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Best budgeting apps in 2021
Getting your spending on track
Budgeting is one of the best ways to make the most of your money. By thinking ahead about how much money you have coming in, and mapping out where it should all go, you’re more likely to have enough money to carry you through to the next paycheck. Today, there are a wide variety of apps — some of them tied to your banking account — that do this for you.
Here are seven of our favorite best budgeting apps. Each has a slightly different approach to budgeting. Read on!
|Mint automatically categorizes your spending to see exactly where your money is going, set financial goals, track expenses, monitor investment performance and savings growth.||No fees|
|Pocketguard creates a budget based on your spending habits and informs you when you have money leftover for savings. You can also set financial goals, as well as see your financial picture all in one place.||No fees|
|With YNAB, you can assign every dollar that you earn to a category. And you can link to your bank accounts or manually add spending transactions. This app is ideal for the most detailed of budgeters that want to know exactly where every dollar is going, and they also offer free daily workshops on a variety of money topics.||34-day free trial|
then $11.99 per month
or $84.00 per year
|Wally tracks your income and expenses to see exactly where your money is going. It’s very visual— category charts help you quickly get a picture of your finances.||No fees|
|If you’ve ever used the physical envelope method of budgeting and found it useful, Mvelopes is essentially the digital version. It uses digital “envelopes” to manage your budget and cash flow by having you allocate money into each digital envelope.||Free 30-day trial|
Basic: $6/month or $55/year
Plus: $19/month or $190/year
Complete: $59/month, $149/quarter, or $549/year
|Goodbudget goes back to the roots of old-fashioned budgeting, where you enter every detail of your financial situation manually, so you take a really good look at your finances. You can also link your account to your partners so you work on a budget together.||Free basic plan|
Plus: $7/month or $60/year
|Personal Capital allows you to set a budget, monitor your income and expenses, watch your investments, and set financial goals for yourself. It’s an all-in-one kind of system.||No fees|
Best overall for budgeting: Mint
App Store: #/5, Google Play: 4.5/5
Mint is one of the most widely used budgeting and finance apps on the market, and for good reason. It’s free, simple to use, and effective at what it does. The main feature of Mint is budgeting and tracking of expenses (makes sense since it’s our top-rated app, right?). Once you link your accounts and credit cards, it automatically updates when you sign in and your spending gets placed in various categories automatically.
Pros: The more you use the app, the more it learns your spending habits and where you want certain things to be categorized. Mint also allows you to create and track financial goals, see your total financial situation quickly, and even allows you to monitor your credit score. It’s also free!
Cons: The automatic spending categorization isn’t always accurate and often needs to be reviewed or edited. Some people have also complained that they constantly have to re-link to their bank accounts.
Best for tracking unspent money: Pocketguard
App Store: #/5, Google Play: 4.0/5
Pocketguard helps you “pocket” money that you haven’t spent. By tracking your spending habits, Pocketguard creates a personalized budget for you, and informs you when you save leftover money outside of what was budgeted. With great visuals and the ability to display your income, future bills that are due, and create and track your own financial goals, Pocketguard offers some of the best features for a free budgeting app out there.
Pros: Personalized budgeting, free, setting and tracking financial goals, tracking income and expenses, and seeing upcoming bills.
Cons: Less user friendly than something like YNAB, without as many capabilities as some of the paid apps.
Best for detailed tracking: YNAB
App Store: #/5, Google Play: 4.2/5
You Need a Budget (YNAB) links to your bank account so it automatically tracks your deposits and spending (or you can enter that information yourself if you prefer). Once everything is linked, you assign every dollar that comes into a specific category, like savings or household expenses.
This approach is called a zero-based budget, made famous by Dave Ramsey. It ensures that you know where every single dollar is going and there’s no untracked or unintended spending. With YNAB, you can only budget with the money you have, rather than budgeting for money you will be getting.
Pros: It’s best for detailed budgeting where you want to know where every dollar is going, and for only spending the money you actually have.
Cons: After a month’s free trial, it’s $11.99 per month (or $84/annually) to keep using the service. You also can’t budget future dollars. It’s all about the money you have in the moment.
Best for simple budgeting: Wally
App Store: #/5, Google Play: 4.⅕
Wally is a simple way to track your expenses and visualize what’s happening with your money. It compares your income to your expenses, helps you understand where your money goes and allows you to set and achieve goals. It basically tracks the path of every dollar you have coming in and out: where, when, what, why, & how much.
Pros: Wally is very simple to use, with pre-set categories that show where your money will be coming from and going towards. It is great for simple budgeting where you can quickly get an idea of the cost of your lifestyle.
Cons: You have to enter your financial information manually, and it doesn’t budget for you. It simply displays your financial activity so you can assess and make decisions yourself.
Best for envelope-style budgeting: Mvelopes
App Store: #/5, Google Play: 3.5/5
Mvelopes is a virtual envelope budgeting system. Before technology took over the world and we had access to all of these apps, many people wrote “rent” or “food” on actual envelopes and allocated portions of their paycheck into each envelope. With Mvelopes, you do this same thing — digitally. You can create as many as you want and for any category of spending that you choose.
Pros: Mvelopes helps you to easily visualize where your money is going, and encourages you to cut down on extra spending and set aside savings. There are three versions available, so you can choose how much you want to pay for various premium features.
Cons: After the 30-day trial, it’s $6/month for the basic version, up to $59/month for the complete version. This makes Mvelopes the most expensive of the budgeting apps.
Best for couples: Goodbudget
App Store: #/5, Google Play: 4.5/5
Goodbudget is the most “old-fashioned” of our top budgeting app. You enter all information manually into the app, then Goodbudget creates a budget for you by using “virtual” envelopes that are tied to various spending categories. The unique part about Goodbudget is that you can sync your budget with someone else’s (or even a group of people), which makes it a pretty darn good choice for couples.
Pros: The ability to sync your account with other people, helping everyone stay on track. You can also swap money between envelopes if you overspend in one area and underspend in another.
Cons: Goodbudget doesn’t sync to your accounts, so everything needs to be entered manually. The free version only allows you ten “envelopes”, so you may need to upgrade for $7/month.
Best for seeing the whole picture: Personal Capital
App Store: #/5, Google Play: 4.4/5
Personal Capital looks beyond budgeting. Because you link to your bank accounts (both checking and loans), credit cards, and investment accounts, you get to see how much you have saved, how much you owe, and how much you have invested. It also shows you your net worth. Net worth is basically everything you own of significance (your assets) minus what you owe in debts (your liabilities). Assets are things like cash and investments, cars, or anything else of value you own. Liabilities are what you owe on those assets — including car loans, student loan debt, or credit card debt.
Pros: Allows you to view your entire financial picture and your net worth acts as a good indicator of your financial health. The app provides detailed information about your income and expenses which you can use to budget on your own.
Cons: Budgeting is not inherently built into the app.
Using budgeting apps
Many people start out with really good intentions to budget and then lose steam. Before you sign yourself up for any old app, read some of the user reviews and think through what level of commitment you’re ready to make and what outcome you’re aiming for. Are you simply trying to avoid overspending? Or do you want to know why your money is disappearing and where it’s going? By thinking through how general or detailed you want to be in advance, you can narrow down the best budgeting apps to the one that is going to help you keep yourself on track.
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