Ultimate Guide to Saving Money & Budgeting - Savings Report
saving money

Ultimate Guide to Saving Money & Budgeting

Saving money works as an insurance policy against unexpected financial situations and it helps fund your retirement. Building your savings can also have other benefits you may not have considered.

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With money saved away, you have psychological power over your career because you don't need your job to pay next month's bills which may give you the ability to walk away from a job that makes you unhappy or even go back to school to get a degree. You also have the freedom to spend more money today to save money in the long run. You can buy higher-quality items that last longer, buy items in bulk when they're on sale, or invest in more energy efficient products that reduce your utility bills.

Unfortunately, many people simply aren't saving enough. Just 40% of adults in the United States could pay for a $1,000 unexpected expense with their savings and about half of Americans are at risk of a lower standard of living when they retire.

You probably already know you should be saving more and have been telling yourself for some time that you need to change your financial habits. Ready to take control of your money and start building your own financial independence? Here's a complete guide to not only budgeting but also saving money wisely for your future. 

Beginner's Guide to Saving Money

You've made the decision to take control of your finances and finally start saving money. Building a savings nest isn't just important for your long-term goals, such as retirement or buying a house, it's also crucial to break the cycle of living paycheck-to-paycheck and achieving real financial success.

Saving more money sounds like a simple concept, but where do you start? How much money should you save? What about investing? Here's what you should know to get started. 

How Much You Should Be Saving Money

There's no hard rule on how much you should be saving each week or each month. It depends not only on your expenses but also your short-term and long-term goals. Still, there are a few strategies you can use to reach your savings goals.

No matter which approach you use, think of saving money as paying yourself first. Your savings deposit should be just another expense on your budget, just like the rent and insurance premiums.

Save a percentage of your income

One of the most basic savings plans is setting aside a specific percentage of your income until you reach your savings goals. A good rule of thumb is 10% or 20% of your income which you can set to transfer automatically from your checking to savings account when you get paid.

Save a fixed dollar amount

If you aren't comfortable with the idea of calculating a percentage of your income, choose a dollar amount you can comfortably save each month. It may only be $50 or it may be several hundred. It doesn't matter if you start with a small amount; the key is to start saving something.

Use the 50-30-20 plan

This basic budgeting model means 50% of your income goes toward fixed expenses like rent, car payments, and utilities; 30% goes toward debt and discretionary spending; and 20% goes toward all savings and financial goals, including retirement or an emergency fund.

Where Should Your Savings Go?

You probably don't just have one goal for saving money. If you have very little saved right now, you should be thinking of an emergency fund but also retirement. You may also want to save for a specific goal such as a down payment for a home or a new car.

To give you motivation, you may find it helpful to have separate savings accounts for different goals.

So, how much of your monthly savings should go toward each savings goal? Here are some guidelines: 

  • Your emergency fund goal should be 6 months' of expenses in liquid cash. The money should be easy to withdraw if you need it, not in a CD, for example. You may want to start with putting aside 10% of your income toward an emergency fund.
  • Aim to contribute 10-15% of your income toward retirement. If your employer matches 401(k) contributions, that can count toward your savings goal. If your employer matches up to 5% of your salary and you contribute this amount, you're actually putting 10% of your salary toward retirement.
  • Put additional money you can spare each month toward other savings goals.

How Much Should You Save Before Investing?

You're diligently putting money aside in your savings account, but your money isn't earning a very good return. You know you should leave some savings as liquid cash for an emergency, but at what point should you start investing the money you've saved to potentially get a much better return?

It's always a good idea to have a sufficient amount saved for an emergency before you start investing. Aim for a liquid emergency fund of 6 months' of expenses before you turn to investments.

Think of your savings as the foundation of your financial situation. You need the savings to fuel investments but, if things take a turn for the worse, you may be forced to sell investments at a loss without your savings to fall back on. 

Should You Build Savings or Pay Off Debt First?

