Every time you think of developing a budget you start to envision yourself stooped over your calculator, frantically inputting numbers and writing them down in your ledger book into the wee hours of the night. Well, stop putting it off because there are plenty of home budgeting tools available to do all the work for you and, most importantly, they’re free and free fits into any budget.
You spend most of your time online anyway and your budget is only a click away when you sign up for the free online budgeting service available from Mint.com (see Resources). After setting up an account, Mint helps you track expenses and set financial goals. Among Mint’s many features is a debt analysis tool that shows you which of your accounts has the highest interest rate, which ones you should focus on paying off first and how to finally get out of debt. BudgetTracker.com offers many similar features, including automatic income and debt calculations to determine a budget for you.
If you prefer to keep your finances on your own hard drive, you don’t have to break the bank on expensive budgeting software. If you’ve already got Microsoft Excel, you can avoid creating all those pesky Excel equations and just download any of the free budget templates available from Microsoft’s website. Bankrate.com also offers a budgeting template that can be downloaded in PDF or Excel format, although they require that you do your own math.
You can take your budget wherever you go because when it comes to budgeting--there’s an app for that. Many banks, including Bank of America, offer free apps that enable you to keep up with your accounts no matter where you are. Mint’s online budgeting program is available in a mobile version for iPhone and Android users. Blackberry users will find several free expense tracking apps but you may have to cough up a few bucks for a more complete budgeting app, such as Personal Budget Manager, available through the Blackberry App Store for $3.99 as of Nov. 2010. Check with your mobile carrier for a complete list of what apps are available for your phone. Read the fine print before clicking download and make sure you’re not agreeing to a free trial only.
In addition to actually creating and maintaining your budget, there are several tools available that help you stay in your budget and maximize your savings potential. Grocery iQ is available as an online or mobile app for iPhone and Android users, allowing you to create your shopping lists and avoid impulse spending once you get to the supermarket. It also finds coupons available for items on your list to save you more money. You can sync lists with multiple devices so your hubby will know whether or not he should stop for milk on the way home. Expense tracking is crucial to learn how you are spending your money and determine what you can cut back on. There are several free mobile expense tracking application available for iPhone, Android and Blackberry users. Save a ton of time during your financial planning by taking advantage of the many free calculators available through Bankrate.com. For instance, if you’re creating a budget to start saving for your first home, you can use the “How much house can you afford?” calculator.
Based in South Florida, Leann Harms has been writing since 2008. Her design, technology, business and entertainment articles have appeared in "Design Trade" magazine and Web sites including eHow. Harms has a Bachelor of Arts in English from Florida Atlantic University.