Best Budget Tools and Apps For Tracking Your Money At 2021
If you’ve been putting off making a budget because it seems too hard or because you just haven’t been able to force yourself to sit down and look at your expenses – now is the time.
Creating and sticking to a budget doesn’t have to be hard! There are so many tools that make creating your budget and understanding how you spend your money a snap. The best ones incorporate a smartphone app so you can see your progress even when you are away from your computer.
Our Best Budget Tools and Apps
Here are our top ten choices if you’re looking for a money management app.
(Personal Capital is now Empower)
Empower is one of my favorite money management tools. What’s great about Empower is that it’s an all-in-one tool–track your budget, manage your cash flow, and check up on your 401(k), IRA, and other investments. Not only can you track things like your net worth and portfolio balances, but you can also get down to the nitty-gritty details of your budget.
After you link your financial accounts by logging into them through the website, Empower evaluates your accounts and gives you a wealth of information. The main dashboard shows you a ton of data. One feature is a cash flow chart. This chart shows you your income and spending for the last 30 days–it’s a quick glance at your budget details.
Simply click the chart to go to a page that shows you the details of your budget. You’ll see where your income is coming from and where you’re spending money.
Empower also comes with a mobile app for smartphones and the Apple Watch.
Empower is free to use, but it charges a fee for optional wealth management services for people with investment portfolios worth over $1 million. Read our full Empower review to learn more.
Looking for an app that aggregates your accounts, including investments, and sends you alerts? MoneyPatrol has a ton of different features that make it a great, comprehensive app for budgeting.
MoneyPatrol allows users to create and manage budgets. It also helps you monitor your investments, such as 401(k)s, IRAs, and brokerage accounts. If you want to grant access for another user–like a spouse or significant other–MoneyPatrol allows you to do that. That user won’t be able to see specifics, add or remove accounts, and you can revoke their access at any time.
The standout features of MoneyPatrol are the alerts and insights. Have an upcoming expense or need to be reminded when your paycheck will be deposited into your bank account – MoneyPatrol lets you know.
The dashboard provides a ton of useful information and is easy to understand. One thing I love is that it lists your credit usage–this is an important number to improving your credit (anything above 30% is bad news, but you probably don’t keep track of this on your own). It also reminds you of upcoming utility bills, shows you recurring merchants, and provides you a quick overview of your expenses, income, net cash flow, investments, and more. The dashboard gives you two different visuals for how you spend money–both in chart form and calendar form.
The app costs $84/year and comes with a free 15-day trial.
Read our full Money Patrol review.
If you are looking for a personal finance app because you need to save more money or get fast cash, then Empower is worth checking out. While it’s a new entrant to the space, it’s designed especially to help people better understand their finances and those living paycheck-to-paycheck.
If one of your big goals is saving more, Empower is set up to help you do that. You tell Empower how much you want to save, and it analyzes your income and expenses. If you have excess money, Empower automatically moves that into savings (from an account you’ve designated, of course). If things are looking tight, it moves less.
The app helps you save money in other ways, too– with the Empower Card, you can get your paycheck up to 2 days early* and up to 10% cashback.** Plus, if you’re ever strapped for cash, you can access Cash Advance of up to $250^ with no interest, no late fees and no credit checks.
Of course, as a personal finance app, it will also help you budget.
Read our full Empower Review for more information.
The app costs just $8/month.
Empower is a financial technology company, not a bank. Banking services provided by nbkc bank, Member FDIC.
^ Eligibility requirements apply.
* Timing may vary by employer.
** Deals will vary and must be selected in the app.
If you’ve been using Quicken or Mint and are looking for a cloud-based budgeting site that is big on data, you’ll want to check out CountAbout. The site does all the normal things–aggregating your data from various accounts–and lets you run more sophisticated queries to understand your spending patterns. You can even customize it if you have unique spending habits.
There’s an app too, but it’s limited in its functionality.
If you are looking for an app that tracks your investments, CountAbout doesn’t offer that feature.
CountAbout has a free 15-day trial. The basic service costs $9.99/year but doesn’t automatically import transactions. A premium membership–including automatically importing your transactions–costs $39.99/year. One additional thing that comes with this paid app – no annoying advertisements.
Read our full review on CountAbout.
