Many people see personal budgeting as an unnecessary bore.

Yet, when it comes to personal finances, there is nothing more important to prevent debt, decrease stress and get you tracking towards your financial goals.

It doesn’t matter how much money you have, a personal budget is a must, and never more so than when you have just started life as a single parent.

Not only that, budgeting is actually pretty easy. Yes, it can take time to collate your figures into your first ever budget spreadsheet. From then on, it’s about tweaking, adjusting, and in many cases, seeing your money grow.

Best of all, budgeting can be done completely free by using simple tools found online. Of course, each has advantages and disadvantages. So, to ensure you have no excuse not to budget, we’ve taken the hard work out of choosing the perfect personal budgeting tool for you.

1. MONEYSMART

Moneysmart’s budget templates lets you work out where your money is going, create your own custom items and change currencies. Use the simple money manager to guide you step-by-step (comes with audio) or choose the Excel version if you prefer to budget using that software. The planner automatically saves data on your computer or mobile device, or you can turn off autosave by default.

Record your income and spending on home and utilities, insurance and financial, groceries, personal and medical, entertainment, transport and auto, and your children on a weekly, fortnightly, monthly, quarterly or annual basis.

The Moneysmart budget planner is perfect is you want a quick picture of your spending, but it’s not designed to be a bookkeeping tool. You can’t set a monthly budget and compare it with actual income and expenses, for example. Moneysmart recommends updating your budget regularly with actual income and expenses to make it as accurate as possible.

2. BUDGET CONNECT

Plan your finances and improve financial fitness with a basic budget template from Budget Connect. It’s one of the simplest budget templates we’ve found. It’s super easy to setup and use, even for complete beginners. Income, expenses, and savings are separated into sections. Input your income in the first section with the frequency (monthly, weekly, fortnightly), the budgeted amount and the actual received amount.

Enter all your expenses into the Monthly Budget template to keep track of where your money goes. Don’t worry if you have a long list of items, there’s plenty of space to account for everything. Once your budget for expenses is spent, record that in the space provided to see your total.

The planner shows you exactly how much savings you have at the end of the month so you can budget the right amount for a holiday or whatever you’re saving up for.

3. MINT

Mint has got you covered if you’re looking for flexibility. There are lots of free budget templates for download, including a student, college, daycare, home and simple budget planner. Different templates based on your lifestyle makes it easier to track where your money is going and to spot overspending.

Give the Mint budget planner a try if you’ve tried and failed to start a budget. It’s easy to use and everything you need is included; all you have to do is plug in the numbers. The template is like a digital version of pen and paper, just record and go.

For those new to budgeting, it helps to keep receipts of all your purchases, no matter how trivial, so you can add up exactly how much you’re spending each day or month. Mint’s templates give you visibility on your income and expenses without complicated calculations or unnecessary features.

4. MONEY

Money offers a free budget spreadsheet to track income, expenses and debt that might be causing you a lot of stress right now. Make sure to read the ultimate budget planning guide if you’re new to budgeting. It walks you through the entire process step-by-step.

The guide shows how a budget plan works, how you can use it to save money, how to create one using a free template, and what to include/exclude. It also has financial tips and advice to help you stay on track and keep motivated.

Money’s budget planner spreadsheet lets you record your earnings, expenses, debt, and financial goals. It’s simple enough for complete beginners but also customizable for more advanced budgeters. Money aims to give all Australians the opportunity to find ways to save money, set goals and then build them into a budget.

5. MOZO

Mozo’s online budget calculator is a handy tool that tracks your income, expenses and what’s left over to give a complete picture of your finances. It also tracks loans and cards, insurance and super, transport and entries for your fun fund, including holidays, hobbies, gifts and more.

No need to download anything, simply head to the Mozo budget calculator page to start creating your budget. It’s easy to use and simpler than an Excel spreadsheet. Just enter the numbers in the boxes and select frequency (from weekly to yearly) and the calculator will show how much money you have left and how much you are overspending by.

Note that the list of items cannot be edited. There’s a space for “other” to add whatever’s not on the list, but it’s only one line. This should be enough for most people but if you need more space for entries, consider using Excel or downloading a more detailed budget planner.

6. THE BALANCE

The Balance lists a number of free budget spreadsheets for beginners and experienced budgeters alike. A premade budget template can be easier to use and maintain for a lot of people. The items are already organized into neat sections, just enter the amounts and frequency. Expand or customize the budget as needed based on your lifestyle and specific situation.

The Balance lists downloadable spreadsheets from Vertex42, It’s Your Money, PearBudget, Google Sheets, Tiller Money, and Microsoft Office. These are premade templates that let you enter items and amounts for income and expenses and view a summary based on the frequency that you have set.

Choose from different templates to manage your finances easily. You can create a budget for big events like weddings, a new business, routine family expenses, college, and daily expenses. The more you use the spreadsheet the “smarter” it gets, showing your earning, spending, and saving habits.

7. MICROSOFT

Microsoft has an entire suite of budget planning templates ready to download and use. There’s literally a template for everyone, from business owners to families to employees. At least five family budget templates are available, as well as templates for college students and for event planners.

Some templates are more complex than others. Look for the word “simple” in the title if you’re totally new to budgeting and want something easy to use. We like the family budget template that can track income, expenses and cash flow and present you with graphs and charts – perfect for visual learners. Try the budget wheel for another fun way to see where your money goes.

Excel users will love the detailed and customizable templates showing estimated and actual costs for individual items and the difference in amount. Keep it simple or be as fancy as you like, it’s up to you.

8. MY BUDGET

A lot of people don’t have a budget or don’t know how to make a budget. Stop wondering where your money goes and get a full picture of your finances with the My Budget template. My Budget’s free personal budget template takes the pain out of budgeting and does most of the work for you.

Enter your sources of income, money going out, and see how much you have left at the end of the month. With a clear picture of your financials, it’s easy to cut back on areas where you overspend and save money towards your financial goals, like a new house or car.

Note that the website requires you to sign up and give your name, email and postcode before you can download the template. You will get their email newsletter with financial tips, but you can unsubscribe at any time.

9. FINDER

The app Finder offers a free budgeting template to help you save more money and sort out your finances. When you use their budget template, you’ll have a better picture of where your money is going. You’ll be able to cut back on unnecessary spending, save more towards a big purchase, and spend more on luxuries without the guilt.

The premade template is easy to use and everything is organized in sections. Simply download and fill in the amounts and other details. Then print it out and hang it on your fridge or anywhere you can see it a lot. This helps with accountability and keeps you motivated to stick to your budget when you feel the urge to go on a shopping spree.

If you want to start completely from scratch, Finder also has a blank budget template available for download. Whichever template you choose, Finder recommends starting at the beginning of a new week or month when creating your budget.

10. BUDGET SIMPLE

BudgetSimple offers an online budgeting software to help manage your finances, whether you want to track of your spending or you want to aggressively reduce credit card debt and start saving more. BudgetSimple is completely free and easy to use. Ideal for families and single mums, it helps you find the best ways to get out of debt and start saving for the future.

Enter your income and expenses, and the app will analyze your finances to help you create your very own budget planner. It recommends areas where you can grow savings or cut back on expenses. Unlike other budgeting software, BudgetSimple is geared for beginners. It’s simple, fast and secure. Create a budget in a few minutes and identify problem areas as well as saving opportunities.

If you feel you’re ready to graduate to more detailed budgeting, you can sign up for their paid software to save even more money.

Belinda Eldridge
Posted by Belinda Eldridge
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