Affiliate Disclosure: Some of the links on this page are affiliate links, which means we may receive a commission if you decide to buy a product or service we recommend.
According to the latest data by Experian, about 80% of Americans are in debt, with an average personal debt of $90,000.
If you think budgeting is something to be taken for granted, then you are very wrong.
Mismanaging your finances can lead to piled-up debt in the later stages of your life. It may hinder you from finally going for that one investment that could allow you to retire early.
Budgeting is an important life skill that could determine your finances and future. Thanks to technology, tons of downloadable applications can now help monitor your spending and, hopefully, save.
Let me introduce you to your modern life-savers: budgeting apps!
What Are Budgeting Apps?
Budgeting apps come with different interfaces and functions and are developed to serve as expense trackers.
New apps have features such as bill tracking, budget appropriation, spending goal setting, budget adjustment, and much more.
The bottom line is that budgeting apps help you organize your money and allow you to spend and save effectively. Some even allow you to make investments with the savings they help you create and maintain.
What makes budgeting apps even handier is that they can be easily downloaded and accessed through various devices.
This convenience beats traditional spreadsheets and allows a person to avoid complicated paper files and tedious envelope budgeting methods start saving immediately.
What to Expect From Budgeting Apps?
Budgeting can be as simple as tracking expenses.
If you think about it, however, it can also be a complex process that involves determining payables, setting priorities, allotting funds, and devising a personal financial plan that will allow you to live within your means while having enough money left for savings and investments.
Budgeting apps can help you achieve financial freedom, but like any other digital tool, budgeting apps still require human intervention.
You will need to spend time and effort configuring settings in order to use your budgeting app efficiently within your lifestyle.
Take time to learn how to use them and know what to expect from them. Everything takes a bit of effort to be used effectively.
Are Budgeting Apps Safe?
Budgeting apps are no different from other mobile applications.
If you trust games and social media apps enough to download them, then know that budget apps are safe on your devices, too.
Be sure you only download apps from reputable brands or developers. Do some research. Read reviews to find out more about the app and the brand it represents.
Update the app regularly or consider upgrades as they’re offered. Keeping apps up-to-date will allow you to use each of its functions smoothly and without issue.
Some developers even incorporate safety features into their products, which you may want to take advantage of. If you’re dealing with personal accounts and finances, security is your highest priority.
Most apps are equipped with data and password encryption to secure each user’s accounts and personal information. Be sure to use strong passwords to keep your app or budgeting account secure.
These account protection methods are in place to make sure your assets are safe.
It’s something you, as a potential user, definitely want to look for in an app.
What Are the Best Free Budgeting Apps?
Selection processes for any kind of app can be time-consuming. There are tons of options, and each one has something that sets it apart from the rest.
In this case, you want to find the best application to manage your finances the first time.
You’ve already got your hands full, so I want to take a load off your back by narrowing your options to the best five.
At the end of this article, I’ll narrow it down even further to the very best three of the options I presented.
I’ll share insights on some best budgeting apps in terms of performance, cost, and features.
Here are the five best budgeting apps out in the market today.
- You Need a Budget (YNAB)
- Personal Capital
1. You Need a Budget (YNAB)
You Need a Budget (YNAB) is not just an application. It’s a whole budgeting system that claims to teach money management, yielding results you will enjoy for a lifetime.
The YNAB concept leans on financial education and practical application. It is not just an app, but a partner in financial management.
YNAB’s online support will help you quickly incorporate the app’s method into your lifestyle. It’s what makes YNAB’s budgeting system more effective.
Four fundamental rules anchor the YNAB system:
Rule 1: Give Every Dollar a Job
This rule revolves around the concept that what you earn should work for you. It means you decide how to spend your income as soon as you receive it.
This system of budget allotment must be based on priority and significance, which helps you avoid impulsive spending.
The only challenge is training yourself to follow the budget strictly.
Rule 2: Embrace Your True Expenses
This means allowing yourself to undergo a process of acceptance—accepting and embracing your monthly bills.
Once you fully accept that you must let go of a certain amount of money for an expense, you’ll be able to wholeheartedly set aside a portion of your income for that expense.
This way, you won’t experience anxiety or panic when due dates approach.
Rule 3: Roll With the Punches
Even the best budgeters run into unexpected issues every now and then.
