Thankfully today there’s a lot of help to be gotten with the scores of budgeting apps that make managing your money a breeze. And some go beyond basic budgeting and provide other services, such as helping you reduce your bills, save money, or even give investment advice.
In terms of how much this gonna cost you, money won’t end up being an issue with budgeting apps since many of them are available free of charge. Others have just a low annual or monthly fee.
Here’s what I’ve done: I’ve chosen what I think are the eight best budgeting apps to take control of your finances. All of these apps are available on your mobile device, except Trim is an AI assistant. Whatever you end up choosing, you’ll definitely get a better handle on your finances, and start building the savings that will eventually bring you to financial independence.
But first, take a look at this 1-minute video on what a realistic budget looks like.
Overview: Best budgeting apps to take control of your finances
|Personal Capital||Budgeting with investment management|
|CountAbout||Simplicity and small businesses|
|Money Patrol||Learning your spending habits|
|Charlie||Controlling your spending|
|You Need a Budget (YNAB)||Getting “ahead” of your finances|
|Mint||Budgeting with your free credit score|
|Trim||Negotiating your bills|
The Personal Capital mobile app is available for both Android and iOS devices.
Personal Capital has quickly grown into one of the preeminent budgeting and financial aggregator apps available. Personal Capital offers free budgeting software, which also comes with tools to help you manage your investments.
Personal Capital’s basic budgeting features
The basic app is completely free and is used by more than two million individuals. Not only does it provide budgeting and a high-altitude view of your finances, but it also provides important investment tools, like its Fee Analyzer showing you the fees you’re paying in your retirement plan.
It also offers personalized asset allocations and retirement tools. That’s a lot of features packed into a free app!
If you’ve got $100,000 to invest
If you want complete investment management and you have a minimum of $100,000 to invest, Personal Capital also offers its Wealth Management plan, which is a premium service that has an annual fee of 0.89%. With Wealth Management you have regular access to a financial advisor.
The CountAbout mobile app is available for both Android and iOS devices and can be shared by up to six family members..
If you’re looking for a simple, user-friendly budgeting app, CountAbout is one that I’d definitely recommend taking a look at.
Let me start by saying it’s not free: the Basic plan is $9.99 per year but you get all basic budgeting app functions except automatic downloading of banking, credit card, and other financial transactions.
The Premium plan is $39.99 per year, and you get all CountAbout services available. And for an additional $60 per year, you can have small business invoicing capabilities.
Easy to use budgeting tools
What I like about CountAbout is that it’s a simple, easy-to-use budgeting app. It quickly syncs up with your financial information from thousands of financial institutions.
It even enables you to sync your 401(k) plan. And updating all this takes place automatically, eliminating the need for time-consuming manual entry. The app also enables you to personalize the configuration. That includes customization of each field, function, and report within the app.
CountAbout tracks your bills
It even gives you the ability to approve transactions, though it does not allow you to set up recurring transactions. However, it does provide the capability to schedule your payments, and even track outgoing payments.
The app also gives you the ability to create a budget for future months, enabling you to schedule your finances ahead of time.
Money Patrol provides extensive reporting to help you better understand your spending habits.
Money Patrol uses data to help you manage your finances. You’ll get an overview of your spending habits, as well as monitoring your upcoming bills and recurring charges.
Support for more than 15,000 lenders
With support for more than 15,000 financial institutions, you can easily add all of your accounts. Once connected, Money Patrol gets to work monitoring all activity. If there’s ever an incident that might be concerning, you’ll have alerts to keep you informed.
Supported account types go beyond checking and savings. You can track your student loans, business accounts, investments, mortgage, and even some types of gift cards.
Budget for the future
Tracking your spending is only part of the equation, though. Money Patrol lets you use the information you’ve learned to set a budget and organize your finances.
How you spend your money today affects your financial future. But it can be tough to see that on a day to day basis.
That’s where PocketSmith comes in because you get built-in financial forecasting. I liked testing a few different strategies and watching how the graph changed. You can even test out scenarios – for example, if you skip your morning coffee and either invest or save that money, to see how that will that pay off six months, a year, or 10 years down the line.
PocketSmith has 3 packages – and I was happy to see that their Basic package is free which is what I have at this point. But if you want to invest a bit more (which I may very well do since I’m a fan already), they have a Premium plan for $9.95/month (or $7.50 when paid annually) and includes automatic bank feeds and transaction importing. Their Super package includes premium features for $19.95/month – less when paid annually.
One of the features that sets PocketSmith apart from other budgeting apps is its calendar. You can view, at a glance, your expenses throughout the month. If you want to move an expense to a different day, week, or month, simply click and drag it to its target date.
One of the best things about the calendar, though, is that PocketSmith calculates everything and issues projections. You’ll see your projected daily balance for each day so that you can make adjustments accordingly. This calendar view also helps you spot small issues well in advance before they become big problems.
