We generally have the following expenses one needs to plan for:

  1. Monthly regular expenses (rent/mortgage, phone, internet, groceries, etc)
  2. semi-annual or annual expenses (insurance, property taxes, some subscriptions, etc)
  3. Planned irregular expenses (new car, maintenance(house or car), vacation, etc)
  4. Unplanned irregular expenses (lost job, emergency room visits, etc)
  5. long term (retirement) savings.

And the tenants for budgeting well:

For every $5 you spend today, that's $10-15 dollars every 15 years and 4x the amount in 30 years (at 5% annual interest).

Run through this fidelity financial checkup https://digital.fidelity.com/prgw/digital/financial-checkup/survey/1 or follow this flowchart https://yuma.ca/PersonalIncomeSpendingFlowchart.png

Budgeting Tools

My recommendation(or what I personally do):

If you have $50-100 to spend on getting your financial life in order: select one of the software packages on the list below that seems to fit your personal goals, and use that for the first year.

If you don't have any money to spend(or don't want to spend), then start with Personal Capital for the first year.

After the first year, you probably don't need a tool anymore, as your spending will be under control, and you can just monitor your CC/bank statements every month for unexpected things. Not use any software or tools, except what your bank/brokerage provides, except the occasional spreadsheet when you want to do some quick math. I.e after the first year, you will know your expenses are X dollars a month, and as long as y our statements keep showing right around $x/month you are within budget and doing great, no need to in-detail keep track. However, if you want to keep using a tool, don't let me stop you.

I do recommend you download the statements and transactions from your bank & brokerage every 6 months or so and save them either with fidsafe(see ToolsResources) or just locally to your computer. That way if you ever need to go back and look something up, say for taxes, you can. Banks tend to not make that information available after 6months or a year, so just download it and keep it around.

Budget Tool options.

The bare minimum here is just read through your statements from your CC, checking, savings, etc every month and get a feel for your spending and also make sure nobody is taking your money without your consent.

You probably want more than that. From simple to complex one might make a list like so:

A quick note about spreadsheets: The problem with all the spreadsheets out there to download or use with Google Docs are the instructions are usually pretty bad, and are hard to understand/use. If you built it yourself, then you definitely understand it. Plus for a budget all you really need are 4 columns: Date, Who you payed, The Amount you paid, a Category or what you bought. Then you just want to total the amounts by category. Also, if you use Google Docs, then Google absolutely looks at your spreadsheet information and uses it to build better ads for you. If you like the idea of Google knowing even more about you, go for it, but I don't recommend it.

Personal Financial Websites

There are only 2 worth talking about, Mint and Personal Capital. Of the two I vastly prefer Personal Capital. Both are free and easy to get started.

Mint is owned by Intuit and will do a lot to monetize you, so your privacy is missing using mint.com. It works fine if privacy isn't an issue for you. They have ads.

Personal Capital is owned by an investment company, and they want to sell you their investment services, but they are pretty low-effort in trying to sell you said services. I have no experience with their paid for investment services, and since they are actively managed. But their personal finance tools are pretty great!

Personal Financial Software

In no particular order.

Differences between website and software

The websites are easier to get started, but your financial data is on some remote server somewhere, un-encrypted, and in the case of Mint likely harvested for data. The software tools cost $'s, but are a lot more privacy respecting. Some software will sync your data to mobile, but will encrypt it and not share it with anyone else.

So basically you trade privacy for cost.