It all starts with good budgeting: a strong budget is at the core of personal finance and helps keep our cash flows in check. But while calculating budgets seems simple in theory, it can be tedious in practice—especially when factoring in income, everyday expenses, mortgage payments, investments, and more. This is where a good budgeting app comes in handy.
Need a refresher on how to create a budget? We cover it here in our blog on paying off credit debt.
What exactly do budgeting apps do?
Budgeting apps help in two ways. Some actively track your current spending, including daily purchases and bills, and then organize these expenses into categories like entertainment, home maintenance, and more. These apps require you to connect your bank account for tracking, though you can also manually input your transactions. Others help forecast your future spending, forcing users to actively allocate their budgets based on their estimated income, spending, investments, and more. Again, as these apps are designed to make users consciously budget, they typically require manually inputting transactions.
In most cases, budgeting apps come with a free or paid version. While the free version offers core capabilities in helping users budget, premium includes several add-on features: monitoring savings and investments, alerts for upcoming bills, personalized financial advice, exporting transactions, etc.
Are paid apps worth the price?
With paid budgeting apps, the assumption is that the price is paid through the money they help you save. These apps usually offer 30-day free trials for the paid versions, which you can always try before committing.
That being said, the free versions should cover all of your basic needs—and not everyone needs the premium features! So, it all boils down to what you’re looking for.
The Top 4 Apps of 2021
Based on performance, features, user experience, and bank-level security encryption, these four budgeting apps have been rated as the best for 2021.
- Mint: A free budget tracking app that consolidates all accounts, bills, and investments into one place. Users can also set saving goals and customize alerts for reaching their budget, transactions, and fees, along with tools and calculators to ensure a smooth budgeting experience.
- You Need a Budget (YNAB): A paid finance and budget management app that helps users build a strategic forecast of their estimated income, expenses, and investments into their budget. In addition, users can sync their accounts with their bank, receiving real-time tracking that compares to their budget forecast and export reports, along with tax and credit reports. YNAB also comes with personal support features and financial advice articles.
- PocketGuard: A free and paid money management tool focused on optimizing user spendings and savings, tracking expenses through live-syncing or manual input. The app calculates how much is left “in your pocket” after factoring in income, bills, payments, and current expenses and organizes expense categories through user hashtags, offering pie chart reports on the dashboard. The paid version includes unlimited transaction exports, unlimited goal setting, and unlimited budget categories.
- Personal Capital: A paid investment management app that optimizes saving strategies while offering personal financial advice. Personal Capital consolidates multiple accounts into its dashboard, offering many different financial planning tools, portfolio monitoring and rebalancing, and tax optimization.
Need advice? We can help
Navigating personal finances can be challenging—and that’s where our team of professionals can help. Book a meeting with us today, and we can get you started.