It's a common conundrum: should you start building your savings first or focus on paying down costly debt?

Each option has its advantages. By putting aside some money first, you'll have a cushion in case of an unexpected expense and you can breathe a bit easier. By paying down debt first, you can save more money that you're paying in finance charges.

As a general rule, it's usually best to pay off debt instead of adding to your emergency fund or retirement until you have the debt under control.

Paying off your debt first can help you resolve your ongoing financial problems, free up more money to save, and help you learn to better manage your money.

Paying off debt also comes with a great guaranteed return that's probably much higher than you can get from any type of savings account or even more than you'd typically earn in the stock market.

Not all debt should be your priority over saving money, though. Low-interest debt like a mortgage or a student loan doesn't need to be paid off aggressively. High-interest credit card debt, though, should definitely be your focus.

There are some exceptions. It may be better to make saving money your biggest priority if: 

  • You have low-interest debt such as a no-interest payment plan for medical debt or a low-interest credit card debt.
  • You can pay into a 401(k) through your job with an employer match. If you skip this, you can be leaving thousands on the table.
  • Putting off saving money for the future until you're free of debt can cost you a lot in the long run thanks to compound interest.
  • You have absolutely no savings. If you don't have any money set aside, even a minor unexpected expense can force you to turn to the credit card, borrowing more money and further trapping yourself in debt.

Make Saving Money Automatic

The best way to make sure you're reaching your savings goals and actually paying yourself first is by automating your savings. Saving money shouldn't have to be something you think about. If you save it for the end of the month, you may end up spending more than you want to and have less to put toward your savings account.

There are several ways to automate your savings:

  • 401(k) investments should be automatically taken out of your paycheck.
  • Your HR department can help you set up two direct deposits for your paycheck: one to savings and one to checking.
  • Your bank should allow you to set up recurring automatic transfers from checking to your savings or investment accounts.
  • Microsavings apps round up your purchases or use an algorithm to calculate how much you can comfortably save then automatically transfer the money to a savings account.

Types of Savings Accounts

When you commit to saving money, one of the first decisions you need to make is what type of account you will use to safekeep your money. There are many types of savings accounts ranging from basic deposit accounts to certificates of deposit (CDs) and money market accounts.

Here's how each one works.

What Is a Deposit Savings Account?

Also known as just a savings account, this is the most basic option for saving money but making sure it's still easy to access. You can usually open a deposit account with your bank or credit union with a very low minimum deposit to avoid monthly fees. You can transfer money to and from a checking account or use the account to pay bills, but you will be limited to just 6 monthly transactions (not counting ATM withdrawals and in-person transactions).

A deposit savings account usually has a very low interest rate rarely exceeding 2% APY (annual percentage yield). On the plus side, you can easily access your money.

A deposit savings account is best for: 

  • An emergency savings fund as you can withdraw your money without penalties
  • Smaller amounts of money because you won't get a good APY

What Is a Money Market Account?

A money market account or MMA works like a deposit account as your deposits will earn interest, but these accounts usually require a larger deposit to avoid fees. A money market account doesn't just offer a higher APY; it also allows you to write checks against your balance.

A money market account is best for:

  • An emergency savings fund
  • Earning a better interest rate on a larger balance

What Is a Certificate of Deposit (CD)?

A CD is different than a deposit account because it has low liquidity. When you open a CD, you commit to leave your money in the account for a specific term which can be anywhere from 1 month to 10 years. The longer the term, the higher the interest rate.

If you withdraw money from your CD before it matures, you will face fees. That's why it's not a good idea to use a CD for an emergency fund.

There are many types of CDs:
Traditional CDs with a maturity date and a penalty for early withdrawal
Liquid CDs which allow you to withdraw money without a penalty in exchange for a lower rate
Jumbo CDs which usually require a deposit of $100,000 or more for the best rates
Callable CDs which give the bank the right to invalidate the agreement after a certain amount of time, although a higher interest rate is offered in exchange.

