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Budgeting your money is a necessary step in achieving financial independence and security. It’s difficult to determine how much to spend, save, and invest if you don’t have a budgeting plan that works for you. But there are an endless number of budgeting apps these days that can help. How can you know which budgeting app is the right one for you? To help, we’ve created a list of the 12 best budgeting apps you can use to take control of your financial situation in 2020. Which app you choose will depend on your needs and requirements, but we’re confident that you’ll find one that works for you in this article.
Continue reading below to learn which budgeting app to choose today!
What is a Budgeting App?
Budgeting apps are exactly what they sound like: apps that help you budget. But there’s more to it than that. Different apps provide different sets of features. Many go beyond simple budgeting and allow you to invest and save within them. Or they may use behavioral techniques to encourage responsible financial behavior. At their core, however, budgeting apps simply help you budget.
Budgeting involves setting up different categories of spending, and allocating a portion of income to each category. It’s usually done on a monthly basis, and budgeters often set up their budgeting intervals to coincide with their pay schedule. In other words, people who are paid bi-weekly will also frequently work out their budgets on a bi-weekly schedule.
While people used to budget with pen and paper (and some still do), budgeting apps have taken over most of the workload for many people, and they keep track of spending, income, savings, and investments, while providing a high-level view of a user’s financial situation.
12 Best Budgeting Apps in 2020
It seems like there’s a budgeting app for everyone in 2020. Whether you’re looking to set personal financial goals, you need to work with your partner to create a shared strategy, or you want to play with spreadsheets and micromanage details, there’s likely a budgeting app that suits your personality and requirements.
Continue reading below to find our 12 favorite budgeting apps for 2020.
Empower: Best for Net Worth Tracking
Empower is a powerful platform that’s ideal for high net worth investors who seek a high-level overview of their financial position. Full of investing-specific features and tools, Empower’s budgeting tools are relatively limited compared to its full suite of investment management features.
While it’s as much a robo-advisor and online brokerage as a budgeting app, it performs the basic functions of budgeting quite well.
Empower is packed with features, particularly for those seeking an investment platform.
- A host of investment features: There are too many investment features in Empower to list individually. You’ll have access to features like retirement income guidance, education spending planners, a 401(k) fee analyzer, and asset allocation targets, just to name a few.
- A paid version of the software: The paid version of the software allows you to access even more investment guidance and features. From personalized advice from human brokers to the many features common to all robo-advisers, the paid version of Empower provides robust investment support and guidance for very reasonable fees.
There’s so much to like in Empower that it’s hard to choose just a few upsides.
- Extremely powerful investment features: Empower’s investment advice and support is second-to-none, especially in the paid version.
- Security: Empower offers the usual two-factor authentication and biometric identification security features. It also offers bank-level encryption of your financial data to keep your information secure.
Empower’s cons aren’t really cons as much as the inevitable consequences of it’s chosen focus.
- Focus is on investing, not budgeting: As we mentioned earlier, this is more of an investing platform than it is a budgeting app. Because of its different focus, you’ll miss out on some budgeting-specific features that you might expect to see. For example, the spending analysis feature was only available on the mobile app (and not the web app) at the time of this writing.
- Complexity: Again, because of its focus on providing investment services, the app is more complex than other budgeting apps.
Best Suited For
Empower is best suited for those seeking an online investment platform that also happens to offer some basic budgeting features and services. For those who don’t plan to do a lot of investing, they may be better off looking at a simpler app.
An online financial advisor and personal wealth management tool that helps you track and manage your personal finances.
Mint: Best for Budget Goal-setting
Mint is a web-based budgeting service designed to provide a simple and accessible portal that lets users keep an eye on their finances. It syncs automatically with your bank, credit, and investment accounts to give you a birds-eye view of your financial position.
Mint, from Intuit, is a fully-featured and robust platform. It provides all of the features you might expect from quality budgeting software. Mint allows you to:
- View and categorize all your transactions
- Create budgets for as many spending categories as you desire, including custom categories
- Set spending, saving, and investment goals
- View spending, saving, and net-worth trends over time within simple graphs.
