Best Budgeting Apps

YNAB is the best overall budgeting app

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Managing where your money is going and how you can comfortably spend your income can be difficult. Creating a budget can help you organize your finances, which can improve your finances. Using a budgeting app is one way to create and stick to a budget.

The best budgeting apps help you understand your income and spending so you have maximum control over your money. Budgeting apps may connect to your bank account and credit cards to automatically download transactions and categorize your spending to match the budget you choose.

The best budgeting apps come at an affordable price point, are easy to use and integrate with your accounts, and have features that match your budgeting style.

Best Budgeting Apps of 2023

Best Overall : You Need a Budget (YNAB)


You Need a Budget (YNAB)

 You Need a Budget (YNAB)

Key Specs

  • Price: $99 per year
  • Bank Sync: Yes
  • Free Trial: 34 days
Why We Chose It

You Need a Budget (YNAB) earns the top spot because of the company’s renowned budgeting philosophy and reputation. YNAB says new budgeters typically save $600 in their first two months and more than $6,000 in their first year. Although YNAB is the most costly option on our list, the company offers a 34-day free trial.

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Complete budget makeover

  • Free 34-day trial

  • Strong customer service and comprehensive education

Cons
  • $99 per year

  • More time-intensive to learn

  • Recent sync issues

Overview

YNAB rises to the top of our list because of its budgeting philosophy. The company offers a free trial for 34 days (no credit card required), and after that, the cost is $99 per year. If you prefer to pay less upfront, the cost is $14.99 per month.

YNAB allows you to sync your bank accounts, import your data from a file, or manually enter each transaction. To begin, the company suggests learning the basics about the app through video courses, a live workshop, or reading a guide. YNAB offers a proactive budgeting approach rather than tracking what you have already spent, like some competitors.

After signing up, you create your first budget and assign every dollar a purpose, such as your rent or car payment. The goal is to eventually get at least one month ahead, so you’re spending money you earned 30 days ago. The company offers extensive educational resources and customer support to keep you on track.   

YNAB says privacy and security are its top priority. The company protects your information by using bank-level encryption for all data, best practices for password security, third-party audits, and more.

Best Free Budgeting App : Mint


Mint

 Mint

Key Specs

  • Price: Free, paid investment service available
  • Bank Sync: Yes
  • Free Trial: N/A
Why We Chose It

Mint stands out for a few reasons. It’s one of the most popular budgeting apps available, with 25 million users. The app is free and easy to use for budgeters of all levels. You can also set up bill payment reminders, track investments, and access your TransUnion credit score—all of which make Mint our choice for the best free budgeting app.

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Free budgeting app

  • Free TransUnion credit scores

  • Investment tracking

Cons
  • In-app product advertisements

  • Some complaints about technical issues

  • Spending categorization could be better

Overview

Mint offers the best-known free budgeting app on the market. It’s a great option for anyone looking to improve their spending habits. The app is free, but you may see targeted financial product advertisements.

You may sync your financial accounts within the app or manually add transactions. Mint allows you to see all your accounts in one place and keep track of your daily spending. The app automatically organizes your spending so you can see totals by category at a glance.

Mint also offers monthly bill tracking, including payment reminders to avoid late fees. The app also offers the ability to keep track of your investments and check portfolio fees. Mint offers a few education resources like a home affordability calculator, loan repayment calculator, and a blog with various personal finance topics. 

Mint protects your data through features like security scanning with Verisign, multi-factor authentication, and touch ID mobile access. The company stores your login information in a separate database with multiple layers of hardware and software encryption.

Best for Cash Flow : Simplifi by Quicken


Simplifi by Quicken

 Simplifi by Quicken

Key Specs

  • Price: $47.99 per year
  • Bank Sync: Yes
  • Free Trial: 30 days
Why We Chose It

Simplifi by Quicken earns high marks because it offers a personalized spending plan with real-time updates of how much you have left to spend throughout the month. The app syncs your bank accounts to show you where you stand and your progress on financial goals. Simplifi by Quicken also tracks your monthly bills and subscriptions, including those you don’t use.

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Strong cash flow tools

  • Watch lists for mindful spending

  • Free 30-day trial

Cons
  • $47.99 per year

  • Some complaints about technical issues

Overview

Simplifi by Quicken ranks best for cash flow because of the app’s effective tracking capabilities. It’s the best option for staying on top of how much you can spend between your paychecks. The app offers a free 30-day trial, and then you will pay $3.99 per month (billed annually at $47.99) or $5.99 per month if you choose not to pay upfront.

To get started, you have to sync bank accounts, and then you will have a complete snapshot of your finances. The app automatically categorizes your spending, tracks recurring bills and subscriptions, and stays on top of upcoming expenses.

