Planning a Monthly Budget (and the best tools)…
One of the first and easiest ways to get your finances where you want to is to put together a monthly budget. Luckily, there are TONS of options today. Everything from basic excel spreadsheets to mobile apps and online systems.
While it may seem weird to you, some people enjoy a good old fashion Excel spreadsheet for their budget. They like to sit down at the end of the day and put in their transactions and see the numbers. This can be beneficial to many since you get a hands-on look at your finances, daily.
Different Types of Monthly Budgets
The cash diet is an interesting budgeting technique that is worth trying at least once. With this budget, you use the cash in your wallet instead of credit or debit cards. The theory is that if you use cash, you will be more likely to stick to your budget. Obviously, there are some bills that get paid electronically these days so you will have to subtract those, but once you have those figured out, you need to determine the rest of your budget for the month.
Take out the money for the week and put it in your wallet. You can even go as far as breaking it down daily and only taking that days budget with you. Now you only spend what is in your wallet, no using the cards to buy things, cash only. Once you get used to it you can have great results. Give the cash diet a try and see if it works for you.
The 50/30/20 Budget
The 50/30/20 is a very commonly used budget system. The way it breaks down your budgeting is 50% for necessities such as housing/rent and bills, then 20% goes to financial goals and savings and finally, 30% goes towards wants like dining out and entertainment. You can adjust the percentages a little bit but you want to avoid it as much as possible, especially reducing your savings and financial goal portion.
The zero-sum budget is a difficult budget to use and can be difficult for a beginner budgeted. The goal is to assign every dollar of your income to something. Let’s say you earn $2,500 net per month, after you budget for everything, all your bills, groceries, eating out, etc. your expenses come out to $2,000 a month. That means you still have $500 left so you’re not done budgeting. You have to assign that money to something, whether its investing, building an emergency fund or paying off debt, your entire income has to be used. A great tool to use with a zero-sum budget is YNAB – You Need A Budget. We’ll talk more about this in a bit.
Budgeting Tools and Software
There are also great apps you can use that are available online and/or via mobile apps.
- Mint.com (free): Mint offers an easy to use a full budget app. You can sync your credit cards and bank accounts to have all your data available. You can monitor expenses and income with their great user-friendly interface. A great system to set up a monthly budget, set goals and see your progress.
- Personal Capital (free): I have not personally used this one yet but I have great reviews about their service. Their platform is geared more towards investments and net worth so not so much budgeting but it is worth mentioning here. The interface is very professional and user-friendly. They give you nice breakdowns of income and expenses and your net worth. Sounds like a great product worth trying.
- YNAB – You Need A Budget ($83.99/year): YNAB is an amazing budgeting app, this is one I personally use. It allows you to sync your credit cards and bank accounts so all transactions get imported automatically. You can then set up monthly budgets with custom categories for exactly what you need. Keep track of where you overspend and where you underspend, then you can adjust on the next month. It is a great product and very easy to use.
- USAA Money Manager (free with account): A great tool to use if you already have a USAA account. If you don’t, it might be a good reason to look into one. You set your income and it calculates a budget, you can either go with what they generate or modify it for your own needs. Not a feature rich program but it’s perfect if you are just looking for a barebones basic monthly budget tool.
- Your Balanced Budget (Monthly Planner): While it’s not an app or computer software, some people may just like the old school method of pen and paper. This is a pretty good option if you want to go that route. It also won’t break the bank at less than $10.
If you are looking for a basic printable style budget template. We offer a free printable template along with some other tools you may like.
Monthly Budget Final Thoughts
Hopefully you this guide helps you find a good budgeting app that fits your style. Everyone is different so there is no one budgeting system that works for everyone. You may need to test out a couple before you find the exact one you like. No matter what, it is important you find and stick with a monthly budget system, it’s key to reaching your financial goals.