If things don’t go your way—i.e., you went over your budget for one category—all you need to do is make a few adjustments and let the funds from another category make up for it, and then move on.
Don’t get weighed down by guilt. You’ll be spending the rest of the month thinking about it, and risk disrupting your goals even further.
Rule 4: Age Your Money
Learning to use money that you saved from previous underspending, means learning to live below your means so that you have extra funds for future expenses.
What do you think of paying for this month’s bills with your savings from the previous month? Isn’t the thought exciting?
With YNAB, you’ll learn to spend every single earned dollar wisely, month after month.
Tested and Proven Method
The four rules mentioned above have helped establish a name for YNAB. The app is trusted because it has already been tested and proven to be effective in wealth management.
This reputation matters, because it means that this program reliably works for those that embrace it.
People who lose track of their objectives have a hard time sticking to a savings plan.
Whether it’s a specific savings amount or spending limit, having a clear sight of your goal makes it easier to achieve it.
As YNAB puts it: budgeting isn’t always about restrictions. So, whatever purpose you set, this budgeting app will remind you of your goal and help you achieve it.
If you’re not used to reading reports or graphs, then you might think they’re hard to understand.
YNAB makes it easier to interpret data with excellent and uncomplicated visual graphics, making it friendly for many users, not just budget experts.
- Teaches sustainable budgeting
- Allows joint budgeting
- Equipped with spending tracking
- Can be synced with personal financial accounts
- Has strong support options
- Does not allow bill tracking
- Can be slow to load sometimes
- Has a slightly expensive subscription fee
- Not as automated as other apps
- Its interface looks like a spreadsheet
Cost: $11.99/month or $84.00/year
Best for: Giving Every Dollar a Job
Mint is a free budgeting app by the software company Intuit. It’s from the same company as TurboTax and Quickbooks.
Mint started in 2007 and has quickly garnered millions of users within two years. Its current user base currently stands at 15 million.
This app is compatible with both iOS and Android devices and is best at collating financial information.
You can sync it with both your bank and your credit card accounts. With this functionality, you can monitor payments and transactions made across different accounts in real-time.
Although it does not have bill payment options, it can send notifications for payment due dates.
Mint isn’t limited to setting budgets. It also allows goal setting, expense tracking, investment tracking, and credit score monitoring, all of which can give you an overall picture of your financial standing.
Having an app that uses easy-to-understand graphics to show you spending patterns, cash flow, account standing, and areas of opportunity can make a huge difference for your financial health.
Budget Goal Setting
Mint lets users control their budgets by setting goals and creating budget plans with their budget categories.
Goals and categories are customizable, making the app flexible for different users.
If you’re clear about what you want to achieve financially, you will become more mindful of your spending and more focused on achieving the goals that you have set.
Not all budgeting apps have this feature, but Intuit was smart enough to know that millennials are financially more innovative than previous generations and are exploring investment products.
So, Mint syncs with investment accounts, making it a hassle-free way to check how your investments are performing in the market and inspect your portfolio.
Credit Score Reporting
Credit scores are potent. They can either help you build an empire or destroy your chances at it.
Make your credit score your best friend. If you’re serious about being financially well off, strive for a good credit rating.
Mint currently only works with TransUnion to monitor your credit score. To access information through other credit bureaus, Mint’s Credit Monitoring Service can do the job for you.
Helping you keep your credit score in check is a welcome feature for a budgeting app.
- Has an easy-to-use spending tracker
- Uses bank-level security
- Regularly updated
- No bill payment feature
- Does not support money transfers
- Customer service is not 24/7
- Some accounts need to be re-added manually
Best for: Visual Budget Analytics
Trim, or AskTrim, was introduced in 2015. It’s best at doing the most basic function of a budgeting app: tracking expenses.
The technology behind the app’s spending tracker and expense reduction is both impressive and reliable.
Trim is unique from other budgeting apps because it helps reduce your spending and increase your savings.
It has two ways of doing this: bill negotiation and subscription cancellation.
Bill negotiation is one of Trim’s flagship features, and it’s the one users are probably most thankful for. What better feature is there than having an AI program help you save on your monthly expenses by doing the bill negotiation for you?
Can you imagine how much you could save if you were able to negotiate all of your bills and have a few hundred dollars extra every month?
Not all people know they can negotiate their bills. And not all people know that there’s an app that can negotiate their bills for them!
