The Internet offers tools for almost every imaginable purpose, and financially savvy families and businesses often turn to online resources for assistance in creating and maintaining a budget. Online tools can help individuals and business leaders follow a number of budget strategies and crunch numbers a variety of different ways; online budgeting can even carry a number of benefits for Internet users.
Online budgeting helps Internet users develop and pursue a number of financial strategies. Some budgeting websites simply provide information on various strategies or budgeting recommendations and offer a few calculators to help users identify potential sources of savings and bastions of overspending. Websites dole out advice on specific budgeting plans like the 50/30/20 budgeting approach outlined in a January, 2011 article on MSN. More specialized websites offer tools geared toward very specific strategies, many of which include references to specific accounts or funds.
Online budgeting tools range from simple and mundane to robust applications with ongoing support. Typical online budgeting tools like the one that the financial magazine "Kiplinger" allows users to enter income and categorized basic expenses like rent or mortgage payments, credit card payments, utility bills and vacation funds. More advanced tools allow users to break down specific expenses to include the type of expense, retailer or service provider and even tax percentage. According to an online budget tool review that the financial website DoughRoller posted in July 2011, some online budgeting tools link to users’ bank accounts and automatically import financial transactions.
The cost of online budgeting varies considerably depending on the specific application, service provider and selected features. Many websites offer basic budgeting tools for free, and some free tools offer several features like graphical expense tracking and detailed categorization. These sites typically subsidize the expense of software development by placing advertisements alongside the online tools. DoughRoller points out that some paid online budgeting applications rival those used in professional financial institutions, and these packages can carry price tags that reach into the hundreds of dollars as of the time of publication. Many commercial online budgeting tools offer users a free trial.
Online budgeting tools help users identify categories and types of expenses and control spending in non-essential areas. In a September 2011 article in "The Seattle Times," columnist Eileen Ambrose explained that online budgeting tools help users see where their paychecks go. By identifying non-essential areas that consume a large proportion of available income, like entertainment and dining out, budgeting tool users can more proactively control spending and save money. Some online budgeting tools make recommendations that help users divert saved funds into specific savings and retirement accounts to boost financial returns. Ambrose also notes that many online budgeting tools that interface with bank accounts can automatically categorize expenses, further automating the process of tracking expenditures and increasing the accuracy of recommendations.
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