Budgeting your money leads to greater financial health, well-being, and quality of life. While there are many opportunities to earn passive income and boost your monthly cash flow, learning how to leverage your dollar is one of the most beneficial skills one can obtain. However, it is not always clear where to begin, especially if your budget feels restricted to necessities, or you are not quite ready to give up your morning coffee run. There is a common misconception that budgeting means you must give up on the things you love. This could not be farther from the truth. In fact, when done correctly, budgeting enables you to spend more money on activities, experiences, and purchases that were otherwise not feasible.
Similarly, budgeting is not restricted to cutting corners. There are hidden fees, unfair interest rates, and other explorable factors that work against one’s financial health that is only discoverable through the act of budgeting. Understanding how much money you have, where it is being spent and how (interest rates, extra-curriculars, bills, job related expenses, children, etc.) and why you are spending it, creates a clearer financial portrait. Once you obtain a solid understanding of your monthly deposits vs. expenses, you can create attainable financial goals for your future.
Luckily for you—budgeting has become easier than ever. Gone are the days of checkbooks and ledgers! Thanks to the creative genius of smart technology, there are apps available to not only help you budget your monthly expenses, but budget for you—making it easier than ever to stretch your dollar.
Best Budgeting Apps
Simplifi: Best App for Personalized Spending Plan
The world of finances can often be complex and difficult to understand, but your finances should not be. Simplifi believes that taking a hold of your finances should be simple, constructive, and above all impactful to your bottom line. Voted Best Budgeting Financial App by the New York Times, Simplifi prides itself on paring its customers with optimal budgeting potential and maximum results. Simplifi allows you to obtain an easy to read snapshot of your monthly expenses, graphs to explain where most of your money is being spent, a personalized interface that allows you to focus on what is important to you, and offers helpful insights on what small adjustments you should make. Furthermore, Simplifi belongs to Quicken, which has years of established financial experience behind them. However, not all budgeting apps are for free! Simplifi costs $3.99 a month or $39.99 per year. Depending on your needs and budgeting style, Simplifi stands to save you more than it will ever cost you.
Mint: Best Overall Free Budgeting App
Often referred to as the golden standard of budgeting applications, Mint is worth consideration if you are looking to make some changes to your bottom-line. Not only is Mint free, but tracks your finances in real-time, so you always know exactly where you stand. Additionally, Mint serves as a budgeting platform, offering unlimited access to your credit score, bills, outstanding balances, and deposits in one place. Furthermore, Mint understands they are dealing with sensitive information. They are upfront about their efforts to keep your financial information safe, which include built in features to assure optimal security. Mint is a personalized experience. It enables customers to create workable budgets they can manage. Unlike some, Mint does not assume or make those choices for you. Considering how many stylized features come with Mint, it remains one of the best free budgeting apps available.
Tycoon: Best App for Freelancers or Those Who Have Irregular Income
If you are a freelancer, artist, uber driver, yoga instructor, childbirth educator, performer, model, pet sitter or something similar—this app is for you. Budgeting can be difficult to do when your income varies, but Tycoon makes it simple by offering an online ledger that allows freelancers to keep track of their earnings, deposit dates, outstanding projects, and bill tracking. Tycoon even assists freelancers in populating payment reminders for any unpaid services. However, one of the best features of Tycoon is their tax feature, which enables freelancers to understand how much they will owe at the end of the year and have a realistic number of their take home salary. Tycoon is truly one of the best niche budget apps available for those whose budget needs ultimate flexibility. You can locate this app from your Google Play App Store.
You Need A Budget (YNAB): Best App for Saving Money
YNAB is your one-stop shop for financial education, budgeting versatility, and maximum savings. On average YNAB saves its clients over $600 in the first two months of use. This equals over $6,000 a year. Their strategy begins with prioritization and plan, teaching individuals how to gain total control over their financial future. Of all the apps listed, YNAB is future focused. Many budgeting apps show you trends at the end of the month, leaning on the adage “knowing where you are going by knowing where you’ve been.” YNAB is different. They do not believe in retrospect. They want to impact your spending here and now, before you spend the dollar, so you can take full advantage of the money you have already earned. While YNAB is a fee-for-service app, it is free for students and provides a 34-day free trial. After your trial expires, YNAB costs $11.99 a month or $84.00 a year. It is not a bad tradeoff when compared to the $6,000 they claim you will save by taking control of your financial health and well-being.
PocketGuard: Best App for Savings
If generating more income at the end of the month is your number one reason why you are budgeting, PocketGuard is here to help. PocketGuard offers a sleek, simplified design to those looking for clear answers to their financial concerns and workable solutions. What I most like about PocketGuard is it cuts out a lot of the guess work by showing you upfront how much money you have after your bills and obligations are met. They do not leave you to interpret financial data or pie charts—they pride themselves on telling you like it is. Knowing how much you are working with upfront is their central starting point. From there, PocketGuard tracks your spending, helps negotiate lower rates for credit cards and other high monthly expenditures, enables you to customize your experience by focusing on certain aspects of your spending, and offers Autosave! A unique feature that allows you to set how much money you want to save and aims to get you to that amount. If you are looking to build up your savings and gain a healthier understanding of your spending habits, PocketGuard is one solution that may help.
Acorns: Best App for Retirement Goals
If you are looking for an app to assist you with creating passive income, hands-free investment opportunities, and budget for your future utilizing your current spending habits, Acorns has you covered. Acorns is a unique app built to improve your financial health by investing your free change. If you are like most individuals who cannot afford to put away for retirement or feel there is not very much flexibility in how you spend money, Acorns is great at helping you budget for your future by using what you already have. Here is how it works: Acorns links to your bank account, debit card or credit card and monitors your purchases for spare change. For example, if you purchase a beverage at your local coffee stand for $3.86, the acorn app rounds the cost to $4.00 and either invests the $.14 or places it into a retirement fund for a later date. Acorns helps its client take hold of their future with little to no effort at all.