Mint’s goal-setting features are particularly handy — they let you choose from a wide variety of objectives (like saving for a car or home, reducing credit card debt, or paying back a loan), or you can set your own custom goal.
Intuit’s Mint app has a lot to like for those looking for an easier way to budget.
- Simple: The interface and features are simple and easy to use. While Mint’s array of features is broad, the app doesn’t overwhelm users with options. The desired action will always be just a click or two away.
- Alerts: Mint allows you to configure and send alerts to your email when certain events take place. For example, you might set the app to send you an email when you go over the limit on your credit card, or when you spend more than usual.
- Security: Mint offers two-factor authentication on its web-based portal and apps, as well as biometric security features on its Android and iOS apps. All banking information is encrypted with the same level of security as your bank uses.
- Goal setting: As mentioned above, Mint offers excellent goal-setting and achievement features that can make it easier to hit whatever financial target you hope to reach.
- Weekly summaries: You can configure Mint to send you a weekly spending and budgeting summary by email. This is a great way to keep an eye on your finances. Mint is so easy to use that it might encourage some to take a hands-off approach to their accounts.
- Simple credit score page for American users: Mint users in the US can access their credit score for free on their Mint dashboard. (It’s an extremely easy way to keep an eye on your credit rating.)
Despite everything it has to offer, Mint falls down in a couple of areas.
- No report generation: You can’t generate weekly, monthly, or annual reports in Mint (except for the weekly summaries you can choose to receive by email). Custom reports would be a great addition to a budgeting app like this one, given how much insight it can provide to the typical consumer.
- No investing features: There are very few features related to investment accounts in the app. While you can view some high-level information about investment accounts in the US version of Mint, there isn’t much else you can do with your IRA or 401(k).
- Synchronization issues: Users have consistently reported difficulty synchronizing accounts in the Mint software. The issue apparently emerged when Intuit bought the company, and the problem still hasn’t been resolved, based on customer complaints.
Best Suited For
Mint is best suited for goal-oriented savers and budgeters who want to keep things simple and hands-off. People in this category can set up a few goals within the app, create a weekly email summary, and get to saving with ease.
YNAB: Best for Spending & Trend Tracking
YNAB, short for You Need A Budget, is a paid budgeting app. It comes with a 34-day free trial that gives you a reasonable amount of time to figure out if it’s right for you. At about $12.00 per month, it’s pricey compared to the other (mostly free) apps on this list. The additional expense may be worth it if you fall in love with YNAB’s unique interface and budgeting philosophy.
Aside from all the features in YNAB that are typically included in budgeting software, the following aspects of YNAB are noteworthy.
- Reports: YNAB allows you to create and print a wide variety of reports from its easy-to-use interface. Income vs. expense reports and net worth analyses are both available to the user.
- Income and spending tracker: YNAB offers an income and spending tracker that can’t be beat. The app makes it extremely easy to watch money move into and out of your account. Because each dollar you budget for has a “job” in YNAB, you can see if every dollar has or hasn’t fulfilled its goal.
While there are a bunch of great features packed into this powerful software, a couple of them in particular really stand out.
- Customer Service: Users rave about YNAB’s personalized customer phone and chat customer service.
- User friendliness: YNAB has an extremely simple interface and set of features.
We can only think of a couple of downsides to YNAB.
- Takes some getting used to: For users of the more popular Mint, YNAB will require some time to get comfortable with it. While its user interface is extremely easy to use, it has a very different underlying philosophy and design.
- No free version: Aside from a free trial (which lasts 34 days), YNAB offers no free version. You’ll need to pay $12.00 per month to enjoy its features.
Best Suited For
YNAB is best suited for people who want an easy-to-use program that can provide useful and actionable spending and income reports.
PocketSmith: Best Budgeting Calendar
With a focus on financial forecasting, PocketSmith pivots your focus from the past to the future.
The features you get with PocketSmith will depend on which version you decide to go with. The free version is significantly stripped down. (It doesn’t even include automatic bank account syncing.)
