There are so many ways to track your expenses: traditional pen & paper, mobile apps, computer programs, envelopes, online apps, and many more. No matter which method you choose, tracking your expenses is key to maintaining your spending plan. How do you know if you’re sticking to your budget if you don’t know how much you’re spending? It’s also a great activity as you’re developing a spending plan, because it allows you to see what you actually spend on items and inform how you may need to re-prioritize your budget. You might be surprised where your money is going.
Tracking your expenses online is not only convenient but it’s less time consuming than more traditional methods. Thankfully, there are several different websites that offer free, high-quality expense tracking systems. LearnVest, Mint, and GoodBudget are three expense-tracking platforms that offer mobile applications as well. These websites make it easy for you to track what you spend, because they sync to your bank accounts, allowing you to see all of your expenses in one place. LearnVest offers step-by-step guidance and, for an extra fee, the option to work with a financial planner on creating a spending plan that can help you meet your financial goals. GoodBudget takes the traditional envelope budget system and transforms it into a virtual system – very helpful for those that do not wish to sync their accounts to an online system. Mint, a fan favorite, allows you to customize your budget and presents your data in an aesthetically pleasing way!
When choosing an online expense-tracking tool, consider these 3 things:
- Security – Make sure that the tool you use, whether paid or free, uses bank-level security to protect your financial data. Install any updates ASAP to reduce security issues.
- Usability – If you do not find the tool useful or don’t check it often, it’s not going to be helpful. Choose a tool that you feel comfortable navigating and will be motivated to use.
- Lifestyle – Your budget, as well as the tools you use, revolves around your lifestyle. For example, if you have limited access to the internet, using internet apps might not work for you.
No matter which method you choose, it’s important to select a method that works for you and your lifestyle. For more information on expense tracking, check out this great resource from GetRichSlowly.
Written by Alex Ziskind and Andrea Pellegrini, University of Illinois USFSCO Student Money Management Center