How to plan an effective budget Useful budgeting tools and resources

First Direct account aggregator screengrab

First Direct offers a money dashboard service, allowing you to see all your accounts in one place

While some people might prefer to use pen and paper to create their budget, others will want to take a more technical approach to tracking their spending.

Luckily, there are plenty of resources available for those people who’d like to use a computer-based or online system to help them budget effectively – many of which are free to use.

Personal finance software

Personal finance (PF) software programmes can be loaded on to your home computer or laptop and can have a wide variety of functions.

Depending on the system you choose, your PF software will allow you to produce a monthly budget, create diagrams and graphs to illustrate how you’re spending your money and will allow you to track the status of your bank accounts, savings and investments.

Some personal finance software packages cost up to £50, but there are also free computer programmes available to help you manage your money.

Read the Which? review of the best paid-for and free personal finance software to make sure you get the right package for your needs.

Money dashboards and account aggregation services

Online money dashboards and account aggregation services are also growing in popularity in the UK – albeit fairly slowly.

Websites such as Lovemoney.com, MoneyDashboard and First Direct’s aggregator service allow you to view all your credit card, current account and savings account balances in one place – so there is no need for you to log into several different sites (or dig out various sets of statements and bills) every time you want to check whether your spending is under control.

Some aggregators offer additional functionality, such as the automatic production of graphs and diagrams based on the transactions you make using the accounts linked to your dashboard. These can illustrate your financial situation and spending habits, without the need for you to provide the website with additional information.

You can find out more about account aggregators, as well as their pros and cons, by visiting the page of our Personal finance software review.

Online and downloadable budget planners

Finally, you might want to consider using an online budgeting tool, or a downloadable budget planner, to help you create a monthly spending plan you can keep track of. Some of these offer you the facility to save your budget details or create a personal ‘account’ – but they won’t require you to provide your bank details or passwords.

The free budgeting tool from the Consumer Financial Education Body is straightforward and easy to use, and does a lot of the calculations you’ll need worked out for you.

Meanwhile, ListenToTaxMan is a useful website for anyone who needs help working out their total annual income after tax.

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