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So I found an efficient, very cheap way to keep track of my budget.  And I’m all about cheap (or free) things.

It’s a site called Neobudget, and it’s based on the envelope method (which they explain).  It took me a little while to get into it, because I’m lazy, but budgeting by envelopes is easy, once you start.  Each paycheck allots a certain amount to each category (e.g. “books,” “books,” “food,” “more books”).   Then, when you spend money, you subtract funds from any envelopes to which the purchase would apply.  And you can split transactions, so if you went to Wal-mart and bought some books, and also a handful of rice, you could subtract funds from “Entertainment” and “Food.”  It cuts down on the hassle of working everything out in notebooks or spreadsheets, and you don’t have to do everything by cash, like you would if you used actual envelopes.

The balancing feature is especially cool.  You enter your bank account’s balance and check through a list of transactions, and it tells you how much the NeoBudget account balance is off from your bank account’s balance. If you stay current, and remember to input your transactions every day or every few days, it doesn’t take much time at all, and you always know how much money you have, and where it’s going.

If you go into “Reports” you can see how you’ve spent your money since you started using NeoBudget.  A graph shows how the balance in each envelope has changed, and they’re coming out with more reporting options, so figuring out over the long term how much you should allocate to different expenses is going to get even easier.

You can color code your envelopes and drag/drop them around to group them thematically, or however you’d like to organize them.  And–if you have a multi-person household–you can all access the account, and it’ll keep track of who does what.

The subscription is $2.50 a month, which is almost silly it’s so cheap, and you get the first month free, so you can get used to it, and try it out.

The cool part about a budget is you end up having more money, and less guilt or paranoia about spending it, because you know exactly how much you can spend on books (or your favorite equivalent).  NeoBudget fits my criteria: cheap, straightforward, and efficient.

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