The 5 Best Budget Apps for 2018

Budgeting has one simple rule: spend less than you earn.

Unfortunately, 55% of American consumers say they either spend more money than they make or all the money they earn, according to a survey released in September of 2018.

So obviously, it’s a lot easier said than done, but it’s easier done if you get help from a budget app. There are a ton of them on the market, all of which are better than just trying to do the math in your head as you go along.

I downloaded 17 of them and will give you a list of my top 5, but before we get there, remember that the best budget app is one that helps you follow the one simple rule: spend less than you earn.

Here are a couple more rules to follow before choosing:

1. It should be simple

There’s no need to overcomplicate things. You should be able to open a budgeting app and immediately begin using it. Maybe a few easy-to-follow instructions to get you started, but if you’re budgeting app needs a tutorial, then try another one.

2. It should be cheap

After all, the whole goal of a budgeting app is to help you save money. There’s enough apps out there with free features for you not to have to pay for one that by itself will cut into your budget.

So, something simple and cheap that will track how much you spend and how much you earn. There are a lot of apps that can do that, and to be honest, they all will work— for the most part – but only if you use them and stick to it!

Picking a budget app is a lot like picking a diet. They’ll ask you to track your expenses (count your calories) and record your income (exercise). Some will encourage you to cut certain things out of your budget (diet). And just like a diet, consistency and discipline are key.

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1.Daily Budget

Cost: Free with the option to upgrade to pro for $8.99. That’s relatively cheap compared to some of the subscription based apps. The free version will get you to where you need to go. Upgrading to pro adds more category icons and unlocks analysis graphs.

Cons: Unfortunately, Daily Budget is only available on iOS (iPhone users), however, the company based out of Germany is working on a version for Android as well.

At A Glance

Daily Budget calculates income and expenses in a simple intuitive way, and one unique feature makes it different from all the rest. Daily Budget takes your yearly income and subtracts your recurring expenses and what percentage to set aside for savings. The leftover amount is broken down into a daily total to cover every other expense.

Features

Your “daily budget” is placed loudly at the top of your screen. As you enter each purchase, the total ticks down. That helps to demonstrate how much each transaction affects your overall budget, and you might be surprised to see how quickly it adds up when your budget is put under a microscope. The Big Spendings tab allows you to plan for larger one-time purchases, like a TV or new cellphone, then calculates that into your per diem.

That’s it.

No registering or creating a profile. No estimating what you think you’ll spend on gas, groceries etc. Download the app and budget as you go.

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2. Spending

Cost: Free with option to upgrade to pro for $2.99. The pro upgrade is cheap but not necessary. Repeating transactions and PDF and CSV exports are useful pro features, but you can still add them individually by watching a short advertisement.

Cons: The app lacks some of the bells and whistles of other budgeting apps, but that is what keeps it so simple and easy to use.

At A Glance

It’s a simple name and a simple app. Spending is a DIY budget app that tracks income and expenses on a month-month basis. Add income as it comes in and expenses as you pay them out. The app subtracts the two and gives you a balance at the bottom.

Features

Transactions can be categorized as you add them and are listed in a tab to the right. Rotating the phone displays a pie chart, giving you an idea of how much money is being spent on each category. Toggle to the cash flow feature to show a graph tracking total income and expenses month-to-month.

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3. Mint

Cost: Best of all, the app is free. Mint makes its money by advertising credit cards, loans and investments. YNAB ($6.99/month or $83.99/year) and EveryDollar ($9.99/month) do basically the same thing as Mint but for a hefty price.

Cost: The downside to these types of apps is that it’s a form of passive budgeting. Transactions are sorted into categories automatically, which takes away user engagement. Users are less likely to open the app after each transaction and actively track expenses to balance their budget. That makes them more prone to going over budget without knowing it.

At A Glance

Mint uses your bank and credit card login to link directly to financial institutions. Then it aggregates your checking, savings, investment and credit card accounts into one place, giving you a big picture of your finances.

Features

Transactions are compiled into one list, making it a great tool to track cash flow. It also comes with a budgeting feature that lets you estimate how much money should be allocated to each category (rent, utilities, groceries, entertainment, restaurants, etc.). Mint partners with TransUnion to provide credit score monitoring.

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4. You Need A Budget

Cost: YNAB doesn’t run ads on its app. Instead, they charge a fee of $6.99/month or $83.99/year. There isn’t a free or lite version, but they do offer a one-month free trial

Where It’s Available: The price might not scare you off, but if you are already over budget, it should. Mint does basically the same thing for free, and there is no sense in adding another reoccurring expense to an already tight budget. YNAB might be an option for someone that could make use of the multiple budgets feature, someone that has personal and business budgets, but it would be hard to justify the price when there are many cheaper alternatives.

At A Glance

YNAB (You Need A Budget) is an app very similar to Mint, but YNAB puts budgeting front and center. As soon as you open the app, you’re budgeting.

Features

Like Mint, YNAB links directly to your accounts and tracks transactions all in one place. You can also manually add accounts without linking them. Enter the balance when you create the budget, and each time you manually enter in transactions, it will calculate that into the balance. The homepage is an estimated budget you design, and as transactions come in, they are filed into each category helping you track your budget goals in real time. They have a quick budget tool, which shows averages of how much you spend versus how much you budgeted for and whether or not you have enough funds to balance that out. YNAB lets you create multiple budgets.

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5. Goodbudget App

Cost: Goodbudget has a free version with 20 total envelopes and one account for two devices. Upgrading to Goodbudget Plus for $5.99/month or $49.99/year gets you unlimited envelopes and accounts for five devices.

Cons: The price of the upgrade is expensive considering the app doesn’t link to bank accounts. The Mvelopes app offers the same style of envelope budgeting with linking to bank accounts for $3.99/month or $39.99/year. But Mvelopes doesn’t have a free version. Fortunately, the free version of Goodbudget is really all you need to balance a budget. Envelope-style budgeting isn’t for everyone, but it could help limit spending to just the necessities.

At A Glance

Goodbudget is the old-school envelope technique of budgeting updated for the 21st century. The idea is that you label envelopes gas, groceries, dining out, etc., fill them with cash and only spend money from the envelopes. Once the funds from one envelope are gone, that’s it—no more spending on that category until next month unless you transfer funds from another envelope.

Features

The envelopes tab displays a progress bar that indicates how much money is left in each envelope. As transactions are manually entered, money is taken out of the virtual envelope and progress bar reflects the change. Accounts can be manually tracked by entering in

a balance at the beginning, although the free version allows for only one account. The reports tab gives you a pie chart that illustrates how much money is spent on each envelope, and a bar graph shows net income and spending.

Honorable Mention Candidate

Microsoft Excel

Cost: Free

When it really comes down to it, all you need to make a budget is a spreadsheet. Create one table with Excel to estimate your monthly income and expenses. Then, create another table to list your actual income and expenses as you go.