KJ: The first step toward financial security begins with one word: budget. While sometimes the word can trigger images of pulling teeth or getting mauled by bears after falling down a rocky slope, it’s truly the only way to know if you are on track. You start by figuring out your income sources (for most of us that’s pretty easy…a salary) less your expenses. If you haven’t tracked your expenses before, you will be in for a surprise! If nothing else, you will have some great ‘AHA’ moments of ‘OH, that’s where my money goes!’
The bottom line is…if you don’t know what you spend, you don’t have a clue what you can save or what you’re aiming for. Think of it like sailing across the ocean without a compass, map, or eyesight. You aren’t likely to get very far, especially not to your intended destination.
Fortunately with today’s technology, there are a lot of tools available to help track and manage a budget. My particular favorites are Mint.com and Quicken, which are owned by the parent company, Intuit. Mint.com is a very easy, user-friendly personal financial tracking system. You go to the site and input your various credentials to other financial institutions to link your bank accounts (checking, savings), brokerage/investment accounts, loans (home, auto, student), and you can setup your own values of other assets (what you own). Not only is it free, but it has a robust budgeting tool to be able to quickly and easily stay on track at any point in time during a month. After you have a steady handle on budgeting they also have functionality to track your net worth and expenses over time (checkout the “Trends” part of the site).
They have some great mobile versions, so if you don’t have your computer around (as is true for my wife and I when we are at home), you can download the free apps for Android, iPhone, and iPad.
Some of the links in the post above may be affiliate links. This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, we will receive an affiliate commission. We feel strongly about only recommending products or services we use personally and/or believe will add value to you, our readers. Read more about our commitment to providing quality product recommendations.