Times are tough for nearly everyone you talk to these days. The price of everything from gas to groceries has increased, while raises are few and far between, if at all; and that doesn’t factor in all the extras from car repairs to prom to the dog getting sick. The only way to stay ahead of the curve is to set up a budget so that you might be okay when the unexpected hits.
Picking a Budgeting Program
The first and most important step to setting up a budget is finding a budgeting program that meets your needs. After taking the time to do some research, I settled on Mint.com. Not only is it free, but it is also easy to use. You might find another program that you prefer, and that’s fine too. Below are some things I factored in when making my decision.
While this may not seem like an important consideration, categories will help you to define your expenses and income. I’m not a fan of math in any form so the easier it is, the happier I am. Some programs lock in default categories, so the ability to edit or delete categories is important as all households are likely to have different settings. The more detailed you are, the more money you will save and be able to track.
Month-to-Month Income and Expenses
If you have income that changes and is never the same each month, you need budgeting software that doesn’t force you to enter the same amount. In these instances, envelop budgeting can be helpful. In short, the software rolls unused funds in spending categories to the next month.
The software should have flexible reporting that will let you run monthly, quarterly, and annual reports so that you can track your progress. Also check for the ability to print reports if necessary, as some programs only offer onscreen reports.
When entering your account numbers into the budgeting program, an important concern is data encryption for your security. Be careful how much information you input, sometimes using vague names can work to your benefit as it will make it harder to steal your identity. Please take the time to read the privacy and security statement of each online budgeting program so you know how they handle these items.
Most of the budgeting programs available will allow you to export all data to a CVS file that can be easily read by a program such as Excel. This feature is important if you are using software that allows you to track transactions in various accounts. Or, if you want to switch programs in the future, you want to be able to import your information easily.
Easy Setup, Easy to Use
I mentioned earlier that I am not a fan of math, but I am a fan of making and saving money. Look for a program that will work well for you and provide you with the ease of use that makes it easy to stay on budget without making you stare at the computer with a bewildered look. Budgeting is hard enough without your software adding to the confusion!
This is a guest post by Gabrielle Green of TipsOnHowToSaveMoney. Her friends often refer to her a “Gaby Gabs a Lot,” especially if it has anything to do with freebies and saving money! As the mom of two teenage girls, being frugal is an absolute must. It tends to drive her husband crazy, but oddly he doesn’t complain when the coupons are for golfing.
Photo by Nadieshda/Flickr