We talk a lot about budgets here at Money Under 30 (we’d be a poor excuse for a personal finance site if we didn’t), but we realize it may be difficult to choose from the seemingly endless amount of apps and programs we throw your way.

Maybe you’re a traditionalist and it’s best that you stick to a simple spreadsheet and do the work yourself. Or maybe you’re the opposite and just don’t have time to think about your budget. Or maybe you’re somewhere in the middle.

If you’re wondering what budget app or program you’ll actually stick with, here’s some of the most promising ones out there.

 simple-budget

simple-budget

Starting with the tried and true method of budgeting—traditional spreadsheets can work for you if you’re someone who likes or needs to do your budgeting yourself to feel like you’re actually accomplishing your financial goals.

If you spend mostly via cash or don’t want to link your bank accounts to apps, Money Under 30’s simple monthly spreadsheet can easily help you track your spending.

Obviously, a major plus with the traditional spreadsheet method is the fact that it’s 100 percent free without the ads or promotional offers you tend to see with free budgeting apps.

YNAB (You Need a Budget)

 four-age-money-infographic

four-age-money-infographic

You Need A Budget is set up like a traditional spreadsheet but offers much more for those that need a good deal of help in their financial life as a whole. YNAB is more of a lifestyle than a simple budget, with a clear cut model to success.

One of the main principles of YNAB is to “give every dollar a job,” meaning you deduct money from your income until you reach zero, making sure every dollar you spend is accounted for.

YNAB’s other philosophies include “embrace your true expenses,” “roll with the punches,” and “age your money.” These strict rules force you to keep track of all of your money, not just most or some of it.

YNAB syncs between your desktop and your mobile devices, allowing you to enter transactions in real time.

YNAB also focuses on paying down your debt, with workshops like “Aggressive Debt Pay Down” and “Master Credit Cards with your Budget.”

Who it’s best for

People looking for a radical change in their financial mindset. If you need support in your financial life, YNAB offers courses as well as a strict method that you needs to be followed in order to succeed in the program.

Who it doesn’t work for

If you don’t want to put time into your budget or link accounts, YNAB can be fairly difficult to figure out. It’s not really intuitive, so it takes time. The classes are also a large part of the value of YNAB, so if you don’t make time for them you’re missing out on one of the major features of the program/app.

YNAB also doesn’t allow you to track your retirement or investment accounts.

Cost

The app is free, but the plus program is $5 a month, or $50 a year

Mvelopes

 devices_parallax

devices_parallax

Mvelopes is a simple and straightforward budgeting app. Mvelopes isn’t so much about changing your financial lifestyle, but it definitely helps you stay on budget.

Mvelopes takes the traditional envelopes method and makes it digital. You can add your bank accounts and link them so your transactions are automatic or you can do this manually if you don’t feel comfortable linking accounts.

If you do link your accounts, you can see your past spending and then assign future money to “mvelopes” that help you stick to a budget.

Who it’s best for

Someone who’s tired of using cash and real envelopes, and wants to go digital.

Who is doesn’t work for

Like YNAB, Mvelopes doesn’t allow you to track retirement or investment accounts. The online version of the program can be difficult to adjust to at first, but the mobile app is organized much more clearly.

Cost

Free (limit of 4 online bank accounts and 25 spending envelopes); $95 a year for unlimited everything and live support.

Mint

 mint-budgeting-app

mint-budgeting-app

Mint is the go-to budgeting app for people that want their budgeting work done for them. Mint is one of the oldest budgeting systems and has stood the test of time.

With Mint, you can safely link your accounts and your transactions will automatically be deducted from your budget. You can also link credit cards, loans, and investment accounts, allowing you to see your net worth in one place.

Mint is a budget you’ll actually use because it does the work for you. You may have to do some upkeep, as Mint sometimes assigns your purchases to odd categories.

You can set reminders for bills and transaction limits that help you stay on top of your spending.

