Ever wonder where your money goes? You’re not alone. Many people have a passive approach to personal finances, which can lead to an endless cycle of earn it, spend it, wonder-where-it-went. Fortunately, there is a tool that can be used to track your income and expenses, allowing you to gain control of your finances: a personal budget. A budget, sometimes called a spending plan, is an outline of anticipated income and expenses that can be used to track actual cash flow and set spending goals.
Budgeting may not be fun, but neither is running out of money before you've paid all the bills. With a bit of time and effort, you can use a budget to take charge of your financial situation. There are dozens of mobile apps that help you do just that. Here, we take a look at five of them.
Platform: iOS, Android
Formerly EEBA, the Easy Envelope Budget Aid, Goodbudget is a personal budgeting app based on the envelope budgeting method. With the envelope system, you put cash into different envelopes, earmarked for certain expense categories, such as "Groceries" or "Entertainment". Once the money is gone from that envelope, you have to wait until next month to refill the envelope and spend in that category. The idea is to help you curb your spending and become more aware of your purchases. With Goodbudget, you can see your budget, track your envelope and bank balances, sync 2+ devices so you can track with friends and family, record your expenses, schedule future and recurring transactions and check your envelope balances before spending.
After securely linking your financial accounts to LearnVest, you can set up your "Smart Budget" with goals based on your preferences - from "Save More" to "Pay off Card" and "Buy a House". Your spending is automatically tracked and categorized, and you can manually add cash transactions as they happen to stay up-to-the-minute with your finances. For each spending category, you'll see how much you spend on average each month, what percentage of your overall spending that category represents, how much you've spent, and how much money you have left. The View Your Progress feature lets you see how close (or far) you are from meeting your goals, such as saving for a vacation or a new car. After setting up your budget, you can schedule a free call with a LearnVest Expert to get personalized help with reaching your goals.
Platform: iOS, Android
A relative newcomer to the personal finance app space, Level Money is an award-winning app that acts as a mobile money meter. On the first day of each month, Level Money "fills up" with your estimated income (based on your spending history), subtracts your recurring bills and a savings rate (such as 7%), and any remaining money is what you have to spend. The app breaks this down on a daily, weekly and monthly basis to help you stay on track. Level Money connects to your credit, debit and banking accounts, and each transaction adjusts the money meter correspondingly so you can see, in real-time, if you are in the black or if you're overspending.
Platform: iOS, Android
The award-winning Mint Personal Finance app allows you to track, budget and manage your money in one place so you can see where you're spending and where you might be able to save money. Once you open an account, you can add you bank, credit, loan and retirement accounts. Mint then automatically pulls in and categorizes all of your transactions, so you don't have to enter your own transactions (you can enter cash transactions manually). Mint creates a starter budget based on your spending history for up to three months, and you can add to and customize the list as you see fit. You can also set up bill reminders and alerts to make sure you pay all of your bills on time.
Pocket Expense is a full-featured finance app that helps you track and understand your personal finances. The app allows you to input and manage multiple accounts and account types, and you can view daily, weekly, monthly, yearly or overall statistics, as well as track the balance of each account. You can also track your bills, set alerts to remind you of which bills are due soon (or overdue), and pay bills in full or in part. The budget tracker feature supports multiple budgets, and shows your income and expenses in chart form. You can set a spending limit and view how much money is left until your budget is gone, which can help you avoid unnecessary purchases.
The Bottom Line
A budget helps you set and reach your financial goals. While budgeting used to involve sitting down with a stack of bills, receipts and a calculator, you can now track your finances easily with online tools and mobile apps. Mobile apps allow you to keep up with your finances as easily as you stay up-to-date with your social media profiles or email: from your mobile device, whenever and wherever.
Many personal budget apps are passcode protected, can be deactivated from an associated online account, and utilize the same encryption standards as banks and other financial institutions. Because personal budget apps may require you to input sensitive data, such as your bank and credit card account information, it is recommended that you research any apps prior to using to ensure your information will be secure.