The Best Free Online Budgeting Tools

A few years ago I started tracking my personal expenses closely. I did this because I was starting my business, and wanted to make sure that I had the cash flow available to make it work. For most people, budgeting can be done in one of two ways:

  1. You save first, and spend until your money is gone and your next paycheck arrives, or
  2. You plan how much you can spend based on your income and expenses and put the savings aside at the end of the month.

For people with large incomes, the save first option works well. For people on a limited income, budgeting every item works better. I like using a combination of the two. First I save, and then I look at my spending and make adjustments. I found software that helps me do this very well. Most importantly, it’s FREE.

With recent economic hardships, there has been an increasing need for personal finance software. I originally started doing this using Quicken Home and Business, but I soon became intrigued by moving my data into the cloud, which is a fancy way of saying online to an internet site. Enter Mint.com.

After reviewing two different budgeting sites (wesabe.com and mint.com), I decided to continue with Mint.com. It is a little more popular, and offered stability by being recently bought by quickenonline.com. Wesabe.com offered a neat online social community, where you could socialize with like-minded users, but I found Mint.com a little more user-friendly. How does it work?

First you create an account. You provide an email address and password with security questions.

Then you add the accounts that you want to track. Because my wife and I put all our purchases on a cash back credit card, we can easily track 95% of all our purchases by syncing our credit card and credit union information. You can also add your mortgage and other debt and download three to four months worth of transactions.

Last, you click on trends where you can see your major spending categories. If you have a large amount of transactions that are uncategorized, you simply click on that part of the pie chart until you get to the actual transaction. Then you categorize them. It is as simple as that.

Why start budgeting? Beginner investors might want to make sure that they are using your money efficiently and not sabotaging their goals. Seasoned investors nearing retirement might want to track their spending to get an idea of their income need in retirement. Retired investors might want to track their expenses so they aren’t dipping into their nest egg. Whatever your reason, budgets are the back bone of personal finance. Having one helps you make conscious decisions to grow or blow your wealth. Happy budgeting.

About the author

Richard T. Feight, CFP®
Richard T. Feight, CFP®

Among independent financial advisors, Mr. Feight is one of the most well known and highly respected “Fee-Only” financial planners. Since 1997, Rich has dedicated his career to offering low cost “Fee-Only” comprehensive financial planning and investment advice. Rich assists his clients in organizing their finances so that they can retire on time.Rich is a graduate of Michigan State University where he received his degree in Finance. Rich has earned the Certificate of Financial Planning from The College for Financial Planning in Denver , Colorado that was comprised of intense graduate level classes grounding him in the various foundations of financial planning. He is a CFP® (Certified Financial Planner®) since 2001, meeting the experience, education requirements and passing the two-day, 10 hour exam, making him one of the few in the country who hold the designation. Since 2003, Rich has subscribed to the stringent and mandatory annual educational hours, experience, and code of ethics to meet the requirements to be a NAPFA Registered Financial Advisor. Out of the 800,000 individuals in the country who claim they are financial advisors/planners, fewer than 1,300 in the country qualify for the membership; Rich is one of them.

Rich is the President of the Financial Planning Association (FPA) of Michigan . The FPA of Michigan is one of largest and influential chapter in the country. Rich was recently named President for Transportation Toastmasters Club 4776 downtown Lansing . He has been quoted in both local and national media from Noise Magazine to CNBC, and Bloomberg, and industry news publications such as Investment News and Financial Advisor Magazine. Rich enjoys public speaking and has spoke at industry educational meeting, high schools, and executive investment clubs, AARP conferences, and business educational seminars for companies looking to educate their employees. Rich views his role as a Fiduciary for his clients as the single biggest key to any planning relationship and strives to provide the most competent, unbiased and objective advice in the financial planning profession today.

One Comment

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  • Free tools are best and applicable upto some extent after which the need of a paid tool is highly recommendable. Who know tomorrow what is gonna happen and the need of a tool which can be well managed in terms of the budgeting making a better sense.

    Its always an experts recommendation that looking ahead with the future perspects are better recommended and opted. A better option as such that I have found out for the budgeting to make more precious it the Replicon’s expense reporting software ( http://www.replicon.com/olp/expense-reports.aspx ) which help manage the things in the much right manner and fashion. I am overwhelmed with the strategy that has been designed in the tool.

    Well these tools are much better for start ups and not for a well settled and recognized firm.

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