This isn’t an education entry but budgeting & managing expenses is something everyone should do!
I’ve been budgeting since I got out of college to track my spending. I used an Excel spreadsheet that got more and more refined over the years. It was based on the envelope system, where my expenses were broken up into categories and each category (envelope) got a specific percentage of my income each month. My categories were save, give, bills, groceries, gas, eat out, and debt. I decided to look for an app to manage my budget when I got to the point where whenever I wanted to make a change or add a category in my budget, I would have to modify a handful of formulas and equations.
I came across two solid budgeting apps; GoodBudget and EveryDollar.
I started using GoodBudget earlier this year. It seemed to do everything I was doing in my spreadsheet, except it was a lot prettier, easier, and had an app.
- all current balances seen on home screen in a compact area (no scrolling)
- remembers transactions, so when I type in ‘Shell’ it remembers that I put that in the ‘gas’ envelope last time and I don’t have to select that
- comments made with transactions can later be seen when you hover the mouse over the transaction (1 less click)
- has ‘goal’ envelopes which are ideal when saving for vacation or a larger purchase
- the app makes it easy to document transactions away from the computer
- various reports are helpful to see spending patterns (I realized I had been spending a large portion of our ‘eat out’ money on my lunches at work)
- only 10 envelopes with the free version
- tracking debt not available with free version
- no connection to my bank account, which would be useful so I don’t have to type in all my transactions
- only able to connect two devices to my account
- set up isn’t difficult but isn’t super intuitive either
EveryDollar is an app released by Dave Ramsey’s company. I listen to the Dave Ramsey Show pretty frequently. It’s a podcast all about money, particularly getting out of debt and building wealth. I was pretty excited about it as my budget was designed after the principles he teaches (the envelope system).
- unlimited envelopes
- envelopes can easily be grouped into categories (food category could have ‘groceries’ and ‘eat out’)
- debt tracking with free account
- guidance through the Dave Ramsey ‘baby steps’ to get out of debt and build wealth
- app has a great user interface
- limited reports of spending (really just a pie chart of planned, spent, and remaining money)
- transaction history is a couple clicks away as opposed to having it always present in GoodBudget
- though the web interface is smooth, you have to scroll down to see all of your envelopes; doesn’t seem like a big deal but I had gotten used to seeing all my info in a small space with GoodBudget
- adding a transaction is a bit more tedious; click on the envelope, click on add transaction, click ‘add comment’ if you want one, then type in your note. Doesn’t remember transaction destinations and it takes two clicks to see what comment you made on the transaction.
- paid version is pretty steep ($100/yr) to connect to bank account
I think the EveryDollar app is going to get a lot better over time. I originally didn’t use GoodBudget when I first discovered it a couple years ago because it didn’t really do what I wanted it to, but it became refined over time. For now I’ll stick with GoodBudget and will be watching to see what changes EveryDollar makes. A less expensive paid plan, more compact web interface, more detailed reports, and quicker transaction logging would be enough to get me to switch.
Other options are Mint and You Need A Budget. Mint does a great job of showing your spending patterns but not such a great job of actually creating a plan of what to do with your money. You Need A Budget is $60 so I’ve never used it.
Are you on a budget? Do you use any apps or just a traditional spreadsheet? Have you tried any of the above apps?