Online services can help you budget your money better and keep a check on your fitness plan. We show you how to get fit and financially sorted.

Checking your bank balance to find you've hit the red and there's still two weeks left until pay day: not a good feeling. And things can get even worse if you have to eke out cash over a whole year. As we head towards the end of another fiscal year, many of us will be feeling the pinch.

Rather than suffer the same fate next year, make a commitment to organise your finances. That way, you'll have a fighting chance of staying the right side of your overdraft and may even have some left over for a rainy day.

First, you need to work out your monthly income and outgoings. A spreadsheet in a password-protected folder marked ‘Personal' will be useful, and will let you see how well you're keeping to your budget, month by month.

There's no need to set up a spreadsheet from scratch: plenty of free or low-cost programs have been designed for this purpose. You can use an online tool to track what you're spending, but many of us prefer a PC-based program.

Unfortunately, few such programs are geared up for UK home users; most are aimed at the US market, and the rest tend to be designed for larger businesses.


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One notable exception is the UK-focused Personal Accountz (£39 inc VAT). We use this in our first workshop.

For a useful online tool, try BudgetBrain, a free program offered by respected website moneysavingexpert.com. It doesn't display a running total of what's gone in and out of your account, but it lets you compare your income and outgoings.

While you're getting your cash in order, consider applying the same sort of discipline to that get-fit resolution you made on New Year's Eve. Similar tracking tools can be used for your diet and fitness regime.

Whether you're planning on running a Sport Relief Mile or gearing up for the London Marathon, free web services such as FitDay.com can help keep you on track.

Sort out your finances with Personal Accountz

Step 1. Install Personal Accountz on your PC. Double-click to launch the program if it doesn't happen automatically. The program initially opens to a blank document where you can create your personal account. We'll use this account to keep track of your financial income and outgoings.

Personal Accountz step 1

Step 2. At the top is the Entries window. Use this to insert details of all your transactions: income such as your salary, or outgoings such as mortgage payments and food bills. The bottom pane displays the Accounts window. This shows a list of all your accounts - your current account, savings and so on - and their current balance.

Personal Accountz step 2

Online services can help you budget your money better and keep a check on your fitness plan. We show you how to get fit and financially sorted.

Step 3. Start by entering the opening balance of your bank account. Type the current date in the lefthand box in the Entries window. Since we're not taking money from elsewhere, leave the From field blank. In the To field, enter Bank Account (type b and a drop-down list of suggestions will appear).

Personal Accountz step 3

Step 4. Under amount, enter the opening balance. In the comments box we've added opening balance. The opening balance is now displayed in the Accounts field. If you're overdrawn when entering the opening balance, you'll need to enter the bank account in the From rather than the To field.

Personal Accountz step 4

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Step 5. Now add details of your salary. As with the opening balance information, click the icon next to the Entries window to insert a new row. Enter the date on which you're paid. In the From field, type Salary (or hit s and use the drop-down menu). Under To, type Bank Account, then enter a figure in the Amount column.

Personal Accountz step 5

Step 6. Salary is highlighted in pink, because Accountz is set to automatically reconcile salary. It also helps identify which entries have been checked against your bank statements. To change the auto-reconcile field, use the Reconcile tab in the Preferences. This option appears when the software is launched.

Personal Accountz step 6

Online services can help you budget your money better and keep a check on your fitness plan. We show you how to get fit and financially sorted.

Step 7. As well as enabling you to change the items that are automatically reconciled, the Preferences window allows you to adjust the date format and currency used in the software. We suggest you switch on the ‘Save file on exit' facility. This will ensure you never lose any entries to your account.

Personal Accountz step 7

Step 8. If you want to delete an entry - perhaps you've paid off a credit-card bill or cancelled your gym membership - you can get rid of it by clicking the row-deletion icon (the square with a red middle row). Expand the Assets field to view the total balance of your bank account in the Accounts window.

Personal Accountz step 8

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Step 9. Now enter any payments you've made; this enables you to immediately budget for debit-card purchases, even though they'll take a few days to appear on your bank statement. For each one, enter Bank Account in the From field, and whoever you paid under To. The running total is shown in the Accounts window.

Personal Accountz step 9

Step 10. Use Personal Accountz list to see where all your money is going - on the mortgage, utility bills and travel expenses, or on socialising and other luxuries. Don't forget to save the information, giving the spreadsheet a suitably obvious title. You can create similar accounts for everyone in the family.

Personal Accountz step 10

>> NEXT PAGE: Get in shape using Fitday

Online services can help you budget your money better and keep a check on your fitness plan. We show you how to get fit and financially sorted.

Get in shape using fitday

Step 1. Create a FitDay account. Click ‘Get Your Free Account', choose a username and password, enter your gender, height, weight and daily activity level. This might be ‘sedentary' if you never move from your desk or ‘strenuous' if you're on your feet all day or have to lift lots of items.

FitDay step 1

Step 2. Sign into your account and you'll be presented with your food log, where you keep a diary of everything you've eaten. Enter the name of a food into the Food Search box to see a list of matching items. Press the ‘Add To Food Log' button next to an item to add it to your food log. You can also browse through foods by type.

FitDay step 2

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Step 3. After a while you'll build up a Recent Foods list; items from here can be dragged into today's food log. It is also possible to create a custom food using the menu on the left, specifying a name and entering the nutritional information for one serving. Many of the items listed are US ones, so this is useful for adding British favourites.

FitDay step 3

Step 4. When you've selected your food, choose the amount you consumed and press Save Changes to update the log. The bottom row shows a running total of calories consumed so far. Scrolling down the page reveals a graph that displays the various amounts of fats, sugars and carbohydrates this represents.

FitDay step 4

Online services can help you budget your money better and keep a check on your fitness plan. We show you how to get fit and financially sorted.

Step 5. Now to burn off those calories. Click the Activities tab and enter details of exercises you've done today. As before, there's a search option and a Recent Activities option. FitDay will inform you how many calories you're likely to have burned off walking the dog, taking that dance class or jogging round the park.

FitDay step 5

Step 6. The Weight tab should be updated about once a week. A graph illustrates how your weight loss is going - enter your goal and the deadline to achieve it in the relevant tab. FitDay then suggests how many fewer calories you should consume to hit the target, although upping the exercise count is usually the best strategy.

FitDay step 6

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Step 7. With all this information logged, you'll be able to keep an eye on how your fitness regime is going. An overview tab gives you a quick indication of your average calorie intake, weight changes and whether you're hitting your targets. An average daily calorie burner charts the difference between your calorie intake and use.

FitDay step 7

Step 8. FitDay has a few interesting options left - check the remaining tabs. You can keep track of your mood, for example, or record your body measurements. There's also a journal where you can share details of your fitness training efforts with other members, to give each other encouragement.

FitDay step 8