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Best Family Budgeting Software

Updated on July 23, 2012
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Keith Schroeder writes The Wealthy Accountant blog with 30 years experience in the tax field. He is the tax adviser of Mr. Money Mustache.

I have heard all the excuses; used most of them myself. “Budgeting is too hard.” “I forget to write stuff down.” “Do I really have to?”

Budgeting is NOT that hard. You can do this. Take a deep breath and exhale slowly through the mouth.

It is easier than ever today to build and maintain a budget. Software makes budgeting a snap. Some might say it is even fun. And it should be fun. Budgeting reduces financial stress, reduces the chance of financial surprises, and allows you to have more with what you already have.

You still need to write it down. From pre-formatted Excel worksheets to advanced family finance tools like Quicken make the job a simple. No math is required. Software is available for simple budgets and complex financial situations. Many programs allow you to write checks and balance your checkbook in an instant.

Budget Template

Do you budget?

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Free Worksheet Downloads

Some downloads are free, others have a free trial period, and others charge up front. I don’t mind paying for a good program as long as I can try it out first. If it does not suit my needs, I let the trial period lapse. If the software does the job (makes my life easier), then I open my wallet.

Cnet has several good budgeting programs, but charge without a trial period. Christianpf.com has 10 excellent budgeting spreadsheets. You enter your information online or download the template. Christianpf has a large amount of additional financial help: worksheets for insurance, banking, investing, debt elimination, and more. They have Excel and Word templates for most financial needs plus helpful advice.

Other good Excel and Word templates are available at vertex42.com and Ducksoftware.com. Ducksoftware looks pretty compared to a regular Excel worksheet, but functions just as well. Each has a wide selection of choices.

Two Rules of Budgeting

Budgeting should encourage you. Budgeting takes a small amount of time when done right and grants you financial freedom. There are two rules when building and maintaining a budget:

  1. Income must exceed expenses. Spending more than you earn is a disaster waiting to happen, not a budget.
  2. Every time incomes or expenses arrive it gets applied to each budget category.You live within the budget you set up.

These two rules, when followed, allows budgeting to work for you. Since you can download templates, your setup time is reduced 95%. You need to decide what your priorities are and fill in the budgeted amounts as your personal situation dictates.

Advanced Budgeting

A large number of assets will require personal finance software. Intuit has two excellent products: Quicken for personal finance and QuickBooks for businesses. Quicken has extra bells and whistles you may find helpful. You can also print checks, balance your checkbooks and credit cards, and manage assets in one place. Quicken has a large number of management tools. You can print charts and compare one month or year to the next, plotting your progress. Quicken is worth the investment.

Businesses can start with Excel templates, too. As the business grows, QuickBooks becomes a valuable and necessary tool. QuickBooks is more expensive than Quicken because it has a massive quantity of management and accounting tools.

Do you have a family budget?

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Do you stick to it?

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The Not So Free

Quicken has a trial period I encourage you to use. The cost is small and depends on the version you want. You Need A Budget (YNAB) is another excellent choice with an easy interface. As long as there are a number of tools and templates that serve your needs, it is well spent money.

Business software costs more than personal finance software. Business software provides significant additional resources for managing finances. Paying $15 for templates that help you manage your money and help you save are worth it. With the wide range of free templates out there, most people can start a family budget today without any cost.The single best factor in any family budget software is use. Unused software accomplishes nothing. If a program motivates you to action, it is worth the time and money.

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