It’s easy to feel broke in New York City, even when you have a decent job and a solid paycheck, thanks to this city’s insane cost of living and ridiculous rents.
While making rent each month can be a hurdle in itself, it’s important to step back and get a full picture of your financial situation. This will not only make paying rent easier, but will put you in a better financial position for your future — especially as things like grad school, weddings and kids start to happen.
Planning for the future might sound scary, but it doesn’t have to be. There are a wide variety of financial planning tools that can help you manage your budget. Here, we highlight four free or affordable financial planning tools, each with a standout feature or two worth considering.
- Cost: Free!
- Essential feature: Overspend email alerts
Owned by budgeting giant Intuit since 2009, Mint is one of the most recognizable names in personal finance tools. When you first sign up for Mint, you’ll create budget categories that will automatically populate throughout the month. When you make a purchase at Key Food, for example, it will automatically be attributed to “groceries.” And if you’re above your allocated weekly spend on Ben & Jerry’s and paper towels, Mint will send you an attention-grabbing notification. Mint also offers free credit score reports — always a helpful bonus when hunting for an apartment.
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- Cost: $50/year (free trial period)
- Essential features: Syncing between devices, daily personal finance webinars
You Need a Budget, or YNAB for short, is focused on budgeting with the money you have now. It’s a good choice for understanding where every dollar of your paycheck goes each month. YNAB lacks many of the additional features of other tools and will require more of your time to go through expenses. However, a few budget-focused features are worth considering.
YNAB provides daily personal finance webinars so you can learn more about financial planning as you go. Additionally, the mobile app will sync between devices if you and a partner are delving into budgeting together. That can be kinda scary, but YNAB makes this potentially awkward hurdle in a relationship more transparent.
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- Cost: Free!
- Essential feature: Add-on tools for retirement planning and investing
You may be a struggling recent grad now, but if you envision yourself with a solid retirement plan and maybe an investment or two by 2020, consider checking out Personal Capital.
This financial advisory firm offers free budgeting tools and helpful analytics. It also allows you to speak live with a financial planner. Their Personal Dashboard is a solid place to build a budget and develop a long-term financial strategy.
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What’s really great about Personal Capital is that it’s a lifecycle tool, meaning that it offers tools and services that will be useful as you move through different stages of your life. For example, when you’re ready to branch out and explore investments or tackle retirement planning, they offer free services there, too. It’s worth noting that Personal Capital also offers wealth management tools for a fee, but if you are seriously considering those kinds of services, it’s wise to shop around.
- Cost: $29.99 and up
- Essential feature: Mobile receipt tracking; tax prep integration
Quicken is a workhorse software application for personal budgeting. The newest versions of the product offer a mobile app that alerts you to overspending and lets you take photos of receipts. But the desktop application is where you’ll be doing the heavy lifting of tracking spending and setting up bill payments.
One additional feature that may make the spend worth it in the long run is Quicken’s seamless integration into TurboTax. If you’re the type of person who struggles to stay organized come tax season, this budgeting tool will already contain valuable information needed to complete your return, helping you turn things around in advance of Tax Day.