A certificate of deposit is best for:

  • Earning a safe interest rate without the volatility of stocks
  • Getting a predictable and fixed return

What are Flexible Spending and Health Savings Accounts?

Health savings accounts (HSAs) and flexible spending accounts (FSAs) are tax-advantaged savings accounts designed to cover medical expenses.

An HSA can be opened if you have a high-deductible insurance plan with an annual deductible of at least $2,700 for a family or $1,350 for an individual. The money you put into an HSA isn't subject to income taxes and the money can grow tax-free. It can even be withdrawn tax-free as long as it's used to pay for eligible medical expenses. You can also choose to invest your funds.

An FSA is similar but it's obtained through an employer. Because the employer owns the account, you lose the account and remaining balance if you leave your employer, but many employers contribute some annual amount. With an FSA, you can contribute pre-tax money directly from your paycheck to help pay for medical expenses.

An important distinction is an HSA isn't attached to your employer.

An interesting application of the health savings account is it can be used for retirement savings. With an HSA, you can contribute pre-tax money and withdraw it tax-free, unlike other retirement savings accounts. You can contribute to an HSA until you're 65 and invest the money, then use it to pay for medical expenses as needed, including in retirement. 

What Is a 529 Plan?

A 529 plan is a very specific type of savings account that helps you save for future education costs. 529 plans can be a bit confusing because they come in two forms:
Prepaid tuition plans that let you pre-pay the cost of a public in-state college education.
College savings plans work like a Roth IRA, investing the after-tax money you contribute in mutual funds with different investment options.

A 529 plan may be sponsored by the state or an educational institution. Nearly every state offers a 529 plan, each with different contribution rules, fees, and potential tax benefits.

529 contributions are always made with after-tax money and the earnings will accumulate tax-deferred. You can make tax-free qualified distributions to pay for college expenses. In most states, contributions also qualify for a state income tax credit or deduction.

If you open a 529 plan for a child, anyone can contribute money. The plan can be used to pay for a child's undergraduate school, graduate school, law school, or medical school, or the beneficiary can be changed to another qualifying family member if the child does not go to college. 

What Is a 401(k)?

A 401(k) is a special type of qualified retirement plan that's offered by employers to employees. With a 401(k), you can contribute money from your paycheck and get a tax break either when you contribute the money or when you withdraw it during retirement. With pre-tax contributions, saving money for retirement is easier and your contributions can reduce your income taxes. The money in your 401(k) is invested in funds that you choose.

Not everyone can access a 401(k). This type of retirement plan is only available if your employer offers one. According to the Pew Charitable Trusts, 35% of people in the private sector aren't working for a company that offers a 401(k). About 41% of millennials don't have access to a 401(k) plan.

A 401(k) is a crucial part of retirement savings, if it's available to you, because many employers offer a match on a percentage of what you save. Employer matches are one of the greatest perks of a 401(k) because they essentially give you free money to stretch your savings even further. Most employers match a percentage of your contributions, such as 50% or 100%, up to a certain percentage of your total salary, such as 5% of your annual salary.

With an employer match, not only are you putting even more money in your retirement plan, you're also essentially increasing your salary by 3% to 6% or so.

What Is an IRA?

An IRA is another type of retirement savings account that lets you save for retirement on a tax-deferred basis or with tax-free growth. There are several types of IRAs, all of which offer tax benefits to help you grow your retirement savings faster. As a general rule, you or a spouse must earn income to be able to contribute to an IRA. You must also meet income guidelines; if you make too much money, you can't benefit from an IRA.

An IRA is available to you even if you can't contribute to a 401(k), but you can contribute to both an IRA and a 401(k) if you have both.

