04 March 2011

Simple budgeting: tips and tools

via www.katheats.com

An absolutely fantastic post on simplified budgeting and money management with links to the Web apps, spreadsheets, and smartphone apps that make it possible. Key suggestion: decide how much money detail you really need, and pare down the spending categories to get you there.

I found this post because, in response to my Twitter query about doing yoga at home, @MelissaZoeHall pointed out a series on yoga going on at The SHU Box, which in turn pointed here.

I love social media.

Read the full post: Home Neat Home: The Numbers.

What budget and money management tools do you use?

Your comments

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We use a couple things - a Google calendar just for our finances that shows the amount and date of each recurring monthly transaction (paychecks, mortgage, car payment, student loan payment, retirement savings, utilities, etc.), and the online banking tools our bank offers (love USAA!), which allow us to categorize every single transaction and then view charts and graphs that break down our spending. For the most part, the banking site does a good job of automatically categorizing purchases, especially for things that appear a lot, like groceries. But sometimes it miscategorizes ($126 on gasoline?! Oh wait, that's really groceries.) and I go through every week or so and check the categories and reset miscategorized ones. Bonus - going through to set the categories means I'm keeping an eye on things and would pretty quickly notice if we had a problem like identity theft.

If you're willing (and able) to go for something paid (i.e., purchased software), we started using YNAB (ynab.com) about 1.5 years ago and haven't looked back. It has completely transformed our financial life. We have stayed out of debt as well as built and sustained an emergency fund since starting. It has a bit of a learning curve, but is extremely simple once you're up and running and they provide a ton of personal support.

mint.com. It's saved me so much time and it's free! I was a bit hesitant at first to put my banking information into the site, but it's owned by intuit (Quicken) - so that soothed my worries a bit. They don't support every single bank out there - but they add bank support all the time and you can manually add financial information. Support was great for a problem I had connecting to one of my retirement accounts. I HIGHLY recommend it.

eebacanhelp.com: My wife and I use a program called EEBA (stands for Easy Envelope Budget Aid). It's the first time in over 10 years where we've been able to stick to a budget. 1) Super Easy and 2) you can manage it from any iPhone/Android or computer with internet connection.

I use a cash/ categorization system. I used to lie to myself and tell myself that using my cash card was great because I would always have a receipt/ record. But all that resulted was overspending and having to keep receipts for things like groceries until I cleared it with the bank. Yuck. Now I budget with cash and I categorize. I have a wallet with a few compartments. I have compartments for food, expenses, gas, play, etc. It is amazing how freeing it is to use cash. No need to save little receipts, nothing to check or follow up on, reviewing the bank acounts is so easy now. Last week, I wanted to pick up an item for my son's room. I cut some corners on the other items and picked it up. I love the freedom I feel when I use this.

Tony

I just looked up your EEBA system. It really looks amazing to have that available with the android phone. Sounds similar to what I have been doing. It almost becomes a challenge to have money left at the end of the week. By the way, I put the money in each week instead of once a month.

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