Best Budget Apps for 2020

Luisa Rollenhagen

Luisa Rollenhagen is a journalist and investor who writes about financial planning for Wealthsimple. She is a past winner of the David James Burrell Prize for journalistic achievement and her work has been published in GQ Magazine and BuzzFeed. Luisa earned her M.A. in Journalism at New York University and is now based in Berlin, Germany.

Creating a budget can seem like a difficult prospect that we often fail before we can even really get started. Luckily, it’s the 21st century, and there’s are apps that can make creating a budget simple.

What is a budgeting app

A budgeting app is an online application that you can usually access from your smartphone and that helps you organize your money by analyzing your spending and, in some cases, implement a savings plan. Some apps are free, others aren’t; some might work on a “freemium” basis, where basic usage is free but additional features require payment. These apps usually hook up to your checking account and/or credit card in order to analyze where your money is going, how much is coming in, and how much is going out.

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After all, those are the core components of a budget: You figure out how much you make per month, and how much you spend on necessities and variable expenses. Then apportion and adjust your expenses to ensure you’re living within your means and saving enough. Experts recommend that you should aim to save or invest at least 20% of your income. But it means you have to actually sit down, calculate all those numbers, and write down all of your expenses and categorize them. Depending on how complex your financial life is, this could be a discouraging step.

Which is why a budgeting app can be a helpful tool. Budgeting apps can also be useful tools for more experienced investors and personal finance wizards who want a more streamlined overview of their finances. In order to simplify things, we’ve rounded up some of the most popular budgeting apps of the moment:

Best budgeting apps

We’ve compiled a list of the best apps to get you on your way to a balanced budget. Check it out.

Mint

Mint is one of the oldest budgeting apps around, and continues to be one of the most popular. That’s because it’s a kind of one-stop shop when it comes to budgeting apps: You link the app to your financial accounts, which can consist of checking, credit card, and investment accounts. From there, the app will categorize your expenses as they come in (although you can easily edit them).

The app will break down your spending into categories like “Shopping” or “Personal Care.” The app will then suggest specific budgets for these categories, depending on your income and spending habits. You can set monthly budgets, or break it down by weeks. The app also allows you to track your bills.

Another perk for many users is that Mint is free. However, it’s currently only available for U.S. and Canadian users.

You Need a Budget (YNAB)

The goal of this app is to help you develop a budget, and stick to it. You link your checking or credit accounts, and the software then analyzes your spending. From there, you can use the app’s tools that are designed to help you get out of debt, as well as set specific goals for yourself and learn how to reach them.

YNAB is guided by their so-called “Four Rules,” which advocate for more mindful spending, adjusting your budget to different stages in your life, and learning to break out of the paycheck-to-paycheck cycle. The software also provides detailed spending and trend reports that you can use to visualize your progress.

YNAB is free for the first 30 days of use, and then you can either opt for a monthly plan that costs $11.99 a month, or an annual plan for a flat fee of $84. The app is currently only available for users in the United States and Canada.

Personal Capital

Once you connect your bank accounts to Personal Capital’s app, you’ll benefit from its free financial tracking tool, which will give you an overview of your bank, credit card, and investment accounts. Personal Capital is not just a budgeting app, since it provides other financial services, including a free retirement planner. This feature allows you to set spending and saving goals, as well as projecting the future value of your portfolio. The planner then analyzes what shape you’re in and adds suggestions to reach your goals. In many ways, Personal Capital acts more like a robo-advisor than a budgeting app.

If you want more in-depth financial guidance, especially when it comes to your investments, then Personal Capital’s premium service will take over actively managing your portfolio. So while the basic budgeting and retirement planning tools are free to use (and you are under no obligation to sign up for the premium service), accessing more of Personal Capital’s features will cost you: You’ll be charged 0.89% of the amount in your account per year, although you should keep in mind that Personal Capital’s minimum deposit for its premium services is $100,000. Personal Capital is also currently only available to U.S. citizens.

PocketGuard

On the opposite end of the spectrum is PocketGuard, which is a no-frills app that has just one aim: telling you how much you’re spending. You can set savings goals, and after linking up with your bank account, the app tells you how much money you still have left over after taking into account your bills, spending, income, and savings. The app also lets you categorize your expenses for things like groceries, clothing, or entertainment.

The app automatically creates a budget for you based on your spending and earning patterns, which is pretty standard budgeting stuff. But there’s another feature called “Lower your bills,” which analyzes your bills (if you’ve set up bill-tracking) and sees what you could potentially be paying less for. PocketGuard is free, but it’s currently only available for U.S. and Canadian financial institutions.

Money Dashboard

Money Dashboard lets you link all of your financial accounts to the app and displays your balances and spending on each account. You can also track your investments and cryptocurrency accounts… The app then creates multiple budgets for all spending areas, and organizes everything into easily readable charts and graphs. You can also create a budget plan for specific goals, like paying off debt, going on holiday, or buying a house.

The app also includes a planner that lets you see your predicted income, expenses, and balances, and create a forecast for future financial situations. Money Dashboard is free, but it’s only available for users with a UK bank account.

Wally

With Wally, you don’t have to be limited to one currency. The app lets you track your spending like all the other apps, but the problem here is that Wally doesn’t sync up to your financial institution—you have to input all of your information manually. Basically, Wally is just a digital version of writing out a budget on paper. You can upload receipts in order to keep track of bills and spending, as well as set regular payments so that you don’t have to input recurring expenses like rent each month. You can also track spending in multiple currencies.

Wally also lets you split payments among friends so you have an overview of who owes you what, and can incorporate that in your budget planning. The app is completely free, although there are plans to add a premium service for a monthly fee. It’s available in the U.S., Canada, and the U.K., but only as an app. A desktop version is currently being developed.

Goodbudget

With Goodbudget, you can sync your budget and share it with a spouse, family member, or friend. The philosophy behind Goodbudget is based on an old-school budgeting strategy: The envelope method. You assign envelopes for different expenses, like rent, household bills, groceries, and entertainment expenses, and fill them with a certain amount of money each month in order to establish a spending routine.

Goodbudget uses virtual envelopes to help you keep track of expenses and spending habits, and there’s a lot of flexibility on how you classify your envelopes and expenses. If you’re using the free version of the app, you get up to ten envelopes for free. The premium version costs $6 per month or $50 a year, and gives you unlimited envelopes. And like most of the other apps in this list, you can sync your bank accounts to the app to keep track of your balances. It’s available in the U.K., Canada, and the U.S.

Last Updated January 4, 2020

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