There are a lot of tools out there that can help you manage your money on monthly, weekly, or even daily basis. Of course, different people have different needs or preferences on the kinds of tools they like to use. Below is a list of the best budgeting systems available, and there is sure to be one for everyone.
Let’s start off with something time tested and simple. The envelope system is an at home system you can put together that helps you manage your money from paycheck to paycheck.
This is how it works. You put aside a series of envelopes and write on them a specifc money expense and an approximate dollar amount. So, for example, you might have a “Mortgage – $150″ envelope, and an “Entertainment – $50″ envelope along with others for the rest of your bills and needs. The best way to determine how much each envelope gets is to divide it via your paycheck. Let’s say you get paid each week. Out of a each week’s pay, you’d need to cover a quarter of your mortgage, a quarter of your utilities, a week’s worth of food, and so on.
For monthly bills, put the written amount for that week on a slip of paper and into each envelope. $150 in the mortgage envelope. $40 in the utility envelope. $25 in the cable envelope; then at the end of the month collect those slips and write a check or pay them online equal to that amount. For the other envelopes like food and entertainment, consider putting cash in there. This way, when you go out shopping you can only spend the cash you have in that envelope, and this helps prevent you going over budget on these kinds of expenses.
This is a very easy and simple way to keep your money budgeted, and prevent you from falling behind or spending too much.
If you are OK with sharing your financial and credit card info online to a third party, then you want to look at Mint. Mint is easily the most popular online budgeting tool used today. However, there is a level of trust and security that you have to be OK with before you want to start using a tool like Mint. Mint goes through a lot of security measures to ensure your information is safe, but the risk ultimately lies with you.
Mint is an online web application and tablet/smartphone app that brings together all of your various account information. It then presents the information to you in an easy single view snapshot. You can build a budgets, see how your spending holds up to that budget, and forecast what your budget would be like should you decide to move your money around differently.
Being on the web and as an app gives you the added convenience of seeing and analyzing your budget anywhere. Getting all of your account info in one place is another huge benefit of this system over any kind of home paper system where you need to store and collect your various statements month to month.
If you are interested in spending some money to get a very powerful suite of tools, you might want to consider Gnucash. Some small businesses even use Gnucash to manage the finances of their business, but it most certainly can be used for personal finances, especially those who have a lot of different accounts and investments.
When it comes to finances and budgeting, you can pretty much do everything with Gnucash. You can make budgets. You can enter your investment info. You can make all kinds of projections for the future. As an added bonus, Gnucash is an open-source software, which means that the source code is shared, and allows other programmers to develop add ons and refinements to the program giving you even more options.
Quicken and iBank
If you find that you like to use a lot of programs that are built specifically to integrate with your operating system, your best choices are Quicken and iBank.
If you use Windows, you are probably already familiar with Quicken as it has been around for many years and has a favorable reputation as a personal finance tool. You can put together custom budgets and make your own personal financial forecasts. It’s a simple, solid, and stable product that’s been around for many, many years.
If you are Mac user, then you want to go with iBank. It is almost identical to Quicken in that it has borrowed on its simplicity and successful budgeting tools. iBank also offers you the added convenience of using their mobile version to enter transactions on the fly and synchronize them easily with your budget. If you are looking for a simple and easy to use desktop tool to track expenses and income on a Mac, iBank is your best option.
When deciding on the budget system that works for you its important for you to choose one that you are most comfortable with based on security, ease of use, online vs offline etc. Trying to use a budget system you don’t like or aren’t comfortable with will only cause you to abandon it down the road, and leave you without proper budgeting. All of the above budgeting techniques are good choices, find the one that your most comfortable with and try it out.