5 Budgeting Apps That Can Help You Live Richer

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If you have trouble budgeting your money, you’re not alone. Creating a budget can be overwhelming, and sticking to a budget isn’t easy — especially if it’s your first time working with one.

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A budget is an important personal finance tool. It helps you keep track of your money and allows you to create a personal financial plan that works for you.

To help you keep your finances on track, GOBankingRates has identified the best budgeting apps out there. Plus, there’s something for everyone — from college students to seasoned investors.

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Best Budgeting Apps

The best budgeting apps offer a range of services and options that give you personal financial assistance at your fingertips.

Best Free Budget App: Mint

There’s a reason Mint has consistently been named the best budget app that’s available for free. First, it’s completely free to use — there’s no paid upgrade. Second, it’s easy to use, making Mint a great app both for personal finance newbies and for in-depth budgeters who like to really track where their money goes.

Make Your Money Work for You

The Mint budgeting app helps you balance your budget by tracking your expenses. It connects to all of your bank accounts and automatically updates whenever you make transactions. You can categorize your budget and receive an alert when you exceed your limit.

Keep in Mind

Mint allows one user per account. If you want a friend or family member to budget alongside you, Mint notes that you can sign up for a separate account in their name and link it to your bank and credit card accounts.

  • Target users: Personal finance newbies and in-depth budgeters
  • Categories: Income, Miscellaneous, Entertainment, Education, Shopping, Personal Care, Health & Fitness, Kids, Food & Dining, Gifts & Donations, Investments, Bills & Utilities, Auto & Transport, Travel, Fees & Charges, Business Services, Taxes
  • Goal setting: Goals are also included in the budget.
  • Unique feature: The app keeps track of your spending and sends you alerts.
  • Linking: The app connects with your bank accounts to keep you up to date on your finances.
  • Ability to transfer money: Not available
  • Fees: Completely free app
  • Support: Help is available via live chat.

Best Zero-Based Budget App: You Need A Budget

You Need A Budget — also known as YNAB — tracks your spending and lets you know how you can pay off your debt, start saving and more. It’s an excellent choice for zero-based budgeting.

Visual learners will appreciate the detailed graphs and color-coding, which give a quick glimpse of how much money you’ve spent. The combination of an easy-to-use interface, an impressive learning library and a robust online community make this the best debt app.

  • Target users: Best for visual learners and those who like detailed reports
  • Categories: Customize categories to fit your needs
  • Goal setting: You can create and set goals to fit your lifestyle.
  • Unique feature: The website has an impressive library of lessons that explain how and why to budget.
  • Linking: The app links to bank accounts.
  • Ability to transfer money: Transfer money from one budget category to another
  • Fees: Free trial for 34 days. After that, purchase a monthly plan for $11.99 or an annual plan for $84.
  • Support: Help is available via email and the online community; YNAB also offers videos, a podcast and free workshops.
Make Your Money Work for You

Best Budget App for College Students: PocketGuard

If YNAB isn’t in your budget, check out PocketGuard. This free budget app offers a simplified budgeting snapshot that will help you organize bills, expenses and subscriptions and set up custom categories. Sync your bank accounts and credit cards to the app, so you’ll know how much cash you have to spend at any time.

  • Target users: Personal finance newbies and in-depth budgeters
  • Categories: Categories include Bills, Income and Goals. You can also create custom categories.
  • Goal setting: Yes
  • Unique feature: The app shows what you have available for everyday spending.
  • Linking: Yes, you can link your checking, credit and savings accounts.
  • Ability to transfer money: N/A
  • Fees: Paid and free versions
  • Support: Help is available within the app and via email.

Best Budget App for Couples: Goodbudget

By using the old envelope budgeting method, Goodbudget lets you track your envelope and account balances and sync them to multiple devices. You can make envelopes for all your budgeting categories and reserve money in each one based on that category.

You can also save for big purchases, create a workable budget and share budgets with family and friends. With the shared envelope system, this app is the best family budget app or the best budget app for couples.

  • Target users: Families, couples, and budgeters who like manual budgeting
  • Categories: Sample categories include Groceries, Eating Out, Date Night and Kids.
  • Goal setting: Yes, goals are also included in the budget.
  • Unique feature: The envelope system takes a digital form.
  • Linking: This app does not link with your bank accounts.
  • Ability to transfer money: N/A
  • Fees: In addition to a free plan, Goodbudget offers the Plus plan, which costs $7 per month or $60 per year.
  • Support: Help is available by phone or via email.
Make Your Money Work for You

Best Wealth Management App: Personal Capital

Personal Capital shows you your net worth, assists you in managing your investments and helps you plan for retirement. Use the dashboard to get an overview of your financial life. If you’re an active investor, use the Personal Strategy tool to take stock of your current portfolio.

  • Target users: Investment-focused budgeters and those planning for retirement
  • Categories: You can create up to 30 custom categories.
  • Goal setting: Yes
  • Unique feature: Personal Strategy tool for analyzing your portfolio
  • Linking: Yes, you can connect to cash, credit card, loan and investment accounts.
  • Ability to transfer money: Yes
  • Support: Assistance is available via email or the support portal.

Advantages of Using Apps

Budgeting apps offer several advantages over manual budgeting methods:

The Benefits

  • Time-saver
  • Easy-to-use interfaces to keep in touch with your finances
  • An assortment of tools designed to help you understand where your money’s going and set savings goals
  • Allow access to your financial information via smartphone
  • Safe — as long as you choose a reputable app and protect your phone
  • Allow tracking of goals and progress

How To Choose a Budgeting App

The best budget app for you is the one you’ll actually use. You may need to try out a few different apps before you find the one with the features you want and need. Here are some tips:

  • Take advantage of free trial periods.
  • Use the free trial period as an opportunity to find out how well each app works.
  • Choose an app that’s compatible with your device.

Other Budgeting Options

A budgeting app isn’t the only way to keep track of your spending. You can create a budget and track your spending manually.

Budgeting templates are also available online. Microsoft Excel has templates available that you can download to a computer. Mint also offers free budget spreadsheets on its website. Alternatively, you can use a notebook or ledger sheet to create your own simplistic or detailed budget.

Choose the budgeting tool that works best for you. Be sure to include the following information:

  • Amount of money you have coming in each month
  • Your fixed expenses (rent, mortgage, utilities, car payments, insurance)
  • Your variable expenses (food, gas, entertainment)

Make a plan for your money. Perhaps you want to pay down debt or save for a big purchase. Look for places to cut back within your budget and divert that money toward your financial goals.

Review your budget regularly. Few people have the same expenses each month, and for many, it’s not unusual to earn varying amounts of income from month to month. You may have a surprise expense or even a surplus after a raise. Adjust your budget accordingly.

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Barri Segal contributed to the reporting for this article.

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About the Author

With more than 20 years of experience as a freelance writer, Allison Hache knows a thing or two about creating quality content. She earned a bachelor’s degree from Florida Southern College and a master’s degree from the University of Florida. Her work has been featured on national and local websites.

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