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Tools for Staying on Budget

Young Professionals Connection Budget Tools

April 30, 2015

YPC Staying on Budget

Think back to January. Remember when you promised yourselves this was the year you’d keep all those New Year’s Resolutions? Now, do you recall that one about saving more and budgeting better? Well, you’re in luck. I’ve got some great tools to help you budget better without even breaking a sweat.

Budget-Friendly Tools to Help You Save

Mint (Free)

This amazing free tool lets you easily create budgets. Connect your various bank accounts using their triple-secured program. Then, watch the magic happen. Mint automatically categorizes your transactions into various pre-defined groups. If it accidentally places something in the wrong category, you can easily change it when you review your transactions. Create budgets for your various expenses, and Mint does all the rest. You can even create saving goals. It’s pretty neat to track your progress. Mint also has mobile apps for iOS and Andriod — a pretty sweet bonus since so many of us are always on the go. Since Mint is provided free, you can expect to see some in-app/platform advertising from Mint’s affiliate partners. However, I personally find some of their ads helpful.

BillGuard (Free)

Another great tool for budgeting! BillGuard not only tracks your spending but also scans transactions to help protect you from fraud. Similar to Mint, this app categorizes everything for you as you connect it to your various banking accounts. Again, it utilizes high security protocols to protect your data and keep you safe. They also post information on all data breaches, which can be helpful if you think your card may have been compromised. Plus, if you have an account with ProtectMyID.com, you can connect it to your BillGuard account for an added layer of security monitoring. The analytics tab provides a great at-a-glace snapshot from this month to last month — very helpful if you like to make comparisons between months. Another cool feature is that this app provides personalized coupon recommendations based on your spending habits. BillGuard can also be accessed via web, but their native iOS and Android apps provide more functionality.

BudgetSimple (Freemium)

BudgetSimple is a great tool for those of you that break into a hot sweat when you think about giving an app/platform access to your bank account data. This tool allows you to easily enter your transactions manually. It sort of reminds me of a high-tech, self-balancing checkbook. Easily categorize your income and expenses, and their software creates charts and balance sheets to help you better understand where your money is going. There are additional features available for a price. However, if you’re okay with manual entry and a web-only platform, free is the way to go. Plus, you can change your plan at any time. If you decide you are willing to pay their subscription fee ($4.99/month OR $39.99/year OR $99.99/life), they will find you savings of at least $4.99 per month. In addition, you have the ability to connect your bank accounts to their secure platform and utilize their BudgetSimple iOS and Android apps.

Level Money (Free)

So this iOS and Android app works a little differently than the others. Step one is to connect your bank account to their safe and secure platform. However, instead of just providing a means to track your expenses, Level Money provides you with an overview of what you have available to spend. Based on the transactions you categorize as bills in the app (or add manually if not listed), it creates a customized spending allowance by taking your income minus a dedicated savings amount minus bills. Level Money also allows you to create spending trackers to help manage specific expenses from month to month. Though you may not think you need something to track your spending allowance, this tool is extremely helpful when you’re on the edge wondering if you can safely afford to spend a night out on the town.

Good Ol’ Fashioned Excel (Free)

Last but not least, we have the all mighty Excel spreadsheet. Though this may be the most low-tech option, it can also be the most customizable. Do a quick Google search for Excel budgets, and I’m almost positive you’ll find something that’s perfect for you. There are tons of user-generated templates out there. Plus, you’ll never have to worry about security because your bank account isn’t connected. Whatever Excel template you choose, this is a perfect way to track bills. Given the nature of the manual entry, it does make it a bit harder to track miscellaneous expenses. However, this can be a great supplemental tool when used with your favorite app or software.

Happy Budgeting! But seriously, now you have no excuse not to put together that budget that’s been on your to-do list since January! And for those of you who don’t fancy any of the tools above, check out this article with some other great options. The trick to making your budget work for you is consistency. Take some time to find out what apps/platforms fit best into your lifestyle, and then stick with it. If you commit to it, you’ll no doubt find that it pays off in the long run.

Ryan C. Rohlf is the Foundation Program and Event Administrator for the Iowa Newspaper Association. Care to connect? Join him on LinkedIn or check out his personal website

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