The key to a healthier financial life is to create and follow a budget and know where your money goes each month. But how do you get started? You can find in-depth information about how to build a budget, reduce debt, save for a home or education, and much more online.
A good place to start exploring money management tools is at www.mymoney.gov. The website, which was created by the government's Financial Literacy and Education Commission led by the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Treasury, offers a wealth of information about saving, investing, getting a loan, and budgeting for every stage of your life. You can find:
- budget and expense tracking worksheets
- videos on a range of financial topics
- links to other free money management information sites on the web
The website makes it easy to find the information you need by providing sections that focus on how different life events, such as the birth of a child or retirement, can affect your finances as well as sections for different groups of people, such as military families, women, young adults, and retirees.
If you want to do your budgeting and money management online, there are a number of different types of tools you can use.
Money management tools provided by your bank: Many banks offer free or inexpensive web-based tools that help you create an online budget planner to track your spending and divide it into categories so you see where your money is going.
Password-protected online tools that allow you to upload financial information: There are a number of well-regarded, free sites where you upload information from your bank accounts, credit cards, and other financial resources so you can track spending. Many include email or text reminders when you get close to your monthly budget in a spending category such as groceries, gas, or dining out. Some of these sites also offer additional money management tools for a small monthly fee.
Online tools that don't require you to upload information directly from your accounts: If you have concerns about the security of using an online financial management tool, you could try a site like budgetpulse.com. This site offers free online budget building and money tracking tools.
Apps for your smartphone or tablet: Banks and app developers offer a growing number of tools that let you manage your money and track your spending on the go.
If you prefer not to manage your finances online, but would like to automate your budgeting, explore the many software options available for your home computer.
To find online resources for budgeting and money management, start by doing a web search for “free online budget planner or tracker.” And be a wary consumer. Some sites that claim to be free actually only offer a free trial or limited services, so read all the fine print before signing up.