Americans with a budget feel more confident, secure, and in control of their finances, according to data from the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards. Unfortunately, the same study revealed that most Americans don't have a budget, and many who claim to have one actually just track receipts and don't have a system in place to control spending.
Fortunately, budgeting software makes developing and sticking to a budget easier, and there are many programs to choose from. Most allow you to link your bank account, while some also offer additional features such as credit score monitoring or investment tracking. To help you find one that's the perfect fit, we've reviewed 20 different options and picked the best eight based on ease of use, customizations, features, and price.
The 8 Best Budgeting Software of 2020
Best Overall: You Need a Budget
We chose You Need a Budget (YNAB) as the best overall option because it offers the best combination of flexibility and features, making it more than worth its monthly price. It guides you through making an intentional, forward-thinking plan for your spending. Plus, its goal tracking and reporting features help you monitor your progress.
You can link your accounts or manually enter transactions
Real-time information is always available from any device
YNAB teaches you how to budget, rather than just automating the process
Subscription fees of $11.99 monthly or $84 annually
Requires a larger time commitment to manage than other options
There's a steeper learning curve than some other budgeting apps
YNAB is more expensive than its free counterparts and it takes more time to develop your budget. Despite these drawbacks, it's the best budgeting software for taking control of your money because it gives you the necessary tools to create a value-driven spending plan.
The app is built around its four rules, which include giving every dollar a job. The program will guide you through the process of allocating every dollar so you can spend intentionally. Its customizable reporting and goal tracking features, which include attractive and informative charts and graphs, help you stick to your plan. YNAB also provides comprehensive education, including more than 100 free online workshops, and offers real-time updating so you'll always know where your money is going and can make adjustments on the fly.
Best for Couples: Honeydue
We chose Honeydue is the best option for couples because it is specifically geared toward helping you manage your money with a partner. You can link accounts and customize what information you share with your partner while also communicating about money issues directly through the app. Notifications even alert you to upcoming bills or when you or your partner exceeds pre-set spending limits in your budget categories.
No monthly fee
Choose how much account information to share with your partner
Transactions are automatically categorized
Customizable alerts for overspending or upcoming bills
Only available for iOS or Android (no desktop app)
Limited financial education
Few reporting features that allow you to look at the big picture
Honeydue is designed to help couples manage their finances together and its features are focused on joint communication. Honeydue makes sharing information about money simpler by allowing you to respond to your partner's transactions with a note, a thumbs-up, or other emojis. You can also aggregate your linked account information to see all of your individual and joint transactions in one place.
Honeydue makes tracking spending easy by automatically categorizing transactions as well as allowing you to add your own custom categories. And while there are fewer reporting options than with some other programs, customizable alerts help ensure nothing falls through the cracks.
Best for College Students: PocketGuard
We chose PocketGuard as the best option for college students because it makes it easy for busy students to see at a glance how much money they have available to spend. Its goal tracking features and intuitive pie chart help even beginning budgeters see if they're on track. And most of its features are free, which is ideal for those on a student budget.
Most features are available for free
PocketGuard's In My Pocket feature instantly shows cash available to spend
Smart algorithms identify areas you can save
The free version limits transaction categories and goals
Advertisements are displayed even in the paid version of the app
Reporting options are more limited
For college students who are newer to managing money, PocketGuard's simple user interface and intuitive pie charts make it easy to start budgeting and tracking spending. PocketGuard's In My Pocket feature also reduces the risk of overdraft accounts by keeping tabs on money available to spend at all times.
While the free version doesn't include as many features as the paid option, most college students will likely find the program is robust enough and can avoid committing to a monthly subscription fee. And algorithms in the program that help you identify and cancel unwanted subscriptions can help college students identify opportunities to keep more money in their pockets.
Best for Families: EveryDollar
We chose EveryDollar as the best option for families because it allows you to create a budget in 10 minutes that can be completely customized to your family's needs. It allocates every dollar but makes it simpler than other programs to go through the process as a family. And it instantly syncs across all devices, so everyone can see what's been spent.
Created by personal finance expert Dave Ramsey
Offers a free version
Syncs in real-time across devices
You'll have to manually enter transactions in the free version
The paid version is $129.99 annually
You must manually categorize transactions
EveryDollar is an ideal choice for families who want to take a hands-on approach to budget together and who don't want to pay a monthly fee. It allows you to allocate every dollar that you're spending and provides a customizable template to make the budgeting process easier.
For those who want added features, including the ability to link bank accounts, upgrading to the paid version is necessary. Ramsey+ comes at a higher cost than other programs but offers more features including Dave Ramsey's popular Financial Peace course as well as BabyStep Tracking to help work through the seven baby steps Ramsey has identified for building wealth.
Best for Investors: Personal Capital
We chose Personal Capital as the best option for investors because it offers robust budgeting software and provides a retirement and savings planner with tools to keep tabs on investments. You can track your net worth, monitor your cash flow, and get an investment checkup so you can manage your money all in one place.
Free to use
A comprehensive financial dashboard helps you track all aspects of your finances
Retirement planning and investment features help you accomplish financial goals
Some users report connectivity problems with bank accounts
You may be upsold on other services, such as wealth management services
Some app features are more limited
Personal Capital integrates budgeting software with other financial tools in one financial dashboard. You can track spending, monitor investment performance in real-time, set retirement goals, and track your net worth all in one place. You can also access special features such as an investment checkup, which compares your portfolio asset allocation to the target allocation for your age and circumstances.
