Using software for budgeting helps remove complications from the process. When you regularly enter bill payments and purchases, most budgeting software applications will automatically track your totals and alert you when you've reached or exceeded the budget maximums you've set for yourself. Many budgeting applications can be accessed from anywhere by using the Internet or your cell phone, making it easy to keep your finances up to date.
You Need A Budget
You Need A Budget (YNAB) puts a modern twist on an old budgeting approach known as envelope budgeting. The envelope budgeting system involves setting up one envelope for each bill or expense you have, then adding cash to the envelope each time you get paid. If your budget allows $100 a week for grocery shopping, for example, then you would physically add $100 in cash to that envelope each payday. When you went grocery shopping you would spend from that envelope only, and once the cash was gone you knew you couldn't buy any more groceries until more cash was available to replenish the envelope. YNAB is designed to help you follow the same process digitally. Each time income is received, you allocate it to a spending envelope in the software, and each time you spend money you "take" it from a specific envelope. The software automatically reduces the budget category balance so you can see how much is left available in that spending area.
Mint.com is an online budgeting tool that lets you combine all your financial accounts into one system for tracking and controlling expenditures. It lets you set up budgeting categories and define spending limits for each, then shows you continuous graphical updates of your progress. In Mint you can see at a glance when you're nearing your maximum budget amount, and since it's online you can access your spending information from any computer and many hand-held devices such as an iPhone or Android phone.
Mvelopes is an online version of an envelope budgeting system. With it, you can combine all your bank accounts into one system for ease of tracking, set up automated bill payments, and track spending in an old-fashioned envelope style. Like Mint.com, Mvelopes can be accessed anywhere you have a computer or modern cell phone and Internet access.
Microsoft Money is a computer-based program designed to help you manage personal finances. While budgeting is one of the included features of the software, it is configured a bit differently than other applications. Microsoft Money lets you set a pre-determined spending amount for various expenses, then shows you how much you've spent as you enter purchases and bills. It focuses on showing the running total of what you spend and offers to show budget categories on your main page in bar graph form. This is handy for seeing how much you've spent but it's not as easy to see at a glance how much money remains available in a given category.
Kathy Burns-Millyard has been a professional writer since 1997. Originally specializing in business, technology, environment and health topics, Burns now focuses on home, garden and hobby interest articles. Her garden work has appeared on GardenGuides.com and other publications. She enjoys practicing Permaculture in her home garden near Tucson, Ariz.