With the economy teetering on the edge, creating a personal budget is more important than ever. Smart financial planning these days could mean the difference between adding to your savings and living on bologna sandwiches while you wait to get paid. But who wants to spend what little free time they have building spreadsheets or making entries on a paper ledger? Thankfully, we have the technology to take the drudgery out of making a budget.
Budgeting software makes creating and maintaining a household budget so easy a caveman could do it…if cavemen had computers. There are literally dozens of different options for you to choose from, and some simple programs can even be downloaded online for free. Here’s a quick overview of some of the budgeting software out there today.
Personal Finance Software
There are several popular personal finance programs that include budgeting features in addition to a host of other applications. These programs make it easy to make a budget as well as to interface with your accounts, manage investments and organize taxes. All you have to do is enter your financial information and these programs do the rest.
Quicken® is probably the most popular personal finance software. It’s available in several versions including Quicken® Starter Edition 2009 and Quicken® Deluxe 2009. There is also a Mac version—Quicken® Mac 2007. You can set this program to automatically create a budget based on your account information or you can fill in a blank budget. The “My Savings Plan” tool helps you manage your monthly spending and compare it to your planned budget.
Microsoft® Money is another popular personal finance program. Like Quicken®, it comes in several versions including Microsoft® Money Essentials and Mircosoft® Money Plus Deluxe. With this program you categorize your transactions to create budget. The program will use your transaction history to help make budget projections. You can choose between the “Essential Budget,” which is faster to set up and more general, and the “Advanced Budget,” which allows you to delve into more detail.
Budget Planning Software
You can also choose budgeting programs that are specifically designed to help you create a budget and track spending. These programs use some similar principles, but offer different interfaces and tools.
You Need A Budget Pro for Windows only is designed to help those who want to live debt free. This program has a user-friendly interface that allows you to easily enter all of your income and expenses across all of your accounts. This allows you to keep track of all of your transactions in one place. This program handles all of your budget calculations, allows you to schedule recurring transactions and supplies reports on spending habits.
Budget by Snowmint Creative Solutions LLC for both Windows and Mac uses the envelope budgeting method to help you plan ahead and control spending. With envelope budgeting you to allot a certain amount of money for type of expenditure. That money goes in an envelope. Once that money is gone from one envelope you must wait until the next pay cycle to spend money on that expenditure. The Budget software uses virtual envelopes to help you set and stick to spending limits. This software also helps you plan for future large expenses.
Moneywell for Mac only also uses the principles of envelope budgeting, but this program substitutes buckets for envelopes and creates reports to help monitor spending. You can also arrange your buckets in order of priority. The buckets with the highest ranking are filled first and other less important buckets are filled when there is money left over. Moneywell also indicates when you have overspent from one bucket.