Link your finances
As with many financial apps, you can easily link to your bank account to track your financial activities. But with PocketSmith, you can also label different types of transactions to make it easy to find them later. If you have assets outside the U.S., you can track those, as well, along with automatic currency conversion.
Multiple income streams are not a problem either. PocketSmith lets you track income and expenses from your day job, side hustle, and other activities separately. Airbnb renters can especially benefit from this feature, with tracking for Airbnb income and expenses built-in.
Charlie is a text-based app and does not have specific downloadable apps for smartphone devices.
Charlie is a free budgeting app with helpful tools like a spending tracker that can help you limit how much you spend in any expense category. This is one app that a lot of people I know seem to be talking about.
Charlie looks at your entire financial picture
Charlie bills itself as a personal finance management app, but it goes beyond simple budgeting and looks at your entire financial situation holistically.
In using the app, you interact with “Charlie” on a regular basis. The app syncs your bank and credit card accounts, reviews them, then lets you know where you’re spending too much, and where you can save. It also provides you with notifications when an account balance is running low, or when a payment is coming due.
But you can also use the app to help you get better control of your spending. It offers a spending tracker that calculates your monthly spending patterns, helping you focus on a specific type of spending, and even helps you set limits on how much you can spend in a particular category.
You Need a Budget (YNAB)
The YNAB mobile app is available for both Android and iOS devices.
YNAB works similar to other budgeting apps. but also uses a strategy to reverse this all-too-common pattern: living off last month’s income during the current month.
For a person with budget problems, the strategy is revolutionary.
If this describes you, YNAB might really end up being an excellent budgeting app.
YNAB’s automatic emergency fund
More than simply enabling you to track income and balance your expenses, YNAB helps you build that emergency fund automatically. You gradually move you into a position where you have built a cushion into your budget so that you always have an extra month’s worth of living expenses built into the mix.
Mechanically, this is done by setting line item budget limits. If you come in under budget, the extra will flow into your one-month spending cushion. Optimally, that cushion will grow to cover more than 30 days of expenses. This is referred to as the Age of Money feature – the older your money is since it’s been earned, the better your financial position.
Syncs your bank accounts
You’ll be able to import transactions from your bank account, avoiding the need for manual entry and reconciliation.
Though you will have to assign spending categories to each transaction manually. You can also create goals for upcoming expenses, to further help you stay ahead of your finances.
The Mint mobile app is available for both Android and iOS devices.
Not only is Mint free to use, but it also provides your free credit score.
With Mint you also get a summary from your credit report, as well as credit score education and credit monitoring. You don’t even need to put a credit card on file to take advantage of the service.
Mint is a free budgeting app that offers a surprising number of tools and features considering the price.
Analyzes your spending
Especially interesting is Mint’s “trends” feature. After using the app for several months, the app will analyze your spending by month, quarter, or year.
You can even analyze your spending by category and specific merchants. This can help you to get better control of where your money is going, and allow you to make cuts where spending is excessive.
Mint’s investment tracking
The app also provides investment tracking. You can sync the app directly with your investment accounts, and the app will provide performance, allocation, and changes in value over time. The app will even make investment recommendations.
Trim is an AI assistant and does not offer a mobile app.
Bill negotiations – it’s true that other budgeting apps have this capability, but bill negotiation is what Trim is best known for. And so if that’s what you need help with, Trim is a good option.
Trim works with companies like cable and Internet services, which often include mysterious charges. They work to lower those bills, and Trim even helps you find better car insurance.
Trim’s personal finance assistant
Trim bills itself as your “personal finance assistant,” and that’s a pretty solid description of this outstanding service. It not only works to lower your bills, saving you money on car insurance, but it also helps you to cancel unused subscriptions and services that you may be paying for on a regular basis, but seldom or never using.
Trim can also help you pay off debt. It’ll provide a debt pay off plan, complete with expert advice and ways to lower your interest rates. This is an important feature because budgets are closely affected by debt, and paying them off is one of the best ways to get better control of your finances.
Automates your savings
What’s more, the app can automate savings through their Simple Savings feature. All you need to do is set automated weekly transfers into a savings account, and money will begin to accumulate regularly.
In that way, Trim doesn’t just help you to get better control of your budget, but also to direct the savings into an account. You’ll then earn a 1.5% annual reward on your savings balance.
The Mvelopes mobile app is available for both Android and iOS devices.
If you like live support with your budgeting app, Mvelopes is has got just that. They offer three different plans, and each comes with live support. But on the premium plans, you’ll also have access to a personal financial trainer.
Mvelopes offers more budgeting capabilities than any other app on this list. And since they offer three different plans, you can choose the level of services you want. But one of the features that really stands out with this app is the abundance of live support.
Live chat support is available on all three plans, but you can also have access to a personal finance trainer. On the Complete plan, you’ll have monthly sessions with the personal finance trainer.
Mvelopes has three different payment plans:
- Basic: $6 per month, or pay annually and get two months free. It comes with digital envelope budgeting, auto transaction importing, live transaction syncing, account balance monitoring, interactive reports, and live chat support.
