HomeBankingBest Budgeting Apps for 2021

Best Budgeting Apps for 2021

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Overview of the best budgeting apps to take control of your finances

App Best for Price Additional features
Personal Capital Budgeting with investment management Free budgeting, 0.89% for Wealth Management Has a Wealth Management service for accounts > $100K
You Need a Budget (YNAB) Getting “ahead” of your finances $84 per year Helps you to build or grow emergency savings
CountAbout Simplicity and small businesses $9.99 per year for Basic – $39.99 for Premium Provides small business invoicing and integration with Quicken and Mint
Money Patrol Learning your spending habits $59.99 annually, billed after a 15-day free trial Receipt and document capture, extensive alerts and reporting
Digit Automatic saving $5/month Identifies your spending patterns, and only saves as much as you can handle
Empower Budgeting and Saving $8 after a 14-day trial for first-time customers Automatically saves money to help you reach your financial goals
PocketSmith Budgeting calendars Free Basic edition; $9.95 per month for the Premium plan; $19.95 per month for the Super plan Cashflow forecasting and the ability to manage multiple income streams
Charlie Controlling your spending $4.99 per month Makes savings recommendations and can negotiate bills
Mint Budgeting with your free credit score Free Provides investment tracking and debt payoff plans
Trim Negotiating your bills 33% fee on all successfully negotiated bills Bill negotiation and monitoring of recurring subscriptions
Mvelopes Live support $5.97 to $19.95 per month, depending on the plan selected Offers a personal financial trainer on premium plans

Personal Capital

  • Price – Budgeting is free; 0.89% of the first $1 million for investments.
  • Compatibility – Web, iOS, Android.
  • Unique features – Fee analyzer.

The basic premise of Personal Capital is pretty straightforward: link up your bank account, and the app tracks your spending. Your results are displayed in easy-to-read charts.

But what I like about Personal Capital is the fee analyzer. It can be easy for lender fees to eat into anything you earn. This is especially true if you invest. Personal Capital lets me see all that at a glance so that I can constantly look for ways to reduce what I’m paying.

That’s not the only chart you’ll get, though (nerds like me, rejoice!). You can also monitor your net worth, see how well you’re staying on budget, and keep an eye on how close you’re getting towards your retirement goals. 

If you want complete investment management and you have a minimum of $100,000 to invest, Personal Capital also offers its Wealth Management plan, which is a premium service that has an annual fee of 0.89%. With Wealth Management, you have regular access to a financial advisor.

Learn more about Personal Capital or read our full review.

You Need a Budget (YNAB)

  • 11 Best Budgeting Apps To Take Control Of Your Finances - YNABPrice – $11.99 per month or $84 per year.
  • Compatibility – Web, iOS, Android.
  • Unique features – Spend tracking, emergency padding.

Living from paycheck to paycheck poses a very important challenge. What happens if an unexpected emergency drains your checking account?

That’s where You Need a Budget (YNAB) comes in. More than a budgeting app, this tool helps you set a budget in a way that actually teaches you about money management. 

When you sign up for YNAB, you’ll answer some questions about your monthly expenses and financial goals. You’ll also link to a bank account. This part is optional, but I like to have my spending automatically tracked. I just don’t have time to manually input everything I spend each day.

Once it’s all set up, you can track your spending in each category to see how well you’re staying on target, as well as pull reports for a more specialized view.

Learn more about You Need a Budget or read our full review.

CountAbout

  • P11 Best Budgeting Apps To Take Control Of Your Finances - CountAboutrice – $9.99 a year for basic; $39.99 a year for premium.
  • Compatibility – Web, iOS, Android.
  • Unique features – Imports from Quicken and Mint.

If you use bookkeeping tools like Quicken or Mint, CountAbout is a great way to track your spending. That’s what makes it so great for small businesses.

But small business owners aren’t the only ones who can benefit from CountAbout’s easy-to-use budgeting tools. You can sync up your personal accounts and track your spending to make sure you’re hitting your targets each week.

CountAbout doesn’t just sync up to your bank accounts for spending and budgeting purposes. You can also use it to track your investments and send invoices for your business. 

But what I think is especially helpful about CountAbout is its customizability. There’s no one-size-fits-all when it comes to creating and managing a budget, so I love that CountAbout lets you make it work for your own unique situation.

