Recent events in my life had me take a long hard look at how I live my life and how I spend my money. Leaving the relative safety of high incomes afforded by being a better than average Sales Guy allowed me to have a fairly fluid life style that quickly became one of…if I have the money buy it…if not wait, it will come. Well moving into the real world where there is not “next big commission cheque” and taking a 50% pay cut has left me wondering how to make ends meet and live like a regular person who actually has to make a budget work…but just like the investigation into finding any software…it becomes a very laborious task.
I started with an Excel spread sheet and figured that would be enough but the templates that I found on the Interwebz were not detailed enough and I wasn’t in the mood to put my programming skills to work to build one that I would like because it wasn’t just for me…and I would make it WAY too complex if I did it myself. So I set forth to find myself a FREE web app that would do the trick.
- Web Based (so it could be accessed from my Chromebook, Desktop and Laptops anywhere)
- Easy to use
- Had charts and graphs and other hooks
- A nice to have would be a mobile app so that I could update my budget in real time
So with the requirements in hand I went looking.
Mint.com was interesting and came highly recommended but when I registered for the Free version I quickly became frustrated. It did not work as advertised, was difficult and confusing to administer and overall was not what I wanted. I am not sure how it became so popular because it has no logic behind it that I could decifer so I moved on rather quickly.
BudgetSimple also was something that I tried out but again there was just something off about the layout and configuration that left me feeling a little uncomfortable with the concept and to really simplify life, it would cost $5 per month to link my bank account and that removes it from the Free App concept as I don’t pay banking fees so why would I pay a software company for the option to connect to my bank!
MoneyStrands survived the first cut of the investigation but started to fall short mainly because it only has an iOS app but also because the more that I added to the budget and expenses the more complex it became and I quickly became disenchanted with the process. The idea of this was to come out of each month with a more stable understanding of where my money comes from and where it goes…but it was a challenge to get things to really work for me.
Financial Consumer Agency of Canada has a great basic tool that lets me chart my income from multiple sources and break things down into expense categories which is nice at the top end, but that is all it does. If I was looking for a simple tool, I would just use an Excel Spreadsheet and be done with it…I want more than that.
GoodBudget seemed right from the outset to be a good fit. It had an Android App, a Chrome Plugin and made me feel right at home almost instantly. It is built on the Envelope system of budgeting which basically empowers you to divide your monthly expenses into top level categories and provides you with the limits that you have to live with for the month. I set up Multiple Envelopes (the Free version does limit you to 10 Monthly and 10 Annual) for each of my top expenses that were fixed but I also had the option of creating irregular envelops that were not something that reset each month (like Savings and Entertainment – yes Entertainment for me is irregular because I never do anything).
4 days into my budget trial, I am finding it a challenge to stay within the means that I have allowed myself but knowing that I only have $40 for “coffee” and $50 for eating out available, I walk right by the coffee shops and restaurants when I am on my Lunchtime Walkabouts on Richmond Row here in London, ON.
Will I be able to survive the belt tightening? That remains to be seen but if I come out the other side with a better understanding of how my money is managed…when life hands me the next Rose and I have real earnings…I will be far better off than living like a government agency that plays the game of Tax and Spend and never plans for a rainy day.
This past year has handed me a bunch of lemons and I have had more than my fair share of challenges but I think at the end of 2014…I will be a far different person than I was coming into it, and for that, I am actually grateful for having been pushed and pulled in directions that I was not prepared for…but have met the challenge as just that…a challenge.