Several years ago, my husband and I began tracking our budget for home expenses using the Dave Ramsey method. If you haven’t heard of Dave Ramsey, check out his book, The Total Money Makeover. I will probably write a lot more about the book and the process, but today I wanted to share a key part of our debt-free journey.
One of the first things we learned to do was to create a budget, or as Dave says, “Every dollar has a name.” so we could track all of our expenses – every SINGLE thing each month. We tried the paper system for this step, and it just didn’t work for us at all. We are both technology geeks, so I thought I would look for a budget application that let us share the data between our smart phones and had the flexibility to track our changing budget needs. After several attempts, I finally found HomeBudget.
HomeBudget – The App
HomeBudget is very straightforward to set up. It can be shared by multiple users and allows us to sync our budget in near-real time. There are a lot of apps out there for budgeting, but this was one of the few that lets you sync between a number of users.
You can set up as many categories and subcategories as needed and you can also set up as many payees to track each expense by not only what, but where you spent it.
I love the granularity of detail and the sharing options, but I will admit the set up was time consuming at first. The documentation on this app is good and it is a paid app, now $5.99 on the app store, but they provide updates and support. They do have a “lite” version, but I wanted all the functionality and the sharing features were a must.
Now, we can track our expenses in real time, without having to look for the budget sheet or enter it into a spreadsheet. We always have our phones, so if this is typical of you as well, it is easy to quickly add information in. My only wish is they would upgrade to a “snap and go” feature to just take a copy of the receipt instead of manually entering information.
HomeBudget – Screen Shots
The main screen, has a nice overview of:
Expenses – these are categories you set up based on your budget items – so groceries, gas, eating out, haircuts, utilities, etc.
Bills – we don’t use this section because we use an auto bill pay service through our bank, but you can keep track of what bills you have and when they are due.
Income – it is able to track multiple income sources, set up in categories you define.
Budget – this view shows the real time budget versus actual amounts in each category.
Accounts – you can set up where money is allocated from – bank accounts, credit cards, etc.
The main screen also has a nice acceleration dial that depicts how much of your total budget has been spent for the month. Don’t let this scare you – if you do your budget correctly, it should be at 100% at the end of the month, because, if you follow Dave Ramsey – every dollar has a purpose and a place in the budget.
The expenses page tracks your expense categories in detail, so you always know exactly where you are in each budget category throughout the month by use of a green slider bar which turns red if you go over your allotted budget.
The input page is fairly easy to navigate as well and it didn’t take long before I could enter an expense in under 30 seconds.
Using the app has improved our budget discipline because it is easy to enter expenses and income. Since we both have access to the data after it syncs (which only happens when we are on a wireless home network for security and data conservation) it is easy to keep track of household expenses, no matter which one of us is shopping.
After all, a budget is about communication and planning – and this app lets us do both and keeps our family on track each month to live our financial goals. What about you? What tricks do you use to keep your budget on track – would an app on your phone work for you or do you prefer another method? Leave a comment below and join the conversation!
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