“Budgeting” is a word that brings not much pleasure with it. Yet, as an adult, everyone should create a budget to minimize spending money on things such as entertainment and save money for more valuable things, such as paying back one’s mortgage or saving for retirement. To make budgeting easier, there are many software tools out there that help you create and stick to a budget. This list looks at budgeting software tools that are completely free to use, so read on to find out which one is right for you.
Free Budgeting Software Tools
Have you heard of TurboTax? Maybe you have, but you probably did not know that Intuit, the company that owns TurboTax, owns Mint as well. For a free app, Mint has many desirable features such as alerting you when bills are due, letting you set your budget, connecting your bank account to the app to track your spending, and more.
Mint is ad-supported, so expect to get some ads while using it. Even with some ad interruptions here and there, it is still a great app, especially when you remember that it’s free.
2. AceMoney Lite
AceMoney Lite is a free software designed to manage your personal finance. Some features AceMoney Lite supports are tracking your spending and categorizing them; creating a budget; tracking your investments and their performance; reminding you when bills need to be paid; and more.
If you have an online business, AceMoney Lite can also help you automate orders and payments from customers. Considering it is a free software, AceMoney Lite is definitely worth a try.
Buddi is an open-source software that helps you plan your budget and compiles financial reports for you. However, Buddi does not connect with your bank account, which means you need to manually enter each transaction.
Buddi is available in many languages and can encrypt your financial data if you enter a password. Buddi is compatible with MacOS, Windows, and Linus operating systems. It is also quite easy to use, even for budgeting software beginners.
GnuCash is a free accounting software that is used even by accountants. Since GnuCash is designed for doubt-entry accounting, you might want to get yourself familiarized with this practice first.
At the most basic level, GnuCash allows the tracking of bank accounts, spending, and investments. You can also manage customers, vendors, orders, and payroll with GnuCash.
Wally makes expense tracking and budgeting easy as it allows you to upload photos of receipts. For transactions that do not appear on a receipt, you will need to enter them manually.
If you want Wally to link your bank account and automatically update your transactions for you, you can upgrade your account and pay for this feature, which only costs $1.99 a year!
Everydollar uses the envelope budgeting system: you assign each category an envelope with a certain amount of money and resets this amount each month. This means that you cannot pull money from your “Groceries” envelope to pay for clothes, which would have come from your “Clothing” envelope.
Everydollar has a debt snowball feature that helps you make a plan to pay back debts. With the free version, you will need to enter your transactions manually.
Goodbudget uses the envelopment budgeting system to help you plan your spending and payments. You make envelopes for each spending category – groceries, entertainment, rent, etc., and only spend the money you put into each envelope.
The free plan provides you with 10 envelopes and you can access your account from only two devices, so choose your envelopes and devices wisely.
8. Clarity Money
Clarity Money does not offer very extensive budgeting features. After you provide your income, split it up into a weekly budget and let the app track your spending for you. Clarity Money also lets you set up a savings account that supports automatic savings deposits. This can build a great habit of saving money.
The downsides to Clarity Money are that you cannot create customized spending labels and you might have some frustrations if your income and/or expenses are not consistent as the app has trouble working with variable incomes and expenses.
Why Should I Use Budgeting Software Tools?
Budgeting software are designed to help you plan and track your spending. Now, some people may cringe at the word “budgeting”, but unfortunately it is a necessary part of adults’ lives. Remembering where your money goes and how much you spent can be difficult at times, which is why budgeting software are here to help.
Budgeting is useful in curbing your spending in some areas to save money for things that truly matter, such as rent or retirement savings. Sure, it might be frustrating to not have enough money left to buy those shoes you badly want, but at least you won’t be using your rent money to buy them. Overall, I truly believe everyone should have a tight understanding and tracking when it comes to their personal finance and spending, thus I highly recommend using a budgeting software.
But None of These Software Sound Appealing to Me!