One standout feature is the app’s custom watchlists, which allow you to limit spending by category or payee. Also, the custom spending plan monitors cash flow to make sure you never spend more than you make. Simplifi by Quicken offers tips while you’re using the app, but there’s also a blog full of educational content at your fingertips. 

Security and privacy are top priorities for Quicken, the app’s parent company. Quicken has been trusted with sensitive financial data for decades and continues to work on new security measures. The app uses 256-bit encryption to transmit banking data and keeps the information confidential.

Best for Overspenders : PocketGuard


PocketGuard

 PocketGuard

Key Specs

  • Price: Free, $7.99 per month, $34.99 annually, or $79.99 one-time fee, lifetime subscription
  • Bank Sync: Yes
  • Free Trial: Free version available
Why We Chose It

PocketGuard made the cut because the app helps curb overspending. The company uses an algorithm to track your income, expenses, and savings goals to tell you how much you can spend every day. These spending limits make it easier to quit overspending and take control of your financial goals.

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Free basic budgeting app

  • Cash flow at a glance

  • Easy to use

Cons
  • PocketGuard Plus has a cost

  • No phone support

  • Some complaints about technical issues

Overview

PocketGuard earned the top spot as best for overspenders because its features focus on helping users control overspending. The app offers a free and a paid, premium version, PocketGuard Plus.

To get started, you need to connect your checking, savings, and credit card accounts. The app can see what you are spending, where to save and reminds you when credit card bills are due. PocketGuard's "In My Pocket" feature uses an algorithm to identify how much money you can spend based on your income, upcoming bills, goals, recent spending, and budgets. 

The app offers a smart bill reminder to keep track of due dates and shows where you may be able to negotiate for lower bills. There's also an automated savings feature, which allows you to set a goal and save for it. PocketGuard automatically moves the money to a bank account on your behalf.

PocketGuard Plus offers additional features like creating your categories, changing transaction dates, the ability to export data, tracking cash, managing ATM deposits and withdrawals, and splitting up transactions. The company also publishes an educational blog for additional opportunities to learn. 

PocketGuard prioritizes security with 256-bit encryption, a four-digit PIN, and biometrics like Touch ID and Face ID as another layer of protection.

Best for Building Wealth : Personal Capital


Personal Capital

 Personal Capital

Key Specs

  • Price: Free, paid investment service available
  • Bank Sync: Yes
  • Free Trial: N/A
Why We Chose It

Personal Capital scores high because the company offers the best free tools for wealth building. You can sync your financial accounts in one place to track your net worth, plan for the future with the Retirement Planner, and use the Fee Analyzer to check portfolio fees.

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Free wealth management app

  • Retirement Planner tool

  • Education Planner tool

  • Net worth tracking

  • Fee Analyzer tool for your portfolio

Cons
  • Less focused on budgeting

  • No option to manually add transactions for budgeting

  • Sales calls for wealth management services

Overview

Personal Capital lands at the top of our list as the best app for building wealth. You can use the product’s dashboards to sync accounts for a complete picture of your finances. The company’s primary app is free, with the option to add investment management services for 0.89% of your money for accounts under $1 million.

Unfortunately, Personal Capital doesn’t allow you to add budgeting transactions manually, but you can manually add investments without syncing those accounts. You can use Personal Capital’s budgeting tools to see your total income and expenses every month. While you can’t create specific goals, you can add a budget, compare it to previous months, and see your spending by categories. 

Although the company’s budgeting features aren’t as comprehensive as others, Personal Capital does offer better investing tools. You can use the dashboard to see changes to your net worth over time, and Personal Capital’s Fee Analyzer gives you a closer look into your portfolio fees.

You may also prepare for the future with the company’s Retirement Planner tool or save for college with the Education Planner tool. Personal Capital’s blog, Daily Capital, covers a range of financial planning topics for beginners to more experienced users alike.   

Personal Capital protects your data with encryption, fraud protection, and robust authentication. No one has access to your login credentials, and the company’s partnership with Yodlee, a veteran financial technology company, offers another layer of security.

Read the full Personal Capital review.

Best for Couples : Zeta


Zeta

 Zeta

Key Specs

  • Price: Free, paid investment service available
  • Bank Sync: Yes
  • Free Trial: N/A
Why We Chose It

Zeta is one of the few free budgeting apps designed specifically for couples, joint finances or not. The app caters to all types of couples, including those who are living together, engaged, married, or new parents. You can sync various accounts to track spending, see your net worth, and manage bills together.

You can also sign up for a joint no-fee banking account and cards with features like no account fees, digital checks, access to the Allpoint ATM network, contactless payments, and bill pay. All of these enhanced features make Zeta our choice as best for couples.

