Let’s face it. Keeping track of money management and spending habits can be a pain. Constantly worrying about your rent, utilities, cash flow and other expenses can be a gigantic headache for you every month. Making sure you have enough money at the end of the month to pay these bills can also be stressful and difficult. If you are like the vast majority of people and aren’t a financial wizard, then having the time and understanding to keep your finances in check is not an easy task.
Thankfully, we live in the 21st century. Gone are the days of needing to track spending all of your money on a piece of paper. The world of FinTech has created tons of technology and services to make managing your money easier for users. This technology not only helps to simplify the complexities of your finances but it also helps to keep everything in one place: the phone in your pocket.
One of these technologies that is making life easier for users is budgeting apps. Budgeting apps can help you save money as well as prevent you from spending so you can have enough money at the end of the month to pay off those pesky bills. Likewise, these apps can help you save money too. Budgeting apps are a great way to foster financial stability. Whether it be saving money for a vacation or just making sure you can pay your bills at the end of the month, budgeting apps are a very useful tool to help you reach your financial goal.
Just like many other apps and services, hundreds of companies are competing against each other to try to get you to use their service. Because there are so many budgeting apps and many of them do very different things, it can be difficult making a decision of which one to use. Thankfully, we did the heavy lifting for you already! Here’s a look at some of the best budgeting apps we found.
Best for Beginners: Mint
If you are a rookie when it comes to tackling your finances or you are just getting started with budget apps, Mint could be a great option for you. Mint is a very hot budgeting app on the market that does much more than just track your spending. Created by Intuit, who also created Quicken Loans and TurboTax, Mint incorporates many aspects of managing your finances that are easy to navigate for beginners. Mint partners with many other companies to add specific features to enrich your experience on the app, such as partnering with the real estate database Zillow.
- Alerts: For users who use budgets to prevent missing payments or overdrafting their account, Mint has a great feature that sends you alerts if you are spending outside of your budget. Further, Mint has the ability to recognize unusual spending patterns and will alert you if it thinks there may be some identity theft on your account.
- Bank Syncing Accounts: An extremely helpful aspect of Mint is that it allows you to sync Mint with your bank account and financial institution. Mint automatically imports your information from your bank account so it can keep track of your spending patterns for you. It will then begin to automatically group your transactions for you so you can see an overview of where you are spending the most money.
- Portfolio Overview: If you have existing investment accounts, you can link them to Mint so you can have an overview of them right within the app. For example, if you have an IRA account you can view your performance of that account with various graphs and charts. The capabilities of this feature within Mint aren’t as good as the website you hold your account with, but it still provides a fairly in-depth view of your portfolio.
- Free Credit Score: Because of its link to Intuit, Mint is able to provide users with features outside of budgeting. Mint allows you to check your credit score for free within the app.
- It’s a Free App!: This is a big one for many people. While most apps we use today are free for the most part, that is not usually the case with some of these finance apps which you will see later on. Mint is entirely free for all of its users. No need to budget for your budget app!
- Miscategorization: That’s a mouthful. Users often complain that certain purchases they make fall into categories where they don’t belong, and in turn they can skew some of the important data about your spending patterns. Likewise, it also has a problem where some payments are calculated twice which can also skew the data.
- No Long Term Features: Some users want to plan their budgets for the coming months so they can have their finances covered for the next few months. Mint doesn’t exactly allow for that and as of now you are only allowed to make a budget one month at a time.
Best Financial App for Spending Less: Mvelopes
Mvelopes is another budgeting app that has a focus on cutting down your spending. The “envelope budgeting” that Mvelopes embodies is a budgeting strategy where you divvy up your expected costs into envelopes that you can only open when you are using the money inside them to pay for things like groceries or rent. Mvelopes puts a techy spin on this very traditional budgeting system and helps put its users spending back on track.
- Helps Recover 10% of Spending: Mvelopes touts that it can help you gain back 10% of your monthly earnings by finding something called your “hidden spending” that helps you cut costs in areas that you didn’t even know were a problem.
- Syncing More Accounts: Mvelopes reportedly has the capability to sync data with 16,000 financial institutions like banks and credit card companies. This way, your data can be automatically imported and you do not have to constantly update your information every single month.
- Financial Coach: Mvelopes offers an online individual you can chat on the phone with to provide you with some insight into your personal finances as well as your future financial and budget goals.
- Cost: After a free trial, this app costs $6 a month for the cheapest plan and about $80 for the most expensive one. If you are already on a tight budget and don’t want to have to spend more money, this app might not be worth it for you.
- Difficult Interface: The interface as a whole for this app can be slightly confusing and difficult to use. This may not necessarily be an app for beginner budgeters unless you are alright with some headaches the first few times you use this app.