When it comes to budgeting apps and sites, Mint consistently makes the top of my list. Between its website and mobile app, Mint gives users the ability to see their money activity in real-time. Much like Empower, Mint syncs all of your financial accounts into one dashboard. From there, you can see your spending categories, investment balances, and upcoming bills.
Mint has a nice visual interface that lets you categorize your spending, see when you’re about to overspend in a budget category, and even check out historical spending trends. It’s also helpful for tracking your net worth and investments.
What’s unique about Mint is that it also offers a free credit score. You’ll see the number on your dashboard every time you log in, and your score is updated every three months. Although there are plenty of websites offering free credit scores these days, Mint makes it easy to keep all your financial data in one place and avoid having to log in to multiple websites.
What’s not so great about Mint? It’s not a robust option for investment tracking. For tracking investments, we recommend Empower.
Mint is free to use. You’ll receive financial product recommendations for things like credit cards and savings accounts, based on your profile.
Learn More: Mint vs Empower
If you like to plan ahead, You Need a Budget (YNAB) is a great option. It operates on the principle that you should live on last month’s income. Basically, it helps you save up a month’s worth of income. Then each month, you draw from the last month’s income for your spending.
Like other personal finance apps, YNAB allows users to sync their bank accounts so transactions are automatically imported. Despite this, users still have to manually categorize each expense–this could be a hassle, but if you are working to understand your spending, doing this manually creates a better awareness of where your money goes. And after all, isn’t that why you want a budgeting tool?
Another aspect that sets YNAB apart from other budgeting tools is its comprehensive knowledge base. Users can sign up for free 30 minute online workshops on topics ranging from credit to debt. YNAB has a podcast with over 250 budgeting episodes and a YouTube channel that features weekly tutorial videos.
YNAB comes at a cost of $84 per year or $11.99 per month. This price tag may deter users who aren’t looking to add another bill to their budget. YNAB’s website claims that new budgeters save on average $200 their first month, making the investment in the budgeting tool worth it. You can try out YNAB on a free trial for 34 days.
This very simple looking app is an envelope budgeting system gone digital. The app syncs your budgets between yourself and your spouse or anyone else you want to add. This makes it helpful for maintaining the family budget.
GoodBudget lets you track financial goals, such as saving up for a down payment on a home. It helps you easily track your progress as you move towards these goals. With this budgeting system, when you overspend from one “envelope,” you’ll need to move money over from another category to cover the spending.
GoodBudget comes with two different tiered options. The free option gives you 10 regular and 10 “more” envelopes, one account, access through two devices, and a year of spending history. The upgraded version costs $7 per month or $60 per year and has unlimited envelopes, unlimited accounts, syncs across five devices, and gives you seven years of spending history.
This is a great app if your primary issue is with managing cash flow. Maybe you know that over the course of the month, you’ve got plenty of money to cover your expenses. But perhaps you struggle with knowing when those expenses are coming out.
Dollarbird gives you a calendar view of when your expenses are due. You can color-code transactions for an at-a-glance view of what types of items are due. Once you put in all your recurring spending and bills, Dollarbird will give you a projected balance. That way, you’ll know how much you can safely spend at any given time.
There’s a free version. The pro version costs $39.99 per year or $4.99 per month and allows up to three team members.
Looking for a budgeting app that works in currency besides U.S. dollars? Wally might be for you. It works in a huge variety of currencies. And it lets you save photos of receipts, so it’s helpful for tracking spending for business purposes, as well.
Wally helps you see how much you have left in your budget at any given point in the month. It has a slick user interface that includes several graph options, as well, including graphs to track your financial goals and savings. In all, it’s similar to the other apps we’ve covered here, but it’s another option worth checking out.
It’s free to use.
Of the options we’ve covered here, Spendee has a great user interface. It just looks nice and helps you figure out your finances graphically. It’s a great option if you’re a visual thinker and need a good grasp of your overall finances.
One unique piece of Spendee is that you can share “wallets” with family members or friends. Sharing a wallet allows you to connect one piece of your budget with others. This is helpful if you’re splitting expenses with roommates, for instance. Or if you want someone to hold you accountable for a certain part of your spending, this is a great option to use.
There’s a free version, a plus version at $14.99 per year, and a premium version at $22.99 per year.
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There’s a great budgeting tool for everyone. Find what works for you!
Have you used one of these apps to manage your money? Tell us about it in the comments.