Last week one of my co-workers mentioned he needed a tool to aid with budgeting. This was a timely question because I have the same quandary now that I’ve graduated from Financial Peace University (FPU).
I have been using the Gazelle Budget web-based program during FPU, but my access was shut off last week. I could renew for $67.50 a year, but there are so many good budget programs or websites that I decided not to pay. (Besides doesn’t it seem weird that Dave Ramsey teaches you how to better manage money for 13 weeks and then wants to charge you that much to continue using the budget program?)
Free Budget Tools
Gazelle Budget Lite. This is a free version of the program which helps you create and print a budget. This is all you can do as there is no ability to even save the information let alone track actuals versus budgeted. I would pass on this one.
Mint.com. This is a feature-packed offering that helps you budget, track income and expenditures and charts it out. It also includes alerts of upcoming bills AND is free. Now, this may be a generational preference but I just do not want to give the website access to my financial institution accounts. This feature also does not help me since I do much of my discretionary spending with cash.
Enemy of Debt. Enemy of Debt (aka Brad Chaffee) offers a free budget excel download that includes sheets for the budget, checkbook register and savings allocations. He is a Dave Ramsey TMMO devotee (TMMO stands for Total Money Makeover and is Dave’s secular version of FPU). Because of this orientation, the budget sheet includes an allocated spending area to aid in tracking actual spending (both cash and credit).
Budgets are Sexy. Not only does J. Money have his own budget tool available free for download, he has a page providing free budget templates from other personal finance blogs and lists websites such as Mint.com. Now, that’s service!
SimpliFi. This is a nice website for general planning. Just input your assets and debits and it will give you a snapshot and letter Grade of where you are today. In the tools area document all income and expenses for a spending plan. I like that it remembers crossover information from the first step for items that pertain (e.g., auto payment). I like that it is intuitive and well-designed but it doesn’t track actual versus budgeted spending.
I have selected two tools to aid in managing my personal finances. Next week when I prepare my first monthly plan without Gazelle Budget I will be using Enemy of Debt’s spreadsheet. The allocated spending area tipped the scales for me. My financial picture will be tracked quarterly using SimpliFi. I like how easy I can enter the information and get a picture (literally) of my net worth and grade.
My co-worker liked Mint.com which is the site I mentioned off the top of my head. Hopefully he’ll read this post and take a look at the rest of the worthy options out there.