Who it’s best for

Mint is for someone who wants to see what they spend in an easy, concise way, but who doesn’t want to or have the time to input transactions manually.

Who it doesn’t work for

If you frequently use cash to pay, Mint obviously won’t track these expenses and you might as well use a simpler, do-it-yourself method. Also, if you fear linking your bank accounts for security reasons, there’s no point in having Mint—its platform gets too complicated to record everything yourself.

Cost

Free (but the promotions you have to suffer through can be annoying).

 everydollar-macbook-and-iphone

everydollar-macbook-and-iphone

Dave Ramsey, a financial advisor, provides financial advice through books, speeches, and his radio show. He also offers a budgeting app, EveryDollar.

EveryDollar runs on a “zero-based” budgeting motto, much like YNAB. You take your income (after taxes) and subtract all your expenses from it until you hit zero, that way every dollar (hence the name of the program) is accounted for.

EveryDollar allows you to incorporate long-term financial goals in your budgeting plan by creating your own savings categories and allotting money to each. There’s also a section for debt that allows you to record how much you owe and dedicate a monthly payment towards each debt category.

One of the more enjoyable features of EveryDollar (other than its ability to help you budget and save, of course), is simply the way it looks. The mobile app is one of the more attractive apps in the budgeting world, which often try to shove too much into a mobile app.

If you’re looking for a more intense financial plan, Dave Ramsey offers classes and has written extensively on how to get out of debt. His Financial Peace University relies on Ramsey’s “7 Baby Steps” to help individuals and families work their way to a debt-free life. However, this program may not be for everyone.

Who Ramsey is best for

The EveryDollar app is for someone looking for a very clear and simple do-it-yourself budgeting app that offers a little more than traditional spreadsheets.

Ramsey’s Financial Peace University and books are more for people who need to make an active change to their finances and who will stick with the program.

Who it doesn’t work for

If you want a little less do-it-yourself, you need to pay for EveryDollar to get access to link accounts, so it might be better to go with an app like Mint.

Ramsey’s programs take time. If you’re looking to get out debt quick or a “get-rich-quick” program, his may not necessarily be for you.

Price

The app is free for a limited version and $9.99 a month for Plus.

Ramsey’s books can all be bought on Amazon for low prices.

FPU classes can be found via a group (although the areas you can find them are limited) for $93, or you can take the class online individually anytime for $129.

Moneymentals Logo

Moneymentals Logo

Moneymentals is Money Under 30’s program, developed by Michael Goldman, a Certified Financial Planner®. This seven-week program is a “No Budget Way” of managing money. The programs consists of six lectures by Goldman followed by bonus modules that offer different perspectives by other financial leaders.

The first topic starts with goal setting and why it’s the key component of learning to manage your money better. You’re then walked through how to start with fun, short-term goals that teach you how to save.

Module’s 2-6 offer in-depth advice on how to set up a financial plan (using the Moneymentals toolkit) that works for you and that you’ll continue using long after you’ve completed the programs.

Who it’s best for

Since the program is less about budgeting and more about spending smarter, it’s ideal for someone who’s looking to change their financial habits, and who can’t seem to stick with a budgeting app.

This program is specifically designed for those earlier on in their financial life. For younger people this program can easily replace a costly financial advisor, but for those closer to the retiring age who already have a lot of money saved, it’s best to seek a financial planner.

Who it doesn’t work for

Like any course you take, this one takes time and costs more than a free or low-cost budgeting app, so if you aren’t ready to put in the effort, think about starting simpler with a budgeting app.

Price

$399

Learn more: Sign-up to get notified of the next Moneymentals course

Summary

Whether you’re looking for an easy way to track your spending, or a program that helps change the way you spend, budgeting is almost always helpful and can save you a good deal of money, or at least help you make sure you’re spending it in the right places.

Read more:

  • Best Budgeting Apps For 2016
  • Budgeting In Your Twenties