Trim developers have seen how much people are spending on unwanted or inactive subscriptions. It’s easy to overlook miscellaneous or recurring charges on your bills, but they add up.
More often than not, you pay for services you don’t use anymore and put money towards charges you don’t even know you were getting. These expenses could be transformed into a significant amount of money saved.
Thus, it may sound irrelevant to budgeting, but having this feature can have a substantial long-term impact.
Everybody dreads the word debt. Despite all efforts to remain debt-free, some people still sometimes find themselves deep in a pit of debt.
Some can pay it off, while others continue to sink deeper and deeper. If you want to avoid this unfortunate circumstance, you should take advantage of Trim’s debt calculation feature.
What would you say if an app could create a budget plan that could help you pay your debt off?
- Free and premium versions
- Bill negotiation features
- User-friendly interface
- Helps establish an effective savings plan
- Lacks goal-setting features
- Has no investment tracking
- Has no mobile app
Basic Features: free
Bill Negotiation: 33% of savings on bills
Best for: tracking expenses
4. Personal Capital
Just from seeing the keywords “personal” and “capital,” you can see that Personal Capital is more than just a budgeting app. It provides an electronic platform for wealth management.
It is an easy-to-access all-in-one app that creates budget plans tailored to your personal needs, helping you grow your capital.
If you’re looking to monitor and improve your net worth closely, Personal Capital might be the best app on the market for you.
Launched in 2009, Personal Capital separates itself from other budgeting apps by focusing on investments.
With its untainted reputation as a digital financial management app, Personal Capital currently manages over $12 billion in assets.
The secret to this app’s success is that its developers merge the power of digital wealth management with human financial expertise.
By downloading this app, you can take advantage of online financial education and support from actual human financial advisors.
And because you can link it to your bank accounts, it becomes your single stop to access and manage finances.
It’s not just a budgeting app. Personal Capital is a leader in the business of wealth building.
With these features, Personal Capital can do more than let you track expenses. It’s a versatile personal finance application that you can comfortably use to explore and manage your finance options.
Net Worth Calculator
Personal Capital lets you have a bird’s-eye view of your net worth with its asset and liability tracker.
Patterns become easier to read and analyze. Knowing your net worth will let you know whether your budget plan needs tweaking or if you’re on the right path to financial freedom.
Seeing your net worth increase is a good morale booster. This is the app for you if you’re aiming to improve your net worth.
Cash Flow Manager
This feature is most useful when you have debts to pay off or simply want to see how much you’re spending on various categories.
Income and expense trackers generate reports that show where most of your money goes and whether you can adjust to make your budget fit. It is best for budget management.
As mentioned, Personal Capital is an app that treats investments seriously as if it were a personal investor.
Most people want more than just savings when they retire. Some want to grow old with peace of mind, knowing they have investments to back up their retirement. Investments differ from savings in more ways than one.
So, if you can have both, and if you’re able to find an app that will manage both, you’re off to a good start. The more diverse your portfolio is, the better.
- Has investment management features
- Can be synced with personal bank accounts
- Has digital and human wealth managers
- Expensive wealth management fee
- $100,000 minimum required for wealth management
Wealth management Feature: percentage of total assets (e.g.,.89% per year for the first $1 million of assets)
Best for: viewing or tracking net worth
Every budgeting app has a feature that makes it stand out from the stiff competition in the market.
This app is synonymous with saving. Its algorithm works as an automatic money-saver, doing the savings allocation for you without you having to lift a finger.
Digit can automatically withdraw money from your checking account into your savings account as long as it’s based in the US.
Because it partners with over 7,000 financial institutions around the country, you can sync it with personal savings accounts too. However, you can only pair with one checking account per user.
Digit analyzes your spending habits and decides how much you can set aside or afford to save.
This way, whether you like it or not, you will truly SAVE a certain amount each month, depending on how much your budget can afford.
Digit factors in your spending patterns, account balances, cash inflow, and expenses. With these variables considered, Digit calculates the amount that can go into your savings account and deposits it for you.
It’s best for people who have trouble making room in their budget for savings.
We all want to manage our finances so we can retire debt-free and with savings and investments.
If you’re in the market for a program that can help you build a sustainable savings plan, Digit is the best app for the job.
It’s every budget geek’s dream feature–to have the app automatically do the saving.
