Taking charge of your finances, managing your money, and successfully sticking to a budget is tough and extremely daunting. There are plenty of budgeting tools available that claim to help you be more responsible when it comes to your finances, but how exactly do these tools stack up against each other? These tools aim to better users abilities to keep their finances on track through features such as managing multiple accounts in one software, clearly showcasing a users spending habits, and so forth. But not all budgeting tools are equally noteworthy. This article introduces the few top and free budgeting tools based on user feedback.
Mint is a free, web-based, automated personal finance tool (note: it only works in the United States and Canada as of now). Known as one of the first budgeting tools of its kind, Mint is often hailed as a revolutionary tool. Users of Mint are able to link any financial account(s) they have to the tool checking and savings accounts, investments, loans, etc. Mint sticks to a read-only access function it is integrated with all major banks and financial institutions to show a complete picture of its users financial health. It automatically categorizes a users spending habits and allows the user to draw up budgets, in which case it will warn the user if s/he is not sticking to said budget(s).
Users of Mint applaud the tool for being so clear and straightforward with its features (it offers a guided tour when a new user first signs up), as well as its clean interface. In addition to keeping up a budget (with features such as tracking ones spending, allocating income, etc.), users can also create emergency funds, save up for various items, etc., as Mint offers features that will help users work towards meeting their goals.
Mint, although free, runs on ads. These ads, however, are tailored to each individual, and users often times find the ads useful to their unique situation (e.g. If a user has a savings account that offers a low interest rate, Mints ads will suggest another bank(s) where the user could earn more money). Mints security is bank-grade: the tool does not have access to what a user types, nor does it let the user make transactions of any kind through it.
Mint is also available as a mobile app for iOS, Android, and Windows Phone.
BudgetSimple is a free, web-based personal finance tool. This tool is solely focused on helping users create a budget(s) that will work in the long run. BudgetSimple allows users to track spending patterns and is able to provide graphs and statistics that aid in helping users find ways to cut back on spending and save money. The tools budget planner will give users suggests for areas where they can save in, where they can trim their expenses, and where they can boost their savings. Expenses can be entered manually, or bank accounts can be auto-linked to the tool (this feature requires the Plus version, which costs $5 per month). Individuals who are looking for a tool that only focuses on budgeting (unlike tools such as Mint that are more well-rounded), BudgetSimple may prove to be ideal. Additionally, Mint users are also able to import data from Mint into BudgetSimple.
GnuCash is a free, desktop application that manages finances. GnuCash is not an automated feature, and users who prefer budgeting tools that do not require a connection to banks or an external service will like this tool. The software is available for download across an array of computer systems (available for Linux, BSD, Solaris, OS X, and Windows).
This tool is known for using a balanced book approach to managing ones finances in other words, in order to input a transaction in one account, another account has to be debited. This way, entry errors and inconsistency across the book are avoided. Transactions can be scheduled (useful for regular payments such as bills), and split transactions are also supported. GnuCash is able to create reports and graphs that help users understand where and when money is being spent on in order to better stick to their budgets.
Users of GnuCash especially like how the app has the ability to import Quicken files (QIF) and OFX files (Open Financial Exchange). These file types are used by a large number of banks when it comes to downloading transaction histories.
Apart from the tools mentioned above, there are other free software and applications that help with budgeting. These include:
BudgetPulse: A good option for users who prefer not to link all their accounts, BudgetPulse offers features such as income and expense tracking, budgeting across multiple accounts, charts and graphs, and the ability to create financial goals.
MoneyStrands: This tool helps users set up budgets and keeps them up-to-date. It also sends alerts if a user is approaching or exceeding his/her budget goals. Additionally, this tool categorizes transactions and spending habits. It is also supports 44 world currencies.
Buxfer: This tool is aimed at individuals who are just starting out in getting their finances under control. It provides reports that help users visualize spending patterns, helps set weekly/monthly/yearly budgets, and generates forecast reports in terms of future expenses and account balances.
With the help of a personal finance tool, planning for the future seems much easier. These tools all offer help in budgeting, and each tool will appeal to different people depending on the preferences of the individual. Play around with each and discover which tool is best suited for you and your needs.