Popular Tools to Help You Budget
By Rachel Seitz
We all have different financial goals. But whether you’re a journalist in Massachusetts who wants to pay off student loans, or a farmer in California who wants to save up enough money for that much-needed vacation, setting a budget is a good way to reach them. And since one of our own goals here at Climb is to help people improve their financial situations, we’ve gathered a list of some popular budgeting apps and methods so you can find the one that best fits your life!
Our first, longest-running (it was founded in 2006), and arguably most well-known budgeting tool is Mint. With this, you can add your bank information to automatically track expenses across various accounts, create spending categories and goals for yourself, and receive alerts when you get too near your budget limit. While this app doesn’t offer much analysis when it comes to your spending, it can provide a good financial snapshot. And as an added bonus: users can access their free credit score, which is something you definitely want to be aware of!
Next up, we have Mvelopes. Fans of David Ramsey’s Envelope Method will recognize its smartphone counterpart. For free, users connect up to four bank accounts and can create up to 25 digital envelopes to track spending and allocate where each portion of your budget should go. And for a fee, premium users have access to unlimited accounts and envelopes as well as personalized finance coaching.
This platform is for particularly dedicated budgeters; in fact, Lauren Barret writes in MoneyUnder30 that “signing up for YNAB isn’t so much about downloading an app as it is about embracing a lifestyle shift.” With a spending philosophy based on the Zero-Sum Budget, where every dollar goes toward something, it includes a price tag of $50 per year (or $5 per month), manual categorization of the money spent, and compatibility with browsers as well as smartphones. So Barret wasn’t kidding about that “lifestyle” thing.
If you’re interested in more than just budgeting when it comes to your personal finances, this is one app you may want to check out. While it tracks your spending and monitors your bank accounts like a standard budgeting app, the main focus of Personal Capital is investing. It puts together a long-term investing plan, and lets you know if you’re paying too much in fees or need to diversify your portfolio. This tool is also free, although it does offer premium services for users willing to pay for some one-on-one investing advice.
Then of course, there are plenty of people who prefer a more hands-on, DIY approach. Whether you want to enter your numbers into a spreadsheet or handwrite them out, there are plenty of methods out there which may work for you. Beyond the aforementioned Envelope and Zero-Sum Budgets, there’s also Elizabeth Warren’s 50-30-20 Method, the alliterative Bucket Budget, or simply sticking with cash-only. Not to mention the slew of “alternative” budgets you can try; the trick is to find the method that fits best into your life and is most effective at helping you save.
There are plenty of different approaches to take and tools to assist you, and certainly no one size fits all. This was really just a small portion of the budgeting methods you can employ. But once you find what suits you and your lifestyle, you’ll be able to take the first steps toward saving enough to meet that financial goal!