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May 16, 2021

Why your budget just doesn't work

By Gordon Powers, Sympatico / MSN Finance

Got that nagging feeling that you’re just not doing enough to manage your money? You’re probably right, which leaves you with two options. Keep writing cheques and melting plastic until your money runs out, or get a handle on things right now by establishing specific savings goals, blogger FiveCentNickel suggests.

Instead of setting up a detailed budget, complete with projections of how much his family is likely to spend in particular categories, he works towards predetermined savings goals and let's everything else unfold accordingly.

But it's hard to see how you can get there without at least a little bit of budgeting.

There's no shortage of free personal finance sites you can consult to monitor your money and set budgets, among them Justbudget, Wesabe, Easybudget, Mint, and Rudder.

Mint, for instance, is great site for those looking to take the tedium out of budgeting. Although only available in the U.S. right now, a move to Canada is in the works. 

The service logs into your bank and credit card accounts to get updated information on existing balances and transactions. Mint updates all your accounts at least once a day and automatically labels each expense with a category -- groceries, utilities, gas and so on. It then organizes the data in a series of colourful pie charts so you can spot if you’re over budget on those spa costs. 

It’s not as intrusive as it sounds. Mint starts with the same encryption banks use, but the difference is that on Mint, you’re anonymous – no account numbers, just a user name and password. Still, even that might be too much access for some. 

In that case, you’ll probably prefer spreadsheets over their online cousins. If so, there are several free budget templates available from Microsoft. They include personal and family budgets as well as event budgets for weddings or golf tournaments. 

Looking for more of a group solution? Buxfer is a site that specializes in group budgeting and IOUs among friends. Perfect for college roommates or group vacations, you can invite contacts to join and track shared bills with little hassle. 



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Gordon PowersGordon Powers

A long-time fund company executive, Gordon Powers now heads up the Affinity Group, a financial services consulting firm. Gordon was a personal finance columnist for the Globe & Mail for many years, has taught retirement planning...

James HaversJames Havers

James is the senior editor of MSN Money living in Toronto. He has worked for the Nikkei Shimbun (Tokyo),,, Canadian Business and other publications. Havers turned to journalism after teaching overseas.

Jason BucklandJason Buckland

The modern-day MC Hammer of money, Jason can often be seen spending cash that isn’t his with the efficiency of a Wilt Chamberlain first date. After cutting his teeth as a reporter for the Toronto Sun, he joined the MSN Money team with...