4 Budget Tools You Can Master in One Hour or Less




Budgeting shouldn't be hard, and it doesn't have to be.

Who has time for a complicated budget system? For many, time to learn and confusion about features are two of the biggest factors in avoiding a workable budget in the first place.

But budgeting doesn't have to come in a complex package with a hundred bells and whistles that you'd need an accounting degree to understand. There are simple tools that you can master in an hour or less, and here four of the best:

The Envelope System is Tried and True

This budgeting method hails from a bygone era, but it still works today. The envelope system is efficient, and you've got a visual aid -- your money -- in the palm of your hand. It might take some time to adjust to the idea of spending cash instead of swiping a debit card through the machine at cash registers. But that's how it was done for generations, and it's still doable.

Here's how the envelope system works. You'll label an envelope for each separate expense that you incur on a regular basis, such as food, fuel for your vehicle, and entertainment. Into each envelope goes the cash money that you have allotted for each expense.

The envelope system works because once the budgeted money is spent, it's gone. But you'll have to resist the urge to dip into another envelope to pay for something that's over your budget.

Naturally there are expenses that you can't add to the envelope system, such as your mortgage or rent payment, utilities, and other bills that you must pay using a check or debit card. But for everything else, the envelope system keeps your daily spending in control.

Logged Expenses Reveal Trends

This system is more of a tracking tool than an overall budget tool, but variable or non-required expenses are big budget busters. Taking control of this single aspect of your finances can yield great results.

Logging expenses takes nothing more than a pad and pen. You'll also need a calculator if math isn't your native language. If you want to get really fancy, buy an accounting ledger to make your entries.

At the end of a week, you can tally each purchase and determine how much of your budget is devoted to controllable expenses. At the end of the month, tally again and you might really be in for a shock. The benefit of logging expenses is to show patterns in spending. Once you know your habits and the real effect they have on your budget, you can make better choices.


If you've got a computer, you've probably got spreadsheet software.

Basic Spreadsheets are Quick and Accurate

Anyone with a computer has a spreadsheet program. This is a valuable tool for recording every aspect of your budget, including income, expenses, and savings. Just don't let the array of functions and features intimidate you.

Electronic spreadsheets are a bit more than smart accounting ledgers. They serve a similar purpose, but give you ways to calculate without using a calculator. Accuracy is a good thing. Features are virtually endless, but all you need to know is how to enter data, and how to add and subtract columns of numbers.

Once you get comfortable with the most basic features, you can start experimenting with other functions such as tables, charts, and graphs.

Mint.Com Budget Software Makes Everything Simpler

If you want the best of all of these simple budget managing tools in one place, there's no better way to get it than with Mint.com budget software. In minutes, you'll be up and running.

Mint products let you enter checking and savings accounts, credit cards, utility bills, mortgage or rent, groceries, and any other budget category that you can imagine. It's customizable, since nobody else's budget is quite like yours.

Taking simplicity to the next level is the Mint.com mobile app. From your smartphone or tablet, you can see even the smallest detail of your finances no matter where you happen to be. It also lets you enter cash purchases, so there's no guesswork and no worries about forgetting to add a purchase. Mint also make those confusing charts and graphs as simple as the touch of a button.

Creating a sound budget is part of financial responsibility. Most people already understand the weight that a good budget carries; it's the time investment and confusion that puts many off.

Mint.com gathers the best budgeting features and puts them all in one place. But the most important thing is the simplicity and accuracy. Instead of scratching your head over complicated programs or spending an unnecessary amount of time to achieve minimal rewards, why not sign up for a free account today and learn how easy budgeting can be?

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