OK, that’s fine if none of these software sound appealing to you but you still want a budgeting software. Let’s consider some other options:
- Use pen and paper. You can probably easily find a pen and a few sheets of paper in your home. Why not do budgeting the old fashioned way: by writing things down? Start with writing your income at the top, then list your spending categories and how much you want to spend a month for each category. Each time you make a transaction, manually write it down. Maybe the thought of having to manually write each transaction down will make you think twice before spending on something
- Have a physical envelope system. For each spending category, have a physical envelope and however much money you want to spend in the envelope. When money in an envelope runs out, you know you can’t spend anymore in that category. For example, if your “entertainment” envelope runs out, don’t use money from the “grocery” envelope
- Make your own template. With the help of Google Sheets, Excel, and other similar software, you can make your own budgeting template and enter each transaction in after you have completed it. You may also find available budgeting templates that you can use
- Utilize online banking. Some banks will categorize your spending for you, help you set a budget, and show you your past spending using graphs. Bank of America is an example of banks that do this. If your bank supports online banking and has this feature, maybe you can choose this option for a budgeting software
- Create your own software. If you have some programming experience and want to create a challenge for yourself, why not just write your own budgeting software? This way, you can include all the features you want to see, have the exact presentation you want, and strengthen your coding skills
How Do I Choose Which Budgeting Software to Use?
There are a variety of budgeting software tools to choose from, both free and paid. Even though some software are more popular than others, not every popular software will be suitable for you and your lifestyle. So how do you choose the software that fits you best? Below are a few tips to help you choose the best budgeting software:
- Do you want the ease of automatic transaction updates? Some budgeting software like Mint allows you to link your bank account to your software account. This enables the software to automatically upload your transactions as you make them without the need of manual transaction entering. If you only make a few transactions a week, you might not find this feature very valuable. However, if you want the joy of automatic transaction updating, you will want to find budgeting software that lets you link your bank account and automatically adjusts your budget according to your spending and income
- Are you concerned about your financial data security? While linking your bank accounts to budgeting software sounds like a great idea because you don’t have to manually enter your transactions, you will need to be cautious when it comes to financial data security. Is there a possibility for the software to get hacked? Have they ever gotten hacked before? In case of a data security breach, what measures do they take to ensure their users’ data cannot be accessed? Is your information protected by encryption? All of these are important questions to ask yourself before giving a software your financial data and bank accounts. If a security breach happens, you surely will not want all of the money in your bank account drained. If you are worried about financial data security breach and the software you want to use does not have all the protection measures you want to see, maybe go with a software that lets you manually enter your transactions. While this is more time-consuming, even if there is a security breach, there is little to no information to be stolen. After all, what are hackers going to do with your transactions and budget alone?
- Do you have unstable and fluctuating income or expenses? For those who do not have a set salary such as freelancers or seasonal workers, you will do best to find a software that affords you the flexibility of adjusting your income and thus your budget from month to month. If you have varying income and expenses, you might want to use the envelope budgeting system. This system lets you handle fluctuating income and expenses as well as rolling unused funds from one month onto the next, giving you the flexibility you need
- Do you want to save your data and export personal financial reports onto your laptop? If you are planning to not stick with the software or to develop your own template or program later, exporting data can be a very important feature as it will save you so much time from not having to manually input all of your data again. Most importantly, if you’re thinking of exporting data for whatever reason, you might want a software that supports exporting data to a CSV file as it is compatible with other software such as Excel
- Are you using this budgeting software for yourself or for a small business? Budgeting for yourself as an individual is not an easy task, and it is even more complicated if it is done for a small business. If you want to have a budgeting software for a small business in the future or want to have one now, look for a software that support linking your bank account to your budgeting software account. Additionally, look for software that may support accounting practices or taking orders as well as software that remind you to pay your bills on time. Also, make sure that your software has a high level of financial data security; you probably don’t want your customers’ information and your business’ transaction data getting leaked
Budgeting is a necessary part of life, although it is not always easy to do so. With the help of technology (namely budgeting software), this task can be just a little easier to do. Prior to choosing a budgeting software, you should consider your needs and situation to pick the best software for you. Hopefully, with the right software, you will have the best possible relationship with your personal finance.