written by: Stephanie Mojica•edited by: Donna Cosmato•updated: 5/28/2010
Instant Budget Maker, one of several free budgeting tools, is a somewhat average website program that depends more on statistics than personal situations. However, it is recommended, with some reservations, for people who want to know how their financial expenditures stack up against those of others
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Do you ever wonder if your food budget is in line with those of others in your income and age bracket? Is your wardrobe costing too much money? Are you really making the most of your ability to save money? Some of these questions might be partially answered with Instant Budget Maker, a free CNN Money website tool.
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How it Works
Instant Budget Maker has a number of customizable options some people might find useful. Users input information such as their age group, weekly, monthly, or annual salary, number of people in their household, how many people in the residence are wage earners, and whether they rent or own their home.
The user can then decide whether they want to use some or all budget categories and have a weekly, monthly, or annual analysis.
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Once the initial screen with demographic and basic financial information is completed, Instant Budget Maker moves on to a second page with a number of budget categories. Common areas such as food, housing, and utilities are included, as well as other categories such as dining out, alcoholic beverages, insurance, and clothing.
The user types in figures applying to their spending, and sees the average expenditures overall and in that category for their age group and income category. Instant Budget Maker reveals most average people spend more than 100 percent of their income on essential and optional expenses.
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Instant Budget Maker does have some useful statistical information, though exactly how the data is determined is never quite clear. The tool is not difficult to use, but its actual usefulness is questionable. Most people can cut expenses in some areas but not others, and if you have to spend more money on medical care or education than the average person in your age group it is probably not encouraging to know that is not the norm. For frivolous expenses such as a lot of alcohol or dining out, this may be helpful. The main problem with Instant Budget Maker is that it offers unsubstantiated statistics and very little actual help on how to make or implement a realistic budget.