In these tough economic times, many recognize the importance of financial planning. You want to ensure that your resources are directed to best effect, and that means creating a spending plan that works well for your situation, and helps you prepare for the future.
Good budgeting software can help you take charge of your finances. Happily, a large number of free online budget tools exists. You can get help for nearly any budgetary need you have.
9 resources for creating a spending plan that works for you:
Best free online budget tools for charting a course to financial freedom
This is the online budget tool that started a revolution. You can link your financial accounts — savings, checking, credit cards — to Mint.
Your information is automatically updated as it appears in your accounts. In many cases, categories are automatically assigned to your spending.
You can also track your progress toward retirement goals, as well as use Mint to create a debt pay down plan. Visual tools, including graphs and reports, clearly illustrate your situation, and help you chart a course.
For those who want to adding tracking to various aspects of their budget, Personal Capital is an option. Your financial dashboard allows you to see everything that is going on in your financial life. You can see the big picture, and track your progress as you work toward your goals.
On top of that, you can track your investment portfolio, and even receive objective investment advice. If you want help actually managing your investments, you can get personalized ideas, as long as you are willing to pay a 1% fee.
However, the regular service is free, and you can manage your finances — and investments — with the help of this budgeting tool. Check out our full Personal Capital Video Review and Walkthrough.
Personal Capital vs. Mint: Which is Better?
Mint came first and essentially created the free online budgeting tool category. Personal Capital is much more focused on tracking your investments across multiple accounts.
Which is better for you? It just depends on your needs: if you need straight budgeting, then Mint might be better. If you do want to track your portfolio while also monitoring cash flow then Personal Capitalis a great option.
If you are wary of allowing an online app access to your accounts, you might consider BudgetPulse.
You don’t give away your account usernames and passwords, and you can track your spending and set goals. The ability to visualize your money is available with charts and graphs. On top of that, you can create financial goals to share with your friends and family. The social aspect can keep you accountable, as well as provide an opportunity for your loved ones to contribute to your objectives via PayPal or Amazon Payments.
Monitor your spending, and keep track of your upcoming bills with the help of Buxfer. This online budgeting tool is aimed at 20-somethings interested in getting their finances under control and starting out right. You can project your earnings and savings interest into the future, and use the information to plan your finances. You can break down your goals, setting short-term and long-term goals, and working toward them.
Additionally, Buxfer helps you manage group expenses. You can split different bills up, figure out who owes what, and even make payments online, taking care of IOUs with ease.
The threads of your financial life meet together with the help of moneyStrands. This software is one that can important your financial information from your banking institutions and credit issuers. Create a 12-month spending plan, and then use this software to keep you on track.
Schedule upcoming bills, and view projections of what your money should look like going forward. You can also use moneyStrands in different languages, and it comes with the ability for you to manage your finances in multiple currencies — something that is handy for the frequent traveler, or if some of your income comes from foreign sources.
Once you know where your money is going, it’s easier to spot money leaks and change behaviors. Moneytrackin’ helps you see where it all goes. It also provides help with tracking and dividing shared expenses, and creating shared budgets. Moneytrackin’ also includes helpful tools for small business accounting. If you have a home business, this software can help you keep track of relevant income and expenses. It’s a great tool that can help you manage various aspects of your finances.
My Spending Plan
You can put together a budget to help you better live within your means. Quickly create a plan that helps you with long-term goals, as well as with short-term goals, including special events and more. This software makes use of the envelope system to help you plan your budget. My Spending Plan also sends you emails and alerts, and reminds you of bills that need to be paid. On top of that you can personalize your settings to see your own big picture. My Spending Plan also includes coupons and promotions that can help you save money and live within your means.
If you are looking for something straightforward and simple, BudgetSimple might be helpful. The main point of this budgeting tool is to help you get out of debt. You track your expenses, manage your bills, and learn how to live within your means. There are no frills with BudgetSimple, but it is one of the easiest ways to create a budget. Plus, you can view your progress with the help of charts and other visuals.
For those looking for a proactive approach to debt pay down and accelerate savings, SavvyMoney can help. The idea is that you start out by understanding your current situation. After putting together a picture of your current situation, you create a debt repayment plan based around what works best for you. SavvyMoney can help you stay on track, as well as keep up with your progress. You can even receive on tips on accelerating your pay down.