Learn more about CountAbout or read our full review.

Money Patrol

  • 11 Best Budgeting Apps To Take Control Of Your Finances - Money PatrolPrice – $59.99 per year.
  • Compatibility – Web, iOS, Android.
  • Unique features – Spending and account alerts.

Money Patrol has similar features to other budgeting apps: link to your bank account to track transactions, set and manage budgets, and keep an eye on your investments. You’ll be able to monitor your progress on your dashboard to gain insight into your spending habits.

BUT, MoneyPatrol doesn’t just monitor your spending and help you stay on budget. The app is also backed by technology that automatically looks for ways you can improve your finances. These insights can be a great way to learn better financial habits that stay with you for a lifetime.

The feature that I, personally, really appreciate about Money Patrol is the alerts. You can set things up so that you’re notified if there are suspicious charges or large transactions coming through. You can also be alerted if you’re starting to reach the limit you’ve set for a certain budget category.

Money Patrol also offers more supported account types than most of the other apps on this list. You can track your student loans, business accounts, investments, mortgages, and even some types of gift cards. This allows you to see details on all your accounts in one convenient dashboard.

Learn more about Money Patrol or read our full review.

Digit

  • 11 Best Budgeting Apps To Take Control Of Your Finances - DigitPrice – $5 per month.
  • Compatibility – Web, iOS, Android.
  • Unique features – Automatic savings powered by algorithms.

If saving for the future is your goal, Digit is a budgeting app you’ll want to consider. This app takes automatic savings beyond what you typically see, using technology to help you set some money aside.

With Digit, all I had to do was put in my goals and link to my bank account, and then start spending as I normally would. The app moves small amounts of money to your savings when you’re least likely to notice it which I can really appreciate. Over time, the algorithms learn more about you, making this process even more accurate.

Instead of budgeting your expenses each month, as you would with other apps, you’re inputting the amount you need to save for each of your wish list items. You can set separate goals and have Digit gradually chip away at them by moving money over.

Digit can also help with those debts you need to pay off. Simply move money into a fund that you use to pay off your credit cards or student loans. 

Learn more about Digit or read our full review.

Empower

  • 11 Best Budgeting Apps To Take Control Of Your Finances - EmpowerPrice – $8 per month; no fees for checking.
  • Compatibility – Web, iOS, Android.
  • Unique features – Fee-free cash advances.

Sometimes, no matter how well you budget, you need a little extra money to get to payday. Empower steps in to help with that, issuing you a $250 advance with no interest. The money is just taken out of your next paycheck.

What sets Empower apart for me is that you get a debit card with your account. When you make qualifying purchases, you’ll earn 10% cash back at qualifying retailers (yes, 10%!). The offers are customized to your spending habits so, over time, you’ll save even more.

Empower’s budgeting feature comes in the form of reports you can pull each month that show where you’re spending. You’ll be able to see your income, expenses, and savings across all the accounts you have linked. You can also set monthly spending limits to keep yourself in check.

To help you set money aside, Empower has an autosave feature that’s based on your spending habits. Each week, Empower makes up to four transfers to your savings in small amounts as it looks like you can afford them. Over time, your savings will grow without you having to make any extra efforts to get it there.

Learn more about Empower or read our full review.

PocketSmith

  • 11 Best Budgeting Apps To Take Control Of Your Finances - PocketSmithPrice – Free to $19.95 a month.
  • Compatibility – Web, iOS, Android.
  • Unique features – Financial forecasting and bill calendar.

How you spend your money today affects your financial future. But it can be tough to see that on a day-to-day basis.

That’s where PocketSmith comes in with their built-in financial forecasting. I liked testing a few different strategies and watching how the graph changed. You can even test out scenarios – for example, if you skip your morning coffee and either invest or save that money, to see how that will pay off 6 months, 1 year, or 10 years down the line.

In addition to forecasting, PocketSmith also gives you a calendar view of your upcoming bills. I’ve found this type of layout makes it easy to see what I have coming up. 

Like some of the other budgeting apps on this list, you can connect multiple accounts and monitor everything in one place. This includes your checking, savings, credit cards, and loan accounts. As you pull those accounts in, your transactions are automatically slipped into categories to help you better see where your money is going.

Learn more about PocketSmith or read our full review.

