The latest smartphone apps have made monitoring spending habits, tracking expenses and managing money a breeze.
A monthly expense tracker app automates the process of recording transactions, totaling expenses by category and tracking progress toward goals. While there are many resourceful apps available, the best tools are ones you actually use.
“We’ve found our most successful customers have a habit of sitting down and looking at their finances for (at least) five minutes a week,” says Kristen Dillard, vice president of product management for Quicken, a publisher of personal finance software.
You may only need five minutes too if you use one of the following best expense tracker apps for personal and business use.
— Center Expense.
— Your banking app.
Cost: Free for the ad-supported version and $4.99 a month for a Premium iOS version that removes most ads and includes a subscription cancelation feature.
Top feature: Bill payment tracker and alerts to help you avoid late fees.
Best for: Budget-conscious consumers who want a comprehensive financial app.
Cameron Burskey, senior partner with Cornerstone Financial Services in Southfield, Michigan, uses a specialized app called Black Diamond to help his clients manage their money. However, for personal use, he says Mint is hard to beat.
“Mint definitely gives you the most freedom to categorize purchases,” Burskey says. The app will automatically label spending, although expense categories can be changed manually. What’s more, it can be linked to multiple accounts to make it easy to track spending from many sources in one place.
Available for free, users can build a budget off recorded transactions, and Mint offers plenty of extras such as free credit scores, bill payment reminders and low balance alerts. “For budgeting purposes, it works really well,” Burskey says.
For those on a budget, the free cost is another attractive aspect of Mint, which is owned by Intuit, the parent company for QuickBooks and TurboTax. The only snag: The free version of the app includes ads, which can be distracting.
Cost: $12.99 per month or $79.99 per year for annual subscription. A free 14-day trial is available.
Top feature: Drag and drop feature that makes it easy to organize your budget.
Best for: Zero-based budgeting adherents.
Everydollar is one of the many products and services offered by personal finance guru Dave Ramsey. It espouses a zero-based budgeting system in which users “give every dollar a job.” The app can pull transactions automatically from financial accounts, and those can be split across multiple budget categories.
For those with irregular income, Everydollar’s Paycheck Planning feature was recently added to make budgeting easier. It allows users to input paydays and then plan expenses around those dates.
While other apps will automatically create a budget based on inputted transactions, Everydollar doesn’t offer this feature. Some may see it as a drawback, but the app’s website touts a hands-on budgeting approach as a way to provide more control over money management.
Cost: $3.99 per month or $47.88 for the first year when billed annually. $5.99 per month when paid monthly. A 30-day free trial is available to new subscribers.
Top feature: Tags that allow you to track expenses across multiple categories.
Best for: Those who want a feature-rich and ad-free budgeting app.
Offered by Quicken, Simplifi bundles together a collection of user-friendly tools that make it easy to track expenses, plan spending and save for future goals.
“It does everything from download your transactions to help you create a budget to run reports,” Dillard says. For those who find a traditional budget too rigid, Simplifi has other features to help them manage money. “We tried to make it so the app would be more fluid,” Dillard explains.
Simplifi will create a spending plan based on a user’s transactions, but it also has a watch list feature for those who only want to track specific expenses, such as their Target purchases or dining out. The app will automatically categorize expenses too, although users can make changes and create rules to help the app sort incoming transactions. By using tags, it’s easy to total expenses across categories and see, for instance, how much was spent on vacation or on a child’s extracurricular activities.
Cost: Free for limited features including two receipt uploads and three expenses per month. Premium features, including unlimited expenses and receipts, cost $8.33 a month for a single user or $12.49 a month for a family plan when billed annually. Month-to-month plans cost $14.99 and $19.99 per month, respectively.
Top feature: Automated, certified record of expenses for tax, court or other purposes.
Best for: Parents who do not live together but share expenses for children.
SupportPay is a specialized expense tracker created for parents who share the cost of raising a child but don’t live together.
With SupportPay, parents can upload or take a photo of receipts to share with the other parent. Payment can be made directly through the app, or payment records can be added manually. There is also the option for a parent to dispute an expense and provide a written explanation of why they don’t agree with the payment request. Data from SupportPay can be exported and used to create certified records for tax or court purposes.
Removing emotion from the process of splitting expenses and increasing transparency are key benefits of SupportPay. However, to get the most out of the app, both parents need to be willing to install and use it.
Top feature: Real-time expense reporting and management.
Best for: Medium-sized businesses.
Center Expense is a free app for businesses that use CenterCard, a corporate credit card. Its founders developed the app after realizing that the traditional system of batch-based expense processing no longer worked for many businesses.
