Family Budget – How we hate that word! The initial thought that comes to us is one of RESTRICTION. But, those of us who have been using budgets for many years can vouch that it actually provides freedom to spend money without guilt, and know that we will be perfectly fine at the end of the month. However, the question we get asked often is if a software should be used to budget and if so, which one among the hundreds of available apps in the store. So here are our recommendations:
Should you use a software?
The first and most important step is to get started. If using a notebook is more your style, so be it. However once you have got the hang of it, we recommend that you switch to a software quickly. The family budget is never static and changes from month to month. In the long-term it will be very challenging to go back and track your progress.
Which software to use?
There are two options when it comes to software:
1) Microsoft Excel (or Apple Numbers) : If you are proficient in Excel, you can use Excel to develop your budget and track your expenses. One advantage of using Excel is that you can develop custom charts to track your progress. The biggest downside is that it can’t be used by multiple people at the same time. We do not highly recommend Excel for your budgeting needs. However, if you would like a copy of an ‘Excel Budget’, please contact us.
2) Software applications: There are a number of software applications available in the market today. Here are four that are well accepted.
– This is the simplest and the fastest budgeting tool in the market today. The developers of this tool claim that you can build a budget in 15 minutes. Moreover, this application forces you to a Zero Dollar Budget
, which is critical for your success. The added advantage is that multiple people can access the budget by sharing the username and password. The application has a basic version, which is free and an advanced version, which is $99/year. We highly recommend this tool
. We recommend that you start with the free version and switch to the advanced when required. The only downside is the inability to see historical trends on a graphical format.
– It is another free app that can be used for budgeting. The biggest advantage is that it can provide historical trends to help project expenses for the upcoming months. Mint is also flexible in changing the categories. The cons of this app are poor customer service and lack of connectivity. There have been times when accounts have actually disappeared.
– It is another budgeting tool, which is renowned for synchronization of accounts. It has education tools included for those who are interested in learning more. The biggest downside is that it has no free version – so it costs money to track your expenses, which is not a good idea. It was also reported that a few customers had security issues with the software, which is a big NO in the financial industry.
d) Personal Capital
– We highly recommend Personal Capital for having the big picture regarding your finances. It is an excellent tool to monitor your net worth and personal holding. However, doing daily budgeting is very difficult with this tool. Please note that you will get sales call from Personal Capital once you sign up as they are interested in taking over your investments.