Charlie

  • 11 Best Budgeting Apps To Take Control Of Your Finances - CharliePrice – $4.99 per month.
  • Compatibility – Web, iOS, Android.
  • Unique features – Financial advice, bill negotiation.

Charlie is a free budgeting app with tools like a spending tracker that can help you limit how much you spend in any expense category. 

It’s like having a financial planner on your favorite electronic device. Charlie monitors your spending and lets you know where you can save, including telling you which debts to pay off first and suggesting some fees you can wipe out.

I have to say, having a cartoon penguin advise me on my finances was a unique experience. But that’s what makes this app so unique. In reality, though, the advice is coming from sophisticated algorithms that analyze your finances and give you well-informed advice.

It gets even better, though. Charlie can actually negotiate your bills on your behalf to help you save money on your internet and cable bills. And if there’s a different plan that can save you money on that costly monthly phone bill, Charlie will give you a heads-up so you can make the switch.

Learn more about Charlie or read our full review.

Mint

  • 11 Best Budgeting Apps To Take Control Of Your Finances - MintPrice – Free.
  • Compatibility – Web, iOS, Android.
  • Unique features – Credit score monitoring, spending insights.

Looking to boost your credit score? Mint is the budgeting app for you.

Not only will you get free credit score monitoring with your Mint subscription, but you’ll also have spending and investment tracking. Simply link your bank, credit, loan, and investment accounts, and start making purchases. As you create each month’s budget, Mint will start to learn your financial habits and personalize its recommendations.

Category suggestions are automatic in Mint which I particularly appreciate, so rest assured that you won’t have to do the work of manually assigning expenses. The app also gives you something called “MintSights,” which provides insights based on your budgeting, spending, and total net worth.

It can be easy to lose track of your expenses, especially if you have recurring subscriptions. Mint monitors your bills and alerts you if there’s a price change in one of your recurring bills. Mint also looks out for fees to help you take action when you’re paying too much.

After signing up, Mint can get started right away. The app imports several months of activity from each of your accounts so that it can get a headstart on helping you save and budget.

Learn more about Mint or read our full review.

Trim

  • 11 Best Budgeting Apps To Take Control Of Your Finances - TrimPrice – 33% fee on all bills it successfully negotiates.
  • Compatibility – Web.
  • Unique features – Bill negotiation, recurring subscription monitoring.

Trim bills itself as your “personal finance assistant,” and that’s a pretty solid description of this outstanding service. It not only works to lower your bills, saving you money on car insurance, but it also helps you to cancel unused subscriptions and services that you may be paying for on a regular basis, but seldom or never using.

To get started with Trim, I just signed up for an account and linked up my accounts. Trim takes over from there. The app monitors my spending, constantly looking for ways to “trim” a little money off what I’m spending each month. 

Like Charlie, Trim can help you drop your bills. The app can work with major cable, internet, and phone providers to negotiate what you’re paying for you. If you have money going toward recurring subscriptions you aren’t using, Trim will alert you of that, too.

Trim doesn’t have a budgeting feature yet, but it does keep you advised of what you’re spending each month. These insights can help you as you’re setting a budget.

Learn more about Trim or read our full review.

Mvelopes

  • 11 Best Budgeting Apps To Take Control Of Your Finances - MvelopesPrice – $5.97 to $19.97 per month.
  • Compatibility – Web, iOS, Android.
  • Unique features – Financial coach consultations with the premium plan.

Mvelopes offers more budgeting capabilities than any other app on this list. And since they offer three different plans, you can choose the level of services you want. But one of the features that really stands out with this app is the abundance of live support.

Live chat support is available on all three plans, but you can also access a personal finance trainer on the PlusComplete plan. That’s pretty cool. If you’re willing to pay extra for the Plus plan, every quarter you can hop on a phone call with a financial coach and come up with a plan for the upcoming months.

No matter which plan you choose, you get both budgeting and tracking features. As soon as I signed up, I was prompted to connect my bank account and create a budget. From there, Mvelopes tracked my spending to help me stay below my goal in each budget category.

In addition to budgeting and coaching, your Mvelopes membership gives you access to an extensive knowledge base of articles. You’ll also get access to a free video-based master class to learn more about managing your finances.

Learn more about Mvelopes.

Why should you use a budgeting app?

