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Balancing your budget can be quite the, well, balancing act. Fortunately, technology has come to the rescue. There are a number of money management apps that can help save you time and hassles when it comes to ensuring your cash is flowing the way it should be.
Given that so many apps are available, you may find it hard to choose the best app for your needs. We analyzed 15 money management apps and narrowed down the list to the five best options.
Why We Picked It
The free Personal Capital app, available for both iOS and Android devices, stands out as an all-around performer. It provides a full view of your finances, including everyday spending and portfolio performance. Tools available in the app guide you through building retirement savings, establishing an emergency fund and reducing debt.
Furthermore, the Personal Capital app lends a hand in investment decisions, making it an excellent app for investors. It can perform an investment checkup, analyze investment fees, assist with financial planning, monitor cash flow, map out education expenses and keep track of your net worth.
While the Personal Capital app supplies numerous nifty features, using those features is pretty simple. You’ll find everything on a single screen and you can easily navigate all of the features from there. Bonus: The app comes in a desktop version in addition to the mobile version.
Several features of the Personal Capital app make it one of our top picks:
- An array of tools to keep tabs on the performance of your investments
- In-depth analysis of budgeting, cash flow, net worth and transactions
- Ability to zero in on both short-term and long-term financial goals
There’s limited ability to tweak or customize the user interface. And you must have a minimum balance of $100,000 to use its portfolio management service.
Why We Picked It
This popular app, produced by Intuit and available for iOS and Android devices, appeals to a broad range of consumers and can help you stay on top of your personal finances.
The Mint app simplifies monitoring of subscriptions, allows you to customize budgets and offers financial insights tailored to your circumstances. How does it do so much? It integrates with your bank accounts, enabling you to create a one-stop-shop for your money matters once you type in your banking logins.
Among the highlights of the app are the personalized budgets and alerts. Once you set up a customized budget, all of your purchases are categorized automatically. To complement that functionality, the app delivers insights into your spending that put you on the path toward smarter financial decisions.
Another useful aspect of Mint: It reminds you when bills are due or when you’re in danger of incurring a fee. This can help prevent costly overdraft fees and late payment fees.
Several features of the Mint app earned it a spot on our list. They include:
- Customizable budgets
- Free credit-score monitoring
- Reminders about bill payments and alerts about bank fees
There can be some hiccups when connecting Mint to some bank accounts. The advertising within the app can be distracting.
YNAB (You Need A Budget)
Why We Picked It
The You Need a Budget (YNAB) app is particularly helpful if you’re seeking to save money and erase your debt.
Available for both iOS and Android devices in mobile and desktop versions, the app concentrates on your current and future finances, rather than dwelling on the past. The app aims to assist people with establishing financial priorities and setting financial goals. It does this by focusing on budgeting, giving you a clearer picture of your financial goals and habits.
Keep in mind that the YNAB app will ding your budget. Following a 34-day, no-obligation free trial, YNAB charges $11.99 per month or $84 per year.
Several aspects of YNAB caught our eye, such as:
- Focuses on budgeting for current and future financial needs
- Ability to share the app with one other person, such as your significant other
- Help from YNAB staffers in the form of webinars and other real-time interactions
With the good comes the not so good. This app doesn’t offer the ability to monitor investments. Plus, the interface is somewhat lacking, mirroring that of a standard Excel spreadsheet.
Why We Picked It
The Pocketguard app, available for iOS and Android devices, gives you the figures to help figure out your finances.
Pocketguard provides an at-a-glance look at your income, expenses and savings. Furthermore, a pie chart tells you which expenses eat up the most and least of your budget. To aid the budgeting process, the app lets you set spending limits.
The app provides yet another way to save money, though: It can help you work out better rates on recurring bills. All you need to do is plug in information about yourself to power this feature. Then you’ll receive offers tailored to your specific needs.
The Pocketguard app also includes a feature that automates your savings. However, if you use the free version of the app, you’ll be charged a $2 monthly fee to take advantage of the autosave feature. This feature comes free with Pocketguard Plus, which costs $7.99 a month, $79.99 per year or $99.99 for lifetime use.
The free version does not allow you to tap into certain features, such as setting up spending categories and monitoring cash flow.
We like the Pocketguard app for several reasons, such as:
- Integration with bank accounts from many financial institutions
- Establishment of savings goals
- Customization of budgets
- Real-time tracking for some buckets of spending
The main drawback is that some features are available only to paid users. Also, the Pocketguard website can be tricky to use.
Why We Picked It
The Goodbudget app may be a good option for folks searching for a simple way to save money.
Goodbudget relies on the envelope method for money management. Through the paper-based version of the envelope method, you set aside one envelope each for expenses like rent, groceries, bills and entertainment. Goodbudget makes this method even easier by digitizing it.
The app also lets you set and track a household budget with other people in your house. This way, you’re not the only one responsible for household budgeting.
Also, the app is versatile in terms of how it can be used—it’s available on iOS- and Android-enabled mobile, tablet and desktop devices. Goodbudget comes in a free version and a Plus version ($7 a month or $60 a year). The versions are similar, but Plus is more robust; for example, the free version supplies only 20 budget envelopes, while Plus gives you unlimited envelopes.
Among the advantages of the Goodbudget app are:
- Budget using the envelope method
- Similar features in free and paid versions
- Relatively inexpensive paid version
- Frequent updates of the app
There are a couple of disadvantages of the Goodbudget app. You’re limited to connecting to one financial institution in the free version. Plus, it lacks some functionality compared to other apps on our list. For example, you must manually add purchase transactions, which can be tedious.
Questions to Ask When Shopping for a Budgeting App
Here are some of the questions you should ask yourself when deciding which budget app to download.
1. What are my financial needs and goals?
Figure out if the app will help you handle those needs and accomplish those goals.
2. How much does the app cost?
Some apps can be downloaded for free, while others may charge a monthly or yearly fee. Cost shouldn’t be the only factor in picking a budgeting app, but it’s a big one. However, you may find that paying a relatively small sum for an app ends up saving you more money in the long run.
3. What features does the app offer?
Decide what you need. You may be looking for an app that provides robust investing tools. Or you may need more help with reducing debt. Look for an app that aligns with the goals you’re trying to achieve.
4. How safe will my data be?
Data security is critical these days, as cyber crooks are constantly prowling the web in hopes of stealing your personal information. Therefore, it’s vital to choose a budgeting app that delivers a high level of data encryption and multiple ways to verify your identity (known as multi-factor authentication).
5. How does the app’s customer service stack up against the competition?
Check online for reviews of the apps you’re considering to see how each app performs in terms of customer service. You want to make sure a real person can quickly help if you encounter real-time problems with an app.
About Our Methodology
We looked at 15 money management apps and assessed each one on 18 factors in these categories: consumer ratings (35% of score), app costs (25% of score), data security and encryption (15% of score), account integration (10% of score), desktop availability (10% of score) and ability to share the app with someone else (5% of score).