Goodbudget: Best App for Envelope Savings and Dual Incomes
Everyone has their brand when it comes to what works for them, and budgeting is no different. While some thrive on data and features, others do better with physical, visual reminders because they lay clearer boundaries. If you are a visual learner, Goodbudget may work for you. Goodbudget works well for those who are seeking a digital version of the Envelope Budgeting Method (EBM). What is that you may ask? Great question. Before debit cards replaced cash, many individuals found that by taking the total of their monthly allowance and dispersing it into labeled envelopes by need (utilities, rent, gas, etc.) they were able to make ends meet every month, save, and knew exactly how much money they had for free use. As culture made the shift to virtual banking, the envelope method evolved, resulting in envelope budgeting apps that now work to designate your funds and help you save. Goodbudget is a great budgeting tool for those who are visual, have debt they want to reduce or pay off, and need assistance with meeting their financial responsibilities. Goodbudget also allows you to budget with others, which helps create healthy financial relationships and normalize accountability across those who are contributing. Goodbudget provides its users with ten free envelopes or gives them the choice of paying $7 for unlimited budgeting potential.
Clarity: Best App for Account Management
While some turn to budgeting so they can easily meet their monthly obligations, or are searching for ways to maximize their dollar to save for their future, some are in need of a accessible platform where all their accounts are in one place to track their spending. This is where Clarity comes in. Unlike some apps that are complex and packed full of features you may never use, Clarity is a straightforward, no bells, budgeting and bill negotiating app that supports their client by creating a manageable launchpad to greater financial health. Clarity will also negotiate with your credit card servicers, cable providers, and others, to lower your bills and save you money. However, do be aware that Clarity charges you a one-time fee of 33% based on the yearly total they save you from negotiation.
EveryDollar: Best Self-Governing Budget App
EveryDollar wants to assist each of their users to obtain financial freedom. They believe that through budgeting and understanding your financial portrait, you could expand your financial outcomes. They are confident that within the first ten minutes of using their app, you will successfully have created your first budget. However, EveryDollar does not do the work for you. Some methods of budgeting believe that if a person is interactive, meaning they put in their transactions and actively log their spending, they will become more aware of their situation and shift their behaviors accordingly. One likeable aspect of EveryDollar is that it enables you to create, track, and understand your finances without the use of third-party apps taking control of all your financial data. For some, this is an important feature. EveryDollar is also beneficial for those who are hands on, discovery-based learners. EveryDollar provides you with the tools to create and follow a manageable budget, allowing for you to take control of your bottom-line.
Trim: Best Virtual Assistant App
When it comes to budgeting, everyone’s needs are different. While some prefer to take more control over their budget and monthly expenditures, others may need more assistance making sense of their monthly expenses and exercising control over their finances. Trim was designed to go above and beyond the average budget app to assure the client is getting the most out of their monthly salary. Not only is Trim a virtual assistant app designed to analyze your spending habits to save you money, but it cross references your accounts to assure you are receiving the best rates, your APR on credit lines are appropriate and fair, and assures you are not paying unfair bank fees. If Trim discovers any discrepancies, it will negotiate with your credit card companies, banks, and more, to assure your payments stay low and affordable. Compared to most, Trim goes above and beyond the function of most budgeting apps to assure your hard-earned money is protected while assisting you to meet all aspects of your financial goals.
Always exercise due diligence and read the fine print before you allow an app or any other software access to your bank account, financial and personal information, and assign permissions. While the apps listed are considered trusted resources, you can never be too careful when it comes to your financial health and personal well-being. If you have concerns, err on the side of caution. It is perfectly okay to ask questions or inquire further before you choose which app to go with. If your questions are not answered, or if you find an app does not have contact information—it is best to seek out alternative apps to fit your needs.
One of the perks of living in the technological age is having endless access to applications that work to make our life easier. In the same respect, it comes with a heightened risk for stolen information. Therefore, it is crucial to know your apps full function, purpose, permissions, and small print, before selecting it to assist you with financial management.
How Can I tell if an App is Untrustworthy?
When approaching a new app, especially one that requires access to your financial data and personal information, ask yourself:
- What is this app offering? No app should ever make promises to get you rich or otherwise. When it comes to budgeting, they should be offering you tools and solutions.
- What is in the fine print? Read the small language! Know what you are buying into. Search for hidden fees and language that details how the app uses your personal data.
- Do they list safety as a major priority? What steps have they taken to keep your private information safe and secure?
- Are their permissions aligned with the app’s functions? In short, a budgeting app should not require you to grant permission for them to access your microphone, pictures, files on your phone, location, and any other data that is not aligned with the purpose of the app.
- Am I comfortable? Some people do not want apps to have full range of their checking accounts, credit card data, and everything between, while others recognize this as a pertinent function of smart technology. Be sure the app works with your comfort level.
If you suspect an app is untrustworthy, it probably is. We all have natural boundaries that it is important to maintain especially when it comes to protecting our personal and financial data. It is important to trust your instincts and be aware of apps that make a lot of claims but provide no real information, or only allow access to information after signing up for their program.
Budgeting for Your Future
Research states that an individual will work more than 90,000 hours in their lifetime. This dedication alone should reward you with greater accessibility to the money you earn, but sometimes responsibilities and unforeseen events create barriers to financial freedom. Budgeting can help. Financial health is about providing you with your best life and learning to budget your money will get you there! If you are looking to expand the quality of your life by making your money work for you, budgeting apps are one portable solution to assist you with your financial goals