Around New Year's we all got inundated with articles about “best budgeting tools” on every possible platform. Some of these articles are great (this and this, for example) but it’s easy to get lost in the sea of information they present.
So I made this short series of posts to help you navigate the whys, the hows, and the please-don'ts of Budgeting and Planning for 2017. Below is the first one:
IS THERE an IDEAL BUDGETING APP?
Almost 30 years ago someone I love wrote:
"The fact that a visit to a dentist can be not painful was stunning news!”
She was a recent immigrant from a different... reality. A time and place where most people would only go to the dentist if the pain became can't-sleep-at-night unbearable. Going a couple weeks (or months) earlier would make the treatment less traumatic and maybe not as expensive. But in our collective mind a visit to the dentist felt so daunting and unpleasant, we'd postpone it as much as the pain threshold would allow.
The dentistry came a long way since.
But some things, like the subject of this post, retain similar characteristics when it comes to getting them done - people postpone as much as their pain threshold would allow.
I'm not going to preach why Budgeting is essential. You already know that.
Instead, let’s make it un-painful. Before we dig into "best apps and solutions", let's look which criteria to check when choosing a budgeting tool that'll work best for YOU.
1. Past. Present. Future?
Most budgeting apps focus on tracking rather than planning. Tracking is great and wonderful, it keeps you attached to reality and helps you navigate your spending.
In my book, the whole point of tracking is to help you plan forward better. I can’t really change what I made or spent last week. I can only determine how much I’ll spend or make next week, or month, or quarter.
A good budgeting tool would allow me to PLAN easily.
2. Clean Interface
No one wants to stare at a wall of numbers. Best apps have great visuals to tell your money story. Besides, a beautiful engaging interface increases your chance of, well, engaging with it. The more you engage with your budgeting, the easier it is to develop a healthy habit of consistently managing your finances.
3. Easy to make changes
YNAB, one of my favorites, (more on it next post) calls it “Roll With The Punches”. You will change your budget, especially if you’re just starting Budgeting as a habit. Making changes shouldn't be a struggle, you shouldn't feel you're being punished. I can't help myself but to quote YNAB again, they are just so eloquent: "No guilt. No hand-wringing. It’s a halftime adjustment. A chess grandmaster adapting to an opponent’s silly mistake."
4. Easy to navigate and easy to find details
We all process information differently. Some people need all the info at a glance (well-designed spreadsheets are great for that) . For others, a good search function makes all the difference. Yet for others, the information must be structured in a way that makes sense. Don't know what's your own personal preference? This is what free trials are for. Make sure to choose a Budgeting tool you can navigate without a GPS.
5. Specific purposes (advanced)
Some apps help you invest better. Others focus on saving toward specific goals. Some will even help you get rid of all these subscriptions you aren’t using anymore! So before choosing a budgeting app, ask yourself, does your budgeting have a specific aspect you want to address?
Wait, no links to specific tools? No, that's in the next post.
That's is for today.
In the next few days, I’m going to talk about best budgeting apps and solutions, about reducing anxiety when dealing with money, and about reviewing your financial goals for 2017.