The right type of IRA will depend on your current income and your predicted financial situation at retirement. IRA options include:

  • Traditional IRA: Your contributions are tax-deductible and you won't pay income taxes until you withdraw money in retirement. This option is good if you want the tax breaks today or expect your tax rate to be lower in retirement.
  • Roth IRA: Contributions aren't tax-deductible, but you won't owe any taxes on money you withdraw in retirement.
  • SIMPLE IRA: This IRA option works for small businesses and it's easy to set up. Employers with a SIMPLE IRA must contribute but, unlike a SEP IRA, employees can contribute to their own IRA with a SIMPLE IRA.
  • SEP IRA: A simplified employee pension IRA is designed for self-employed people and small business owners. It works like a traditional IRA. If you have eligible employees, you must contribute to their IRAs at the same rate you contribute to your own.

If your income exceeds IRA limits, you can still contribute through a "backdoor IRA" which means opening a traditional IRA and converting it to a Roth IRA.

Beginner's Guide to Budgeting

The key to saving money is knowing where your money is going every month and plugging the holes. Without an effective budget, you may spend more than you realize with your money slowly trickling away to drinks with friends, movie rentals, magazines at the checkout, and other frivolous but small purchases.

Budgeting doesn't need to be a time-consuming or painful experience. People who budget are actually less likely to report financial stress than people who spend without much thought.

Think of budgeting as giving your money an assignment with clear spending limits to help you use your money not just responsibly but efficiently to do the things that matter to you.

Here's how to get started with a budget you can actually live on. 

Step #1: Analyze Your Spending Habits

The first step of budgeting is knowing what you spend now and where your money goes. A budget that isn't realistic is doomed to fail.

Track your spending for at least a month with one of these options:

  • An app like Mint which links all of your accounts and categorizes purchases. We'll go into more detail about budgeting with Mint later.
  • Entering expenses manually in a notebook or spreadsheet. Make sure you keep receipts or enter expenses right away.
  • With your statements.

Step #2: Consider irregular expenses

Don't forget there are plenty of expenses that only come up quarterly or annually. Planning for these expenses means you won't have to borrow money for the holidays or car registration.

Common irregular expenses include:

  • Car registration and maintenance
  • Vacations
  • Professional dues
  • Gifts and birthdays
  • Insurance premiums
  • Medical exams
  • Property taxes

Step #3: Determine your income

Because you want to budget to make the most efficient use of your income, you need to know how much you make. Add up your income from all sources like wages, a business, investments, and side jobs.

Step #4: Create goals

Next, create financial goals to help you budget for success. You may have short-term or long-term goals but you should make them as specific as possible and add a deadline. You may want to buy a new car, pay off debt, save for retirement, or put aside money for a big trip.

Step #5: Determine how much you'll save

Now that you know how much you make and what you spend, determine how much you need to save to reach your goals. As a general rule, you should be saving at least 10-20% of your income but this may be split among multiple financial goals.

Step #6: Choose the right type of budget

With all of this work out of the way, you can make the right budget for your spending, lifestyle, and goals. Here are a few options:

50-30-20 Budget

With this approach, 50% of your income will go toward fixed expenses and needs (rent, food, utilities, etc), 30% will go toward discretionary spending and debt, and 20% will go toward saving and financial goals.

Zero-Sum Budget

With this approach, your goal is to have every dollar you make assigned to something, whether it's savings, debt repayment, fixed needs, or discretionary spending. This is a restrictive budgeting option and requires some practice.

Value-Based Budget

This style of budgeting focuses on optimizing your budget to your priorities and the things that make you happy. Start by budgeting for the most important bills and financial goals then consider what makes you happy. This may be attending music festivals, giving to charity, or something else. Prioritize these types of expenses and stop spending on other things that don't matter.

Review Your Budget Every Month

Every month, give your budget a check-in to see what's working and what isn't. Do you tend to overspend in a certain category? Have any expenses popped up that you didn't budget for? Did you come into money that can be put toward your financial goals? When something doesn't work, it's time to look into where you can cut back expenses or try a different budgeting method.

