Choosing Tools to Help You Create (and Stick to!) a Budget

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Budgeting Expenses Online & Desktop Tools

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Before I get started sharing the pros and cons of various budgeting programs, I wanted to point you to the comments on Monday’s question of the day. Many readers have been sharing tips for budgeting, and it’s definitely worth the read!

In the past, I’ve used software programs like Quicken for our personal and business finances, but most recently I’ve just been using pen and paper for our personal budget. However, I love the tools that are offered with some of these programs, especially since the visual elements would make it easier to share our budgeted expenses and actual spending with my husband!

1.You Need a Budget

You Need a Budget is a desktop budgeting system designed to help you create a “virtual” envelope system, save for large purchases, get out of debt and eliminate spending leaks. The software costs $59.95.


:: On your desktop, so you don’t have to be connected to the internet.

:: Allows you to upload your transactions rather than entering them by hand.

:: Reports and charts to help you get more out of your budget.

:: YNAB is more than just expense-tracking, offering tips, tools and even free classes to teach you about the four principles of budgeting that their software is based upon.


:: Desktop-based, so it’s only available on your home computer.

:: Doesn’t connect or download your transactions automatically.

2. Pear Budget

Pear Budget is a simple, easy-to-use program designed to simplify your budgeting for just $3/month.


:: Clean & simple interface without a lot of extra “stuff” that makes setting up and updating your budget quick and easy.

:: Flexible system that allows you to assign your own categories and tags.

:: Internet-based, so you can access it from anywhere, with an export feature so you can review it offline as well.


:: Unlike some automatic systems, you’ll have to enter your income and expenses by hand.

:: No extra bells & whistles like charts, grafts or reports.

3. Outright

Although this is not a personal budgeting tool, I wanted to include it anyway because I’m sure there are others out there that could use it. Outright is a free, online bookkeeping and tax record tool for small businesses.


:: Use it for basic bookkeeping as well as preparing your taxes.

:: Connect to your financial institutions to download your transactions.

:: See charts & graphs of your income and expenses.

:: Get help with basic tax topics and filings.


:: The service is free now and plans to remain that way, but some future developments will only be offered under fee plans.

4. Mint is a popular and free personal budgeting program that offers dozens of graphs and charts as well as tips for saving on your expenses.


:: The charts and graphs are a great visual summary of your budget, your spending and areas you could improve.

:: The program automatically downloads your transactions straight from your accounts (this especially appeals to me since we have multiple accounts).

:: It’s FREE!


:: is able to provide all of these services for free because of their partnership with various banks, credit cards and other financial institutions, so you’ll see advertisements and recommendations for those while you’re using the program. If you’re trying to get control of your spending and may be tempted by “great” credit card offers, this program is probably not the right one for you.

This is an incomplete list of budgeting tools available. What other online or desktop tools do you use for budgeting? Do you have feedback about any of the ones listed above?

Mandi Ehman at Organizing Your Way

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About the Author

Mandi Ehman

Hi. My name is Mandi and I’m an organizing junkie. I’m also a wife, and Momma to four little girls (5, 3.5, 2 and a new baby!). I've worked at home since our oldest was a baby, and like a lot of other moms, my life is a constant balancing act of caring for my family and my home, meeting my obligations and finding time for hobbies in there somewhere. Oh, yeah, in the interest of full disclosure, I’m somewhat of a kitchen dunce and I only like to pretend that I’m crafty. Read more here!

11 Responses to “ Choosing Tools to Help You Create (and Stick to!) a Budget ”

  1. (formerly David Bach’s My Automatic Money Manager) is a good one. Not cheap, but has worked well for me over the last 2 1/2 years.


  2. I had never heard of Outright before. I’m going to check it out. It might be an easier way of keeping books for Dallas Designs!
    [email protected]´s last blog ..Why Can’t We Attain Our Goals? My ComLuv Profile


  3. Our Bank has a wonderful online budget program that goes right along with our online banking…it’s FREE! I also found a couple different spreadsheets under Google Docs that I have found very helpful for tracking our expenses thru the month and then giving a good overview at the end of the month. Also FREE! I was using for about a month and thought it was working well, but my husband did not like the idea of a ‘free budgeting website’ having access to all of our account information.


  4. I use Dave Ramsey’s Personal Finance software (although, right now I cannot, as it is not compatible with Windows 7 yet). I love it!

    Thanks for the great list, Mandi!
    Amy @ Amy Loves It!´s last blog ..Easy Reading with the Kindle App My ComLuv Profile


  5. I would LOVE to use, but I can’t use it with my local credit union because it hasn’t partnered with it yet. Bummer! I purchased YNAB a while ago and am still tweaking it, but it seems like a great resource.


  6. I love! It has so many features that I love. Here are a few of them:

    - let’s me know when I go over budget in an area that I set a budget for (ie. music-too much spending at itunes!)

    - let’s me know immediately if my bank charges me any type of fee

    - downloads my transactions and actually places them in the categories they are supposed to go!

    LOVE IT!
    Rebecca Buscemi´s last undefined ..If you register your site for free at My ComLuv Profile


  7. I’ve been using on and off since it began. I love it and find it hard to live without it. I also use
    Carla | Green and Chic´s last blog ..Giveaway: EcoSMART Home Pest Control My ComLuv Profile


  8. many of these I didn’t know about before – thanks!

    I’m using pen and paper myself now, too, because for me that seems to make it a little more “real” for me where we are (we’re working the debt snowball of Dave Ramsey’s baby steps)

    Great resources!
    Kara´s last blog ..Head of the Class: Eco-Friendly Lunch Containers for a Smarter Planet My ComLuv Profile


  9. I can’t say enough good about YNAB. We’ve been using it for about 4 years now and it has made a tremendous difference in our financial life. (And we were pretty budget conscious even before we started using it). It’s just a great tool to keep everything organized, helps keep you honest from month to month and it is really easy to use as it downloads our statements both from our bank and credit card.


  10. We’ve used Quicken since 1999 and it really is the best software out there for keeping track of your finances. Downloads from banks are easy with one step and we just set up our budget once a year. We like to make a game out of beating the budget and usually spend anything leftover (or “saved”) on a year end trip!


  11. Hi Mandi,

    We’re honored you include Outright in your list of personal budgeting programs! I also wanted to point out that while there will be some paid services as the application grows (such as the $5 1099 filing service we launched last month), the core service will always, always remain free. We’re all about helping the sole-proprietor or small business owner simplify, and nothing is simpler than free. :)

    Thanks again for the shout out! Also, I love your blog and am going to RSS it. While I keep my business organized with Outright, some other parts of my life (like paper clutter. Eek.) are a hot mess!
    Jennifer @ Outright´s last blog ..Bookkeeping Helps Business Owners Make Money (If You Keep Up with It) My ComLuv Profile


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