Budgeting used to be a process involving a pencil and paper, bank statements, and a calculator. If you wanted to get fancy, you could even break out the Excel worksheet and work in some color coding and formulas.
Laying everything out on paper can be helpful when you’re just getting started budgeting, but unless you have a fantastic memory, you probably can’t remember how much you have left in your budget for the month while you’re away from home. If you want to stop for coffee on the way to work, how do you know if it’s in the budget or not? And how much do you have left to spend on groceries this month?
Enter: the budgeting app!
Budgeting apps help you track your expenses, save money (like for an emergency fund), and they’re easy to check while you’re on the go. Here’s a rundown of our favorite apps for budgeting and how they work.
Desktop Version: Yes
Mint is one of the most comprehensive budgeting apps. It seamlessly connects all of your bank accounts, savings accounts, credit cards, loans, and even investment accounts to give you a big picture idea of where your finances are.
Each month you set a budget for categories. As it downloads your transactions from your financial institutions, you categorize them to match them up with your budget. Mint lets you know when you’ve gone over budget, and even lets you know when you may be getting close to going over budget.
You Need A Budget (YNAB)
Cost: Free for 34 days, then $83.99 per year
Desktop Version: Yes
YNAB is a budgeting app that helps you plan for the future. Rather than looking at what you’ve spent retroactively, it gives “every dollar a job” by having you spend every dollar in the app before you spend it in real life. It also connects to your bank accounts for easy transaction uploading, but you’ll need to approve each transaction to reconcile it.
So, if you plan to earn $3,000 this month, YNAB will have you budget every penny of that money, whether it’s toward debt, bills, or putting it into a savings account. YNAB has a bit of a learning curve, but the website offers video tutorials explaining how to get started with everything from recurring expenses to goals.
If you are currently a student, YNAB is free for one year when you provide proof of your enrollment. After that, students can receive a 10% discount on their second year.
Cost: Free for 1 month, then cost varies depending on your plan:
Desktop Version: Yes
Mvelopes syncs all of your accounts and, similar to YNAB, requires you to budget every dollar before you spend it. Mvelopes helps you prioritize goals such as getting out of debt or saving more money. If you need some one-on-one assistance for setting goals or setting up your Mvelope account, the Mvelopes Plus and Mvelopes Complete offer human assistance. This could be a benefit to you if you aren’t sure how to get started budgeting or are feeling overwhelmed by your financial situation. Mvelopes offers three pricing plans:
- $6/month (Mvelopes Basic) allows you access to their app,
- $19/month (Mvelopes Plus) for the app, access to their “Learning Center”, and a quarterly phone call with a financial coach, or
- $59/month (Mvelopes Complete) for the app, full access to all of their planning tools, and a monthly phone call with a Personal Finance Trainer to help you set goals and stay on track.
Cost: Free, or various pricing plans
Desktop Version: No
PocketGuard is similar to Mint in that it links all of your accounts and allows you to categorize your transactions. The most significant differences are that it has an “In My Pocket” category, which shows you the amount of money you’ll have left after meeting all of your monthly obligations. This app can help you quickly decide if you can afford those new shoes or a night out with friends. PocketGuard offers 4 pricing plans. Free for the basic options, and the premium plans go for $4.99/month, $10.99/3 months, or $34.99/year; it allows you to set up custom categories, export data, create multiple goals, track cash, and manage ATM transactions
Budgeting is the most important thing you can do to make sure your financial life is on track. Without a budget, you’ll probably spend more than you planned, and be left at the end of the month wondering where all your money has gone. These apps help you save money, stay on track, and set goals so that you aren’t surprised by your spending any more!