Budgeting is the process of creating a plan to spend your money. This spending plan is called a budget.
Creating this spending plan allows you to determine in advance whether you will have enough money to do the things you need to do or would like to do. Budgeting is simply balancing your expenses with your income.
Best Budgeting Apps
|Budgeting App||Best For|
|Mint||Monitoring Daily Activity|
|YNAB (You Need A Budget)||Achieving Financial Goals|
|Goodbudget||Budgeting Using Envelopes|
|Stash||Getting Started With Investing|
|Digit||Passive Saving and Investing|
A budgeting app is an app designed to help you optimize the spending and savings choices you make each month.
By putting all your financial commitments and goals in one place, a budgeting app can give you better visibility into your financial choices and habits.
Similar to the apps you may use from your bank or credit union, a budgeting app may provide additional functionality such as financial goal setting and cash flow tracking across multiple financial accounts.
Budgeting apps can sync with your bank and credit card accounts to provide a holistic view of your finances.
Some budgeting apps will use a specific budgeting approach like an envelope or zero-based budgeting—while others will address budgeting more generally, allowing for customization based on your needs.
A fully featured budgeting app can help you track spending, manage recurring bill payments, set savings goals, and manage monthly cash flow.
Do Budgeting Apps Really Work?
Budgeting apps are a great tool to help ensure you’re living your budget, not just planning one. They can provide insights into your spending habits, identifying where your money goes and where you can make improvements.
As with any app, whether or not it “works” depends largely on how you use it.
A challenge with budgeting generally—whether managed with an app, a spreadsheet, or more manual means—is committing not only to having a budget but to making your financial decisions in line with it.
Many people find that the interactivity and automation provided by a budgeting app help keep them motivated to stay on top of their personal finances.
How To Choose a Budgeting App
Choosing a budgeting app can seem like a small decision when compared to other personal finance decisions. But the right budgeting app can make a big difference in your personal financial life.
When selecting a budgeting app, be sure to consider what your needs and goals are first. The right budgeting app can provide you with helpful insights and data into your expenses and savings.
But before that happens, identifying your financial goals can help you refine your search for the right budgeting app for you.
Outside of your goals, here are a few features to consider before you commit to a budgeting app:
- Fees. Budgeting apps differ in their costs. Many budgeting apps are free—or offer free versions—while some charge a monthly fee. While it may be tempting to choose a free app, don’t overlook the paid apps. If a budgeting app can significantly improve your financial outlook, it may very well be worth the investment.
- Features. Each app has unique features and benefits, so it may make sense to test a few different apps to see which one best fits your needs. If you’ve used a mobile banking app, you have a head start on the features you’ll be seeking. Typical features in the leading budgeting apps include: connecting all your financial accounts, receiving notifications of upcoming bill payments, designing a budget, credit score tracking, tracking spending, setting up financial goals, and more.
- Security. The security of your personal information is extremely important, especially around banking data and logins. While most budgeting apps have some level of security, some are more sophisticated than others. Be sure to look into the level of security encryption of each app. On their websites, you may find security features such as 256-bit encryption and multi-factor authentication. Along with using a secure Wi-Fi network, features like this will help deter intruders from accessing your information.
- Customer service. If you run into an issue when using a budgeting app, having a technical team you can reach out to can be helpful. When selecting a budgeting app, be sure to find out what customer service options are available, both from the app and from the desktop version, if applicable. It also may help to read reviews of others’ experiences with the app you’re considering.
What Makes for a Successful Budget?
Budgeting is a process that begins with identifying your financial goals, along with observing your spending and savings habits.
When you truly understand how much money is going out and coming in, you’re better prepared to handle both the expected and unexpected financial challenges life brings.
The mindset you bring to managing your money is important. Establishing a budget is a critical first step to gaining control over your finances.
If you’ve never worked with a personal budget, it may take a few cycles for your habits to catch up. And, if you have money habits you need to improve on, the right app can help.
The following is the weighting assigned to each category:
- Mobile app rating (App Store and Google Play): 35%
- Cost: 25%
- Encryption/Security: 15%
- Account integration capabilities: 10%
- Website version available: 10%
- Ability to share: 5%
Budgeting apps with a higher overall rating relative to their number of reviews ranked higher on our list, as did those that are completely free.
We also prioritized mobile apps with advanced security features, like biometric authentication, multifactor authentication, and encryption.
Apps that allow the ability to connect an unlimited number of accounts moved toward the top of our list, as did apps that also have a website version and allow for sharing with family or friends.