Making a budget
June 12, 2011 5:50 PM   Subscribe

I'd like to make a budget, electronically, and track my expenditure.

In the past I've done my budgeting very haphazardly, on paper, with a hand calculator, and in my head. They've had the obviously variable levels of success, and I'd like to do it seriously.

I have a PC, an Android smartphone and I live in Australia (which, if I understand what I read, rules out the otherwise-recommended Mint). I've read a little about gnucash, but am hesitant to climb a steep learning curve if all I need is a simpler application.

What are some technically good, and free or cheap, applications for budgeting and tracking spending?
posted by Fiasco da Gama to Work & Money (12 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
I made a lovely spreadsheet a while back using Microsoft Excel. It allows me to plug in different budget numbers and figure out how much I would have saved up in a few months to a few years if I try to keep to any particular budget. I was using it for a while to track expenditures as well in order to find out what is actually a reasonable budget to shoot for given how much money I currently spend.

Excel can be lots of fun once you start using some of the formula features.
posted by Rinoia at 5:55 PM on June 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

Check out YNAB. A good way to get a sense of it is to watch their introductory/feature videos on YouTube. Don't know if it counts as cheap, though.
posted by supercres at 6:17 PM on June 12, 2011

I'm in Australia and using Yodlee. I think it's the platform that Mint is based on but works fine with Australian banks. It's simple to use and automatically tags your expenditures for you (you can change its tagging rules if it's incorrect). Then it generates an automatic pie chart of where your money is going. And you can set up a budget of maximum spends for each category and it will analyse your spending each month to see if you met your budget and where you fell short. I like it quite a lot.

It did take a VERY long time to (a) send the email I had to click on to confirm registration (like, two days - I assumed it hadn't worked and had given up entirely when it arrived
and (b) to download my banking information.
But both of those are one-offs, so once it was set up, it was great.
posted by lollusc at 6:19 PM on June 12, 2011

I use a google spreadsheet. I have a shortcut on my (Android) phone's homescreen to add purchases to tracking when I'm out and about, and I can see how I'm doing and fill in details on a bigger screen. I find it easier and more helpful to record every purchase myself rather than try to reconcile several accounts + cash. Simple also means easy to maintain. I start a new sheet monthly, have one sheet for income since those are less frequent transactions for me, and one sheet with a budget.

The only flaw is that charting in google sheets is pretty lousy, but it would be easy to paste into another program for charting / archiving.
posted by momus_window at 7:40 PM on June 12, 2011

I've found Expensify to be perfect for this.
posted by embrangled at 7:52 PM on June 12, 2011

For any kind of personal tracking that I've done (eg budget, exercise, diet etc), for me nothing beats the simplicity & flexibility of a spreadsheet. Use some kind of custom proprietary solution & you inevitably have to come up with all kinds of workarounds because they expect you to fit your square pegs into their round holes.

Pro tip: put everything, and I mean everything you can, onto your credit card, then just cut & paste the lot from your electronic statement for tagging. Keeps all the data in one convenient location. Cash is obviously an exception, but cash withdrawals just go into the "minor discretionary spend" / petty cash bucket.
posted by UbuRoivas at 10:23 PM on June 12, 2011

Seconding YNAB, it's a fantastic bit of software with a very powerful methodology behind it and a very strong community to help you figure it out. Android app is on the way, but it works fine with receipt saving, which is how I used it before the iPhone app came out.
posted by Happy Dave at 1:50 AM on June 13, 2011

Lately, I've seen MINT being recommended like crazy. Lifehacker also compiled a useful list of the "Five Best Personal Money Management Sites".
posted by D.Billy at 7:17 AM on June 13, 2011

EEBA (Easy Envelope Budget Aid) is a website / app for following the Envelope System. Mint is not all that great for budgeting because it's mostly reactive (only shows what you've spent when your bank knows about it), but with EEBA you just type things in as you spend. You can have categories, automatic monthly allowances, and it's free. It's done wonders for keeping me on my budget.
posted by Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug at 9:38 AM on June 13, 2011

I use the PearBudget spreadsheet (by mefi's own), loaded onto Google Documents.
posted by hellopanda at 10:47 AM on June 13, 2011

Personally, I use GNUCash and LibreOffice Spreadsheets. But the important thing here isn't what software you use as much as how you use it.

When I started, I pulled as much data as possible into GNUCash. Banking transactions going as far back as I could get. This turns out to be quite a bit of work if your bank doesn't support online transaction pulls, but it means I know exactly what all I've spent on. No hand wavy stuff and forgetting large, biannual expenses; I've got four years of history now. Using that large archive of expenses, I can build a spreadsheet budget. I make sure I've covered all categories and have reasonable estimates. The hardest part is cash expenses, which is why I agree with UbuRovias's suggestion to use credit / debit where feasible (Protip: Discover supports OFX which automates the whole process!).

My spreadsheet shows expenses at annual and paycheck levels, just to get a sense of how much leeway I'll have every paycheck. The advantage of using computer spreadsheets for this is that it makes the math easy, it's easier to keep around., and easier to jigger with.
posted by pwnguin at 11:03 AM on June 13, 2011

I am loving the PearBudget. Figures it's from a mefi. I have spent all day on YNAB and Quickbooks. I know I will never keep up with that. PearBudget is the one I am going with. Simple and logical.
posted by Vaike at 4:27 PM on June 13, 2011

« Older PlantID filter   |   What exactly do you do after a fender-bender? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.