The investment checkup feature is only available on the desktop version, though. However, the iOS and Android apps still offer plenty of features including interactive tools for tracking your investments and cash flow. Financial advisors are willing to talk with you about your plans, but you can expect to be upsold on Personal Capital's wealth management services if you take advantage of this feature.
Best for Saving: Albert
We chose Albert as the best option for saving money because it is a money management app that is good at both facilitating the budgeting process and automating savings. The app monitors your spending habits, identifies spare dollars, and moves the money to a digital wallet. You'll earn interest on the money, can withdraw it at any time, and can qualify for annual cash bonuses.
Smart savings allows you to save money for your goals effortlessly
Earn an annual bonus of .10% on your savings automatically or as much as .25% when you enable Genius
A checkup score provides suggestions for improvements
No desktop version
No phone customer support
Limited educational information about the budgeting process
Albert creates an automatic budget for you, helping you to identify where your money is going at all times. You can instantly see your income, bills, and the money left over. You'll also have many reporting options including reviewing past month's budgets or seeing your transactions as a pie chart.
Albert not only facilitates easy budgeting but also makes saving effortless by identifying when there's extra money available and moving it into a digital wallet. You'll be rewarded with an annual bonus on your savings and can easily track savings goals. However, if you want the Albert Genius add-on, which boosts your savings bonus and provides access to financial guidance over the phone, you'll have to pay a minimum of $4 per month.
Best for Beginners: Mint
We chose Mint as the best option for beginners because it aggregates all your accounts in one place, helps you track your net worth, and provides add-ons such as access to your credit score. Mint makes budgeting easy by allowing you to link your accounts and shows you how your spending compares to the national average. These features can help you see if you're on track when you're just starting the budgeting process.
The software is completely free to use
Mint's financial dashboard tracks your net worth and shows you accounts all in one place
Transactions are categorized automatically
Goal setting options are limited
Account syncing can be slow
There's lots of advertising of financial offers
Mint makes it easier to make your first budget by providing a long list of categories and showing you how your spending compares to the national average. You can also link your financial accounts. And transactions are automatically categorized so you can see if you're on track with your spending.
Mint is completely free and in addition to budgeting tools, the program helps you track your net worth and monitor your progress towards goals. You're somewhat limited in what you can select for goals, though. You have a choice of preset options and while you can specify a customized savings goal, there doesn't appear to be a way you can set mortgage payoff as one of your goals.
Best Free Option: Goodbudget
We chose Goodbudget as the best free option because it offers the ability to take the envelope budgeting concept virtual without paying a fee for your budgeting software. You can manually import bank transactions and view Goodbudget's intuitive pie charts to see how your spending is allocated. This is a very feature-rich option considering the free price tag.
The free version offers robust features
Charts and graphs make understanding your spending habits easier
You can log in on multiple devices and easily transfer money between envelopes
You're limited in the number of envelopes you can have with the free version
There is no option to automatically sync your accounts
You must manually categorize each transaction after importing your account data
Envelope budgeting involves dividing your available cash into different envelopes for different spending categories. Goodbudget allows you to implement a digital version of envelope budgeting, with your home screen showing how much is left in each envelope.
Goodbudget offers a free and paid version, but the free version has plenty of helpful features including the ability to create up to 10 envelopes and easily transfer money between them. While manually uploading and logging bank account transactions can be tedious, some users prefer not to provide access to their bank accounts.
What Is Budgeting Software?
Budgeting software is software that helps you plan and allocate your personal spending. Unlike accounting software, which focuses primarily on tracking what you've spent or are owed, budgeting software is forward-thinking and allows you to allocate your dollars prior to spending them.
Creating a household budget can take time, and it can be hard to know where to start. Budgeting software aims to streamline the process so you can make your money work for you instead of simply spending it as it comes in.
How Much Does Budgeting Software Cost?
Some budgeting software is completely free, while other programs charge a monthly or annual fee. You Need a Budget, for example, charges $84 per year, while the paid version of EveryDollar costs $129.99 per year. You can expect to budget between $5 and $12 per month for most of the best options.
Budgeting software that you pay for often offers more robust features and more customer support than the free options. And in many cases, free software is supported by advertising, so you can expect to receive financial offers while you use the software.
What Features Should I Look for in Budgeting Software?
When you are looking for budgeting software, key features to keep in mind include:
- Account linking: Linking your accounts to your software means you don't have to upload transactions to monitor your spending and see if you're staying on budget. However, you must provide your financial credentials so the program can access your bank and credit card transactions and aggregate them.
- Spending categories: Budgeting software may automatically characterize your transactions or you may have to do it manually. Most software comes with some preset categories, but you should also be able to add your own.
- Reporting: The software you use should create charts and graphs showing your spending patterns.
- Other financial resources: Some programs provide a free credit score, investment tracking, net worth tracking, and more.
How We Chose the Best Budgeting Software
We looked at 20 of the best budgeting software platforms available today and narrowed it down to the best eight options based on a number of features and other considerations. We considered price, ease of use, account linking, reporting features, and what additional financial services each software program provided if any.