Setting a budget (and actually sticking to it) is never easy. Fortunately, you don’t have to go about it alone. With a seemingly endless number of budgeting strategies like the 50/30/20 method, or even the zero-based budgeting method— it’s arguably never been easier to choose a budget style that works for you.
For some people, it isn’t just about finding the right budgeting approach, it’s also about having the accountability and motivation to stick with it. That’s one reason we’ve put together this handy list. Budgeting is no longer the sole work of one person and their calculator or excel spreadsheet. With these top-rated mobile apps you can get set goals and get started budgeting directly from your phone, with all the best budgeting tools, tips, and tricks right at your fingertips. Here are the eight best budgeting apps that will help you reach your personal finance goals this year.
Overview of the best budgeting apps
|Personal Capital||Big-picture savings and investment insights|
|Goodbudget||Hassle-free spending categories and limits|
|Pocketguard||Hands-off expense tracking and bill lowering|
|Clarity Money||Free account tracking|
Best budgeting apps
If you’re not a fan of those “set it and forget it” budgeting apps, then you just might like what YNAB (you need a budget) has to offer. Rather than limiting your spending, this budgeting app focuses on setting financial goals (like saving a certain amount each month), meeting them, and then raising the bar to set even bigger goals. Because of their cross-platform functionality, you can also check your progress in real-time from pretty much any device— your phone, iPad, or even on your computer. This also means you can share your progress between more than one user, which is convenient if you plan on budgeting with your partner.
If you love a good pie chart or colorful graphs, then you’ll also enjoy tracking your savings progress and money management with YNAB, because they’ve got all the monthy visuals a budgeter could ask for. Probably one of the biggest strengths of the YNAB app (besides the cross-platform capabilities) is its impressive library of personal finance resources for its users. This includes a blog full of personal finance and budgeting articles, plus regular remote seminars that users can join for even more budgeting info and inspiration.
While YNAB offers a free version of their app for the first 34 days (which extends to one full year for college students), it costs a pretty penny thereafter. As one of the more expensive apps on this list ($11.99 monthly or $84 per year), it's good to be fully invested in their style of budgeting before you commit to that price point. That means, taking full advantage of their educational resources and using the app across a variety of devices (or sharing it with someone else). If this hands-on approach sounds like a fit for you, then you’ll likely find (as other happy users have) that YNAB is well worth the price.
Personal Capital has been helping people make smart investments since 2009. This app tends to be most helpful for those looking to make better decisions with their already-saved money. By linking all of your personal finance accounts within their system, the Personal Capital app can help you see the big picture on your finances, and set goals for a healthier financial future.
One of the biggest strengths of this app is that it offers a myriad of tools within its free version. These include things like a savings planner, cash flow charts, a retirement planner, a hidden fee analyzer, an investment checkup, and even monthly spending targets within their budgeting feature. There’s a lot you can do with this app, without even spending a dime.
If you happen to already have a good amount of savings (as in, $100k or more), then you’d also be eligible to sign up for Personal Capital’s paid Wealth Management program. This paid version of the app will offer more personalized and in-depth services from their financial advisors and is billed based on a small percentage of your in-app net worth.
If you’re looking for a truly classic budgeting app, look no further than Goodbudget. This app, available on iOS, Android, and desktop is based on the time-trusted envelope budgeting method, which has you assigning different categories (or envelopes) to all of the most important expenses in your life. This style of budgeting makes it easier to ensure that your top expenses get paid first, followed by your financial goals, and finally— all the wants and needs wishlist items.
In true envelope-budgeting style, Goodbudget can even help you assign spending categories to your budget. This app will make sure you have enough money to cover important stuff like saving to buy a house, creating an emergency fund, or even starting a fund to help pay off your debts. It will also allow you to create your own envelope categories from scratch and share them across devices with your partner or whoever else may be privy to your budgeting goals.
Goodbudget is a great way for beginners to start a budget that prioritizes the important stuff. Rather than trying to cut spending on everything, you’ll be forced to set aside money for all of your expenses and financial goals— then you can decide what to do with the rest. Depending on just how much you plan on using the Goodbudget app, you can opt for either their paid or free version. The free version comes with 20 envelopes on up to two devices, while the paid version ($7 per month) offers unlimited envelopes, five devices, and email support.
Pocketguard keeps budgeting simple by helping you do two things really well. The first is to help you track your spending. By connecting all of your financial accounts in their mobile app, you can easily identify what you're spending on, and break these things down into categories. The second thing the app does well is to help you lower your monthly expenses. In addition to tracking your cash flow, the app also provides insights and suggestions for lowering your monthly bills.
With the Pocketguard app, you can link more than just your checking and savings accounts. This app allows you to see the full picture of your finances, including your loans, credit cards, and even investment accounts. This will help you prioritize where to put your money, and how you can cut spending to reach your savings goals.
Another great feature of Pocketguard is called Autosave, which will automatically deposit cash into your various savings accounts. Because of all the hard work, this app does behind the scenes, it allows for you to be relatively hands-off in your budgeting. A basic account with Pocketguard is free, but should you choose to upgrade to Pocketguard Plus (which comes with a few extras features), you’ll be charged $3.99/month.
Another great budgeting app to consider is Wally. Chances are you’ve heard of this super popular app before, especially since it’s been recommended by financial bloggers and publications over 150 times. One of the best things about using a budgeting app like Wally is the personalization. With Wally, you can easily set budgets by category using their templates, and then track your progress and spending in-app.
