It isn’t glamorous, but everyone should have some kind of budget. Budgeting helps keep you aware of the money you make and the money you spend and ensures you don’t find yourself overspending and going into debt. A good budgeting app or software makes it easy to keep track of your income and expenses, and it can make managing your money much simpler.
Here are some of the top-rated budgeting apps that can provide the tools you need to be successful in managing your money.
Why You Need a Budgeting App
Using a budgeting app is important for a few reasons.
The most obvious is that it stops you from overspending. If you spend more than you make, that means you're depleting your savings and/or going into debt. That's obviously something you don't want. A budgeting app makes it easier to avoid doing that by accident.
Second, budget apps can make you more mindful about your spending. If you pay closer attention to where you use your income, you can take the time to think about whether that spending is truly making you happy. That gives you the chance to adjust your spending habits so that you use more of your money on things that you care about.
Finally, many budgeting apps include additional tools to make managing your finances easier. This can be anything from automated investing services to tracking the due dates for your bill. Using an app means less stress when it comes to managing your cash.
It also might help if you think of the process of budgeting in this way: it's not a constraining, boring process but instead gives you a plan for financial independence.
Best Budgeting Apps of 2022
Mint is one of the most popular budgeting apps on the market—and for good reason. Once you sign up for an account, you can link all of your financial accounts, including your bank accounts, loans, credit cards, and investment accounts. Mint will then generate a dashboard where you can view your finances on a single page.
When you make purchases, Mint automatically categorizes and tracks them so you can see how much you’re spending on different categories. You can set spending targets so you can get a quick look at how well you’re matching your goals.
Mint also includes saving goals and investment tracking. The app is managed by Intuit, the same company behind tools like Turbotax and Quickbooks, so there are some integrations that make it easier to use those tools together.
The main downside is that sometimes syncing will break for short periods of time. It also advertises loans and credit cards in the app, which can be annoying.
As Dr. Jim Dahle wrote a few years ago, you should also be aware that “Mint lulls you into a false sense of security. As long as you are saving x dollars and your total expenditure is less than your net income, why worry? Mint won't necessarily help you trim costs, and if you're not acutely aware of where all your money goes, you might actually be saving less than you could.”
Personal Capital is one of the best budgeting apps for people who have excess income and who want to build wealth, which is true of just about everybody who reads The White Coat Investor.
The app focuses more on investing and wealth management than budgeting. You can use it for a basic budget that tracks income and expenses, but it doesn't do as good a job at the in-depth tracking that other apps do.
For investments, Personal Capital has a fee analyzer that tracks your investment fees and makes recommendations for less expensive options. You can also use it to plan for the future with retirement and education planning tools. If you’d like to make investing hands-off, you can also let the app manage your portfolio for you at a cost of 0.49%-0.89% of your invested assets. That's probably a little bit less than you'll pay a financial advisor, but you also probably won't be getting the same kind of personalized service either.
Or as one WCI guest post writer noted a few years ago:
“I felt that Personal Capital's service was acceptable, although they didn’t direct me or suggest anything new. I think this is a great service for people who have not done their continuing financial education and have no interest in managing their own money, but was of minimal value to me. It seemed superficial and scripted. With a company so large, it sort of has to be though. I didn’t feel that I received individualized advice.”
You Need a Budget
You Need a Budget (YNAB), like other budgeting apps, lets you sync your bank and other financial accounts to keep track of all of your money in a single place. However, it also allows for a fully manual experience, uploading information for each transaction you make.
YNAB uses the envelope method of budgeting. The idea is that you have $X at the beginning of the month and you allocate each dollar to a certain type of spending, putting it in a labeled envelope. You take money from the relevant envelope each time you buy something, and if you run out of cash in that envelope, you stop buying that category of product.
This gives every dollar you earn a job, whether it be going toward investments, a mortgage payment, or something else. This makes YNAB a much more proactive tool than other apps, which are more reactive.
YNAB also comes with video courses and workshops that you can use to learn more about managing your finances and how to best use the app.
One drawback is that YNAB isn’t free. While you can test it out during a trial period, you’ll have to pay $14.99 per month or $98.99 annually (equivalent to $8.25 a month) to use it. YNAB claims that the cost is well worth paying, stating that its average customer saves $600 in their first two months of using the tool and $6,000 in the first year.
