If you’re not a fan of numbers or math, the word “budget” likely makes you squirm. Yet, if you’re trying to get on top of your finances—and who isn’t? —you need to make peace with budgeting.
Thanks to digital tools, setting up and maintaining a budget doesn’t have to be as painful as long division or mental math. There are easy solutions for managing every part of the budgeting process and they make the life of every math-hating budgeter easier.
Get your budget on track, sans the math, with these simple tools.
1. Budget Calculator
It doesn’t get much simpler than this. With this basic budget calculator you need just two numbers: money in and money out, and you immediately get a total for how much you’ve saved or over-spent that month. If you’re new to budgeting, this is your baseline. The total can be used on its own, to benchmark progress over the course of six months or a year, or to help you set financial goals specific to your current financial situation.
Simply put the total amount spent or saved in a Google Sheet, along with the date or month. Don’t forget to include a goal for reducing or increasing that number next month. In just a few months, you’ll have a clear snapshot of how much you spend and save each month, which can be used to set long-term goals like, buying a house or leasing a new car.
2. Debt Payoff Calculator
Tracking debt is stressful for people who hate math thanks to interest rates, percentages and pay-off dates, all of which can be confusing and hard to understand. Take the stress out of managing your debt with the Credit Karma Debt Payoff Calculator. Once you’ve loaded your information —including total balance owed, interest rate, monthly payment and preferred payoff timeframe—you’ll get all the important numbers, including total amount of interest you’ll pay over the life of the loan.
The best part is you don’t have to do any math! Do this for each separate debt you have, then prioritize and start paying them down accordingly.
3. “Vague Budget List”
Vicki Zhou, financial advisor and PennyHoarder contributing writer, suggests creating a vague budget list, which is a list of things you want to spend money on; not bills. “Try to limit your spending to the stuff on your vague budget list, the things you care about. If you find you’re spending money on items that don’t make you happy—or at least give you substantial convenience—consider sliding that cash to your retirement account or your other investments.”
This is perfect for a newbie budgeter who wants to get a handle on spending without sacrificing morning coffee stops or Friday night dinners with friends. When the spending is built into your budget, you’re less likely to go over. The best part: you won’t need to do quick math at the register to decide if you can afford a large coffee or not.
4. Google Sheets
If you’re comfortable using Excel or Google Sheets is a great tool to create and maintain a budget. Google Sheets allows you to customize your budget and then it takes care of calculating how much you’re spending and what you have left over each month. Start with a free budget template, like one of these from WalletHub, which makes it easier to organize your finances from scratch.
If the idea of using a spreadsheet to manage your budget is still a little intimidating, there are several step-by-step tutorials to help you get started.
5. Personal Loans
Taking on new debt, like a personal loan, when you’re already in debt can be tricky, but it can be a great option for managing and reducing your high-interest debt quickly. The benefit of personal loans is that you can get it from a wide range of institutions, including online platforms like Prosper. Personal loans are fixed term and fixed rate and usually charge lower interest rates than a credit card, for example, which some people use to pay off debts and large expenses.
With a new, hopefully smaller or more manageable monthly payment, you can start making financial decisions that set you up for success.
Start Budgeting, Stop Doing Math
Use these tools to take the math work out of budgeting, without sacrificing a financial plan. Get started with financing tracking, debt management and goal-setting to create a budget that’s both beneficial and reasonable.
This article was contributed by Jessica Thiefels, a full-time writer, consultant and business owner. Jessica and her husband recently paid off $20K in debt in just one year, and her work as been featured in financial publications like Market Watch . Follow her on Twitter @Jlsander07 and connect LinkedIn.