The premium version is where you’ll really start finding some value with PocketSmith. At about $10.00 per month, you can enjoy features like automatic bank account updates and 10-year account forecasts and projections.
There’s a lot to like about PocketSmith’s unique take on budgeting, but the standout feature is definitely its forecasting ability.
- Forecasting: PocketSmith’s strength is undoubtedly its robust forecasting and prediction algorithms.
- Scenario Testing: You can enter a potential scenario (like buying a new car or going to school), and see how it will affect your future finances.
- P&L Reports: PocketSmith provides you with the opportunity to view your personal cash flow as if your finances were part of a business. You can view a Profit and Loss Report for your personal life.
There are a few notable drawbacks to using PocketSmith as your primary budgeting software.
- No bill payment functionality: PocketSmith doesn’t offer any online bill payment functionality.
- No investment monitoring: PocketSmith doesn’t offer the depth of investment account monitoring the way that Empower might.
Best Suited For
PocketSmith is best suited for those who tend to look toward the future and are interested in powerful forecasts and extensive budgeting calendars.
An online personal finance tool to manage your budget, track your expenses and help you forecast your finances.
Honeydue: Best for Couples
Honeydue is a unique take on budgeting targeted specifically at couples who hope, together, to get a handle on their finances and spending.
Honeydue’s features all focus on coordinating the expenses and incomes of two or more people. It’s useful for couples, obviously, but also roommates and anyone else who has to share expenses.
This app works so well for couples and roommates trying to coordinate expenses that it’s hard to specify just one or two features we really love, but we’ll try.
- In-app chat features: The app allows you to chat to your co-user (whether they’re a romantic partner, a roommate, or someone else) about specific expenses or general issues.
- Send money feature: Honeydue lets you send money to your co-user from within the app so you can quickly settle up rent and bill payments.
We could think of only one drawback to Honeydue. And it’s not really a drawback so much as a choice by the company.
- iOS and Android only: The app isn’t available from a laptop or desktop web browser. It’s only available as a mobile app for iOS and Android.
Best Suited For
Honeydue is best suited for couples and roommates who maintain separate accounts but want to coordinate income and expenses.
Mvelopes: Best for Old-School Budgeters
Mvelopes is budgeting software seemingly tailor-made for over-spenders. Using the old-school “envelope” system developed by Dave Ramsey, Mvelopes allows people to actively keep track of how much they’re spending in each category they create.
The standout feature of Mvelopes is, of course, its envelope budgeting system. It creates a psychological and organizational incentive to refrain from overspending in any one of your categories. The system can, however, lead to a myopic view of your accounts if you overfocus on a particular category and don’t take the time to consider your overall finances.
Simplicity and behavioral control are the high points of this app.
- A great way to limit spending: The envelope budgeting system is a tried-and-true way to save money. If there’s a more effective way of tamping down overspending, we haven’t found it.
- An extremely simple interface: Interfaces don’t get much simpler than this.
This effective app does come with some drawbacks to be aware of.
- No investment monitoring: The program’s extremely simple and straightforward design has led to some features being left behind. Investment account monitoring is one of those features.
- No online bill payments: You won’t be able to pay your bills online with Mvelopes, which would have been a handy feature.
Best Suited For
This app is best suited for fans of Dave Ramsey’s envelope budgeting system. It’s the closest virtual version of envelopes stuffed with cash that you’ll find.
EveryDollar: Best for Zero-Based Budgeting
EveryDollar follows the principles of “zero-based budgeting,” in which every incoming dollar is given a job. In other words, you’re meant to account for every dollar you earn so that each dollar is used (not necessarily spent) appropriately.
EveryDollar chooses simplicity over features. In fact, its simplicity is one of its primary features. Many of EveryDollar’s features are hidden behind a paywall, so if you feel you’d benefit from them, you’ll need to pay about $100 per year to access the paid version of EveryDollar.
EveryDollar’s simplicity and focus are its primary selling points.
- Ease of use: EveryDollar is about as easy to use as budgeting software can be. It uses the zero-based budgeting philosophy, and its user-friendly interface makes for a very simple and easy-to-master experience.