- Plus: $19 per month, or pay annually and get two months free. It comes with everything available in the Basic plan, plus a personal finance trainer with a quarterly checkup, debt reduction tools, the Mvelopes Learning Center, one-on-one set up assistance, and high-level priority support.
- Complete: $59 per month, or pay annually and get two months free. It comes with all the features of the other two plans, plus monthly sessions with a personal finance trainer, accountability and motivation, customized plan, and trainer guided financial education.
Summary of the best budgeting apps
|Personal Capital||Free budgeting, 0.89% for Wealth Management||Has a Wealth Management service for accounts > $100K|
|CountAbout||$9.99 per year for Basic – $39.99 for Premium||Provides small business invoicing and integration with Quicken and Mint|
|Money Patrol||$84 annually, billed after a 15-day free trial||Receipt and document capture, extensive alerts and reporting|
|Charlie||Free||Makes savings recommendations and can negotiate bills|
|You Need a Budget (YNAB)||$84 per year||Helps you to build or grow emergency savings|
|Mint||Free||Provides investment tracking and debt payoff plans|
|Trim||Free||Provides for automated savings with a 1.5% annual reward on your balance|
|Mvelopes||$60 to $590 per year, depending on the plan selected||Offers a personal financial trainer on premium plans|
Our criteria for the 8 best budgeting apps
We used several criteria to come up with this list of the 8 best budgeting apps:
This is the most basic feature provided by budgeting apps. Each has a somewhat different way of going about the process, and the apps included are designed specifically to accommodate the many personal preferences of our readers.
Most budgeting apps go beyond basic budgeting. Some will provide advice on debt and investments, others will identify unnecessary expenses, and even renegotiate existing bills.
The best budgeting app examples will synchronize your accounts automatically. But there are some that will give you the option to do it manually if that’s your preference.
But while most will automatically synchronize your accounts on an ongoing basis, they may not reconcile them, such as bank accounts.
We’ve included apps ranging in price from free to as much is almost $600 per year. The free versions may provide all that you need for your own personal budgeting activities.
But you may want to pay for a service that offers special tools and features you specifically need or want.
Ease of use
It does little good to use a budgeting app if it’s too complicated. We’ve naturally favored those that are easier to use on this list.
Ratings by app users
Each of the apps on this list has been included because it is generally considered to be user-friendly by actual users on the Google Play or App Store download pages, where available.
Budgeting app FAQs
Do all budgeting apps offer automatic bill payment capability?
No. Some do, and some don’t. If that’s a feature you want or require, you’ll have to make sure the app you’re signing up for offers that specific capability.
Many budgeting app users just want budget capabilities, and prefer to handle bill paying on their own schedules.
Is a free budgeting app a better choice than a paid one?
That all depends on the tools and features the app offers. If an app is free, that provides an obvious money-saving opportunity. But if it doesn’t have the capabilities you need to better manage your budget, you’ll be better off with a paid version. Since the cost of budget apps is relatively low, this is usually not a major problem.
However, just because a budget app is free doesn’t mean it’s a bad choice. You may decide to go with a free app because it provides only basic budgeting capabilities, and that’s all you’re interested in. You may not be interested in the additional features offered by the paid versions.
Is my financial information safe on budgeting apps?
Generally speaking, yes. But absolute safety of information isn’t achievable on any app, or on any other Internet-based service for that matter.
There are certain vulnerabilities inherent in operating on the Internet, and while each app has its own safety features built-in, there’s never a guarantee.
Like with everything these days, be sure to read the fine print on security before signing up for any budget app, or any online or mobile app at all for that matter.
How trustworthy is the investment advice offered on some budgeting apps?
Not all budgeting apps offer investment advice. But the advice given is based primarily on your own personal circumstances – recommendations that may help you improve your performance such as reducing the fees you’re paying in your retirement plan or on certain funds or making better portfolio allocations.
Budgeting apps are definitely not portfolio management, and it’s not designed to be. It’s just to help those with no other financial advice better manage their investments.
Do any of the apps offer couples mode?
Unfortunately, none of them offer a specific couples mode at this time.
If you’ve been having difficulty managing your finances, you can definitely get good reliable help with the many budgeting apps out there. Since there are so many, the trick is going with the one that best fits your personal needs and preferences.
Price shouldn’t be an obstacle since some budgeting apps are available free of charge. Others charge a fee, though it’s usually very modest. If an app with a fee will better suit your budgeting needs, that’s the one you should pick. Despite the fee, it’s likely the app will save you many times more than what you’ll pay for it.
Also, many budgeting apps aren’t limited to budgeting alone. As you can see from many of the apps appearing on this list, some can help you with everything from saving and investing money, to reducing bills, to finding the best deals on insurance.
Decide what it is you want a budgeting app to do, then pick the one that will work best for you.
- How To Make A Budget: Our Step-By-Step Guide To Managing Your Money
- These 4 Easy Steps Will Teach You How To Budget (Finally)