This post is one of the free bonus chapters that go together with my eBook “Expat Flow”. You can get the book here.
It’s one of the main worries with each big project I plan. And when traveling, it’s one of the first things I’m aiming to get right. Money: how can an expat life handle it better? And what help is available to let happy nomads work their budgets from all around the world? Here are my top three money-managing tools. Suggest yours on social media!
The lightweight hero: Goodbudget
This is a tool that helped me break my allergy to budgeting. I used to hate making budgets of any kind until I tried this little app. It’s really user-friendly, and does not take up a lot of time, or space on my smartphone.
Goodbudget uses the envelope method to manage your money. If you’re interested, you’ll read up on that – basically, an “envelope” is a category where part of your money goes. For people who try to budget for their expat adventure, this is a useful way to plan: there is that good feeling connected with knowing you really are thinking about all possible ways of spending that cash, and allocating an “envelope” to each.
Goodbudget is free when used on a small scale – you will need to pay for the premium features. The free option does not expire, either – although the account history is more limited.
The polished purchase: You Need A Budget
There are several things I like about the YNAB approach. It looks great. It makes you feel all smug and successful as you use it. It really is a great way of seeing how your money works in everyday life.
YNAB has, over time, grown into a powerful, practical money-managing website. There are tips, courses, tutorials, workshops…and the program itself – a flexible, user-friendly option whose main idea is to “give each dollar a job” (a fancier take on the envelope method).
Why am I not using YNAB these days? Well, the free trial period is only good for 34 days as of 2017. If you want to keep using it, you’ll need to pay. And that’s totally fine – in fact, I’d recommend you take the plunge and really try YNAB out, because the yearly price might be worth it in your case. As for me, I’ve gone from YNAB to…
The free-software mega-machine: GNUcash
This is not for everyone. GNUcash is big, powerful, complex – and looks like something you’d see on an old computer screen in the early seasons of “The Office”. Don’t expect fancy graphics and pixel-perfect interface. GNUcash is a big, budget-cum-accounting package that means business.
For expats who work abroad, this is perfect. There is the option to manage more than one budget or account. There is the invoicing option, connected with the accounts, so any tax work becomes simpler. And after some getting used to, this becomes a central hub from which all your money matters can be managed.
It’s free software – which means no yearly subscription. It’s community-managed – which means there is support, wiki and documentation, but more of a learning curve. If you’re after 100% control over your money, though, this is something you can consider.
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