I’m always looking for new financial tools, and there are many I’ve used off and on for a long time. But when all is said and done, I typically return to my beloved Excel spreadsheet to lay out my budget. It’s just simpler—and simple works for me. Over the years I’ve learned that the key to sticking to a budget is to pick budgeting tools I can use with confidence. Learn more about how this simple tip can make sticking to your budget easier!

Set your budgeting goals

Before you can decide which budgeting tools you need, you should set your budgeting goal(s). For most of us, our goals are pretty simple—we want to save more, spend less, pay off debt, and give to others when we can.

If you have one goal that takes top priority, you may want to choose a tool (or combination of tools) that highlights tracking your money towards that goal, but the ultimate goal here is to achieve total mastery of our finances—by any means necessary. Picking the right tools for you and your specific goals is key to accomplishing this.

5 Types of budgeting tools

These five options can be used on their own or together to help you achieve your budgeting goals. Being comfortable with the tools you choose is key, because this ensures you’ll use them regularly.

1. Pen and paper: Old school never goes out of style! Sometimes it’s best to literally write down what your budget should be (just make sure you have a safe place for these papers!).

2. Spreadsheet-based system: KCL's Coupon Spreadsheet and Dave Ramsey's spreadsheet forms both offer helpful ways to be begin your budgeting.

3. Online budgeting software: Mint.com and ReadyforZero are both great examples. You can also see what your bank has to offer in terms of app-based and online banking tools. Some banks even offer Mint-type online budgeting tools, such as Bank of America's My Portfolio tool. 

4. App-based system: BUDGT and DebtMinder are helpful budgeting tools that you can always have with you. Many banks today also have app-based tools you can use for free that sync with your accounts.

5. Combination of tools. If you have the time and inclination, many of these tools can combine quite readily to serve you in achieving your budgeting goals. Just make sure they’re tools you’ll use often and tools that will help you reach your specific goals!


Need more budgeting tips? Make sure to keep up with our Budgeting Survival 101 series:

Budget Survival 101: Choose the Right Learning Tools

Budget Survival 101: Make Your Funds Hard to Access

Budget Survival 101: Change Your Bank

Budget Survival 101: Change Your Billing Cycle Dates and Use Auto-Pay

Budget Survival 101: Overestimate Expenses and Underestimate Income

Budget Survival 101: Simplify Your Budget

Budgeting Survival 101: Choose Budgeting Tools You Can Use