Personal Finance

Six Online Tools to Keep Your Spending in Check

The simple truth is that what gets measured gets managed. Our digitized world offers an overwhelming number of online tools for budgeting. In this article we’ll look at six. Each suits a particular goal, whether you’re seeking simplicity, debt elimination, flexibility or something else. Read on to make your choice.

The simple truth is that what gets measured gets managed. Our digitized world offers an overwhelming number of online tools for budgeting. In this article we’ll look at six. Each suits a particular goal, whether you’re seeking simplicity, debt elimination, flexibility or something else.

No matter what your approach the most important message is to start now. By committing to one option, rather than becoming confounded by many, you’re more likely to succeed. In keeping with this notion the six tools researched by ValuePenguin and discussed here can be considered a menu from which one option is selected. What works best for you?

1. Mint –- This represents the gold standard of personal budgeting. Users can create their customized budget and spending goals. The free service taps into your various accounts to create one picture of your financial life. The real time reporting keeps you abreast of spending so you can stay within your budget. The analytics provide recommendations for saving and reducing interest on existing loans and debt. Users can tie all areas of their finances together. The investment tracking capabilities offer easy performance analysis.

2. BudgetPulse -- This straightforward approach doesn’t require you to grant the site with access to your accounts. Also, the intuitive interface allows you to customize the specific monthly spending categories. The user assigns a specific spending limit to the categories they’ve created. A charting tool makes your progress clear with fast graphics and CSV export capabilities. The dashboard clearly displays upcoming expenses next to budgeted and actual expenses. This allows the budgeter to curtail spending as they approach their total limit.

3. SavvyMoney-- This is an option for those working towards the connected goals of reducing debt and improving a credit score. This is a necessary prelude to monthly budgeting. The primary driver here is your credit score. The site works to optimize your debt payment plan through the power of aggregated interest rate data. The logic is based on achieving the lowest possible interest rate on your accounts. The site displays your dollar savings based on competing APRs.

4. Kiplinger Household Budget Worksheet -- This streamlined option doesn’t have the bells and whistles of more popular offerings, but it’s an effective tool. The spending categories are fixed and the user simply enters two values: the anticipated dollar amount, and the frequency, whether it’s weekly, monthly or otherwise. The major categories are limited to income, debt, utilities, insurance, savings and miscellaneous. Once you’ve entered all the necessary information the resulting budget can be downloaded to a CSV file for further manipulation. Though not sophisticated, the Kiplinger Household Budget Worksheet is a great way to start when time is limited. 

5. You Need A Budget-- This is the quintessential all-in option. The paid service accesses virtually very aspect of your financial life. This information is used to generate one, multifaceted, composite picture of your spending. The pricing is simple: either pay $5 per month of $50 per year. The premise of this high-octane option is that every dollar of your budget should be given a job. Built-in alerts are designed to keep you committed to this goal. Extra emphasis is placed on keeping users out of debt or paying down existing debt. The site is optimized for those who want to make incremental progress towards a single large expense, such as a wedding or buying a new car.

6. MoneyDance –- This tool comes at a one-time cost of $49.99. The robust offering enables automatic downloading of account activity and automated bill pay. The full picture of your finances can be brought into view with summaries and graphic visualizations. The difference here is the flexibility. Downloaded activity is automatically cleaned up and can be edited to better reflect cash transactions. The investing portion of the software leverages analytics to help guide your choices. This works across nearly all asset classes including, stocks, bonds, CDs, mutual funds and more.

Andrew Pentis

Andrew is a former Associate Editor at ValuePenguin. He focused on an array of personal finance topics, from money management to career development.