- Laser focus on budgeting: EveryDollar is narrowly focused on budgeting. It doesn’t try to do too much or wander into related or peripheral areas. It does one thing, and does it well.
EveryDollar’s simplicity can also be considered a potential downside.
- Many features are missing in the free version: EveryDollar might be too simple — especially the free version, which omits a ton of features and might leave users wanting more. That’s especially true when you consider that there’s a ton of free alternatives out there (like Mint).
Best Suited For
EveryDollar is perfect for someone who wants to budget with an app but doesn’t want any fluff. It’s right for people who just want to set up a budget and don’t care about extra features that they might get with other programs.
Tiller Money: Best for Spreadsheet Enthusiasts
If you’re a spreadsheet enthusiast/nerd, you’ll be glad to hear that there’s a budgeting app designed specifically for you. That is Tiller Money.
Tiller Money’s main feature is its ability to export banking transactions to customized Google Sheets. It will automatically pull data from your bank accounts and add them to your spreadsheets, letting you manipulate and play with your data much more easily.
Be advised that Tiller Money does cost money (about $5 per month).
- Pre-designed spreadsheet templates: Tiller Money comes with prefab Google Sheets that eliminate the need to create your own from scratch. (Of course, if you want to make some custom Google Sheets, you can.)
- Split expenses feature: While Tiller Money will automatically pull your transactions from your accounts and add them to a spreadsheet, you can split your expenses into multiple categories if you’ve made a bulk purchase.
The one downside to Tiller Money to mention isn’t really a downside — it’s really about Tiller Money’s target customer.
- It’s useless if you don’t like spreadsheets: If you’re not a spreadsheet person, this app is definitely not for you.
Best Suited For
This app is best suited for Google Sheets users who are comfortable with spreadsheets and hope to get easier access to their transaction data.
Tiller Money is an app that automatically updates spreadsheets with your daily spending, transactions and account balances.
Promotion: Free 30 day trial
PocketGuard: Best for Tracking Cash Transactions
PocketGuard is primarily a personal finance management app designed to put a truthful representation of your financial situation on your mobile device’s screen.
PocketGuard calculates how much money you have incoming, then subtracts what you’ve budgeted for bills and expenses, and shows you how much is in your “pocket.” You can then use that information to better manage your spending.
- The “In My Pocket” feature is fantastic: This feature immediately and accurately tells you how much money you can actually spend at any given moment in time.
- Spending limits alerts: These alerts will tell you when you’re about to go over your spending limit.
- Track cash transactions: Unlike other budgeting apps, PocketGuard lets you track transactions you complete in cash.
- No telephone tech support: PocketGuard doesn’t allow you to talk to a person on the phone if you run into trouble. You can only use email and chat.
Best Suited For
PocketGuard is best suited for those looking for a simple mobile app that can help them control their spending.
CountAbout: Best for Business Owners
CountAbout is a business-friendly addition to the current collection of budgeting apps available today. By syncing with apps like Quicken and Mint, it can serve as an excellent adjunct to solutions you’re already using.
CountAbout’s best feature is its ability to sync with a host of other budgeting and personal finance software. This lets you add CountAbout’s features to whatever programs or apps you’re already using, without losing functionality.
Upgrading from basic to premium will cost you an additional $30 per year ($2.50 per month), which is not that bad.
CountAbout is a powerful and adaptable solution, suitable even for businesses.
- Highly customizable: CountAbout’s account interface is extremely customizable. In fact, it’s powerful and adaptable enough to be useful for small businesses as well.
- Syncs with other programs: As we mentioned above, CountAbout syncs with other personal finance and budgeting apps, allowing you to supplement and customize your existing solution with new features provided by CountAbout.
If there’s one dramatic downside, it’s that you cannot pay bills with the app.
Best Suited For
CountAbout is best suited for small business owners who are already using another personal finance app. CountAbout will act as the perfect add-on to a setup that already incorporates software like Mint.
Wally: Best for Mobile Users
Wally is a very simple, very straightforward spending tracker. It’s not a full-fledged budgeting app. Instead, it allows you to track and categorize your spending with ease to see where your money goes.