Budgeting with Mint: A Simple and Stress-Free Budget Solution

Mint is our favorite budgeting tool because it's free, simple, and allows you to track not only your spending but your savings, investments, bills, and even your credit in one place.

Mint also makes it really easy to set up a realistic budget that you can check in real-time on the go.

Once you set up your Mint account, start by linking all of your accounts, including your checking, savings, investment, and credit card accounts. It's also a good idea to set up your bills in the Bill Pay Tracker to make sure everything's paid on time.

Once your transactions are imported, you can start making adjustments and make sure everything's categorized correctly. A budget will be generated automatically but it will probably need some tweaking, especially if you're ready to optimize your spending.

Follow these simple steps to set up your Mint budget.

  1. 1
    Make sure your income is set correctly. If you're paid at the end of the month but want it to count toward the budget next month, adjust the date.
  2. 2
    Check your fixed budget categories. Mint will probably recognize most but not all fixed expenses like car payments, utilities, and mortgage payments.
  3. 3
    Check your variable expenses. Go through every transaction and make sure it's categorized correctly. You can split transactions into multiple categories if necessary, such as a transaction from the grocery store into Pet Expenses and Groceries.
  4. 4
    Make adjustments. Once you're done updating transactions, go to the budget page to see how your expenses are deducted from your income. You can adjust the categories as needed, make up new categories, or see areas where your spending is already too high and needs work.
  5. 5
    On an ongoing basis, categorize expenses that are imported to Mint. You can set Mint to remember your settings for certain transaction types or merchants, but you will still need to occasionally update or split transactions.

The Average American's Budget Benchmarks

Curious how your budget stacks up against the typical American? Here's what the average household with net spending of $60,000 and gross income of $73,500 spends.

  • Housing: 27% of income
  • Transportation: 13% (including car payments and gas)
  • Food: 10.5% (5.9% food at home, 4.5% food away from home)
  • Personal insurance: 9.2%
  • Pension and Social Security contributions: 8.6%
  • Healthcare: 6.7%
  • Entertainment: 4.4%
  • Miscellaneous: 2.7%
  • Apparel and services: 2.5%
  • Education: 2%
  • Personal care: 1%

Budget Optimization: How to Save Money Every Month

Want to make even better use of your money and start putting more toward savings and financial goals? It's time to optimize your budget to cut back on expenses and put your money to better use.

Here are tips for cutting back spending in some of the biggest categories on your budget. 

Can You Cut Back on Recurring Expenses?

If you're like most people, you probably have a few recurring expenses or subscriptions that aren't giving you much value -- if you even realize you're paying for them. Here are some recurring expenses you may have that you don't necessarily need:

  • Cable (consider switching to streaming services like Hulu or Netflix)
  • Wireless service (you may save money by switching or even giving up cell phone service and using WiFi calling instead)
  • Subscription boxes
  • Gym memberships and fitness classes
  • Magazine subscriptions
  • Apps with monthly fees
  • E-book services
  • Amazon add-on services

You can try using a free service like Trim which scans your accounts to find recurring charges. Trim even allows you to use them to cancel services on your behalf at no cost.

How to Save Money on Insurance

While insurance is necessary to guard against unexpected expenses in life, it can also eat up a significant share of your budget. From car insurance and life insurance to homeowner's and health insurance, there are ways to save on insurance costs.

  • Consider downgrading health insurance. Compare options available to you that may lower your premiums if you don't use the coverage that often or your out-of-pocket costs if you have health concerns. A high-deductible health insurance plan works well for people who don't go to the doctor often or rely on medication with the lowest possible premiums.
  • Shop around for insurance. One of the most important things you can do to keep your premiums as low as possible? Shop around for auto and home insurance rates at least once a year.
  • Increase your deductibles. Your deductible should be low enough that you can afford it if you need to make a claim. If you can afford it, increasing your premium to $500 or $1,000 can potentially save you up to 20% or more on your premiums.
  • Ask about discounts. Most insurance companies offer a host of discounts for car insurance and homeowner's insurance. If you don't ask, you may not be getting all of the discounts you deserve for safe driving, being a student, low mileage, belonging to a certain organization, being a public servant, and more.
  • Take advantage of a health savings account (HSA). If you have a high-deductible health insurance plan, make sure you're using an HSA to get a tax break and pay less for medical expenses.
  • Consider working with a health insurance broker to find the right health insurance plan for your typical healthcare costs and budget. An expert can help you compare plan options, understand how deductibles and co-pays will affect your costs, and navigate complex medical situations.

