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Personal Finance Basics

April 29, 2022

5 Budgeting Tools To Sort Your Finances

Plenty of people want to manage their money better, but aren’t sure how to begin. Maybe you don’t know how much you’re spending or where your money goes, preferring to stay blissfully in the dark.

Perhaps you made a New Year’s resolution to sort out your finances. But then a month goes by… and you find that nothing has really changed.

That’s what makes budgeting tools so appealing - they promise to help you create a budget planner and track your spending, making the whole process easy. We’ll run you through the best tools and apps to consider in just a moment.

But first, a little about what budgeting is, and why it makes most of us recoil.

The basics: What does a budget include?

Before we jump head-first into the best budgeting tools, let’s take a step back and consider what a budget actually involves. There are two key aspects to a budget - your incomings (what you earn), and your outgoings (what you spend).

Ideally, you start by setting a target or financial goal as the motivation or reward. It could be something tangible such as buying a car, going on a holiday, or saving for a house deposit, or simply your future financial security or putting money away for retirement. Then you aim to track your outgoings to be less than your incomings to help you get to those goals. It’s pretty simple, really!

Rethinking the key hurdle to budgeting - your mindset

Budgeting has a pretty bad reputation. Who hasn’t heard the claim that if you eat avocado toast now, you’ll never afford to buy a house? The underlying (false) idea is that budgeting for the future means no fun or enjoyment in the present. To be “budgeting” isn’t inspiring for most people.

You might currently view it as boring and restrictive, but that isn’t the only way to conceive of a budget. Instead, another way to think of your budget as a way to benefit your future, by being a bit more conscientious now. Once you get over the first hurdle and start budgeting, tracking your future savings can actually be very empowering.

If the term ‘budgeting’ makes you feel disheartened, why not flip the script and call yours a spending plan? It’s just a small mental trick, but it can make a big difference and remind you of why you’re doing this. It can also help you establish great money habits.

We also have plenty of tips for organising your budget, but for now, we’ll focus on the tools.

The tools: What is the best budgeting app?

Luckily, there are plenty of great tools and apps out there to make creating and sticking to a budget simple. We’ll take you through some of our favourite budgeting tools, so you can choose the one that feels right for you.

Sorted budgeting tool

So, how do you create a budget for a beginner? Sorted.org.nz is a good place to start, with a free budgeting tool on their website. You start by putting in your income, and then Sorted steps you through a few quick questions about your living arrangement, family, transport, saving goals, and debt.

The website creates a report, where you can enter all of your spending in their suggested categories - groceries, gym, power, petrol, and countless others. Sorted then tells you how much money you have left over for saving toward your goals.

The beauty of this tool is its simplicity and lack of intimidation. Sorted holds your hand throughout the process, and even lets you decide whether to view their report as a list or visually.

Pros: This is a great beginner’s tool, giving you an overview of how you’re spending your money, and where you could save. Sorted does most of the hard work for you, and it’s highly visual - great for those who get a bit queasy and overwhelmed looking at a spreadsheet. Plus, it’s free!

Cons: There’s no app version of the Sorted tool, so it’s not as easy to refer to regularly. Sorted also doesn’t have all of the high-tech features of a budgeting app that allow you to track your spending on the go. You may find that it’s the perfect place to start, but not your long-term budget planner.

Perfect for: Beginners or anyone finding the process of nailing down their spending and creating a budget a little daunting.

PocketSmith budgeting tool

If you want something a little more sophisticated and which you can easily take with you, the PocketSmith budgeting tool is a great choice. Available on desktop and as an app, PocketBook imports transaction information directly from your bank, categorises your spending for you, and projects how much you’ll save in the future.

Pros: PocketSmith is a comprehensive budgeting tool that automates your financial tracking, taking a lot of the hassle out of your budgeting.

Cons: The basic PocketSmith plan is free, which is a great place to start - but if you want automatic bank feeds or long-term projections, you’ll be dishing out $7.50 a month. However, within the context of potentially significant savings, $7.50 isn’t a huge expense.

Perfect for: Anyone wanting to make budgeting part of their day to day. The focus is not just creating a budget, but easily analysing spending over time, and tracking against projected savings.

Spendee budgeting tool

The second budgeting app on our agenda is Spendee. With their focus on colourful graphics and charts, Spendee gives you tonnes of information about your spending habits at a glance. Like PocketSmith, Spendee is available on desktop and as an app, plus they link into your bank accounts, e-wallets, and even crypto currencies.

Pros: We love how visual the Spendee app is! Plus it has plenty of great features like integration with banks, categorisation of your spending, customised budgets for specific events (think ‘my Bali holiday budget’) - and it offers a seven day free trial.

Cons: Like PocketSmith, Spendee has a free version but you need a paid subscription to get the most out of their app. The good news is that it’s a bit cheaper than PocketSmith, at $1.99 a month.

Perfect for: Anyone who wants the total budgeting tool belt, and loves a free trial.

Wally budgeting app

The final app deserving of some spotlight is Wally. Unlike the others, Wally is a mobile app only. They have some fantastic extra features, like creating specific ‘budgeting periods’ when you need to ramp up your frugality to meet a specific goal, joint family budget plans, and the ability to upload bills, receipts and even warranties.

Wally even has a feature for creating grocery lists, and has a calendar where you can track past and upcoming payments.

Pros: Wally is a truly comprehensive budgeting tool. Features out the ears, you might say.

Cons: The Wally price list is a bit of a head-spinner, with different discounts and prices depending on the features you want to buy. Figuring out what you want and signing up is the biggest hurdle.

Perfect for: The budgeter who wants it all.

A simple budget spreadsheet

If you’re allergic to the word ‘spreadsheet’, you aren’t alone. However, a budget spreadsheet like Kernel’s can be a really simple, no-fuss way to sort out your finances.

Pros: A spreadsheet is totally dynamic, so it can be organised to suit whatever spending and financial goals you have. Plus, it’s free and all you need to create one is a computer. No apps, nick nacks or gadgets required.

Cons: You won’t get any of the fancy add-ons of a budgeting app, and entering your spending information is manual. Plus, we’re the first to admit that spreadsheets aren’t for everyone.

Perfect for: Go-getters. Anyone who’s willing to roll up their sleeves and tinker away at Excel for a few minutes. Those who want full customisation and can trust themself to update their spreadsheet without an app doing it for them.

Picking the best tool for you

There are plenty of great budget tools out there, all of which help people to gain control over their finances. But how to choose the right one for you?

If you just want to figure out your basic earning and spending habits, Sorted is the perfect place to start. However if you want something for tracking your spending and savings over time, a spreadsheet or an app is the next step for managing your finances.

Our biggest piece of advice is to pick the tool that you’ll actually use. Not the most complicated one that will make you feel really financially savvy for about five minutes, but the one that you can imagine integrating into your life. That’s what you’re aiming for - something that will work for you long-term, which means it’s easy to use now and has great results in the long-run. Sticking to a budget, especially until the habit is formed, can be difficult enough without the tool making it harder.

Christine Jensen

Marketing Manager

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