Whether you are trying to reduce debt or interested in pursing investment opportunities, creating a budget is the best place to start. Budgets give you a realistic picture of how much money you are bringing in and spending in a given month. There are many tools, calculators, apps, and worksheets online that can help with this process. Or use the attached excel worksheets to get started.
Simply input your income after taxes and other sources of income (benefits, stipends, allowances, etc.) and subtract reoccurring expenses, including essential and nonessential expenses. If spending varies from month-to-month, averages or estimates can also be used.
In general the 50/30/20 framework is a good rule of thumb to shoot for in your budget. From your net income after taxes, fifty percent of your income to should go towards living expenses, such as housing, food, utilities, and transportation. Thirty percent should go towards discretionary spending or "wants" such as clothes, entertainment, and eating out. Finally, twenty percent should go towards your future financial goals, whether that be saving and investing in your future, or paying down debt.
Mint has you connect your financial accounts, then the app tracks and categorizes your transactions. You’ll get alerts when you’re over your budget in a particular category, if it spots a large or suspicious transaction and if you’ve paid ATM fees. Mint also lets you track all your bills in one place and reminds you when upcoming payments are due. All these features are free — including its credit monitoring service (Source: Nerdwallet). Also regarded as the best free budgeting app by Investopedia.
Free budget app, connects your checking, credit and savings accounts and detects recurring bills and income. Then it shows how much is available for everyday spending by subtracting upcoming bills, savings goal contributions and pre-budgeted money from your estimated income (Source: Nerdwallet).
Zeta is a free budgeting apps designed specifically for couples, joint finances or not. The app caters to all types of couples, including those who are living together, engaged, married, or new parents. You can sync various accounts to track spending, see your net worth, and manage bills together (Source: Investopedia).
Honeydue, which is new to the 2021 list, allows you and your partner to see both financial pictures in one spot, including bank accounts, credit cards, loans and investments. (However, you can choose how much you share with your significant other.) The free budget app automatically categorizes expenses, but you’re also able to set up custom categories (Source: Nerdwallet).
Personal Capital scores high because the company offers the best free tools for wealth building. You can sync your financial accounts in one place to track your net worth, plan for the future with the Retirement Planner, and use the Fee Analyzer to check portfolio fees (Source: Investopedia).