Budgeting

The Best Budget Apps for 2024

These budget apps are different in what they offer, how they work, and their features. However, they are all very popular with users.

Basic budget apps usually link to your financial accounts, track your spending, and categorize expenses so you can easily see where your money is going. However, many apps offer additional features that go beyond these basic functions.

To help you choose the best budget app, we evaluated their features and read user reviews to come up with top recommendations.

Here are a few important points to note: Mint, a popular budgeting app, will be discontinued by its owner, Intuit, on March 23, 2024, so it is not included in our list. For an independent review, check out this article in The Wall Street Journal.

Here are some of the best budget apps you can consider:

  • YNAB (You Need A Budget): Ideal for hands-on, zero-based budgeting where every dollar is allocated to a specific category.
  • Goodbudget: Perfect for hands-on envelope budgeting, helping you manage your money using the envelope system.
  • Empower Personal Wealth: Excellent for tracking both wealth and spending, providing a comprehensive financial overview.
  • EveryDollar: Great for simple zero-based budgeting, making it easy to allocate every dollar of your income.
  • PocketGuard: Provides a simplified budgeting snapshot, showing you how much money you have available to spend.
  • Honeydue: Designed for couples, making it easy to budget and manage finances together.

YNAB (You Need A Budget): For Hands-On Zero-Based Budgeting

Why We Recommend It:
YNAB is designed to help users plan their financial decisions in advance rather than just tracking past transactions. It follows a zero-based budgeting system, which means you allocate every dollar of your income to specific categories such as spending, savings, and debt. This method encourages you to be more intentional with your money by making you actively decide where it goes.

How It Works:

  • As soon as you receive your income, you tell YNAB how much should go to different categories.
  • This hands-on approach helps you become more mindful and deliberate with your finances.
  • To assist users with the learning curve, YNAB offers numerous educational resources on its website about budgeting and using the app effectively.

Features:

  • Link your checking and savings accounts, as well as credit cards and loans.
  • Available on various platforms, including phones, desktops, iPads, Apple Watches, and Alexa.

Considerations:

  • YNAB requires a strong commitment to keep up with its system. It is best suited for users who prefer a hands-on approach to managing their finances.
  • It is relatively expensive compared to other budgeting apps.

Cost:

  • $14.99 per month or $99 per year.
  • A free 34-day trial is available.
  • College students can use YNAB for free for a year.

Ratings:

  • Apple Store: 4.8
  • Google Play: 4.6

Goodbudget: For Hands-On Envelope Budgeting

Why We Recommend It:
Goodbudget focuses on planning your finances ahead of time rather than just tracking past transactions. It uses the envelope budgeting system, where you divide your monthly income into specific spending categories (called envelopes).

How It Works:

  • You manually enter your account balances (which you can get from your bank’s website), as well as cash amounts, debts, and income.
  • Allocate money to different envelopes to manage your spending.
  • The app does not connect directly to your bank accounts, requiring manual input for each transaction.

Features:

  • Accessible from both your phone and the web.
  • Offers a range of helpful articles and videos to assist you in using the app effectively.
  • The free version includes one account, access on two devices, and a limited number of envelopes.
  • The paid version, Goodbudget Plus, provides unlimited envelopes and accounts, access on up to five devices, and additional features.

Considerations:

  • Since the app does not sync with your financial accounts, you need to manually enter every expense. If you prefer automatic tracking, this might not be the best option for you.

Cost:

  • Goodbudget is free.
  • Goodbudget Premium costs $10 per month or $80 per year.

Ratings:

  • Apple Store: 4.6
  • Google Play: 4.1

Empower Personal Dashboard: For Tracking Wealth and Spending

Why We Recommend It:
Empower Personal Dashboard, formerly known as Personal Capital, is primarily an investment tool, but it also includes useful features for those looking to track their spending. The app allows you to connect and monitor a variety of accounts, including checking, savings, credit cards, IRAs, 401(k)s, mortgages, and loans. It provides a clear snapshot of your spending by categorizing recent transactions. You can customize these categories and see the total monthly spending for each.

How It Works:

  • Connect multiple financial accounts to get a comprehensive view of your finances.
  • The app categorizes your transactions, helping you track where your money goes.
  • Customize categories to better reflect your spending habits.
  • Includes net worth and portfolio tracking features.

Features:

  • Accessible via both phone and desktop.
  • Offers a spending snapshot with recent transactions categorized.
  • Provides tools for tracking net worth and managing investment portfolios.

Considerations:

  • If your primary goal is to plan and manage your budget in detail, you might find other apps more suited to your needs. Empower’s standout features are its investment tools rather than its budgeting capabilities.

Cost:

  • Free

Ratings:

  • Apple Store: 4.7
  • Google Play: 4.2

EveryDollar: For Simple Zero-Based Budgeting

Why We Recommend It:
EveryDollar offers a straightforward zero-based budgeting framework that might be easier to manage compared to YNAB. This app helps you allocate every dollar of your income to specific categories, ensuring you plan where your money goes each month.

How It Works:

  • Free Version: You manually enter all incoming and outgoing money each month. You can categorize line items in your budget and set reminders for bill payments. This version does not sync with your bank accounts.
  • Premium Version: Includes all features of the free version and allows you to connect your bank account. Transactions are automatically imported, and the app provides custom reports and recommendations based on your spending habits. You can also connect saving and investing accounts.

