Tuesday, April 16, 2024

The 5 Best Budgeting Apps to Get Your Finances Together

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Editor’s Note: This story originally appeared on The Penny Hoarder.

Budgeting may seem like a nightmare with tricky spreadsheets and a million paper receipts, but a budgeting app can do the heavy lifting for you.

A budgeting app can help you budget with ease, take control of your finances and work toward your goals.

Whether your focus is trimming expenses or paying off debt, budgeting — with an app or otherwise — is a powerful strategy to make your financial life less stressful.

To help you achieve more financial freedom, we rounded up the best budgeting apps — both free and paid — for Android or Apple devices.

These apps aim to simplify budgeting, automate mundane tasks and even connect to your bank account to pull in and categorize purchases automatically.

5 Best Free & Paid Budget Apps

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  • Rocket Money: $0-$12/month, Apple & Android
  • Simplifi: $3.99-$5.99/month, Apple & Android
  • Mint: $0-$4.99/month, Apple & Android
  • YNAB: $14.99/month or $98.99/year, Apple & Android
  • Buddy: $0 or $16.99-$49.99/year, Apple

What Is the Best Budgeting App for You?

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There are several things to consider when you’re looking for a good budgeting app:

  • Flexibility: You may want the flexibility to customize your budget based on various factors, such as different types of income (i.e., cash tips, side hustle) and the kind of budget you like to use.
  • Account syncing: Budgeting apps can do a little or a lot. You may prefer to track transactions manually. Or maybe you want real-time tracking on transactions for some or all of your accounts.
  • User experience: How an app functions can vary. Are you OK with ads? Credit card offers? Categories that can’t be personalized?
  • Cost: Some budget apps are free. Some are paid. Some are “freemium” — basic features for free, premium features for a price. Do you want to budget for free? Are you cool with paying for extra features?

Find Your Best Budgeting App

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We’re recommending a range of budgeting apps that cover all the bases: paid, free, nice-to-have extras, super basic, no syncing, all the syncing (including tracking your net worth), automatically adding transactions, manually logging transactions, just for you or shared with someone else.

Whatever your style, there’s a budget app that’s right for you.

Rocket Money: The Best Budgeting App

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Key Features:

  • Cancellation Concierge for subscriptions
  • Detects recurring subscriptions in your accounts
  • Link your accounts to keep track of your budgets

Known for trimming bills, Rocket Money, formally Truebill, isn’t a stranger to The Penny Hoarder community as we’ve recommended the app before — and with good reason. Rocket Money offers tools for budgeting, managing subscriptions and negotiating bills.

Rocket Money is an excellent all-in-one app for those looking to get their financial world in better shape.

How Rocket Money Works

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Rocket Money takes top billing for allowing you to calculate and create an allowance, so you know exactly how much money you have to spend each month. You can also set up goals for categories you want to watch, such as eating out at restaurants or shopping in general.

If you’re new to budgeting, Rocket Money is a solid option that walks you through the process. The app offers additional features — such as spending insights — that can help you build better budgets.

You can see where your money is going each month and receive alerts if you are headed toward overspending.

We love Rocket Money’s subscription management feature, too, that checks your bank account for any recurring charges. It’s a great way to discover subscriptions you may have forgotten.

If you have a high cellphone or cable bill, Rocket Money can even negotiate it down to a lower rate. Rocket Money does take a cut of that savings for the first year if your bill is reduced.

While Rocket Money is free, you’ll pay $3 to $12 each month for premium features. How much you pay is up to you.

Simplifi: The Budgeting Runner-Up

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Key Features:

  • Simple interface that’s good for beginners
  • Links to loans, 401(k), credit cards and more
  • Backed by Quicken customer support

The Simplifi app isn’t nearly as popular as it should be. The simple layout and design of the app — one of our favorite features — makes budgeting feel approachable and less intimidating.

But a simple design doesn’t mean a lack of features, as Simplifi packs in effective tools to help you establish a budget and stay on track.

How Simplifi Works

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With Simplifi, you can connect all of your financial data, including bank, credit card, loan and 401(k) accounts, so you can see everything all together.

From there, you can set financial goals and budgets while keeping track of your spending. Your overall spending plan even gives you an overview of planned spending versus what you’re actually spending.

If you want to save for a big purchase, such as a car or a down payment on a home, Simplifi can calculate how much money you’ll need to set aside each month to meet your goal.

If you update the goal or alter the time frame, Simplifi will recalculate everything for you — without you lifting a finger.

One of the reasons we like Simplifi is because the budgeting app is backed by Quicken, a finance giant with millions of customers. Simplifi builds on a wealth of knowledge that Quicken holds in the financial space.

Simplifi is easily worth the $3.99 to $5.99 a month to use, and there’s a 30-day free trial so you can give it a test run.

Mint: The Solid Classic Option From Intuit

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Key Features:

  • A reliable, powerful app for money management
  • All-in-one app that includes credit monitoring
  • Sorts new transactions for better organization

Mint is another option familiar to personal finance enthusiasts. For quite a while, Mint was the best budgeting and finance app you could download.

To this day, Mint remains a solid option, even as competitors have added services, like Rocket Money, and aced the app design, like Simplifi.

