• Finance

6 budget tracking tools that are way better than Excel

We've all done it. Let our bank accounts dwindle till we were shamefully in the red. It doesn't have to be this way!

Enter budget tracking apps. Covering your rent and taking a vacation isn't so impossible once you get your finances in order.

Yes, you can rock an old-school Excel spreadsheet and make your own charts and graphs -- but you can also roll with one of these nifty tracking tools and budget painlessly.

1. Mint - Great for personal finances; everything’s on-hand and easy to use

I use Mint somewhat fanatically -- it’s really simple to get started; all you need to do is link your various accounts and voila! you’ve got pie charts and bar graphs of all your expenses. It provides a great big-picture overview of your finances (like cash flow) but also boils down your expenses into budgeted categories, so you can see exactly where your money is going. If you use a card for lots of small purchases (like a $2 coffee every day) and don’t want to input every transaction, Mint is a great choice.

2. You need a budget - Community and classes to teach you how to save

You need a budget (YNAB) is intended for folks with fluctuating income… like freelancers! Budgets rollover with time, which means you can actually see yourself save for that vacation, and YNAB’s tips are intended to help you live month-to-month, as opposed to paycheck-to-paycheck. It’s not free forever, but with the $60 price tag comes financial literacy classes and other more-than-a-spreadsheet perks.

3. Budget Simple - Super straightforward and super easy to use

Budget Simple is a free app that allows you to link your accounts or enter expenses manually. It’ll churn out a budget for you with tips on where to cut expenses, then help you maintain your finances after you’ve set up a budget. It’s super-straightforward and has lots of charts and graphs to help you visualize where your money is going.

Join the nation's largest group representing the new workforce (it's free!)

Become a member

4. Budgetpulse - Don’t need to link accounts

For those concerned about security, Budgetpulse doesn’t require you to link your accounts. It’s really secure for that reason-- even you can’t access your money from your Budgetpulse account. However, that does mean you need to manually input your expenses. Once you’re set up, there are all the bells and whistles of a typical budget tracker app-- charts, tips, and personal savings goals.

5. Wave accounting - Great for small businesses (up to 9 employees)

Wave is a super useful app for small businesses -- it’s intended for those with nine employees or less. So it’s a lot less complicated. It has accounting, invoicing, and payroll, with options for personal finance tracking too.

6. Freshbooks - Another great tool for small businesses... and Freelancers Union members get a discount!

Freshbooks is another great budget tracking tool for small businesses. It has accounting, invoicing, and time tracking tools, and its Stripe integration allows you to accept credit cards. It’s not really intended for personal finances but for business accounts. The coolest thing? Freelancers Union members get a discount! For more info on that, click here. And if you’re interested in more business-oriented budget apps, check out our post on invoicing here.

Got any other budgeting tips for freelancers? Share them in our hive: Financial planning and retirement!

Larissa Pham is an artist and writer based in Brooklyn, New York. Her budgeting strategy involves lots of peanut-butter based meals for the sake of really nice jackets and spontaneous flights.