Ask the Readers: What Is Your Favorite Budgeting Tool?

By Ashley Jacobs on 22 April 2014 (Updated 29 April 2014) 70 comments

Editor's Note: Congratulations to Elena, Kelli, and Linda for winning this week's contest!

We all want to have an easier time managing our finances. That's where budgeting tools come in! They can be as high-tech as a money-tracking-app-doodad, or as simple as a pen and paper. The best tool for the job is what works for you.

What is your favorite budgeting tool?

Tell us about your favorite budgeting tool and we'll enter you in a drawing to win a $20 Amazon Gift Card!

Win 1 of 3 $20 Amazon Gift Cards

We're doing three giveaways — here's how you can win!

Mandatory Entry:

  • Post your answer in the comments below. One commenter will win a $20 Amazon Gift Card!

For extra entries:

  • You can tweet about our giveaway for an extra entry. Also, our Facebook fans can get an extra entry too! Use our Rafflecopter widget for your chance to win one of the other two Amazon Gift Cards:

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If you're inspired to write a whole blog post OR you have a photo on flickr to share, please link to it in the comments or tweet it.

Giveaway Rules:

  • Contest ends Monday, April 28th at 11:59 p.m. Pacific. Winners will be announced after April 28th on the original post. Winners will also be contacted via email.
  • You can enter all three drawings — once by leaving a comment, once by liking our Facebook update, and once by tweeting.
  • This promotion is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered, or associated with Facebook.
  • You must be 18 and US resident to enter. Void where prohibited.

Good Luck!

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Guest's picture
Mary Happymommy

Pen and paper is what works for me!

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Guest

I really enjoy the app SaveUp, it gives you entries into different sweepstakes for saving money and paying off debt.

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Nancy

So far, my favorite tool is an excel spreadsheet. I'm a freelance writer who works project by project with several clients, so my income fluctuates unpredictably. What works best for me is still far from a perfect system. I record all spending and expenses by category in an excel spreadsheet. Then at the end of the year, I look at each category to see if there are cuts I can make. I use last year's income and spending to set monthly targets for each category for the year ahead. As I enter expenses, I periodically filter by category to see how I'm doing against my targets. If I exceed in one month, I know I have to reduce in other months. If someone in a similar situation knows of a better tool or approach, I'd like to hear about it.

Guest's picture

I completely agree with the use of a spreadsheet. Simple and always reliable. The only difference though is I store my spreadsheets using Google Drive. You log-in and access it through a gmail account. That way you can always have access to the files anywhere you go. You work and save the files directly on the website, so there is no need to constantly upload/download. Great if you work from multiple computers or locations.

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Allison

Excel, free and pretty simple to use

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Guest

I use the Personal Capital website software for budgeting. You can link all your accounts and see total net worth all in one place. The software shows portfolio accounts in detail.

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Michelle Coleman

SaveUp is a great help with budgeting. I currently work for a credit union and we offer all employees free financial counseling through a program called Balance. You can get more information about the free counseling from Balancepro.net or balancepro.org.
They offer different tool kits and newsletters on money management including setting up your budget and paying off debt. They also offer calculators to help you calculate how much you should save for retirement or how much you would need to save a month to reach your goal in x amount of years or months. I love it! It has personally helped me start paying down my debt and I am saving 200.00 extra dollars a month by reducing spending on things I don't need, which I discovered using one of the spending tracking toolkits.

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Tim

I use a Google Docs spreadsheet that is customized to work with Dave Ramsey's FPU. It's straightforward and to the point. I can conveniently access it from my phone, tablet and computer.

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A big fan of Mint!

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Gina

Good old fashioned check register and pen.

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Tim

How do you budget with a check register?? Tracking spending sure, but budgeting? hmmm....

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SJH

I'm going to have to go with pen and paper also. Makes it more "real" for me than just numbers on a screen.

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Tami

I love the goodbudget app. Nice way to do an envelope style budget while paying with a debit or credit card.

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J. Pario

Excel spreadsheet.

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Shane L.

I use YNAB software to budget. I had it for about 4 years. Really beneficial

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Elena

I use Excel

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Tiffany S

A self-made spreadsheet on Google Drive so both my husband & I have access to it!

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Lisa

My favorite budgeting tool is the tried and true envelope system.

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Beachgirl

My favorite is YNAB. I used to just use Excel/Google Drive, but this does everything for me in less time and requires less of me. And I like that I can sync my phone or tablet, so that I can see how much I have left in a category when I'm at the store.

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Elina

I use Dave Ramsey's budget spreadsheets from Financial Peace University.

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wribeiro

Buxfer.com simple, multilingual, easy, online, several accounts, customized...

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Saneves

We like pen and paper also, but use BudgetMap as our check register.

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Ellen White

At the start if each month I put $5 in a jar DAILY....voilã each month you are ferreting away a minimum of $150. I put a check mark on the calendar for each day I do this. At the end of the month I can deposit this month in my bank account or squirrel it away to start a fund for a special trip.

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Monica

Pen and paper, or excel. I also like Mint.

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Andy

I use a spreadsheet in Google Drive that forecasts my income, expenses, and cash flow for the next 30 years. I use it not only to track how much I am spending, but also to see if I am on track for retirement or any other future financial goals I have.

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Christie

We used cash and the envelope system for years and still do to some extent. Mostly, we use the credit card for everything now and pay it back out of our cash envelopes. Gotta love getting cash back with our credit card rewards!

