Top 5 Budget Apps
Budgeting has a straightforward rule: spend less than you earn.
Sure, it's a lot easier said than done, but it's easier to do if you get help from a budget app. There are many on the market, and they all beat trying to calculate as you go along mentally.
Below, we'll break down some of our favorites.
At A Glance
Personal Capital offers a slew of convenient tools aspiring budgeters will find helpful. The user-friendly dashboard lets you monitor transactions with ease. Open a line with Personal Capital Cash to earn from 0.05% to 0.10% interest on your checking account. The higher rate is for customers who run their investments through Personal Capital.
Personal Capital focuses on wealth management. Main features include linking up financial accounts, tracking net worth, and personalized investment analysis. Its robust investment analyzer scans your portfolio to uncover hidden fees that may be hindering your earning potential. The retirement planner feature lets you map out your future.
At A Glance
Mint links financial institutions like your bank and credit card company using the same login information. Then it aggregates your checking, savings, investment, and credit card accounts into one place, giving you a big picture of your finances. Expenses appear in your budget after each purchase.
Transactions are compiled into one list, making it a great tool to track cash flow. The budgeting feature estimates how much money should be allocated to each category (rent, groceries, entertainment, etc.). You can set up notifications for bill pay reminders. Further customize your transactions using tags that allow users to split single purchases into multiple categories.
Cost: Free; $7.99/month or $79.99/year for premium. It also offers a lifetime membership for $99.99.
Things to consider: Free version limits customization, meaning some will have to pay for the app to make use of it. For example, if you use a lot of cash, you’ll have to upgrade to manage your cash transactions. PocketGuard possesses all you need for basic budgeting, but it lacks the tools for analyzing or managing investments.
At A Glance
PocketGuard uses innovative technology to analyze your savings, checking, and credit accounts. It uses this insight to offer advice on how to save and provides a detailed list of transactions, so you can see where your money goes every month.
PocketGuard's signature feature is called In My Pocket. After accounting for your bills, budgets, and goals, it shows you how much spending money you have. This saves you from doing the numbers in your head whenever you want to make an impulsive purchase. Transactions are charted automatically, but the Hashtag feature lets you create custom categories that the algorithm might have trouble forming.
Cost: $14.99/month; $98.99/year. It also offers a one-month free trial.
Things to consider: YNAB is expensive. It works best for people who need a multiple budgets feature, those with personal and business budgets, but there are alternative apps that offer basic budgeting for less. Some may find the interface cumbersome and hard to navigate.
At A Glance
YNAB lets you track your finances from different devices, including your phone, tablet, and desktop. It’s even compatible with Amazon Echo if you prefer your budget read aloud.
YNAB uses a zero-based budget similar to how your parents may have used envelopes to track their expenses. This form of budgeting divides the money in your bank account into bills, debt, and savings. Each month, you’ll allocate your funds into one of these categories. You decide where your money should go before you get your next paycheck. This puts you in control of your expenses and offers a clear picture of your financial outlook. The quick budget tool shows how much you spend versus how much you budgeted for and whether you have enough funds to balance out. You can also manually add accounts without linking them.
At A Glance
Daily Budget calculates income and expenses in a simple, intuitive way. It crunches your yearly budget into a small bite-sized "per diem" (that's a daily allowance). It does this by taking your annual income and subtracting your recurring expenses and savings. The leftover amount is divided into a daily total to cover every other cost.
Your “daily budget” is placed loudly at the top of your screen. As you enter each purchase, the total ticks down. This demonstrates the impact each transaction has on your overall budget. The Big Spendings tab allows you to plan for larger one-time purchases, like a TV or new cell phone, then calculates that into your per diem. The free version will get you to where you need to go. Upgrading to pro adds more category icons and unlocks analysis graphs.
Honorable Mention - Microsoft Excel/Google Sheets
Sometimes the best budgeting software is just a spreadsheet. All you need to do is create one table with Excel or Sheets to estimate your income and expenses. Then, create another table to list your actual income and expenses as you go.
If you wind up way over budget, look at a debt reduction spreadsheet to get back on your feet. This spreadsheet factors in interest rates to calculate how much money you have leftover each month to attack debt and the number of years it would take to pay it off.