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Budgeting is crucial to a successful financial plan, but it's not always easy, especially if you're doing it all on your own. The best budgeting apps can help you stay on track and meet your money goals while also saving you some time and helping you stay organized.
Here are our choices for the top five budgeting apps that are currently available.
|Our Picks for the Best Budgeting Apps of 2022|
|You Need a Budget|
If you're looking for a simple approach to budgeting, PocketGuard is a solid choice. The app connects to your financial accounts and keeps track of your transactions and bills. Then it gives you a snapshot of how much you have available to spend based on income, past and upcoming bills, and the money you've budgeted for spending and savings goals.
If you want more detailed budgeting, you can get it through spending reports. If you upgrade your membership to PocketGuard Plus, you can also create a debt payoff plan, make up your own spending categories, change transaction dates, add cash accounts and more.
PocketGuard Plus costs $7.99 per month or $79.99 annually. Alternatively, you can pay a lump sum of $99.99 for a lifetime membership.
The app may be a good option for someone who just wants to know how much they have to spend on any given day. The free version has some significant limitations, however, especially when it comes to creating your own spending categories to tailor the app to your needs.
One of the first free budgeting apps, Mint connects to your financial accounts and helps you keep track of your spending by categorizing them as they come in—though you can adjust the categories and other details of each transaction if you wish.
On top of the basics, Mint provides some solid features. For example, Mint will track your bill due dates and send you reminders so you don't get slapped with late fees. You'll also get alerts when you pay ATM fees, when you go over budget, when there's a large or suspicious transaction on one of your accounts and more.
You can set various money goals, get insights into your spending habits, track both spending and investment accounts, monitor your credit and more.
Mint is a solid choice for people who want a fully free budgeting app with all the bells and whistles. However, there are occasional issues with staying connected to users' financial accounts. Also, the service relies heavily on ads, which may be frustrating for some users who don't want to see them.
You Need a Budget
A zero-based budget is one where you budget every single dollar you earn. You Need a Budget, or YNAB for short, allows you to connect your financial accounts and maintain a strict budget based on your spending habits.
The app lets you share your budget with a partner, set and track various financial goals, review spending and net worth reports, track debt and investment accounts and more. You'll also get access to a trove of resources, including workshops, guides and more.
YNAB's biggest drawback is that it doesn't offer a free version of its budgeting software. It costs $11.99 per month or $84 per year. That can be worth it if you're a serious budgeter who prefers the zero-based budgeting method over others. But if you're new to budgeting, it may be better to stick to a free app (at least for now).
Once the money from one envelope is gone, you can no longer spend money in that area unless you take it from another envelope. This works similarly to a zero-based budget, though you don't necessarily need to budget every dollar you earn.
One big difference between Goodbudget and other top budgeting apps is that you can't connect your financial accounts and directly import transactions. Instead, you'll need to manually update your transactions from each account.
This approach may be worth considering if your finances are relatively simple and you only have a few financial accounts. But the more accounts you have, the longer it will take to manually update transactions across all of them.
Goodbudget has a free version with 20 envelopes, but you only get one year of budgeting history, and you can only share one account across two devices. If you upgrade to Goodbudget Plus, you'll get unlimited envelopes, unlimited accounts across up to five devices and seven years of history.
The premium version of the app costs $7 monthly or $60 annually.
Personal Capital is primarily an app for managing your investment accounts, but you can also connect it to your existing financial accounts and use the app to track your budget and spending.
You can also track your progress with your net worth, develop your retirement savings strategy, get some insights on your current investment portfolio and more.
However, because Personal Capital's main draw is that it provides access to digital wealth advisors, you might not get as much use from it unless you can qualify to be a Personal Capital member. But that requires at least $100,000 in investments, which is out of reach for many people.
Other Options for Creating a Budget
Using a budgeting app can help you stay on top of your budget. But if you want more options, you could also create your own spreadsheet to keep track or even do it by hand.
If you want to use a spreadsheet, budgeting templates available for free online can help you find the right approach. Keep in mind, though, that some budgeting spreadsheet methods may require complicated formulas, so it might not be the best option if you're not familiar with the software.
Whether you use a spreadsheet or pen and paper, you'll need to do everything manually. Again, this might not be a problem if you only have a few accounts to keep track of. But as your financial situation gets more complicated, you may want to use a budgeting app to make things easier and less time-consuming.
Evaluate Your Budget to Ensure You're Still on the Right Track
As with anything in your financial life, it's important to evaluate your approach to budgeting at least once a year to determine if it's still working for you and helping you achieve your financial goals. This can include evaluating whether your current budgeting app is still right for you or if you should switch your budget over to another one.
Because this can be a time-consuming process, it's important to take your time to research your options and consider how to proceed. As you evaluate your financial health, it's important to keep an eye on your credit, which you can do for free through Experian.