With Center Expense, transactions made by employees on a CenterCard are immediately reported within the app, and workers have the ability to access transactions from their phones to add any necessary details. The app integrates with financial software such as QuickBooks and Oracle NetSuite.
Center Expense was designed with medium-sized businesses — those employing 50 to 500 workers — in mind but can also serve larger companies with 500 to 2,000 employees that are looking for real-time expense management solutions.
Cost: Free for accounts serving up to five clients. Growth and Premium plans that can generate reports for additional clients are $99 and $199 per month, respectively.
Top feature: Real-time analysis of spending, which can detect anomalies.
Best for: Entrepreneurs looking to better manage cash flow or businesses that track expenses for clients.
Steeped in machine-based learning, Digits says its app gets smarter with every transaction. It provides real-time analysis of transactions to identify recurring expenses, predict future costs and detect anomalies in a business’s spending. More than 9,000 financial institutions are supported by the app, which will also automatically reconcile transactions against your bank account.
With Digit Reports, users can create a variety of graphs and charts that make it easy to understand how money is spent and anticipate future expenses. Meanwhile, the Digits Search function provides an intuitive way to zero in on spending in certain categories.
Digits offers a free version that can track expenses and generate reports for up to five clients. Don’t confuse this app with the similarly named Digit app, which automatically transfers money from a user’s checking to savings account.
Cost: Regular prices range from $29 to $89 per month when paid monthly or $23 to $71 per month when paid annually.
Top feature: Prepaid envelopes that can be filled with receipts, mailed in and converted to digital copies.
Best for: Businesses with a significant number of paper receipts.
While some expense tracker apps focus on capturing data from bank accounts, Shoeboxed provides a way to easily manage receipts and other paper documentation. Users can scan receipts themselves or request a Magic Envelope to send their documents to Shoeboxed for scanning. The app will create expense reports and integrate with other tools such as QuickBooks and Evernote.
What’s more, the app will automatically categorize receipts by vendor, date, total spent and payment type. It will also store IRS-accepted images and other data. Plans start at $23 per month for 300 physical documents and 600 digital documents per year. A 25% discount is currently being offered, and it applies to the first six months of monthly plans or the first year of annual plans.
Be aware that the Shoeboxed app is only available for iOS devices.
Free for up to 25 SmartScans per month. Then, prices for individual plans start at $4.99 a month.
Top feature: Option to auto-submit reports for reimbursement.
Best for: Workers who need to track mileage and job expenses for reimbursement or tax purposes.
Expensify is another app that makes it easy to scan receipts and capture expense data. Plus, its pricing is more affordable than other options. The app allows 25 free SmartScans of receipts each month, or for $4.99 a month, individual users can scan an unlimited number of receipts. Data is stored indefinitely, and the app will track mileage as well.
Group plans have additional features such as expense approval functions and integration with accounting software. Expensify gets strong reviews online, and aside from affordable pricing, it appeals to users looking to monitor GPS mileage. The only caveat: The interface isn’t intuitive for all users.
Cost: Plan pricing ranges from $13-$70 per month.
Top feature: Ability to capture receipts from photos, scans or emails, followed by automated bank reconciliation.
Best for: Small businesses seeking an easy-to-use, cloud-based solution for financial management.
For small businesses that want to do more than track expenses, Xero provides a comprehensive solution for money management. It can be used for invoicing, bill payment and reporting. As a spending tracker, it can be synced to multiple bank accounts and also capture expense dates from receipts and emails. Then, it reconciles bank accounts daily.
The app and website were designed to be intuitive, and they work seamlessly with a number of other apps to integrate tools for payroll, payments and time management, among other tasks.
Three monthly plans are available, starting with a $13 per month option that Xero says is ideal for freelancers, self-employed workers and new businesses. Plans with more features are offered at $37 and $70 per month. New users can access all Xero features for 30 days to determine which plan is right for them.
Your Banking App
Top feature: Banking and expense management in one place.
Best for: Bank customers.
You may have the best expense tracking app on your phone already.
“One of the easiest ways to keep track of your spending is your mobile banking app,” says Sonali Divilek, head of digital products and channels at Chase. Divilek points to the Snapshot feature within the Chase Mobile app as an example. “(It) provides automated daily insights into your spending and the categories where you’re spending the most, whether that’s groceries, entertainment or shopping.”
Banking apps may also have features that can help track which merchants have your card information stored. That’s something that can be particularly useful for monitoring recurring expenses, according to Divilek.
Check with your financial institution to learn whether they have an app and what expense tracking tools come with it.
More from U.S. News
Update 12/06/22: This story was previously published at an earlier date and has been updated with new information.