A glance at your dwindling checking account and the increasing amount of bills piling up on your desk means one thing — you’re not handling money as well as you thought. In fact, it may be time to set up a personal budget to prioritize your assets and expenses to get back on track. However, you don’t want to spend hours each week writing down every deposit and withdrawal into a ledger book or yellow legal pad. Good thing for you there are a number of personal budget software programs that can help you keep track of everything and even guide you on how to save more money. Here are a few choices to consider.
Excel is either the most or least expensive budgeting software depending if you already have the Microsoft Office suite installed on your computer. With a little training, Excel can be used to calculate additions and reductions to your budget and graph the amount spent and saved over time. It’s not as robust or intuitive as the other packages mentioned below, but it can be a good starting off point to prepare your budget.
Quicken is probably one of the most popular brands of personal budgeting software on the market today. Owned by Intuit, the same company that produces Turbo Tax, the standard Quicken package contains numerous tools to build budget categories, separate between different accounts, set up scheduled payments, run reports, and even populate the data sheets with bill information imported from various companies. At tax time you can import Quicken information on various items into Turbo Tax. The downside to this software is the variety of options it offers and their costs. Make sure to carefully research the version you want so you don’t get limited features, like in the Quicken Starter Kit, or too many features, like the professional version of the software.
Mint.com is a free online budgeting software that does much of what Quicken performs. Mint pulls financial data from all your accounts and allows you to set up a budget and track your expenses. It also provides alerts, helps you set up financial goals, run graphs, and view all your information on your mobile device. The caveat is Mint is an online environment. There is always a risk your data can be pulled from the company’s databases and used in a malicious manner. Best recommendation is to perform research on the company’s security features before you decide to try them.
Another free online and mobile budgeting program, Check.me isn’t as full-featured as Quicken. It’s main job is to make sure you’re paying all of your bills on time. Reminders alert you to upcoming bills and give you an opportunity to pay them online. Review sites like PCmag.com say the app version of Check.me is better than its online cousin. Like Mint, test drive the features and security of Check.me before you decide to use it.