If you think of your personal finances as a house, budgeting and saving are the money equivalents of the concrete foundation. Any cracks and your entire financial house will be on wobbly ground. For most people, these two words – budgeting and savings – conjure up images of deprivation and denial. This could not be farther from the truth. Budgeting and saving are simply two sterile words for something way more fun: squeezing the maximum amount of enjoyment from each dollar you have available to spend today,while also setting yourself up for financial freedom in the future. Here are some books and apps that can help you hone your personalized game-plan in this area.
Your Money or Your Life: 9 steps for transforming your relationship with money and achieving financial independence by Vicki Robin & Joe Dominguez. Hands down, this is my favorite personal finance book of all time. I first read it in the early 1990s and to say it changed my money-life forever is no exaggeration. Rooted in the premise that most of us have money in our lives because we (or someone near and dear to us) spent their time earning it; thus, when we spend it we are figuratively spending our “life energy”. This book is all about optimizing those hours and dollars in the way that will bring you maximum joy and minimum stress. Highly, highly recommended. You can listen to a podcast interview I did with author Vicki Robin here.
These three delightful books by Barbara Stanny Huson: Overcoming Underearning: a five-step plan for a richer life, Sacred Success: a course in financial miracles, and ReWire for Wealth: three steps any woman can take to program her brain for financial success. If you like to think about money from a holistic, spiritual context these three books will help you get in the right headspace to become a budgeting and saving superstar. Barbara is the daughter of the “R” in H&R Block. When Barbara’s first husband gambled away her inheritance and left her with a $1 million tax bill, her dad told her to figure it out. So she did! Barbara’s Weekly Words of Wisdom emails (sign up here), are a great complement to her books. You can also listen to a podcast interview I did with Barbara here.
Mint: Owned by industry stalwart Intuit, Mint is one of the first – and most widely used – apps to aggregate all your financial data under one roof. By creating what boils down to a financial “control tower” Mint gives you a birds-eye view of your financial position on demand. The mission of Mint is to help you reach your financial goals with their custom budgeting, spend tracking, and credit monitoring capabilities. Other well regarded apps in this genre are PocketGuard and Prism.
Qube Money: This app has digitized the tried-and-true “envelope” cash budgeting method. Qube Money enables you to set up digital envelopes that work in conjunction with a Qube Money debit card tied to your account. Before you can spend on the debit card, you have to approve the money from your “qubes” to be placed on the card ahead of the transaction. The app tracks your spending so you stay on track with your spending. If you prefer a more straight-forward approach without all these bells and whistles, I love GoodBudget, Mvelopes, and You Need A Budget.
NerdWallet has a nifty online budget worksheet based on the 50/30/20 – Needs/Wants/Savings framework that I have long advocated. Input your current spending by category and it will help you identify areas that could be altered to help you get closer to this healthy spending ratio. If you prefer an Excel type budgeting template, check out this free 101 level Excel-based spending tracker or this event specific set of free worksheets from Microsoft Office.