The 5 Best Online Budgeting Tools to Help You Save Money
When it comes to budgeting, you may want to swap the old tools—paper, pen, and handwritten lists—for the new tools: online budget tools. You could still go for something simple like a budget calculator, but you may want much more. First ask yourself: what exactly do I want in a budgeting tool? Tracking transactions, monthly spending history, bill alerts? Or much more? Be careful of stepping into ones that require monthly fees if you don’t plan to use the special features—there’s a sort of irony in paying money to use a budgeting tool. At the other end of the spectrum, some tools require access to your bank sign-in for automatic updates, so be sure you trust the application before accepting it. We’ve compiled a list of five best online budgeting tools, with different advantages and disadvantages mentioned.
As far as online budgeting tools go, Mint is a standard. Founded in 2006, the personal finance management site helps you track and categorize transactions easily and automatically. Available on Apple’s iOS App Store, the Android Store, and online, the tool can be used on a computer or mobile device for quick reference. It also allows users to set goals for retirement, pay down plans and, of course, create budgets. All of these elements are laid out in easy-to-read graphics and pie and bar charts for easy tracking. On top of all that, the app is free. One downside is that in order for Mint to update your transactions automatically, it does require your bank name and password to link to your account, which it guarantees as secure. This is a common trend for many budgeting apps, but on Mint, it’s not optional. Overall, the site provides an in-depth, up-to-date, and convenient service at home and on the go.
BudgetPulse is for the security-conscious and it’s also free. Founded in 2007, the budgeting tool doesn’t require users to surrender their banking account information for tracking, and lets users manually enter or import their banking data from computer files. As with many budget tools, BudgetPulse allows users to set up budgeting and saving goals. Taking on a social networking aspect to this tool, it allows users to publicize their goals (if they so choose) to friends and family, who can then contribute to a goal through PayPal. As of the time of writing, the budgeting application is not available on mobile devices which may or may not be an inconvenience to you. Depending on how you look at it, the other disadvantage is its strength: by not asking for bank account information, the tool requires you to fill all the categories and numbers on the budget, whether you insert it by hand or by a Quicken, CSV, etc. file.
Like its title suggests, this online budgeting tool specializes in tracking transactions, with or without a link to your bank account log-in information. The unique feature to this one is the ability to customize applications on the site, creating more things for the tool to track and letting you choose what to display from dates and titles to amounts and more specific details. The results from the tracking are shown on your calendar and in graphs on the site. You can even use other applications created by other users on the site. Forecasting outcomes, scheduling income dates, and various business-based features are available. Two disadvantages include the inability to download transactions from your bank account (it does offer alternative files) and the slight wait time for syncing your accounts to the tool, if you choose to do so.
Buxfer specializes in budgeting and tracking group expenses. This simple online money management service does not have quite as fancy of graphics as other budgeting tools out there, but the service does allow users the cool features of tracking loans and IOUs from friends and family as well as providing group budgeting – a handy tool for vacations and college budgeting. The thing about this service is its three packages: Basic, which is free but limited to five accounts and budgets; Plus, which gives you unlimited accounts and budgets for $3.99 a month; and Pro, which gives you all of the above, plus forecasting, advance reports, online payments and automatically backed up data.
Like the other tools, moneyStrands can help you visualize your bill payments and spending on its calendars, bar graphs, and more. However, this budgeting tool focuses more on financial planning than on tracking transactions. It can still automatically track your expenses by linking the service to your bank accounts, but moneyStrands goes further by generating budgets based on spending habits, along with generating personal financial tips for each user. It’s available online and for iPhones and it’s free.
Ultimately, the choice of which online budgeting tool to use comes down to your priorities, whether it’s linking accounts (or not), having free access, tracking customized fields or IOUs, or something else. Any tool you choose can help you if you use it on a regular basis and update accordingly.