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How to budget for beginners

New Years Financial Resolution Series

Budgeting Tools New Years Resolutions


Every year, people make financial resolutions for the coming year. Often, they give up because budgeting isn’t as easy as it seems. It’s not as simple as income minus expenses, but finding the method rewards you for the effort. The following list of budgeting methods and tools might help you stay on track and let this new year be the year you stick to your financial goals.


Choose a budgeting method that fits with your lifestyle and your financial goals. Budgeting isn’t a “one size fits all,” but to find the one that helps with your needs. The methods, if you do them with pen and paper, are free to set up.

  • The Envelope Method –involves labeling envelopes with all recurring bills, such as rent, and spending and savings. Add the amount you expect to pay toward it each month. On payday, fill the envelopes to be paid, including the amount you “set aside” for fun and savings.
  • The 50/30/20 Rule Method –allows for 50 percent of your pay to go to needs, such as mortgage, utilities, and food. Thirty percent is used for wants, and 20 percent is for savings or paying off debt.
  • Zero-Balance Method –requires the total of income from all sources minus all expenses, changing monthly so it includes irregular expenses, and if there is money left, use some for unexpected expenses or entertainment and some for savings until your balance is zero.


If you are not a “paper and pen” kind of person and want a method that is already set up, there is a great selection of budgeting apps and tools that will help you stay on track. Just plug in your numbers and set up the notifications for reminders if you need them. A few budgeting apps and tools to consider are:

  • EveryDollar – has a basic free plan and a “plus” paid plan that costs $129.99 per year, breaking down to just over $10.00 per month. The basic plan allows you to create your budget and keep track of your spending. The plus plan allows you to connect to bank accounts, attend a “financial university” and knock out your debt.
  • Mint – is a free tool that allows you to connect all your accounts in one place. It will even show your credit score. It allows users to stay current and also offers personalized tips.
  • YNAB – offers a free trial and then a monthly plan at $11.99 per month and an annual plan at $84.00 per year. This tool allows you to track your goals, share access with your partner, create charts, and offers personal support.
  • GoodBudget – this is an “envelope” system tool with a free plan that offers one account and up to twenty envelopes, up to two devices, debt tracking, a year of history, and community support. It also offers a “plus” account for $6.00 per month or $50.00 per year, that allows unlimited envelopes, up to five devices, debt tracking, seven years of history, and community support.
  • Mvelopes – like GoodBudget this tool uses the envelope system. They offer three plans, ranging from $6.00 per month to $59.00 per month. Each plan is offered a set of services, depending on your needs.


Budgeting as a resolution is easier when you have a financial goal in mind. Pay off debt. Save for a house. Take a vacation around the world. Even something smaller like have money for a date night at the end of every month. It doesn’t have to be big or extravagant. It just needs to offer you a reward for your hard work.


Greta Gunselman is a personal finance freelance writer. Proud owner of a BA in English, she spends her time talking about finance over on Twitter (@thisgirlswalle1) and post-military life at If you’d like more information about Greta’s writing, please contact her through her website,


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