Much like EveryDollar, Wally puts a premium on efficiency and simplicity. It doesn’t overload you with features or options. Instead, you’ll simply get a big red “+” button to categorize each bit of your spending, and some graphs that show your spending patterns.
We really like Wally, and we especially like its simplicity. Keeping things simple works amazingly well for the Wally mobile app (which is good, since we probably wouldn’t use a spending tracker that took a large amount of time to learn and use).
Wally’s simplicity can work against it. It lacks features that other spending trackers have (like automatic, AI-based spending categorization).
Best Suited For
Wally is best suited for people looking for a dead-simple spending tracker to supplement a more robust budgeting app like Mint or YNAB. Use it on a mobile device for best results.
Goodbudget: Best for Sharing Budgets
Another envelope-based budgeting system (like Mvelope), Goodbudget includes features that are perfect for sharing budgets with other members of your household.
Goodbudget uses the envelope budgeting system made popular by Dave Ramsey. Like Mvelope, you create virtual envelopes to put your money in, and then you spend only the money you have in each envelope for each category.
- The sharing features are awesome: Sharing and syncing household budgets with other users of the app is an amazing feature that we couldn’t get enough of.
- Debt payoff tracking: We loved the debt payment tracking features. They were really motivating when we had to pay off a small or large debt.
- The envelope-based budgeting system has its detractors: Some people have criticized the envelope-based budgeting system as overly simplistic. We don’t agree, but your mileage may vary.
Best Suited For
Goodbudget is best suited for multiple members of a household who hope to share a budget and use the envelope system.
Our Rating Methodology
Each of our ratings criteria goes to the core of what makes a budgeting app great. They’re important for each kind of user, regardless of their goals or needs, and can make or break a budgeting app.
We keep an eye on the basic features offered by each budgeting app because they are the ones most likely to be used regularly by consumers. Features like net worth analysis, bank synchronization, and a user-friendly interface are absolute necessities for every budgeter.
Many of the apps we’ve mentioned offer enhanced features, like investment account analysis or user-generated reports. What enhanced features you’ll want to see will depend on your specific goals and needs. We’ve made an effort to point out the particularly prominent ones in each budgeting app so you can make the most informed choice possible.
Ease of Use
How easy a budgeting app is to use can, for many people, determine the issue of which one to download. Most users don’t have time or energy to learn complex new software when there’s simpler software they could use instead. All of the apps on our list have simplified their user interfaces and features to a point that they should be usable by almost anyone.
Free is best, but cheap is acceptable. There’s no reason to pay more than a small amount of money for a budgeting app. There is a plethora of free and inexpensive options out there, so we’d strongly advise against paying through the nose for these kinds of apps. It really isn’t necessary.
Security is paramount when it comes to your banking information. That’s why all of the apps on this list use bank-level encryption. Many also use two-factor authentication and biometric identification to lock down your account.
What Makes a Good Budgeting App?
A good budgeting app will suit your needs. That’s why we’ve included 12 in the preceding list. Different people will look for different features and strengths in an app. You should choose one that’s aligned with what you need the app to do on a regular basis.
That said, virtually everyone will want an app that satisfies the following criteria:
- Easy to use
- Cheap (or free) to use
Finally, many users will be aware of the privacy policies of the apps they use. The apps we’ve listed above typically don’t sell individually identifiable information, choosing instead to sell aggregated data. It’s not a perfect privacy solution, but it’s better than nothing.
There’s no one-size-fits-all solution to budgeting apps. What you should use will depend on what you need from the software. We’re lucky to live in a time when there are plenty of excellent options to choose from.
If you’ve given this article a good once-over, you should be in an excellent position to choose a budgeting app that will work for you. So don’t waste any more time. Get budgeting!
Ricardo is an entrepreneur, investor and personal finance nerd who enjoys spending time with his family and friends, travelling and helping others achieve their financial goals. Ricardo has been quoted as a personal finance expert in several online publications including Healthline, Bankrate, GOBankingRates, MSN Money, Yahoo Finance, U.S. News & World Report, Forbes and USA Today.