Best Budgeting Apps

YNAB is a top choice for detailed budgeting

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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.

The 6 Best Budgeting Apps of 2021

Best Overall : You Need a Budget (YNAB)


You Need a Budget (YNAB)

 You Need a Budget (YNAB)

  • Price: $84 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
  • $84 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 $84 per year. If you prefer to pay less upfront, the cost is $11.99 per month.

YNAB offers the ability 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, like your rent or car payment, for example. The goal is to eventually get at least one month ahead, so you’re spending money you earned from 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

  • Price: Free
  • 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 over 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 makes 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 spending daily. The app automatically organizes your spending so that 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 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

  • Price: $35.99 per year
  • Bank Sync: Yes
  • Free Trial: 30 day
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
  • $35.99 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 $2.99 per month (billed annually at $35.99) or $3.99 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 (since 1982) 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

  • Price: Free / $79.99 per year or $7.99 per month
  • 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 an FDIC-insured 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

  • 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 with 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 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 individual 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

  • Price: Free
  • 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 early access to direct deposit, digital checks, access to the MoneyPass 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 early direct deposits, contactless payments, and bill pay

Cons
  • Low APY for joint account

  • In-app product recommendations

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 together. Zeta’s Money Manager app and Joint Cards are free, but the company may offer paid services in the future. 

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 0.14% APY. The account provides special features like early direct deposits, 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 $84 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 $35.99 per year Yes Bank-Level Security and Encryption
PocketGuard Best for Overspenders  Free version available, no free trial of paid version Free / $79.99 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 personal finances. This may include tracking your income, expenses, savings, debt payoff, investing, or a combination to improve your financial health. Budgeting apps are different from accounting software, which is typically for a business’s income and expenses.  

Budgeting apps may sync with your financial accounts to offer an overview of your situation as changes happen. The most common use of budgeting apps is to track spending through a synced checking account. Many people aren’t aware of how much money they spend every month, making changes more difficult. A budgeting app may organize spending history into categories to identify trends, making users aware of their habits over time.  

Should I Pay for an App or Use a Free One? 

When it comes to budgeting, everyone has their own preferences, including the willingness to invest money in a subscription-based budgeting app. Both free and subscription-based budgeting apps have pros and cons to consider. While spending money to improve your budget may seem counterintuitive, a premium app could be worth the cost if you make long-term changes.

In some cases, the monthly or annual fee could pay for itself, but this may not be true for all subscription-based budgeting apps. A free 30-day trial is the easiest way to see if an app is worth the investment. If you enjoy using the app and feel motivated to continue, the monthly or annual fee could pay off. After all, the best budgeting system is one you are willing to stick with over time.  

What Features Should I Look For? 

Most budgeting apps offer the ability to sync your bank accounts. You may collect your income and consumer spending data into the app. Many apps can track your spending and organize your expenses into categories, which allows you to see trends over time. These features may make it easier to understand your spending habits and make better choices. 

Some apps take it a step further with automated savings, suggestions to save money, bill alerts, access to credit scores, and investing features. For apps with a savings component, you should make sure the account is FDIC-insured. You may also consider the account’s APY and how it compares to high-interest online savings accounts, which may also offer free budgeting tools. Depending on how much money you’re saving, it could be better to switch to an online, tech-focused bank offering a higher APY.

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 of 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.