Before you dig in I wanted to let you know I’ve put a super quick summary of the post at the bottom. Just scroll down and look for “TLDR Summary”.
I’ll be honest. I’m the weird guy that’s been attempting to do a budget since he got out of college. My system today looks so much different than before but I’ve just never been able to NOT budget.
If you can, good for you. My wife would probably agree with you!
I really believe one of my superpowers is the ability to budget. Budgeting allowing me to know what I’m spending and do my best to avoid lifestyle inflation.
Budgeting isn’t hard. It’s just tedious and takes a ton of persistence. One of the things that makes this so much easier are budgeting tools. In this post I will lay out some things to consider and things to be aware of when choosing your budgeting tools.
Why you should consider using a budget tool
I’ve already done my darndest to convince you why you need to budget. I’ve even went as far to give you some tips to ensure the process goes smoothly with your better half. If you’ve decided this something you need to do its time to choose a tool.
In the age of apps I’m sure this is the first thought you had. You may even feel like you can’t budget without an app. This very well may be true.
There are so many options for budgeting tools. They really are a dime a dozen. I was even a little astounded when I started doing some research.It turns out I may be a budgeting old timer and missed the craze of budgeting apps. To age myself a little bit I remember using quicken to do some of my first budgeting.
I know what you’re thinking, was I around with the horse and buggy too? I hear ya.
Anyways, budgeting tools are so important and will make your life so much easier.
Things to Consider when choosing a budgeting tool
While each app will have its own intricacies, dos and don’ts there are a very overarching things to consider when choosing an app.
The first is is the app/software able to import transactions? Nearly all of them can but this really is something to consider.
The second is what devices you can find them on. Is it important to be able to do this on a laptop/desktop? Is doing your entire budget & financial planning on your phone sufficient?
Each of you will have different answers for these questions and that is more than ok. The important thing is to choose something that works for you.
Tips on choosing a budgeting tool
Once you start googling to find your app or software there will be a ton that pop up. My first piece of advice may be the most important:
Don’t make it too easy.
I know what you’re thinking. Old man river doesn’t know what he’s talking about. First off I’m only 30. Second, just hear me out by painting a picture for you.
Lets say you found this amazing app that pulls in all your transactions automatically and even categorizes them for you. It does all this and may even spit out a report at the end of each month.
How will you ever know where you stand in relation to your budget each month? What reason will you have to even open up the app?
If you don’t open up the app how will ever know where you stand in relation to your plan? I hope you’re getting my point.
My goal is to at least open up my budgeting software every day of the work week. This means ~70% of the days I’m updating my transactions and seeing where I stand.
I’ve had stretches where I didn’t open up my software and lost track of how much I was spending. To keep this PG rated I’ll just say those were some rough months.
Budgeting Tools: My Personal Recommendation
Tiller is my personal recommendation for budgeting tools.
This program is great for those that prefer to work off of a laptop/desktop as opposed to a phone. It works entirely out of google sheets.
It allows you to really dive into your numbers and do what you want with your numbers.
Let me be clear, there isn’t an app. By not having an app I’ve found it really forces me to be purposeful to open up the program and do my budgeting thing.
FYI this costs $5 per month.
Budgeting Tools: The Best App Experience
I’ve had several stages of my budgeting experience and one of them I wanted something with an app I could use. When I wanted that there was a clear winner, You Need a Budget.
Also known as YNAB, this is a great program with an app and desktop experience. It is probably the most user friendly program I’ve seen. It forces you to categorize your transactions.
A huge benefit to YNAB is that they offer resources you can take advantage of to learn more about budgeting and personal finance.
FYI this costs $5 per month.
Budgeting Tools: Best way to get started
If you’re not ok with spending $5 a month and just want a free option I think Mint is a great resource. I’ve used it in the past (I think this is a recurring theme) and find it to be an ok tool.
The one caveat here is that I haven’t used it in a while. When I was using it I found it to be a great starter tool but really wasn’t as user friendly or customizable as I would like.
Budgeting Tools: Maybe the best option
While I don’t do it I do think there is a lot of merit in just using excel or google sheets. This would require the most upfront work but would also allow you to make your sheet exactly what you wanted.
I know what you’re thinking, won’t this mean I have to manually enter all my transactions? It sure does and I think there isn’t anything wrong with that.
Things to consider when choosing a budgeting tool:
- Does if offer a desktop version?
- How much does it cost?
Budgeting Tool Recommendations:
- Tiller Money
- You Need a Budget (YNAB)