Household Budgeting: It’s as Easy as a Doughnut Chart

We all know managing a household budget isn’t quite that easy. It takes lots of planning and is different for everyone based on your unique situation. Not sure where to start? Yeah, I wasn’t either. Here’s my story:

Back in September, I decided that I should proooooooooobably start working on the New Year’s resolution I had made earlier in the year and come up with a household budget. I rarely sit down with my laptop when I’m at home, so I knew I needed as simple of a solution as possible. Something that would be easy for me to keep up with for the long-term and not require booting up the ol’ Macbook. I chose to download the Mint: Finance, Budgets & Money apps for my Moto X and iPad. The app pulls in all the info from my family’s accounts, cards, and investments to keep better track of our expenditures and savings. It has super simple slider options for setting budgets and sends bill reminders and overspending alerts via email.

Although the app prevented me from taking any screenshots, I was able to screenshot a few recent emails they’ve sent me to give you an idea of just how clear they make things.

This is an excerpt of the weekly summary email showing our top spending categories over the past 7 days, all summarized in an easy-to-understand doughnut chart:

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The weekly email also includes summaries of the budgets affected by our expenditures in each of the top spending categories. I find this to be really valuable at-a-glance style information that helps keep us on track for our overall monthly budget.

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One of my favorite features of the app is the ability to set up auto-alerts in case we break any spending trends:

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And then, a nice-to-have is the Widget feature for Android which allows me to see my cash flow at a glance, without even having to log in to the app. (Why yes, that is Hogwarts in the background!)

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Since the app is so simple to use and they do such a good job of communicating with me, I can happily report that now, 6 months later, we’ve stuck with this budget thing month after doughnut-chart-filled month. I finally feel like we’re starting to get in the swing of things.

At first, we didn’t really adjust any of our spending patterns, we just started paying closer attention to categorizing them. Once we had consistent trends of categories and began to understand exactly how much we were spending in each area, we set monthly budgets for each category. Now we’re working on adjusting our spending habits and category budgets to see if we can boost our savings and increase our level of retirement investments. I’ve also started Dave Ramsey’s Smart Dollar personal finance course and have begun following personal finance blogs like Cash Cow Couple, Budgets are Sexy*, Long Term Mindset, and A Wealth of Common Sense to learn more about best practices and tips for my family’s specific financial situation.

So far, Mint seems to be working for our family. I’m curious to know – do any of you have suggestions of other personal finance apps that have been helpful for household budgeting? Check out a few of our favorites over here.

*NOTE: Cash Cow Couple and Budgets Are Sexy are affiliates of Republic Wireless (that’s how I originally found out about them!)

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4 thoughts on “Household Budgeting: It’s as Easy as a Doughnut Chart”

  1. My favorite budgeting app is You Need A Budget. They have apps for Android and iOS, as well as the main program on your desktop. Works great!

    For keeping an overall view of your money Personal Capital is also good – in addition to Mint. It’s a bit more focused towards investors though.

    1. love You Need A Budget, I use Mint for seeing all my accounts in one place so I can make sure that YNAB is up to date easily. For me Mint is too set and forget that I forget to be proactive about setting up my budget each month.

  2. So great to see familiar names like Dave Ramsey, Mint, ad MyFitnesspal. Looks like a great setup as opposed to the fruit-named phone I currently own. I think this article has convinced me to switch!

  3. +1 on the You Need A Budget – – YNAB for short – – recommendation. We’ve been using the desktop and Android apps for a few years now, and it’s opened our eyes to where our money has been going. Ultimately, it helps you align your spending with your values. Can’t recommend it highly enough.

    FYI, it’s free for students!

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