Best Budgeting Software to Help You Save for Your Dream Vacation

So, you may or may not have a bit of a spending problem. Maybe you swear up and down that you’re cutting unnecessary costs out of your budget, but for some reason… you are barely above water. Maybe you are an awesome budgeter, but want to keep even tighter reins.  It’s okay to admit that you may need a little help getting your finances in order. I mean, if you do, you can start saving up for that dream Alaskan cruise. I’ll give you a little nudge in the right direction. Want even more help? Budget. Save. Win. will help you, well, budget, save and win.

  1. Mint

I’m a mint lover. The website is contemporary and intuitive for even the least computer savvy of people. It helps you track what you have, what you want, where the money is going and how much of it is going there. I have goals set up for vacations and I get text messages every Friday with a summary of all my money accounts so I can stay on track. This is a web site platform so all of the financial information that you add to your profile will be stored in one convenient place. It’s nice to see the balance on your credit card, loan and bank account with the click of one button. You can even compare your average spending in certain categories to that of the average American. It helps you either feel really, really good, or really bad (which helps you be a better budgeter!)

When it comes to budgeting, Mint can actually learn from you. Yeah, awesome. It will automatically categorize your purchases as they happen (because all of your financial institutions are hooked up so there is not manual entering). However, if Mint categorizes something wrong, or you don’t have a category created for that item yet, you can use easy tools to fix that problem. Mint will actually take note of what you’ve done and apply it to future transactions. You can also learn how to invest your money, how to set up high yields account and more. It’s a budgeting tool but also a great source of education for those of you, like me, that don’t know much ‘bout that stuff. The best part? It’s free!

The short:

Really intuitive user interface

Finance educational tools

Comprehensive overlook of all your financial information from every financial institution

Customizable categories

Split transactions

Average spending comparisons

Bank-grade website security

2. Ibank

You might have guessed that ibank is a product made for the Mac user. It’s a pretty sleek looking personal budgeting application that will make you want to budget. It’s been said by some that ibank is the Quicken killer. I’m not totally sure if that’s true but it definitely holds its ground when it comes to likeminded programs. iBank allows you to download transaction from your bank into the system. Some think this enforces oblivious spending habits, some think that the convenience is well worth it. It allows you to create custom categories and to split transactions which is a great feature. (This means you can say half of this transaction goes to the gas category and half goes to groceries). You can also create up-to-date charts that display your capital gains, ROI, balances and customized summaries.

As for budgeting, iBank, like many other budgeting applications, doesn’t always catch the money that’s falling through the cracks. Money managers suggest that users of this program, and others similar, use discipline to create a category for every single aspect of outgoing money. iBank won’t prompt you to do this, but you should. However, iBank does allow you to create budgets that include income and expense (it would be weird if it didn’t!).You can set up your budget for any time frame that works for you, daily, weekly, monthly, bi-monthly, etc. It also has a budget monitor button that gives you the opportunity to closely watch your spending. This program gives you a free trial, but you will have to purchase it to continue use.

The short:

Colorful spending charts

Forecasting

Customized categories

Split transactions

Budgets summary button

Tax handling

Iphone sync

Download bank transactions

3. Yodlee Money Center

Don’t let this primitive user interface send you running for the hills. Yeah, it may not be your Mint.com quality of clean, crisp and incredibly well-organized, but this money manager has a lot to offer. Money Center has been around for over a decade, which has given the developers time to work out all the kinks and add features that frequent users were requesting. Yodlee has you sign-in to their secure website where you can link up your banks, credit card accounts, investments, loans, real estate and other miscellaneous categories. You can group similar accounts into “quick links” allowing you to access the information together, and eliminate unrelated data.

Yodlee may seem a little busy, and it is. It has unnecessary things like email tracking and news, but it also has a lot of good busyness – things like bill reminders. I know, you don’t want to see it, but it’s a great way to keep track of what’s coming and if you’re prepared to pay it. You can customize your dashboard (the main page you will be working from) which is a nice addition to this system. Money Center will give you a financial planning calendar and online bill-pay as well. If you’re looking for maximum functionality and don’t care much about it being lightweight, then I suggest taking a look at Yodlee’s Money Center. Take some time and learn what the experts have to say on how to save money.