How to Save Money on Utilities

According to Energy Star, the average household spends more than $2,000 a year on utilities. Cut back on utility costs with these tips:

  • Upgrade to LED or CFL light bulbs. Replacing your 5 most-used 60-watt bulbs with LED can save up to $45 per year, according to the Department of Energy.
  • Install a programmable or smart thermostat to save up to 15% on heating and cooling costs.
  • Use energy efficient window coverings to stop drafts and block sunlight that heats your home.
  • Maintain your HVAC system to save 5% to 40% on energy costs
  • Use power strips and timers to get rid of phantom power charges.
  • Reduce your hot water heater's temperature to 125 to 130 degrees or use a water heater blanket.
  • Wash clothing in cold water as 90% of your washing machine's power goes toward heating the water.

How to Save Money on Transportation Costs

The average cost to own a car is $8,600 per year, according to AAA. Here are ways to cut back on transportation expenses:

  • Use public transportation whenever possible.
  • Sell an extra vehicle.
  • Limit acceleration and sharp stops and slow down to improve fuel economy by up to 35%.
  • Carpool to work.
  • Buy discounted gas gift cards online to pay for gasoline. 
  • Stay on top of car maintenance to maximize your fuel economy. This includes changing your oil and making sure your tires are properly inflated which improves fuel economy by 3%. Stay on top of repairs, too, as fixing a faulty oxygen sensor can improve mileage by up to 40%.

How to Save Money on Food Expenses

For most households, food is the largest monthly expense after housing. Whether you're a household of one or many, there are plenty of ways to cut back on groceries and dining out.

  • Cook meals in bulk. Set aside half a day and make everything ahead for the week. You can prep some meals in freezer bags that can be popped in a slow cooker and prepackage meals to freeze and later defrost for work or dinner. 
  • Ditch the expensive drinks like soda and focus more on drinking water and milk. 
  • Limit dining out to just once a week or less. 
  • Buy non-perishables in bulk to save money. Wait until they're on sale and use coupons. 

How to Save Money on Kids' Stuff

There’s no getting around the fact that having kids can be expensive, but there are ways to reduce the cost.

  • Limit organized activities. Try to keep your child enrolled in only one paid activity or sport at a time and make sure you know the real cost before you sign up. Don't forget to account for sports equipment, musical instruments, travel costs to and from practice and lessons, and other costs.
  • Don't buy new what you can get used. This includes everything from kids clothing and toys to instruments, sports equipment, bicycles, and furniture. 
  • Save on childcare with a flexible spending account (FSA). A dependent care FSA allows you to contribute pre-tax money that can be used to pay for qualified child care expenses and dependent care expenses. 

How to Save Money on Pet Care

The average dog owner spends almost $1,300 a year on their dog while cat owners spend more than $900 per year. If that sounds like too much, these tips may help you reduce the amount you spend on your four-legged friend.

  • Consider buying affordable pet insurance. A policy is usually $10 to $30 per month for decent coverage to cover medical expenses for your pet.
  • Do your own grooming. While it takes practice, you can easily learn how to cut your pet's nails at home and do basic coat care. 
  • Look for alternatives to boarding. Boarding is expensive but there are alternatives like Rover and DogVacay that may be more affordable. 
  • Buy pet medication online instead of at the vet or store. 
  • Make pet treats at home. 

