Do Online Budgeting Tools Work?
Personal budgeting can be done many different ways. Online budgeting tools are one of the latest options. But are they for you? And, just as importantly, do they work?
What is online budgeting?
This version of personal budgeting is simply using the variety of financial tools that are available online to do personal budgeting or family budgeting. They range from very simple to more complex. The advantage to these is that your information can typically be accessed from anywhere that you can get to the Internet. You don't have to carry around pencil and paper or be tied to your home computer software.
There are many different tools available online to help manage your finances. You may be using some of these - at least in part - to help you keep track of things already.
- The free service at your bank. This is really just online banking. Before the Internet, the only way to check your accounts was to wait until the end of the month when the statement arrived or go to the bank and go through it line by line with an associate at the bank. Now you can see your information almost instantly. Plus, online banking allows you to transfer money between accounts, verify if a specific check has paid on your account, and set up automatic payments for bills. The ability to see what is going on with your finances is a powerful tool when trying to save money.
- Online versions of your favorite budgeting software. With the portability of many of its customers along with safety concerns, Quicken offers an online version of its popular software program. The virtual grandaddy of budgeting software, Quicken provides nearly every aspect of personal budgeting you could want. Plus, it has an excellent track record and is very user-friendly.
- Online budgeting tools that allow you to access your budget from nearly any PC. If you are on vacation and want to check your finances or see how much you have used of the money budgeted for the vacation you can do that. The software allows you to monitor your spending as you spend and not at the end of the month (similar to online banking but more robust). In theory, at the end of the month the damage is already done. Identifying problems as they occur instead of after they've occurred can save more money each month. One of the best in this category is Mint.com. It's free and easy to sign up at their site.
- Financial websites offer tips for personal budgeting along with free worksheets to fit any budgeting style. The grids are already set up along with category suggestions. You can get a start on this by reviewing the basics of creating a personal budget here and then pick a website that has worksheets to fit your needs for personal budgeting or family budgeting. The most popular personal finance magazines have these tools on their websites. Check out Kiplinger.com for a quick start on building your budget.
The bottom line is that online budgeting tools work, but your success is really based on finding one that works best for you. There are really good free options as well as ones that can cost up to $100. Ones that cost money offer more features but you may not need them or find them confusing. If you are just starting out and are committed to personal and famlily budgeting, free tools will support your goals.
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