We live in the year 2021, and that comes with some great advantages. We have all the information we could ever need right at our fingertips. However, even with all the personal finance information in the world, a third of Canadians don’t even have anything saved for retirement!

Luckily, it doesn’t have to be that way. There are plenty of great tools you can use to create a budget, force yourself to follow through, and start saving money. Let’s talk about some of the best budgeting tools you can use to keep you on track!

#1. QuickBooks Self-Employed

You may be an employee, but do you have a side hustle that requires you to file a T4A form at the end of the year? If you’re a freelancer, Uber/Lyft driver, or a full-time self-employed person, this is the app for you.

This app helps you track your business mileage, all business expenses, and everything else you need in one convenient app. Are you sick of saving receipts in your filing cabinet? Open the app, click a button, snap a picture of the receipt, and it not only saves the receipt but keeps a tally of all business expenses and organizes them by category.

Let’s say you drive for Uber or deliver for Doordash, you have a lot of car expenses that come up. You have your mileage, which includes your fuel. Then, you have your maintenance costs like oil changes and brake replacements. You’ll also have occasional repairs. Snap a picture of the receipt, click the category it belongs in, and it’ll be saved in an organized way in the event you are audited.

Business miles are also important to track whether you’re an Uber driver or a plumber. These miles add up over time, and your vehicle depreciates in value because of it. You will be able to write off these business miles as one of your (likely largest) expenses. The app makes this really easy to do.

You can set it up so that it tracks your location in the background. It will show you trips for everywhere you went, and at the end of every week or so, you can swipe each trip left or right as either a business trip or a personal trip. Not tracking all your business expenses is one of the most common budgeting mistakes people make!

This requires a monthly subscription that’s even cheaper than Netflix, and if you already use Turbotax, it’s run through the same company (Intuit). They offer a discount on tax filing with your subscription, so if you already use it, the subscription pays for itself throughout the year.

#2. Mint

This is one of the best completely free tools for beginners in their budgeting journey, and like Quickbooks, it’s run through Intuit. No nonsense, just available snapshots of your finances that are easy to understand.

Mint uses a secure link to your checking account and monitors your transactions from various sources. You can also link it to your credit or ATM cards to monitor those in a convenient, one-stop-shop platform for your budget. It will display an easy-to-read graphic of where you are spending the most money, what your essentials are, and how you could be saving.

If you’re looking to get started with investing some of your savings, Mint can also help you with investment tracking. This feature is a little more basic than some of the other investment trackers on the list, which is fine if you’re just looking to forget about the money you’re investing. However, if you want more insights into your investments, you may want to look elsewhere. Either way, it’s free to sign up, so there’s no risk in checking it out!

#3. Pocketguard

This app is great for generating your initial budget, which could be your biggest concern if you’re a regular employee just looking to save some extra money at the end of each month!

You start by putting your savings goals and bills into the app, and it generates a budget for you. It’ll let you know how much you have leftover after you’ve put the money into your savings and paid off your bills for the month, allowing you to keep a number in mind to spend wisely.

As income, bills, and goals change, you can always adjust them on the app to get updated figures. This does require a subscription, but again, it’s cheaper than any of your 7 streaming services and it can actually benefit you financially!

#4. Acorns

This isn’t a budgeting app but it is wonderful for your savings and overall financial health. If you really struggle with putting money into your savings, or if you don’t have any retirement fund, Acorns is a great alternative.

If your goal for creating a budget is to put money into savings, retirement, or investment accounts, then Acorns is perfect for you.

The app takes spare change out of your credit and debit transactions, along with any amount you want to pay every week or month, and it invests it into the stock market for you. It gives you up-to-date figures and projections for your savings future.

Once it links to your credit or debit card, it rounds up every transaction to the nearest dollar. If your morning coffee is $3.25, the app will round up $0.75 to charge your account a total of $4, and that $0.75 will be invested. However, you don’t even have to do that. You can just do regular payments every week or every month, and they will add up without even realizing it.

If you’re 25 years old and you’re putting $25 a month in, you probably won’t even notice it. However, Acorns will project a total of $111,918 by the time you reach the age of 65. This is because your investment, by then, will reach around $27,700 with a return of over $84,000 over the course of 40 years. Not bad for something you hardly notice!

While that isn’t a substitute for a pension or a true retirement fund, it’s an excellent way to make small contributions that add up over time. That specific projection was without the round-ups, which would increase it even more!

The service only costs a dollar a month and they don’t take anything out of your investments. You can start investing for free, too!

#5. Google Sheets

When it comes to budgeting software, we all know about Microsoft Excel. Well, Sheets is essentially the same thing but entirely free. If you know how to work it and you plan to be diligent with it, it’s a handy way to have everything synced between your laptop, work computer, and your phone. You can use it on computer software, online, or an app.

Sheets are perfect for diligent budgeters but it has a downside. Diligence is key. It will be on you to manually input all of the expenses, which is totally fine for many people! This program is great for uploading expenses, figuring out your disposable money, and finding where you spend the most of your income outside of your bills.

Basically, all of the features these apps and programs offer can be done on Sheets with a little extra work. The best budgeting tips always involve being consistent, so you have to trust yourself and follow through to be successful no matter what! Remember, budgeting is work, but it’s very rewarding!

#6. Pocketsmith

Pocketsmith, like Google Sheets, is very easily accessible. It’s cloud-based, so you can access it from anywhere, and it’s great for projecting future balances. You’ll put in your monthly expenses and income, and you’ll be able to run through a lot of potential financial scenarios and gauge what the future account balance would be.

With this app, you can also set up an alert system to let you know when your accounts are running out of funds, which can save you on overdraft fees. You’ll also be able to avoid late fees by using the app’s calendar to alert you when your bills are due. This app does come with a monthly subscription but it’s worth it if you think you need these services.

If you were to pair a service like this with a savings account or something like Acorns, you would be able to set up automatic deposits (in your desired amount) to your savings fund and be alerted if your checking account is running low. This way, you don’t have to manually send the money to your savings, and still do not have to worry about overdrafts.

Follow Through With Your Budgeting Tools

Downloading an app or browsing through different budgeting tools is the first step. However, the only way to stick to a budget and increase your savings is to be patient and consistent! Look for ways to save money, stay up to date with our latest financial news, and find out some activities that will save you money!