Best Tools for Saving Money

Ready to start setting aside more money each month? There are many tools that can help you do everything from automatically saving money to investing in the stock market.

Savings Tools

If you have trouble setting aside money each month, a microsavings service may be a good place to start to build an emergency fund. Microsavings services work by transferring very small amounts of money from your bank account to a separate savings account. You may hear them called round up the change or round-up apps. The goal is to help you set aside money without even realizing you're doing it.

Some microsavings accounts have minimum deposits or monthly fees. Some just work like deposit accounts while others invest your savings. Here are some of the best microsavings services: 

  • Acorns ($1 to $3 per month, free for students): Automatically rounds up purchases to the nearest dollar and invests the difference for you. Your money is invested in a portfolio diversified with exchange-traded funds.
  • Stash ($1 to $9 per month): Stash is a micro-investment app that allows you to choose investments like ETFs and stocks without any investment experience by buying fractional shares.
  • Digit ($2.99 per month): Analyzes your spending and income then automatically transfers $2 to $17 automatically every 2 to 3 days into your savings account. You can earn bonuses for using Digit consistently and pay down your credit card debt faster with the Credit Card Debt Reduction feature.

If you're willing to go beyond automated microsavings, another good choice is SmartyPig. This service gives you an online high-interest savings account and helps you set savings goals for specific things. You can set up multiple goals like paying for a trip or your upcoming property tax payment.

Investing Tools

Once you build up your emergency fund and you're ready to start investing, these tools can help.

WealthFront

Free (accounts under $5k)
WealthFront is a unique automated investment tool that helps you earn more interest, manage savings, and take the work out of investments. This roboadvisor has low fees and no fees at all for accounts under $5,000. Some of the most unique tools available with WealthFront include the free Portfolio Review tool to evaluate investments and tax-loss harvesting. 

Personal Capital

Free (some services)
This investment management tool uses financial advisors and algorithms from robo-advisors to help you optimize your investments. If you invest with Personal Capital, you will need to pay a fee, but there are still services available for free including the 401(k) fee analyzer, retirement planner, and investment checkup tool. 

Budgeting Tools

Want some help staying on top of your budget? Here are some of the best budgeting tools that take the work out of managing your money.

Level Money

$4 per month or $40 per year for basic service, $19 per month or $190 per year for Plus
Level Money is a simple tool that works like a meter to show you where you are wasting money and where you are doing well. It analyzes spending habits to show you how to improve your spending behavior.

You Need a Budget

$6.99 per month or $83.99 per year, free for students
YNAB is a budgeting app that's made for people who want to be really hands-on. Transactions are imported from your bank accounts but you need to manually categorize them into the envelope-based system. 

PocketGuard

Free
PocketGuard is a simplified budgeting tool that shows you how much you have to spend at any given moment. PocketGuard accounts for bills, typical spending, and savings to show you what's left for the month, week, or day. You can also see what you have left based on spending categories like groceries. 

Mint

Free
Mint is the top budgeting app for a reason. It's easy to use, free, and allows you to track and control bills, savings, spending, investment, and credit. You can set and adjust a budget and see in real-time how your spending stacks up against what's left for the month.

Other tools:

  • Prism (Free): Prism makes it easy to see and pay your bills on time every month without enrolling in automatic payments. Prism connects with your bank accounts and bill pay accounts and posts accounts within an hour. 
  • BillGuard (Free): BillGuard scans your debit and credit transactions and alerts to you potential hidden fees, fraudulent charges, errors, and scams. 
  • Unbury.Me (Free): Ready to pay off your debt? Doing it in the right order can help you pay down your debt faster and save thousands while you do it. Unbury.Me is a simple calculator that helps you plan the best way to pay off debt. 
  • Debt Payoff Planner (Free): This tool creates an in-depth debt payoff plan to help you stay motivated with a debt payoff debt and the right strategy. 

What is your strategy for budgeting and saving money? 

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About the Author James

Helping people build sustainable budgets and passive income.

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