Features:

  • Simple and easy-to-use zero-based budgeting system.
  • Bill payment reminders.
  • The premium version offers bank account synchronization and detailed financial reports.
  • Available on both phone and desktop.

Considerations:

  • The free version is quite basic, lacking advanced features.
  • The premium version can be expensive.
  • The app’s website provides limited resources for new users, which might make the initial setup challenging.
  • The app’s rating on Google Play has declined from 4.0 to 3.4 over the past couple of years, indicating potential issues with user satisfaction.

Cost:

  • Basic version: Free
  • Premium version: Free 14-day trial, then $79.99 per year or $17.99 per month

Ratings:

  • Apple Store: 4.7
  • Google Play: 3.4

PocketGuard: For a Simplified Budgeting Snapshot

Why We Recommend It:
PocketGuard stands out for its simplicity. While it may not offer the most extensive range of features, it excels in making budgeting easy to understand and manage. This app connects your bank accounts, credit cards, loans, and investments, allowing you to track your bills and see how much you have left to spend after accounting for necessities, bills, and financial goals.

How It Works:

  • Connect various financial accounts to get a complete picture of your finances.
  • The app calculates how much disposable income you have after setting aside money for essential expenses and savings goals.
  • You can also manually track your finances without linking accounts.
  • PocketGuard tracks your net worth and provides insights into your financial health.

Features:

  • Simple, user-friendly interface.
  • Tracks all your financial accounts in one place.
  • Shows disposable income after accounting for bills and necessities.
  • PocketGuard Plus offers additional features like a debt payoff plan, the option to export transactions, and more.

Considerations:

  • The app is designed for a hands-off experience, which is great for simplicity but may not suit those who prefer detailed financial planning.
  • User reviews on Google Play have declined from 4.4 to 3.6 over the past year, indicating some user dissatisfaction.

Cost:

  • Basic PocketGuard: Free
  • PocketGuard Plus: $12.99 per month or $74.99 per year

Ratings:

  • Apple Store: 4.6
  • Google Play: 3.6

Honeydue: For Budgeting with a Partner

Why We Recommend It:
Honeydue is tailored for couples looking to manage their finances together within one app. It allows both partners to sync their bank accounts, credit cards, loans, and investments, while also offering flexibility in choosing what financial information to share. The app automatically categorizes expenses and lets you create custom categories. Together, you can set monthly limits on each category, and Honeydue will alert you when either partner approaches these limits. Additionally, the app sends reminders for upcoming bills and includes a chat feature with emojis for easy communication.

How It Works:

  • Sync bank accounts, credit cards, loans, and investments with your partner.
  • Automatically categorizes expenses and allows for custom categories.
  • Set monthly spending limits and receive alerts when approaching them.
  • Chat feature for convenient communication between partners.

Features:

  • Designed specifically for couples to manage finances together.
  • Includes automatic expense categorization and customizable budgeting.
  • Reminders for bill payments and communication features like chat and emojis.

Considerations:

  • Honeydue focuses more on tracking past transactions rather than proactive budget planning.
  • The app has seen a decline in Google Play ratings from 4.1 to 3.4 over the past two years, indicating some user dissatisfaction.

Cost:

  • Free

Ratings:

  • Apple Store: 4.5
  • Google Play: 3.4

Methodology for Identifying the Best Budget Apps

To compile our list of recommended budget apps, we conducted a thorough evaluation based on the following criteria:

  1. Account Syncing:
    • We looked for apps that allow users to sync various types of financial accounts, including checking, savings, credit cards, loans, and investments. Additionally, we considered apps that provide the option to manually track finances without syncing accounts.
  2. Financial Planning vs. Transaction Tracking:
    • Preference was given to apps that emphasize planning for future financial decisions over merely tracking past transactions. This includes apps that support zero-based budgeting or envelope budgeting methods.
  3. Expense Categorization:
    • Apps that categorize expenses to help users understand their spending patterns were prioritized. Customizable categories were also noted as a desirable feature.
  4. Bill tracking and alerts:
    • We identified apps that offer tools to track bills and receive alerts for upcoming due dates, enhancing users’ ability to manage their cash flow effectively.
  5. Partner Sharing:
    • Apps that facilitate sharing financial information between partners were considered, allowing couples to manage their finances collaboratively while maintaining flexibility in what information is shared.
  6. Accessibility:
    • We evaluated apps that are accessible via both mobile app and desktop platforms, ensuring convenience and flexibility in how users access and manage their financial data.
  7. Additional Features:
    • We looked for apps that provide supplementary features such as credit score monitoring, net worth calculation, investment tracking, and detailed help guides to support comprehensive financial management.
  8. Cost-Effectiveness:
    • We noted apps that are either free or relatively inexpensive, offering value for money with their features and functionalities.
  9. User Reviews:
    • Real user experiences were crucial in our evaluation. We reviewed ratings and feedback from users on the iOS App Store and Google Play. Apps had to maintain a rating of at least 4.5 stars out of 5 on the iOS App Store and at least 3 out of 5 on Google Play, with a minimum of 1,000 reviews as of February 15, 2023.

By considering these factors comprehensively, we aimed to provide a curated list of budget apps that meet diverse user needs and preferences, ensuring reliability, functionality, and user satisfaction.

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