There are a lot of free online budget tools available to help you manage your money. As you know from previous posts, spending less than you make is the most important habit to develop if you’re seeking some degree of financial freedom. Along with good advice from readers and other bloggers, I’ve assembled a growing list of painless money-saving tips, and I’ve described my simple approach to budgeting. In this post, I’ll take a look at some free online tools you can use to help gain control of your money. So let’s get to it.
Online Budget Tools
Personal Capital is the online tool I use to track everything from budgets to credit cards to investments. I recommend this tool if you have 401(k), IRA or other investments to track. It has a great looking interface, it’s easy to link your accounts, and it gives you some great insight into how you spend your money and how your investments are performing. If you don’t have investments to track, however, I’d recommend Mint, which is discussed next.
Here are some other online options to consider:
Buxfer: “Our goal is to create the best personal finance application on the web. Money is typically not the topic of discussion for a group of twenty-somethings wanting to have fun with their lives. But that’s only because today’s finance applications make it difficult and boring. That’s what we have set about to change! We want people to effortlessly understand their finances. And have fun while doing so.”
BudgetTracker: “We allow you to track your Budget, Bills, Transactions and tie all these together in an easy to read Calendar that can send you reminders when Bills are due. You can also view most of the data stored on this site with your Cellular Phone so you can take all your data with you where ever you may be.”
BudgetPulse: “BudgetPulse is built on principles of simplicity, user friendliness and comprehensiveness. As the application is easy to use, it is especially useful for people to manage and monitor their financial condition. For security reasons, we do not and have no intention to link direct to users’ banking account data.”
Expensr: “See how much of your money goes to Food or Gas. Then compare your spending with similar people so you know where to improve. Create budgets to stay on track and use our forecasting tools to avoid any financial surprises. It’s all free, easy-to-use, and takes only a couple of minutes a day.”
PearBudget: “PearBudget is a FREE budgeting program, written in Excel. It can be used by almost any spreadsheet program (Excel, Word, OpenOffice, etc.). Setting it up is a snap, and you can input your data during the commercial breaks of a single episode of your favorite show. (And did we mention? It’s free!)”
Billster: “A totally free online application developed to organise your personal and shared expenses.”
Mint is quickly becoming one of my favorite online tools. If you’ve not heard of it, Mint is a free online money management tool. Once you sign up, Mint allows you to link your checking, savings and credit card accounts to your Mint account. Once linked, all of your transactions are automatically incorporated into your Mint account. To do this, you do have to provide Mint with the username and password you use to access your various accounts. This has been a cause of concern for some, although it’s not stopped me from using Mint. Mint uses Yodlee to manage the security of this information, which is the same company used by Fidelity and Bank of America.
What I like about Mint is that the transactions are downloaded automatically and categories are assigned to most transactions by Mint. This does take some adjustments at first, but over time, much of the work is done by Mint, not be me. With the information downloaded to Mint, I can then focus on my spending for whatever expense categories I like. Here is what the budget section of my Mint screen looks like today:
This shows me how much I’ve spent as compared to the average amount I spend (as calculated by Mint based on an analysis of my spending patterns) each month. Based on the day of the month, Mint determines if I’m on my way to spending more or less than I should. In just a few seconds, I can check the status of the spending categories I’ve chosen to keep an eye on.
Free Excel Budget Templates
If you prefer spreadsheets over online software, there are several free budget templates available from Microsoft. If you run on a Mac as I do, your options are more limited.
Windows Excel Templates: Here you’ll find more than 30 free budget templates available to download. The templates include personal budgets, even budgeting, and even a wedding budget template.
Mactopia: For the Mac, Microsoft offers Mactopia, where you can search for templates by product. Microsoft offers just 35 templates in total, a few of which are for budgets. The selection is not as large, but there are some viable options.
If you know of a great online tool or Excel template, please leave a comment and I’ll add it to the list.