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Many people think about budgeting in the same way that they think about counting calories:
They know it’s important, but they shudder at the thought of actually doing it.
And just like with calorie counting, once someone starts sticking to a budget that suits their lifestyle, they start start seeing positive results.
Budgeting apps — much like food tracking apps — can make this process easier. When the right tool is matched with the right person, great things happen.
To help you find your perfect match, we’ve carefully sorted and tested dozens of apps to find the best budgeting app for each major category.
Overview: The Best Budget Apps
- Best Overall: Mint
- Best For Keeping It Simple: PocketGuard
- Best For Spreadsheet Lovers: Tiller
- Best For Zero-Based Budgeting: YNAB
- Best For Envelope System Budgeting: EveryDollar
- Best For Couples: Honeydue
- Best For Tracking Net Worth and Spending: Personal Capital
Mint is an all-inclusive budget management tool that focuses on helping users track their spending automatically. The app allows users to set spending targets for each category in their budget, and transactions are categorized in real-time.
One of the biggest draws of Mint is that it’s a clean, centralized placed for users to view their entire financial life in one spot. Users can link almost any financial account to Mint, including banks, credit cards, loans, and investment accounts. Mint is used by over 20 million customers, and has remained one of the top tools since it hit the market in 2006.
Price: Free or $3.99/mo for PocketGuard Plus
PocketGuard is geared towards millennials who are new to budgeting and want something that is easy-to-use. Similar to other apps on this list, PocketGuard allows users to sync all of their financial accounts to the app.
Where PocketGuard shines the most is its “In My Pocket” feature, which lets users quickly see what money is safe to spend — after factoring in bills, ongoing spending, and savings goals. For instance, if a user finds a pair of shoes they want for $65 but they aren’t sure if they can afford them, a quick glance at their In My Pocket balance provides the answer.
PocketGuard also identifies opportunities for users to save money, like cancelling recurring subscriptions, negotiating bills, and more.
Price: 30-day free trial, then $59/yr
A common complaint of many budget tools is that they are too rigid and don’t give users enough flexibility to customize certain parts of their budget. For users who want a higher level of control and prefer using spreadsheets over cookie cutter apps, Tiller is a great solution.
Tiller automatically updates a set of spreadsheets with daily spending, transactions, and account balances. Users can opt for Google Sheets or Microsoft Excel.
Flexibility (without the headache of data entry) is the biggest selling point for Tiller. The tool supports multiple budgeting methods, including 50/30/20 budgeting, zero-based budgeting, and more.
Price: 34-day free trial, then $84/yr
You Need a Budget, AKA YNAB, has an extremely loyal fan base, bordering on a cult-level following. The app is works on the premise that every dollar, no matter what, has a purpose. Whether it’s paying a mortgage, buying a latte, or saving for the future, the idea behind YNAB — and zero-based budgeting in budgeting in general — the idea is that there should be no dollars left unaccounted for at the end of the month.
After a user gets their budget set up within the app, YNAB advises “All the dollars in your checking account are no longer at your disposal, because now you are spending from the budget, from the plan, from your categories.”
Price: 15-day free trial, then $129.99 per year
EveryDollar is the budgeting app created by Dave Ramsey, one of most popular figures in the personal finance industry. While a bit pricier than some of its competitors, EveryDollar Plus comes with access to Financial Peace University, which is Dave Ramsey’s flagship personal finance course.
EveryDollar works off of the envelope budgeting system, which is similar to zero-based budgeting. For users looking to assemble a debt payoff plan, EveryDollar has built in features like the Debt Snowball Tool to help. And, similar to other apps on this list, EveryDollar Plus syncs with a user’s outside accounts and updates transactions in real time. For anyone following Dave Ramsey’s Baby Steps program, this app is a perfect fit.
While many of the apps on this list allow for multiple users, the Honeydue app is specifically designed for couples. The app allows each partner to stay up-to-date on account balances, bill due dates, and it even allows users to split bills within the app.
The most unique feature of Honeydue, though, is the messaging feature. For instance, if a transaction looks suspicious (like possible fraud), a quick message to your partner can clear things up. Users can also send encouraging notes and emojis, which makes communication much smoother than waiting to bring something up over dinner. The app does have privacy settings, so users can decide how much information they want to share with their partner (for instance, deciding to share account balances but not every specific transaction).
Personal Capital’s main claim to fame is their investment software, but the app also boasts a powerful set of budgeting tools for everyday users. The app allows user to connect all their financial accounts, including checking, savings, credit cards, loans, mortgages, and more.
In addition to the spending tracking, Personal Capital has a net worth tracking feature that shows a user’s net worth trends over time.
How to Decide Which App is Right for You
With so many choices out there, it can be tough to decide on just one app. That’s why we encourage readers to take advantage of the free trials that these apps offer. The best way to know for sure if a tool is going to meet your needs is to take it for a test drive!
In general, it’s a smart idea to make sure you fall into the target market for an app. For instance, after spending a few minutes on PocketGuard’s site, it’s clear that their app caters towards a younger millennial audience. If you are a professional who is looking to get a longer-term view of your finances and overall wealth, Personal Capital or Mint would be a better option than PocketGuard.
You should be able to quickly get a “feel” for an app’s personality by visiting their website. Find one that matches yours.
A Few Things to Be Aware Of
If you are new to using technology to manage your money, there are a few things you should know upfront that will make your life easier.
Set aside some time for account setup. Depending on how many financial accounts you have, it can be tedious to sync all of them up with an app, but it’s worth the time to do it. The more accounts and information you can include, the more useful the app will be to you. Most people can get set up within 10-20 minutes, but it may take longer if you have more accounts. If you plan on trying out several apps, plan on investing the necessary time into getting each one set up correctly — don’t skimp on this.
Transactions will get miscategorized. All of these apps use either algorithms or AI to predict which category a transaction will fall under, which makes them all prone to error. This is why it’s important, especially as you are starting out, to closely analyze each transaction to make sure it is categorized correctly. As you make fixes, though, the apps will usually “learn” and make the correct designation next time.
You may need to re-sync accounts at times. Between two-factor authentication, security questions, device settings, and other factors, it’s normal for an app to occasionally get disconnected from one of your accounts. This is one of the drawbacks of added security, but a necessary evil to protect against fraud.
Keep an eye out for transactions you need to delete. For instance, if you are self employed and keep a separate bank account for estimate tax payments, you might need to delete the transaction where you make your quarterly tax payment so your entire budget isn’t thrown off.
Beware of notification fatigue. If you are the type of person that starts to ignore repetitive notifications, make sure to adjust your alert preferences within whatever app you end up using. A budgeting tool is only helpful when it’s actually being used, so don’t get to a point where you start ignoring it.
Free apps make their money off of advertising. For example, Mint is completely free and doesn’t even offer a paid plan. Mint makes money by referring customers to other financial products and services. For instance, they may earn a referral fee from a bank for every user that signs up for a high-yield savings account. This is something to keep in mind as you are using free budgeting apps.
More DollarSprout Resources to Help You Budget
If you are looking for more help with getting started with budgeting, check out the resources below.
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