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Free budgeting app and no-fee joint bank account

  • Designed for all types of couples

  • Features like no account fees, contactless payments, and bill pay

Cons
  • Low APY for joint account

Overview

Zeta earns a spot on our list because the free budgeting app caters to all types of couples. The product also offers a free joint bank account to manage spending and paying bills. Zeta’s Money Manager app and Joint Cards are free.

The Zeta Money Manager app allows you to sync accounts or manually add data for a shared view of your finances. The app can create budgets, track spending, set up joint goals, and manage bills. A few standout features include sharing controls, shared and personal budgets, bill reminders, and more. Zeta helps you stay focused on your goals and connect your financial actions to reaching them. Zeta’s Money Date Mag, an online publication covering love and money in the modern age, includes articles to boost your financial knowledge.

The Zeta Joint Cards offer bank account access with FDIC insurance through LendingClub Bank, no monthly fees or minimums, and 0.48% APY. The account provides special features like unlimited transfers, contactless payments, and bill pay. The company uses state-of-the-art bank-level security to keep your data safe. They don’t store your financial logins, and the company uses two-factor authentication and data-encrypted databases.

Final Verdict

If you’re serious about budgeting apps, YNAB is a top choice thanks to its detailed budgeting strategy, excellent support, and helpful features. However, if you’re looking for a free option, competitor Mint is a solid alternative. Here’s a review of the most important features of the best budgeting apps.

Compare the Best Budgeting Apps

App Free Trial Price Bank Sync Security
You Need a Budget (YNAB): Best Overall 34 days $99 per year Yes Bank-level security and encryption
Mint: Best Free Budgeting App N/A Free Yes Bank-level security and encryption
Simplifi by Quicken: Best for Cash Flow 30 days $47.99 per year Yes Bank-level security and encryption
PocketGuard: Best for Overspenders  Free version available, no free trial of paid version Free / $39.99 per year Yes Bank-level security and encryption
Personal Capital: Best for Building Wealth N/A Free Yes Bank-level security and encryption
Zeta: Best for Couples N/A Free Yes Bank-level security and encryption

Frequently Asked Questions

What Are Budgeting Apps?

A budgeting app is a software application that you may access from your computer, tablet or mobile device to track your finances, such as income, savings, debt payoff, or investing. Budgeting apps often will sync with your financial accounts to give you an overview in real-time when finances change. These apps may also organize spending history into categories to identify trends, making users aware of their habits over time, and helping them meet their budget goals.

What Is the Best Budgeting App?

The You Need A Budget (YNAB) app is a solid choice if you're serious about giving your budget a makeover. It offers a unique, proactive approach to budgeting and can get your expenses on track up to a month in advance. Plus, it features many educational tools and resources and a private, secure system.

Is There a Free Budgeting App?

Mint stands out as a popular free budgeting app and is a good choice if you don't want to pay for a subscription. User-friendly, the app allows you can sync your accounts to keep track of daily spending (and saving) habits. However, because the app is free, you will see targeted financial ads. Other budgeting apps may offer a free trial period before you have to upgrade to a paid subscription.


What Features Should I Look For?

When selecting a budgeting app, look for features such as its ability to sync your bank accounts, track your spending, and organize your expenses into categories, allowing you to see trends over time. In addition, you might want an app that offers automated savings, suggestions to save money, bill alerts, access to credit scores, and investing features. Note: Make sure any apps with a savings component connected to them are FDIC-insured.

What Is the 50/20/30 Budget Rule?

This 50/20/30 rule suggests spending 50% of your paycheck on needs (like rent or a mortgage), 30% on things you want, like a vacation or dining out, and 20% on savings like an emergency fund or retirement account and paying down credit cards or other personal loans.



Methodology

Budgeting is a challenge for many people. While many folks want to reel in spending, it can be tedious to manually track expenses with a spreadsheet, making giving up all too easy. Luckily, there are budgeting apps to automate the process. The only problem is the market is flooded with free and subscription-based budgeting apps, and most people don’t have the time or energy to spend a month testing each out. Fortunately, we have done the heavy lifting for you.

To create our roundup of the best budgeting apps, we considered 15 of the best companies on the market. We compared each app’s budgeting functionality, pricing, free trials, and user reviews. We compared the product features, educational tools, security, and how each app accesses your financial data. All our picks are free, offer a free version, or have a free trial, so you won’t have to waste money on a budgeting app that doesn’t suit your needs. 

BudgetApps

Getty Images / NatalyaBurova

Article Sources
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  1. YNAB. "Pricing."

  2. Intuit Mint. "What Is Mint, and How Does It Work?"

  3. Simplifi. "FAQ."

  4. PocketGuard."We Are Serious About Security."

  5. Personal Capital. "Management Fee."

  6. Personal Capital. "Financial Security."

  7. Zeta. "Zeta Joint Account."

  8. Zeta. "Joint Cards."