Best for Simplifying your Budget: Albert
If budgeting and other finance related tasks bother you, Albert is the app for you. With Albert, you will likely find that along with keeping your finances in check and making everything more compact and simple. From income, to savings, to bills, Albert makes your finances simpler.
- Savings: With Albert, you can actually create a savings account within the app if you do not want to link one. Albert is big on saving and it will automatically withdraw about $100 from your checking to saving account if you allow it too. This may seem annoying but it does a great job of enforcing saving with the user.
- Investments: Similar to apps like Robinhood, Albert allows for commission-free trading on its app, which means you can buy and sell stocks within Albert’s platform.
- Genius Feature: One of the coolest features we found with Albert is that for a small fee a month, you can have a live individual over text that can help answer all of your money questions. This is a great way to learn as well as make sure everything is in check with your budget and your finances.
- Cost: We feel that one of the main features that separates Albert from other apps is its “genius“ budgeting feature. While the basic budgeting app itself is free, Albert’s genius feature costs $6 a month. If you aren’t too keen on spending money on a budgeting app, you will likely be getting very basic features with Albert while other apps like Mint offer more features for free.
- Savings and Investments: The savings account and commission-free investing is really cool. However, they come with some caveats. Albert’s APY on its savings account is about 1%, which is much lower than the majority of financial institutions. On the investments side, the commission-free trading is awesome but comes with certain tax requirements you might not encounter elsewhere.
Best for All-Inclusive Budgeting: Clarity Money
Clarity Money is an awesome app that does more than just budgeting. Backed by Goldman Sachs, Clarity Money is an AI-powered app that helps you to track your expenses and can even negotiate your bills for you. Like Albert, you can actually create a savings account with Clarity Money as well as have the app withdraw money from your checking account to encourage saving.
- Bill and Expense Tracking: Clarity Money does a fantastic job of keeping you on top of all of your bills and other expenses that you need to pay. Once your data is all set up, it has a great overview of what your bills are and how much you still need to pay.
- Cancellation Feature: Clarity Money has a very cool budgeting tool within their app that lets you see your various subscriptions and other monthly costs and cancel them. This is a super convenient and easy way to cut down some of your costs that you might not need to be paying anymore.
- Great Interface: The app and the user interface is very sleek and good looking and is very easy to navigate around. Clarity Money has made their app as sharp and simple as possible to make the user’s experience that much better.
- Acorns: Acorns is a new application that automatically takes your change from your purchases and saves and invests that money for you. Within Clarity Money, you can use the same features of Acorns as if you were in the Acorns app. If you don’t use Acorns, you can push this feature aside, but if you do, this can be a very helpful and convenient way to access it.
- Weak Budgeting Features: Clarity Money seems more like an app that is focused on your all around finances. Because of this, the budgeting aspect of this app seems to have been put on the back burner. If you are looking for an app that can really help you fix your spending and saving habits, Clarity Money is not the perfect app for you and there are much more efficient budgeting apps than it.
- Lack of Customization: The interface on the app includes many different widgets that are helpful but unfortunately cannot be customized to put the ones you use at the forefront. Also, like Mint, some of your purchases fall into the wrong bucket and you are unable to customize them and put them in the appropriate category.
“You Need a Budget” or more widely known as “YNAB,” is an in-depth budgeting program that is not only useful but is educational as well. It encourages beneficial practices such as making every dollar count, spending less money than you earn, and setting aside money for important purchases and expenses like your rent or mortgage payment. This program is still applicable for beginners, but offers some key insights and tools that couples sharing expenses could find beneficial.
- Prioritizing Payments: In YNAB, you make budgets so you can properly allocate money to expenses you know are coming. If you get a surprise expense like a hospital bill, you can shift around some of the money from your other categories and prioritize paying your more important expenses. This is very easy to do within the app.
- Customer Service: YNAB can have a small learning curve when getting used to the app, so YNAB offers a tool to coach you through how to use the program.
- Making Every Dollar Count: YNAB has some of the strongest budgeting features out of most of these apps, and one that we like is how it makes you allocate every single dollar that you are planning to budget. That way, no money is wasted and you have to be very particular about how you want to spend your money.
- Syncing Accounts: Most of the other apps we’ve discussed allow you to sync various accounts to the app so you can automatically have your expenses input there. YNAB has a problem with this and you may end up needing to just manually input your data, which is a huge pain.
- Expensive: YNAB is currently offering a 34 day free trial, but after that the costs can be hefty. You can either choose $12 a month or one payment of $84 annually. While YNAB offers some features that are better than most budgeting apps, the expensive price just might not be worth it for you. Give the free trial a try before you start forking up all that money!