PocketGuard is another premium budgeting app. Its focus is on people who regularly overspend and find themselves without money for important bills at the end of the month. While it isn’t as useful for someone who has a better handle on their finances or who has more money set aside, PocketGuard can be helpful for people who are struggling to make ends meet.
Once you sign up for the app, you’ll link all of your financial accounts. PocketGuard will go over your spending history to see what you spend, what you save, and what bills you pay every month. Using that information, the app generates an “in your pocket” number.
The money “in your pocket” is the cash you have available to spend after accounting for any bills that are coming due and the paycheck you’ll earn. For example, if you have $500 in your checking account but a $300 bill coming, you might see that you only have $200 in your pocket. That makes it easier to know when you can spend money and how much you can spend.
Another unique feature is that PocketGuard tracks your bills and can help you negotiate them lower. You can also use the app to set up an automatic savings plan.
While the basic service is free, you’ll have to pay a fee for PocketGuard Plus, which unlocks the app’s full features. The service costs $7.99 a month, $34.99 for a year, or $79.99 for a lifetime membership.
Goodbudget is a free budgeting tool that, like You Need a Budget, relies on the envelope method of budgeting. This makes it a strong choice for people who want a more active budgeting tool instead of a reactive one.
What makes the app different from the competition is that it doesn’t sync with your financial accounts. You have to track all of your spending manually. This means that using the tool is a bit more effort, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It forces you to think about every dollar you spend, which could reduce your spending.
You can set up envelopes for savings goals, letting you allocate your extra cash toward things like buying a car or saving for a vacation.
Goodbudget also lets you sync and share your budget with other people, which means you can use the tool to build and track your budget together with a partner.
The free version of Goodbudget lets you set up 10 spending envelopes and 10 saving envelopes and lets you use it on two devices. For $8 per month or $70 per year, you can get unlimited envelopes, can use the app on five devices, and you can store up to seven years of spending history on the app.
Simplifi, by Quicken, is one of the best budgeting apps when it comes to tracking your cash flow. Like most budgeting apps, it starts by having you link your financial accounts so it can generate a dashboard that lets you see all of your money in one place.
Simplifi monitors your spending, automatically categorizing each transaction for you. However, it takes the tracking a step further by automatically building a spending plan for you. Based on your income and spending history, it also can create a budget for you. It also notifies you of upcoming bills so you don’t actually overspend.
You can use watchlists to keep track of your spending and notify you if you get close to overspending in a certain category. You can also track your savings goals and get notifications about your progress.
Simplifi also generates financial reports for you. You can get a breakdown of your income, spending, and savings with detailed graphics that make it easy to analyze how you use your money.
The app has a 30-day free trial. After that, you’ll have to pay $5.99 per month or $47.99 annually.
Zeta is a free budgeting app designed specifically for couples. The app comes with a built-in joint bank account that comes with two debit cards. The account has no monthly fees and lets you share your finances with your partner, tracking your income and expenses together.
If you’d rather skip the built-in checking account, that’s also an option. You can sync external accounts and use the app along with your partner to keep an eye on both your incomes and expenses. You can create both shared and personal budgets so you can use the app if you still have some money you keep separate from your partner.
Like other budgeting apps, Zeta can help track and categorize your spending, and it can send you reminders about bills.
EveryDollar is the budgeting app from finance personality Dave Ramsey. It's designed for people who are relatively new to budgeting and who want a straightforward experience. The app is based on the idea of the zero-based budget, which gives every dollar a job. You should have a plan for what to do with every dollar you earn, whether it's spending it or saving it so that you're left with zero dollars to spare at the end of the month.
The app makes you categorize your transactions manually, which adds a bit more work to the process. However, that also makes you a bit more mindful of your spending. With the free version of the app, you also have to input your transactions manually. The premium version of the program ($59.99 for three months, $99.99 for six months, or $129.99 for a year) adds automatic account syncing, custom reporting, and other features.
There are lots of different budgeting apps out there, and each works in a slightly different way. You might have to try a few before you find the one that fits your needs. However, it’s worth the effort, because budgeting apps can make tracking your income and expenses much easier. That can put you on a better financial path and help you start setting aside extra cash for important goals like a down payment, paying off loans, or retirement.
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