Hoping to start a better budget for your whole family? Wally can also help with that, as the app works well across platforms and can easily be shared between users. You can start something called a “household budget” and then get the whole family involved in reaching those budgeting goals between various categories of spending like dining out, clothing, and entertainment.
Much like other budgeting apps, Wally allows you to sync all of your bank accounts from various financial institutions in one place in order to get the fullest picture of your finances and unlock insights into your spending habits. It also provides a variety of ways to view and track your expenses, including a spending calendar— which can help you balance your income between recurring bills and ongoing financial goals. Probably the best thing about Wally is that it’s completely free to use. As one of the highest-ranking free budgeting apps, you can easily get everything you need from Wally’s free version. If you really love Wally and want to unlock some extra features, you can also pay a one-time fee of $19.99 for access to Wally Gold.
Mvelopes is another top-rated budgeting app, and with good reason. Also based on the famous envelope budgeting system
, this app gives purpose to every dollar you earn by assigning digital envelopes to all of your spending categories, thereby allowing you to easily set spending limits you can stick to. With this method of budgeting you’ll be able to make sure that all of your bills get paid on time, your financial goals met, and still have a bit of extra cash to spend on the fun stuff.
Mvelopes has helped each of their roughly 500,000 users pay off an average of $17,425 in debt— which is no small feat. Their users also have an average accumulated savings of $6,175 as a result of using their app. As you can imagine, these successes don’t come for free. While the first 30 days are free, ongoing plans for Mvelopes come in three tiers and start at $5.97 per month for the basic plan. The company’s most popular plan, called Mvelopes Premier (which is also the middle-tier plan) is $9.97 per month and includes additional tools and support to help you meet your financial goals faster.
Much like many of the other apps on this list, Mvelopes also offers its users a wealth of knowledge and learning opportunities, particularly for those in its two top-tier plans. If you subscribe to either Mvelopes Premier or Mvelopes Plus, you’ll gain access to extra features like the Learning Center, Debt Center, and even scheduled check-ins with their expert support team.
Clarity Money is a mobile budgeting app from Marcus by Goldman Sachs. This app comes with a lot of the usual suspects, like helping you link all of your accounts in one place, track spending, identify any overspending, and even save money on your ongoing bills and expenses.
What really makes this app stand out is that it’s 100% free to use. While you can open up a Marcus online savings account directly from the app, you’re by no means required to. Whether you plan on banking with Marcus at all is entirely up to you, as the company clearly states that “no Marcus loan, savings account or CD account is required” to use the Clarity app.
Once you link all of your various bank accounts in Clarity, you’ll be able to start receiving your free insights into where your money goes. But don’t just link your checking and savings, get an even clearer picture of your finances by also including your retirement and investment accounts. Then you’ll be able to use the app’s premier financial planning tools to track your monthly spending and set new goals.
If you’re looking for a basic budgeting app that packs a big punch, you might enjoy using Everydollar. This budgeting app takes all the concepts of a good old-fashioned monthly budget and compiles them into one, easy-to-use mobile application. In fact, it’s so easy to use, their main selling point is that you can create your first budget in 10 minutes or less.
To use Everydollar, you’ll start by inputting your monthly income, followed by your expenses, and additional spending. This will help give you an idea of how much of your income is being used in each category of spending, and how much is leftover. While the patient budgeter will find plenty of functionality in the app’s free version, there is some serious benefit to upgrading to EveryDollar Plus— mainly, that the app will automatically track your spending for you, rather than having you manually input spending every time you make a purchase.
With EveryDollar Plus, you can also track your bank account balances, and receive priority support from EveryDollar, if and when you need it. This plan doesn’t come cheaply at $99 per year, but you can start out with a 30-day free trial to make sure you like it.
Summary of costs
|YNAB||First 34 days free, then $11.99/month or $84/year|
|Personal Capital||Free; paid version available for those with $100k-plus in assets|
|Goodbudget||Free; paid version for $7/month|
|Pocketguard||Free; paid version for $3.99/month|
|Wally||Free; paid version for one-time $19.99 fee|
|Mvelopes||First 30 days free; paid plans start at $5.97/month|
|Everydollar||First 30 days free; then $99/year|
What does a budgeting app do?
A budgeting app can help you meet your financial goals by offering an easy way to monitor your bank accounts, track spending, and set savings goals in real-time. Many budgeting apps can be used on both your phone and the computer, and some can even be shared between household members.
How much does a budgeting app cost?
Budgeting apps range in cost, but many offer a free version of the app to users. For paid versions of budgeting apps, you can expect to pay anywhere from a few dollars per month all the way up to $100 per year.
What’s the difference between a budgeting app and accounting software?
While most accounting software is meant to be used on a computer, budgeting apps are designed to be used on-the-go. This means they sync up your information more reliably so that you can have the most updated picture of your finances from anywhere in the world.
The bottom line
Budgeting isn’t just a great way to get your finances in order, it can also help you achieve bigger financial goals, like saving up for a house, repaying debts, or even just improving your credit score. The best way to get started budgeting is by finding a budgeting method that works for you. This might be an app, or even just an old-fashioned budgeting system involving pen and paper.
Whatever you choose, be sure to pick something you can stick to. Budgeting should be convenient, insightful, and ultimately fit into your lifestyle. If you can find all that in your chosen budgeting style, then you’ll have the best possible chance of making it work in the long run.