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The Bare Necessities:

Budgeting Software

Part 1

While a little pen and paper never hurt anyone, technology is here to make building and adhering to a budget that much easier.  Just in case you aren’t familiar with the budgeting software on the market, let’s run through a couple of the industry leaders:



Mint by Intuit

Mint allows you to view all your finances in one place, and lets you categorize purchases so you can see exactly where your money is going.  If your banking providers are supported by Mint (most major banks are, and more are being added every day) you can choose to automatically sync checking and savings accounts, credit cards, loans, and investments.  


Mint also allows you to create a budgeting framework, by setting a percent of income or specific dollar amount for categories like “Restaurants” and “Travel.”  You can see where your money will be allocated before you even spend it, so you can make responsible choices instead of spending impulsively.  If you’re someone who loves watching data unfold, Mint is your guy.  Mint has several features geared around creating visual representations of your spending and saving habits.    


The automatic syncing has definitely been Mint’s main advantage in the world of budgeting software (though competitors are catching up), but some people experience issues with purchases not syncing correctly.  No software runs perfectly, but keep this in mind if you choose to sign up for and use Mint’s budgeting features.   



You Need a Budget (YNAB)

Frequently shortened to YNAB, You Need a Budget is an online budgeting system.  In many ways, YNAB is very similar to Mint – it just rolled out automatic syncing, so Mint no longer has the true advantage in that field.  But while Mint is a basic tracking website/app, YNAB comes with a whole budgeting philosophy that is meant to be supplemented by the software itself.  If you aren’t comfortable jumping into this budgeting thing all on your own (and we don’t blame you, it can seem impossible at times), we really recommend looking into YNAB and how it can help you get on the right track and truly reshape your financial habits.


The big downer is that YNAB recently switched to a subscription service – in order to manage your finances, you’ll need to fork over $5 a month or $50 a year.  If you can afford it it’s well worth the investment, but we know this really isn’t an option for those in financial distress.  YNAB’s features will not make or break your finances, they will just help.  



Tip Trackers

Are you a server, bartender, barista, or other tipped employee?  Anyone who has worked one of these jobs knows how unpredictable your income can be, and how hard this can make budgeting for monthly expenses.  These apps (and many others available for both Android and Apple) provide an interface where you can enter in data like total tips made, tip-outs for coworkers, and hours worked.  Depending on the app, you’ll also be able to see information like average tips for a day of the week or time of year, and predict what you will make in future shifts.


One of the downsides to these apps is that you will need to enter all of your tips manually, but the benefit of having this information right in your pocket is well worth the hassle.  Once you’ve built up enough data you can start to design and follow a budget just like a salaried employee, and you’ll never again need to pray for a busy night in order to make rent.   


Budgeting Checklist:

  • Determine your gross and take-home income.
  • Calculate your fixed monthly and yearly living expenses.
  • Estimate your day-to-day living expenses.
  • Sign up for one of the recommended budgeting softwares according to your individual needs.
  • Input all of this information into your chosen software program and get started on your new budget!



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