You want to make budgeting easier

Apps are convenient. That’s why you have your phone attached to you at all times. Taking advantage of budgeting apps can make budgeting much easier, all you have to do is connect your bank account and most apps will take care of the rest.

Having an app automatically sort your transactions and remind you when bills are due is like having a personal assistant right in your pocket.

You need motivation

No matter what your financial goals are, it can be tough to stay on track. A budgeting app gives you an incentive to pay attention to your spending habits. If you’re the type who’s motivated by seeing results on a screen, it can really work for you.

You have a hard time remembering due dates and account balances

Some budgeting apps go beyond just helping you budget and track your purchases. Some can send you alerts when you’re nearing a category threshold, while others can alert you to upcoming bill due dates.

There are even some that will alert you to the fees you’re paying and negotiate certain bills on your behalf. All of those things can make budgeting apps appealing no matter what your situation.

Most important features of a budgeting app

When you’re looking for a budgeting app, certain features make some better than others. Here are some I think are important to help you decide whether the above apps work for you.

Budgeting capabilities

This is the most basic feature provided by budgeting apps. Each has a somewhat different way of going about the process, and the apps included are designed specifically to accommodate the many personal preferences of our readers.

Additional features

Most budgeting apps go beyond basic budgeting. Some will provide advice on debt and investments, others will identify unnecessary expenses, and even renegotiate existing bills. 

Synchronization

The best budgeting apps will synchronize your accounts automatically, making money management easy. Make sure you’re comfortable with this, though. There are some apps that will give you the option to do it manually if that’s your preference.

Price

We’ve included apps ranging in price from free to as much as almost $600 per year. The free versions may provide all that you need for your own personal budgeting activities.

But you may want to pay for a service that offers special tools and features you specifically need or want.

Ease of use

It does little good to use a budgeting app if it’s too complicated. We’ve naturally favored those that are easier to use on this list. 

Ratings by app users

Each of the apps on this list has been included because it is generally considered to be user-friendly by actual users on the Google Play or App Store download pages, where available.

Budgeting apps FAQs

No. Some do, and some don’t. If that’s a feature you want or require, you’ll have to make sure the app you’re signing up for offers that specific capability.

Many budgeting app users just want budget capabilities, and prefer to handle bill paying on their own schedules.

That all depends on the tools and features the app offers. If an app is free, that provides an obvious money-saving opportunity. But if it doesn’t have the capabilities you need to better manage your budget, you’ll be better off with a paid version. Since the cost of budget apps is relatively low, this is usually not a major problem.

However, just because a budget app is free doesn’t mean it’s a bad choice. You may decide to go with a free app because it provides only basic budgeting capabilities, and that’s all you’re interested in. You may not be interested in the additional features offered by the paid versions. 

Generally speaking, yes. But absolute safety of information isn’t achievable on any app, or on any other Internet-based service for that matter.

There are certain vulnerabilities inherent in operating on the Internet, and while each app has its own safety features built-in, there’s never a guarantee.

Like with everything these days, be sure to read the fine print on security before signing up for any budget app, or any online or mobile app at all for that matter.

Summary

If you’ve been having difficulty managing your finances, you can definitely get good reliable help with the many budgeting apps out there. Since there are so many, the trick is going with the one that best fits your personal needs and preferences.

Decide what it is you want a budgeting app to do, then pick the one that will work best for you.

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Empower Disclosure – ¹ Eligibility requirements apply.
* Early access to paycheck deposit funds depends on the timing of the employer’s submission of deposits.
Empower generally posts such deposits on the day they are received which may be up to 2 days earlier than the employer’s scheduled payment date. Cashback deals on Empower Card purchases, including categories, merchants, and percentages, will vary and must be selected in the app. Cashback will be applied automatically when the final transaction posts, which may be up to a week after the qualifying purchase.

Empower is a financial technology company, not a bank. Banking services provided by nbkc bank, Member FDIC.

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About the author

Total Articles: 51

Total Articles: 51

Stephanie Faris has written about finance for entrepreneurs and marketing firms since 2013. She spent nearly a year as a writer for a credit card processing service and has written about finance for numerous marketing firms and entrepreneurs. Her work has appeared on Retirable, The Motley Fool, MoneyGeek, Ecommerce Insiders, GoBankingRates, and ThriveBy30. Learn more about Stephanie on her website or find her on LinkedIn, Facebook, or Twitter.

 





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