Controlling your expenditure can be tricky, no matter how long you’ve been at it.
Most people know the basic rule: don’t spend more than you earn, and you’ll avoid getting trapped into a hazardous debt cycle. However, managing your finances can often be more complicated than this, particularly if you’re trying to save up for a particular special occasion like a holiday.
Luckily, there are some simple, free tools out there that can help you keep track of your spending. We’ve picked out a few of our favourites.
The piggybank technique
If you’re a fan of the website MoneySavingExpert.com, then you’ll already be familiar with the piggybank technique. This is the particular budgeting tool favoured by Martin Lewis and his band of merry money-savers and there are three versions of it you can use: a spreadsheet-based budget, an online financial analyser tool and a print-out, for those who still prefer to do their sums on paper.
The site advises that it’ll take you about an hour to complete the planner, after which you’ll receive a green or red rating. The colour coding makes things simple: if you’re in the green, you’re doing things right; in the red, and you’ve got some adjustments to make, pronto.
The Money Advice Service
Over the last few years, the Money Advice Service has grown to be one of the most valuable sources of financial help on the web, on everything from mortgages to pensions. It offers two different budget planners: the first takes just five minutes, and helps you work out how much income you have left after your main bills have been paid. The other is more detailed, and lets you create a detailed breakdown of what you’re spending. Depending on how complete a picture you want of your finances, they’re both useful tools that can help you identify the areas you need to rein in.
Looking for a budgeting tool that you can update and access on the go? Goodbudget is one of the most popular and acclaimed budgeting apps around.
Goodbudget works on the tried-and-tested envelope system. When you join, you enter your essential budget categories: e.g., bills, groceries, mortgage payments and transport. Then, every pay day, the app sets aside money for these categories in virtual envelopes, so you know how much income you have left without even having to think about it. You can even create an envelope marked ‘Holiday’ and assign an amount to it, so you’re automatically saving up for a big expense.
Goodbudget is free on iPhone and Android devices, but there’s a paid version too for anyone who needs advanced features.
What are your favourite tools to manage your spending?