How Mint Works

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Mint is an all-in-one app for managing your personal finances, allowing you to connect your bank accounts, watch your income and track your spending.

Mint can connect to your bank account — and other accounts — to automatically log every transaction and help you categorize them.

In addition to budget planning, you can monitor your credit in Mint and receive notifications if there are changes to your credit report. Mint makes it easy to keep an eye on your credit score, which looks simple but is critical to your future.

While Mint is free to use, a premium subscription (available only to iOS users) at $4.99 a month unlocks specific features, including automatic subscription cancellation, spending projections and spotlights on your spending habits.

If you’re searching for the perfect budgeting app, give Mint a try. Many people find that the free plan is perfect for their financial needs.

YNAB (You Need a Budget): A More Detailed Budgeting App

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Key Features:

  • Users can get into the nitty-gritty details
  • Real-time syncing across devices
  • Built-in loan calculator to help pay off debt

YNAB — also known as You Need a Budget — is a comprehensive, zero-based budgeting app that breaks down your spending and earnings into granular details.

We love the features in YNAB, but the interface can be more intimidating than those of other budgeting apps that hold your hand throughout the process.

How YNAB Works

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If you want to dive into the nitty gritty of your personal finances, YNAB is one of the best apps you can download — seriously, it could be life changing.

YNAB connects to your bank accounts to automatically import your transactions and syncs in real time across multiple devices.

You can start budgeting on your phone, then pick up where you left off on a tablet or computer.

The YNAB app offers the same features as our other recommendations, including the ability to set up and track goals or keep a close eye on your net worth.

We also love the built-in loan calculator that looks at interest rates and shows how much money you’ll save by paying down your debt faster.

Other YNAB features include smart categorization that learns how you sort purchases and adjusts to future spending and an ad-free experience. It’s nice to skip the temptation ads can offer when you’re trying to get your financial house in order.

YNAB is free for 34 days to give you a solid month of budgeting plus a few days for analysis. You don’t have to put in a credit card to sign up, so you won’t end up with a forgotten subscription if you decide YNAB isn’t for you. YNAB also offers a yearlong free trial for college students.

YNAB costs $14.99 a month or $98.99 a year.

Buddy: Budgeting in Manual Mode

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Key Features:

  • No linked accounts for greater privacy
  • Share a budget with a partner or roommate
  • Customized app makes budgeting more fun

Buddy introduces itself as your new financial companion — aka the joyful budgeting app — and we couldn’t agree more. A little on the basic side, Buddy still helps you create budgets and track your expenses.

You can even share your budgets with someone else, such as your partner or roommate. Buddy is our favorite option for people looking to handle their finances together.

How Buddy Works

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So why is Buddy at the bottom of our list? Buddy is a great budgeting app, but you can’t link a bank account or card, which means you have to manually input each transaction.

To some, this is a deal breaker. For others, it’s the power of a budgeting app but with more privacy because your bank account isn’t involved.

If you are OK with adding transactions, you’ll find a plethora of wonderful features within the Buddy app. In addition to creating simple budgets and tracking expenses, you can break down spending into custom categories and view insights into your current plan and spending history.

Buddy even allows you to personalize the app to put some fun in budgeting with custom colors and themes.

Buddy is free, but if you want everything the app has to offer, you’ll need a subscription. Select features require a premium subscription, which is $2.99 to $4.99 a month. Annual subscriptions are $16.99 to $49.99.

What Is the Best Budgeting App?

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There are lots of budgeting apps on the market, but our favorite is Rocket Money for its abilities in budgeting, canceling subscriptions, negotiating bills and setting savings goals.

We also reviewed Simplifi, Mint, YNAB and Buddy.

What Is the Easiest Free Budget App?

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If budgeting apps intimidate you, try Simplifi, which is easy to use but will cost you a small monthly fee. If you want a free budgeting app, we recommend Mint by Intuit.

You won’t get the premium, paid features that Mint offers, but the experience is still top class.

Is Mint Still the Best Budgeting App?

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Mint is an excellent budgeting app and we highly recommend it, especially for those who like a free app with a paid premium option. Overall, we like Rocket Money and Simplifi more, though.

Rocket Money offers a host of additional features, including subscription management, and Simplifi offers a simple interface that is approachable for beginners.

What Is the Best Budget App for Couples?

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Buddy is a great budgeting app for couples or other people who share a budget. Buddy does have some limitations, though, such as having to manually add transactions.

We also reviewed the best budgeting apps for couples and came up with several other options.

What Is the Best Budgeting App for Beginners?

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We recommend Simplifi as the best budgeting app for beginners. You will pay a small monthly subscription, but the Simplifi app isn’t intimidating to use.

Mint is the best free budgeting app for beginners, in our opinion.

What Is the 50/20/30 Budget Rule?

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Two common ways to budget are the 50/20/30 and 70/20/10 methods. Both follow the same idea of budgeting by percentages.

With the 50/20/30 method, you spend 50% of your income on living expenses and bills, 20% on financial goals (i.e., extra debt payments, investing) and 30% on personal things, like vacations and dining out.

The 70/20/10 rule puts 70% of your income to living expenses and personal spending, 20% to savings goals and investing, and 10% to debt or donations.

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