If whipping your finances into shape is your 2021 goal, you’re not the only one with money on your mind. A Finder survey found that 33.69% of respondents made money-related resolutions for 2021.
One surefire way to get your finances under control is to create and stick to a budget. A budget can help you understand where your money is going each month and monitor whether you are in danger of overspending. Without a budget, you are effectively flying blind, increasing the chances of negative consequences like spending more than you have, incurring unnecessary debt via overdraft fees and damaging your credit.
If the idea of creating a budget makes you cringe, you don’t have to go it alone. Plenty of budgeting apps are available to help and are just a download away. But you don’t have to spend time wading through them on your own. Instead, GOBankingRates has done the legwork for you. Here are four of the best apps available to help you set and stick to a budget this year.
You Need a Budget: $11.99 Monthly
Best for: Zero-based budgeting
How it works: You Need a Budget — aka YNAB — is different from other budgeting apps due to the four rules it has users follow, which include giving every dollar a job, planning ahead for a big expense (real or anticipated), covering overspending and consistently having money left over at the end of the month. The app uses zero-based budgeting, which makes you have a plan for every single dollar you earn.
Cost: The app offers a 34-day free trial. After that, it’s $11.99 per month. If you have some extra cash, you may want to opt for the annual plan and pay $84 upfront for the YNAB subscription, which will save you $59.
Why it’s worth it: The YNAB app is worth the money because it covers all the bases. Every month, you have a plan for each dollar, and if you overspend in one category, you can move money from another category to cover it. The app also helps you create bite-sized savings goals each month, so you can easily cover a large expense down the road, like a car repair or a vacation. Plus, it helps you learn to consistently spend less than you earn.
Mvelopes: $5.97-$19.97 Monthly
Best for: Zero-based budgeting via the envelope method
How it works: Mvelopes has three plan options, which all use the zero-based budgeting method. With the Basic plan, you connect your bank accounts and create an envelope budget, in which you place your money in categories, according to spending needs. The premier plan is the basic plan plus access to Mvelope’s learning center, debt center and scheduled phone support. The Plus plan offers everything the Premier option does plus a quarterly checkup with a personal finance coach.
Cost: Mvelopes offers a 30-day free trial and then costs $5.97-$19.97, depending on the plan you choose: Basic, Premier or Plus. You can also choose to pay a year upfront for each plan — $69-$199 — and save a percentage over the corresponding monthly plan.
Why it’s worth it: Mvelopes uses the same budgeting system as YNAB but is less per month if you opt for the Basic or Premier plans which are $5.97 or $9.97 versus YNAB’s $11.99 monthly fee. For those who like the action of dragging-and-dropping funds into specific envelopes they create to manage their budget, Mvelopes is the winner, as YNAB doesn’t offer this feature. Plus, if you’re willing to pay $19.97 monthly for the Plus plan, you’ll get the added benefit of consulting with your own personal finance coach four times per year, which is likely tons cheaper than it would cost to hire your own coach.
Personal Capital: Free
Best for: 50/30/20 budgeting with a side of retirement account planning
How it works: Link all of your financial accounts — checking, savings, credit cards, mortgage loan and retirement — to Personal Capital’s app to be able to see your complete financial picture. The app uses the 50/30/20 budget to help you manage your finances: 50% of your money goes toward needs, 30% to wants and 20% savings.
Cost: Personal Capital’s financial tools are free, so you have absolutely nothing to lose.
Why it’s worth it: Personal Capital is feature-rich and offers many of the same budgeting and tracking features as its competitors for free. Plus, if you have retirement accounts, the app’s savings planner can help you project how much you need to contribute each year to achieve a 70% chance of meeting your retirement goals and help you track your progress.
Learn More: How You Should Adjust Your Budget for 2021
Simplifi by Quicken: $3.99 Monthly
Best for: Keeping tabs on spending
How it works: Simplifi is a budgeting and tracking app that offers users a big picture of their finances — a consolidated snapshot that details areas, including upcoming bills, top spending categories, spending in the last few days, spending in the last six months, a watchlist and a spending plan. The spending plan is especially helpful because it shows you in real-time what you have left to spend each month after you meet all other obligations and savings goals.
Cost: Simplifi offers a 30-day free trial. After that, you can pay $29.99 or $39.99 upfront for the annual plan or $3.99 per month. By opting for the $39.99 annual plan, you can save $7.89 total over the monthly plan.
Why it’s worth it: If you always feel like you don’t know where your money goes each month, Simplifi can help you understand. Not only does it break down your spending over the past few days, weeks or months, but it also keeps tabs on the number of discretionary funds you have available, which can keep you from overspending.
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