Debt and finances are no small source of anxiety for most people, and keeping them in line is a lot easier said than done. We’ve all tried it: scraping together a makeshift budget using an Excel spreadsheet, only to abandon it within weeks when we realize it’s too much upkeep (not to mention a lot of guilt). Rather than setting yourself up for even more headaches, check out these programs and apps that make budgeting simple, helping usher you into a less stressful, financially-sound future.
In-depth: YNAB (You Need A Budget)
YNAB is one of the strongest pieces of budgeting software out there. The goal of YNAB is to help you draw up a budget that survives the month, leaving unused cash over bit by bit until your finances are fully four weeks ahead—and that’s the dream, isn’t it?—which it does through a fool-proof design and plenty of online assistance. YNAB has optional compatibility with online bank statements, and lets you schedule regular and one-time incomes, as well as bills and unexpected expenses. If you end up over budget on one item, you can guiltlessly balance your book to keep things going. Also, using the mobile app, you can keep track of purchases and other transactions so you’re on top of your budget at all times—although the actual budgeting is most easily done on a computer. YNAB retails for a hefty $60, but it’s a one-time fee devoid of subscription costs.
An unintimidating yet powerful iOS app, Expenditure makes your budget easy to understand at a glance, with only few bells and whistles to distract you. The app allows to you create and budget simple categories to manage each of your main outflows, such as groceries, car payments and bills. Then, every time you make a transaction, you simply mark it as an income or expense against the category, which is immediately applied. To help you remember what a charge was for, it also gives you the option of writing yourself a note or take a quick picture if you’re short on time. Unlike YNAB, all your information is stored locally, which is a definite downside, but it’s $2 price tag helps if you need a cheap solution.
While some apps simply help you stay afloat or stick to a budget, they rarely help you reach a goal such as getting out of debt or saving for a vacation: Mint does just that, putting you on a specific course of action until you get what you want. This goal-oriented budgeting program is especially useful if you want to visualize your spending, which help motivate you to spend less so you can fill up that savings bar—making budgeting deceptively game-like. What more, it allows you to adjust your budget for a certain kind of expenditure, and tells you know how it will affect your bottom line at the end of a month or year. Mint works via mobile and computer apps, plus it’s entirely free.