A: First, congratulations on your decision to start budgeting. Here's a few tools you might want to look into:
- Mint.com tracks and categorizes your spending so you can tell exactly where your money is going in real time. That's extremely helpful when you're trying to budget because you can instantly see if you're overspending on non-essentials like dining out or too many pairs of jeans. Mint can also keep track of spending from multiple bank accounts, track your investments and work with tax software TurboTax to help you find deductions.
- One thing many people neglect when budgeting is the difference between their gross (before taxes) and net (after) incomes. Since no one actually lives on their gross income, it's necessary to estimate how much you'll pay in state and federal taxes, and other pre-tax expenses like some retirement account contributions, your contribution to healthcare premiums, etc. PaycheckCity is a free online tool that I've used nearly every time I've taken a new job to figure out what my actual net income might look like, and it's always been pretty accurate. It'll ask you for your gross salary, and then you'll plug in the state you live in and answer other questions about deductions likely to come out of your paycheck each month. At the end, it spits our what your net pay should look like. One thing it won't ask you for is any personally identifiable information, so there's no privacy concerns.