The short:

Online bill pay

Real estate tracking

Secure website

Account grouping to organize data

Bill reminders and financial planning calendars

Categorized charts for spending and income

Portfolio tracker

4.Simple D Budget

SimpleD Budgeting software is a computer based program that needs installation. IF you are more of a worrier about having all of your financial information in one place on sites such as Mint.com (even though they are bank-grade secure) then storing it all on your computer in a program like this is probably the way to go. Unlike the budgeting sites we’ve reviewed so far, SimpleD requires manually entering expenses. Some find this to be more appealing as it forces them to pay super close attention to their spending habits. You can customize your categories and get a visual representation (above) of what percentage of your income goes to what categories. This can immediately put into perspective the avenues of spending you need to nip in the butt.

SimpleD also lets you see trends over a specified period of time. Now you can see if grocery spending is at an all time high in the beginning, middle or end of the month. This could help you allocate more funds for the times you’re bound to need it most. One thing to note, you can only save your financial data as an .XML extension. This extension can only be read within the Simple D software. IF you were hoping to export to Excel – forget it. This is your type of program if you want to keep it simple and straight to the point. If you’re feeling a bit overwhelmed about starting a budget, Clip Your Budget may have some suggestions on getting started.

The short:

Manual logging of transactions

Software based program

No exporting to Excel

Charts to show trends and patterns in spending

Customizable categories

5. BudgetPulse

Get excited. BudgetPulse is here to make your life easier and to put money in your pocket. It’s a free (you heard me!) budgeting and forecasting program. It’s website based, so we’re back to the financial information on the web type of system. The website is incredibly easy to use, even for the not-so-computer-savvy and the financial management features make this a prime time selection. The budgeting aspect allows you to make mini-plans within the bigger financial plan. This really helps you not get lost in the big-saving-money scheme. If you focus on meeting small goals each week, each month and even each year, your chances of success are much higher. This is an innate feature of budgetpulse.

If you’re worried about security, don’t be. You don’t actually connect your financial information to BudgetPulse. Which means, you guessed it, you have to manually enter it in (this also means that you can upload it). This could be the best of both worlds for someone looking for a website based budgeting system because of it’s clean design, but is worried about a breach of security. Win-win. Randomly, this system also has a fundraising feature. So, if you’re looking to raise some dough from unsuspecting family member (er, I mean, ask them nicely) you can keep track of all that right here. Your dashboard will be your go-to to review your income and spending habits.

The short:

Multi-currency use

Secure, no data connected from the internet

Fundraising options

Goal setting features

Visual review of all your accounts and income on the dashboard

Custom categories

Free!

6. Powerwallet

Last but certainly not least we have Powerwallet. Powerwallet is another web based budgeting system – but it’s a little more than that, too. It offers local coupons, offers and daily deals that make this even more budget focused. We all have to eat, right? Why not use coupons to cut some corners. Additionally, they are working on developing a rewards system and opportunities to earn discounts at retailers near you. Talk about customization! Their philosophy is pretty inspiring to: take control of your finances. Simple, but something that we all might need to hear once in a while.

Functionality wise, they’ve got it all. They’re a powerhouse when it comes to user friendliness and comprehensive reporting. You will link your bank account, credit card accounts, loans, etc to the website to maximize tracking efficacy. Powerwallet encourages you to organize your finances and live within your means. You can create custom budgets, create custom categories, and review your current financial situation and online bills all in one place. Its bank level security so your financial information is safe. You can find a cash flow report which will capture your monthly income and spending, giving you a really good visual on what’s going on. You’ve also got a bill calendar that tells you when your bills are due so you don’t get caught up in life – and forget. One last thing, well two last things. One, it doesn’t have a search function within the transactions page which can make finding missing transactions a bit cumbersome. Secondly, and bestly (not a word), it’s free! So head on over to Powerwallet.com to give it a whirl. If you’re not satisfied – cool, just go to one of the other websites we discussed here. Test driving is fun.

The short:

Bill calendar

Cash flow reports

Daily offers and coupons customized to you

Reward point system (coming)

Customizable categories and transactions

Website based with bank level security

Sync to your phone

It’s free!

So there you have it. An introduction to six of the most popular budgeting programs available today. If you are looking for some more complex financial management there are a number of programs for that, too. If you think you need something more business savvy, this tutorial on Quickbooks could get you started. Now go on, get budgeting!