Take charge of your finances.
With smartphones playing a pivotal role in our daily lives, it only makes sense that they would eventually become an integral part of money management. Today, consumers who want to budget and track their spending can choose from a variety of robust app options. These often go beyond basic budgeting and can be customized to provide spending alerts, automate savings and run financial reports.
“(They) can seem overwhelming to set up in the beginning,” says Deacon Hayes, personal finance expert at website Well Kept Wallet. Many companies provide support resources for new users, but Hayes says people can also find helpful tutorials on YouTube.
Once you’ve found the best budget app for your needs, use it regularly to manage your finances with ease. Here’s a look at 10 money management apps and where we think each excels. All are compatible with Apple and Android devices, unless otherwise noted.
Best Free Budget App: Mint
A pioneering budget app, Mint remains popular today. It can be a particularly good choice for couples, according to Hayes. “It’s a good way for both of you to stay on track,” he says.
The app allows users to link and manage accounts from multiple institutions. Plus, Mint categorizes spending and creates a recommended budget that can then be adjusted. The app also provides free access to credit scores, tracks investments, sends alerts when purchases post to an account and provides customized money-management tips.
Mint is free to download and use, but it still provides comprehensive budgeting tools. That makes it a top choice for those who don’t want to pay for an app.
Best for Budgeting Beginners: Simplifi by Quicken
Quicken has long been one of the most recognizable names in budgeting software, and the company recently launched a new mobile app for those who are looking for a streamlined budget tool.
“We basically took the best of Quicken,” says Kristen Dillard, director of product management at Quicken. The Simplifi app allows people to link and sync an unlimited number of bank, credit card, loan and investment accounts from more than 14,000 financial institutions. The app can automatically detect regular bills and recommend a personalized spending plan. Users can set up a watch list for monitoring certain categories of spending, such as dining out, and receive alerts when their spending reaches a certain level.
Simplifi by Quicken is ad-free, and users pay $3.99 per month or $35.99 when billed annually. A 30-day free trial is available.
Best for Tracking Investments: Personal Capital
Personal Capital distinguishes itself from other apps by including a wealth management component. “There are so many budgeting apps out there, but with Personal Capital, you can also track your investments,” Hayes explains.
The app can be linked to a variety of financial accounts for budgeting, tracking personal wealth and monitoring portfolio performance. Hayes appreciates that the app provides a snapshot of a net worth as well. Plus, the company provides users with access to financial advisors and will offer investment advice even on accounts that are not under its management. Accounts can also be managed online.
Personal Capital is a free budget app to download and use. However, there is a fee for personalized investment advice and services. The fee starts at 0.89% for portfolios valued up to $1 million and then drops for those with investments greater than that amount.
Best for Automated Savings: Peak
Saving money for emergencies or specific goals is a core component of the budgeting process, and the Peak app is a top pick for automated savings.
“I like that they gamify it,” says Natalie Graham, founder of GoFromBroke.com. The app allows users to set up various savings goals, known as peaks. They can then move money from a linked bank account to their Peak savings account based on rules they create. These rules may include rounding up certain purchases or scheduling savings. Money in the Peak savings account is FDIC-insured and earns quarterly savings bonuses which equal 0.50% annually.
Peak is only available for Apple devices. The basic app is free to download and use. There is also a premium version available for $5 a month, or $50 a year, which offers additional features such as the ability to track spending.
Best for Teaching Teens to Budget: Till
Parents who want to teach their teens smart spending habits can use the Till app to do so. “We’re specifically built for kids and families,” says Taylor Burton, co-founder of Till Financial.
The new app allows parents to set up an account with a child as a beneficiary. Parents can then move money to various buckets for spending or savings goals. Teens are provided a debit card and when they reach a specific goal, such as saving for prom or a video game system, parents can unlock that bucket of money for spending. Grandparents and other relatives can join the app as part of a teen’s community and match a child’s savings. Teens get their own log-in to manage money, and Burton says the app is intended to encourage communication between teens and parents about financial matters.
Till is free to download and use. Money in Till accounts is also FDIC-insured.
Best for Zero-Based Budgeting: YNAB
Previously known as You Need a Budget, YNAB is both an app and a software program that can be used across multiple platforms to create zero-based budgets. Users can link bank accounts, create a budget and continuously sync data, offering an ideal solution for those who want to watch financial transactions in real time. The app can also track goals and create reports detailing financial progress.
While YNAB is Graham’s top pick for budgeting software, she cautions the mobile app can be a bit unwieldy for new users. “If you’re trying to learn how to budget, I wouldn’t jump into YNAB’s mobile app,” she says. Instead, the desktop version of the program may be a better place to start.
YNAB is free for the first 34 days and charges an $11.99 monthly fee thereafter or an annual fee of $84. Budgeting tools, such as forums, podcasts and videos, are also provided to help people navigate the software, create a budget and stick to it.
Best for Budgeting and Banking in One Place: Douugh
This app is a bank account and budgeting app rolled into one. “Douugh is a smart bank account that does the hard work for you,” says Mark Taylor, co-founder and chief product officer at Douugh.
The Salary Sweeper feature of Douugh is designed to make budgeting easy. It automatically sets aside money for bills so users can quickly see how much cash is available for spending. Savings Jars can also be set up within the app to move money out of checking for future expenses or goals. “Every payday, your paycheck is automatically sorted to ensure your bills and expenses are covered,” Taylor says. “You can have confidence knowing what’s left in your checking account is available to spend.”
There are no fees to download or use the Douugh app or bank account. However, it is only available for Apple devices at this time.
Best Streamlined Budgeting App: PocketGuard
PocketGuard has a clean and simple interface that makes it easy to quickly see where your money is going and how much is available to spend.
The app allows users to link bank accounts, credit cards, loans and investments to provide a complete financial picture. It then categorizes spending and calculates how much is left after the bills are paid, providing a simple way to create a budget automatically. You can set savings goals as well, and PocketGuard will automatically deduct and track contributions toward those goals.
The basic version of PocketGuard is free to use while PocketGuard Plus costs $4.99 per month or $34.99 per year. The paid version includes additional tools such as customization options and the ability to split transactions among categories.
Best for Tracking Expenses With Housemates: Wally
You don’t have to be in the U.S. to use Wally. The app syncs to 15,000 financial institutions across 70 countries and can track transactions in more than 200 currencies.
Like other budget apps, Wally lets users track spending by category, create bill reminders and see upcoming transactions. However, it is also the best money management app for those who share expenses with others, such as couples or roommates. Users can create groups where people can track shared accounts and budgets together.
Wally is only available for Apple devices, and the basic version is free to download and use. Some features are only available as part of Wally Gold, which currently provides lifetime access for a $19.99 charge.
Best for People Who Love Spreadsheets: Tiller Money
Tiller Money isn’t an app but still deserves a spot among the best budgeting tools. It’s an ideal option for those who love using spreadsheets but hate the hassle of having to input data, Hayes says. Tiller can automatically import data from more than 21,000 financial institutions into Google Sheets or Microsoft Excel.
Imported transactions are automatically categorized according to rules created by the user, and Tiller provides dozens of spreadsheet template options. The Foundation Template combines monthly and yearly budget sheets along with financial insights and transaction tracking. Each spreadsheet can be customized, and the program will send a daily email of financial activity.
Tiller is ad-free and offers a 30-day free trial. After that, it costs $79 per year.
The best budgeting apps:
— Simplifi by Quicken.
— Personal Capital.
— Tiller Money.
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Update 05/10/21: This story was published at an earlier date and has been updated with new information.