If you can’t get yourself to allot income for savings, then Digit will get it done for you.
It analyzes your finances, determines the amount you can save, and automatically transfers it to your savings account.
Because Digit has access to your accounts and starts transactions automatically, it might trigger an overdraft fee.
There is no need to worry about accidental charges. Digit reimburses any overdraft fees that your bank may impose. It’s pretty considerate for an app to do that.
Account Management via SMS
Not only does Digit communicate through SMS, but you also have the option to do specific actions by sending a text message or responding to message prompts.
You can get Digit to show you your balance in your savings account by simply sending the text “savings.” You can also receive updates on your accounts.
- Has an automated saving functionality
- Helps create a debt-pay strategy
- Compatible with iOS and Android
- Has a simplified goal-setting feature
- Gives a 10% savings bonus
- Poses risks of confidential information leakage
- Charges minor interest on savings
- Can only be linked to one checking account
Best for: automatically saving
Best Free Budgeting Apps
Now, it’s time to trim down our options to three. Considering the features I just discussed, here are my top picks for the best free budgeting apps:
Mint is not just a popular pick because it’s free or because a trusted software company created it. It’s proven itself to be a reliable budgeting app, and that is why users continue to flock to it.
With Mint’s fantastic features, budgeting becomes a pleasant experience at no extra cost.
Mint’s expertise is in the way it presents data. If financial charts make your head spin, then Mint will be a good friend to you.
Although Trim is known for its unique negotiation and subscription cancellation features, it also has a free version that allows users to manage finances, even with its primary functions.
Trim is a system that different budgeting styles can adopt.
This is a budget investor’s app. Personal Capital’s effective investment monitoring algorithm makes it the perfect app for those who want to both budget and invest.
With this app, users will receive insights about savings plans and their overall net worth. The best thing about it is that it’s free.
How to Choose the Best Budgeting App
Decide on Must-Have Features
Only you know what best fits your needs. Assess your financial situation and budgeting needs, and make a list of key features you need in an app.
Know your priorities and check if any of the apps’ functionalities are geared towards addressing those priorities.
Whether it’s merely to track expenses, keep your spending under control, or pay off a long-existing debt, understanding your lifestyle needs is crucial for finding the most suitable budgeting app.
Remember, there are great options in the market, and the market is always growing.
Check for updates on budgeting apps and see if any upgrades are worthwhile for taking your financial management to the next level.
If an app lacks one function, see if it makes up for it with another cool feature.
You may not find the perfect budgeting app, but if you’re willing to compromise and do some research by looking through reviews, then you will indeed find a program with a system and algorithm that will help you achieve your financial goals.
Know Your Budgeting Style
Whether you are used to traditional budgeting methods or have already started doing zero-based budgeting, be clear about what style you’re following because this will help you narrow down your criteria.
Determining whether you work better alone or with a partner will also help you in your selection. Some apps have a joint budgeting option that allows partners to have access to their accounts.
For some people, having an accountability partner—or, at the very least, an app—will make budgeting fun and easy. If tandem budgeting is your thing, some apps even allow you to do this.
Some people love setting goals. If goal-setting is your style, then you will love using an app with budget goal-setting features.
If you’re used to setting a spending goal and checking in from time to time, or if you’re still trying to decide on a plan, look for an app that has a budget monitor and notifies you if you’re about to go beyond your budget.
If you’re more into income – expenses = savings, then you will need an app that can help you manage your cash flow.
Once you know your style and have determined whether you’re a “simple budgeter,” a “budget geek,” or an “investor,” check the app market accordingly.
Don’t Overthink and Try One Budget App for 30 Days
Sometimes, “just do it” works in budgeting, too. If you’re having difficulty looking for the best app, take the 30-day trial.
You might discover features you need but did not read about in reviews, or maybe you’ll find glitches that were missing in the app description.
Regardless, immersing yourself in the product will help you discover more about both it and yourself. Nothing beats first-hand experience.
I hope you now realize that you can gain control of your life by taking control of your finances. All you need is an effective budgeting app to change the game.
Of course, you have to pair this with the proper knowledge, the right aim, and the exemplary courage to take the first step. Finally, it will all lead you to the right tool.
Don’t be afraid to start small. After all, you can’t have a dollar without a penny.
Any amount you save or invest can take you closer to financial freedom.