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Rebecca B. A. R.

Just using a notebook to track expenses and bills works for our budget.

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Happy Love

I use a calculator at the start of the month, and I check my credit card statement online regularly the rest of the month.

Donna Freedman's picture

I mostly do it in my head, but when I need to get very specific I'll use pen and paper. It helps that my situation is fairly uncomplicated.

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Lisa Jones

halfing a dessert with my boyfriend, and/or sharing a sandwich. also i NEVER order soda anymore. that alone saves tons of calories (which i'd rather blow on dessert, ha) and at least a couple of bucks. it's simple but has saved me much money through the years.

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Jen

I like using Quicken, it easily shows me where my budget is and where I am under/over budget.

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Sharon Jasper

I use my checkbook to pay bills and whatever the amount I pay it gets rounded off to the next dollar. For example, if I pay a bill for $14.05 I round it to $15.00 and this ensures I never bounce a check because my account always has a cushion. I also only take the car out for errands if I can go to more than one place. Otherwise, my trips can wait for another day rather than waste gas.

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Kelly D

Mint.com is my favorite budgeting tool.

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Liz

I really like using Mint. It makes everything so easy and I love that I can track my progress to goals.

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Ryan

I enjoy using the Quickbooks Desktop program.

However, another great tool if going online is www.budgetsimple.com

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Suzy

I use Dave Ramsey's budget sheets to keep me up-to-date.

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An

I still use good old Quickbooks

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Molly

A budget notebook!

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SerenityNow

I find blank budgeting worksheets online and print out a hard copy to use. They tend to include a lot of spending categories that I completely overlook when I make my own budgeting worksheet from scratch, which is really helpful for getting a full picture of my overall spending.

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Nick

KMyMoney - I am a Linux user so there are not many options. This is much easier to use than GnuCash and also offers a version for Windows and Mac.

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jose silva

I've been using mint for a while but it doesn't take all my accounts so I complement with an excel sheet and that keeps me on top of things.

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Guest

Excel!

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Cynthia

I like Mint! It's easy to use. I also have an excel spreadsheet for other accounts that Mint doesn't track.

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Diane

I use an excel spreadsheet to track my budget & for most other tracking purposes. It's simple, I can adjust it as needed and it works for me.

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Jess

I love using a template for a monthly budget in Numbers (Apple). I color code all of the categories and can see right away what is over budget and where we have room to save!

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Leslie

When I first started budgeting I used Excel spreadsheet but it got to be too much of a hassle for me and I went back to pen and paper, sort of. I now use a dry erase board in my office and I see it everyday so it actually helps even more for me to see how my budget is going monthly and keeps me accountable.

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Wendy

YNAB (You Need a Budget). It's not just a budgeting tool, it's a whole new way to look at your money.

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Jill

Mvelopes!! An awesome budgeting tool that streamlines keeping up with your expenses!

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Guest

Excel. Since 2003 I've tracked every penny spent day by day, month by month, year by year. Have tabs for daily expenses, a monthly summary tab, a check ledger, my retirement accounts, net worth, etc. Takes about 15 min. a week or less and I always know exactly where I'm at. Makes budgeting pretty painless.

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Ernest S.

You Need a Budget (YNAB) really helped me get on track. I recommend it to all my family and friends!

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Amy

Mint.com all the way! I've been a power user since 2008 and could not live without it.

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IS

I use Mint for budgeting purpose.

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JL

I found that excel is the best tool to perform budget / forecast type of activities and its easy to use.

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Louly

I use the Mint app to track my budget :)

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Guest

I check my online banking every single day. Some days it is kind of depressing but when my balance is low I know that I can't spend on anything.

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Sara C

I like to use an excel spreadsheet

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KelR1

For years I've been old school and just using pen and paper, but I'm considering trying Mint because I keep hearing good things about it.

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Kim

Mint.com - it's so easy to use and I love the visualizations to track trends over time

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Lynda

i still budget with pen/pencil, paper, and calculator

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Liisa

I use plain old Excel spreadsheets. I tried a fancier budgeting tool and it just seemed more complicated...

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MELISSA HANSSON

I keep a running budget in my moleskin. No fancy apps for me.

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Susan Smith

I use Dave Ramsey's budget spreadsheets and envelopes from Financial Peace University

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StarraeAday1

I've been using YouNeedABudget (YNAB) for one month, and it has completely changed my life and the entire way that I view money and spending. It has been an amazing, night-and-day transformation. Thanks, YNAB!

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DeeDee

Puchasing grocery items on sale, you really have to plan ahead but this really saves money. Grocery sales seem to cycle through every 6 to 8 weeks. sometimes less.

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Bethany

I know this is so old school, but my favorite budgeting tool is the calculator.

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Carmen

Right now I prefer Excel spreadsheets. I've tried using several - including Mint, but the semi-manual process works better for me.

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Amanda Sakovitz

My favorite budgeting tool is a simple list.

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Tabathia B

My tool is to use a calendar and basic spreadsheet to figure out the regular monthly bills and budget for them to be paid early or on time.

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Kfc

I really like the app envelopes!

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Alyss

I use a combination of spreadsheet and Mint. In Google Drive, I budget for each week of the month, then I set up automatic payments in line with my spouses and my different pay dates based on that budget, and then use Mint to track spending and financial goals.