you if you want an easy way to write down planned and occurring expenses wherever you are. It’s a great way to not only budget but to track what you spend. Some useful mobile apps include Mint, Mvelopes, and Wallaby.

Pen and Paper. Sometimes you just need a low-tech, simple way to plan your finances. Writing down expenses on a blank page or on a PDF like the Quick-Start Budget PDF, might be the easiest solution you find, especially if you’re starting out for the first time.

How to Set Up a Family Budget

Your budget should consist of three main components:

Goals. Looking at goals helps you determine what you’d like to do with money. It helps to look at these first, and then see how to achieve them after you calculate the rest of your budget. This way you can focus on what matters most before diving into the raw numbers.

Financial goals could be a family vacation or putting money away for a child’s education. It could be as short term as buying a new refrigerator in three months, or as long-term as planning for a retirement in 20 years. It’s whatever you want to do with your money and a roadmap to get there. You won’t have all the details figured out quite yet, but it’s a good start.

Income. This part is simple if you work a 9 to 5, but can be more complicated if you’re self-employed and don’t have a regular check. Either way, examine your bank statements to see what comes into the account each month, then write all income down on a notepad.

Expenses. For this section, write down all expenses you can think of. You’ll probably want to go through credit card and bank statements to make sure you haven’t missed anything.

After you write down expenses, go through your list and place a checkmark next to the items that are must-have. For most people, these items are housing, utilities, and transportation.

Food is a necessity too, but the dollar amount can change if you budget your meals well and don’t eat out. Be willing to shift your food dollar amount and eat inexpensively if your goals and financial planning call for it.

After you figure out the necessary expenses, focus on everything else. You know if you need to cut if your expenses are greater than your income.

Be sure to set aside some money for fun. It’s okay if it’s a frugal or practically free activity, but make a category for this, and call it “entertainment”.

Bringing in the Family

Now that you have the budget figured out, you can discuss what you want to do for fun as a family. Kids don’t need to know every number on your budget. They only need to know what will involve them, and for most families, it’s entertainment and vacations.

This is the best time to let everyone know how much money you’re setting aside for entertainment and to ask for suggestions. Involving kids in the fun part of budgeting helps to expose them early on to financial planning in an exciting way. Be honest, realistic, and creative as you consider things you’d like to experience as a family.

Conclusion

Setting up a family budget may be a hard at first, but it is rewarding because you get to decide what to do with your money. Involving the kids in the final plan is an excellent way to include them in the decision-making process and teach them about budgeting.

Now it’s your turn. How do you budget for your family, and what are some ways you involve your family members in the process?

Why You Need a Budget

One of the hallmarks of being a ‘responsible adult’ is knowing where your money goes. Many people get through their lives without ever writing down a firm budget. They are comfortable knowing that slightly more money comes in than goes out, and they might be able to comfortably manage a holiday once or twice a year. However, many more people spend more than they earn. This causes problems, but this is where budgeting comes in and saves the day.

Why budget when the money is flowing?

Waiting until you are in strife to budget is like planting your crops mid-winter when starvation sets in – starting early on a budget when the weather is nicer ensures a good harvest for the year. By setting a good budget early you may find that you have more or less money than you originally thought. With a budget, you can start saving before you have goals. This will mean less waiting and less strife when you decide to pursue a big ticket item, like a mortgage deposit or a round the world extravaganza.

Budgeting: Tricky and boring?

The first hurdle you may face when budgeting is apprehension. Budgeting has a reputation for being complicated, time-consuming, and downright boring. Budgets are viewed as setting rules to deprive yourself of spending; however, it all depends on your approach. Methods like the zero-sum budget focus on giving all of your dollars a job, including saving. By making this decision to save at the start, you don’t need to hold back money ‘for savings’. Simply divert money into savings on payday and do whatever you like with the rest.

For a more detailed budget, break up what you spend into the biggest and most important categories: housing, transport, food, fun, and ‘other’.  Give yourself a rough estimate on your spending and review your efforts at the end of the month. Once you know where your money is going, you can adjust your budget (or your spending) to suit your goals. If you find too much money disappearing into the ‘other’ column, create a new column that suits you. Maybe it’s ‘travel’, maybe it’s ‘pets’, or maybe you need an entire column devoted to ‘wine.’ Your choice!

The Bottom Line

Budgeting isn’t about setting rules and sticking to them. It’s about taking control of your spending so that you can make informed choices. Tools like You Need a Budget or Pocketbook can help do the heavy lifting for you by categorizing your expenses and telling you exactly how much you saved each month; however, you do have to give them access to your bank details. For something a little more hands on, try out the Money Smart budgeting tools, or even the household budget template in Google Sheets.

Once you have a budget in place, you can start planning where to spend next. Budgeting helps you dig your head out of the sand and look to the future. Whether you’re aiming for a round the world trip, a deposit for a new home, or owning the world’s most expensive dog, having a budget puts you in control.

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