Are you ready to whip your finances into shape? Using the best budgeting apps is a great way to do it!
You already know that making a plan for your hard-earned money and tracking your spending is the smart thing to do. The problem is, budgeting can be intimidating. Getting started may feel daunting, and chances are good that you’re already pressed for time. And let’s face it: Manually tracking your daily expenses is time consuming and you may have zero desire to master an Excel spreadsheet budget.
Luckily, we live in a digital age with more tools than we can count. The best budget apps make budgeting easy, helping you get a handle on your entire financial picture.
If you’re ready to start budgeting, it’s time to pick your poison. Here are the top budgeting apps for 2020.
- Personal Capital – Best Overall
- Tiller Money – Best for Spreadsheet Budgeting
- YNAB – Best for Zero-Sum Budgeting
- MoneyPatrol – Best for Tracking Spending
- Pocketsmith – Best for Financial Forecasting
- Empower – Best for Automating Savings Goals
- Goodbudget – Best for Envelope Budgeting
- Mint – Best for the Fee Averse
- EveryDollar – Best for Dave Ramsey Fans
Personal Capital – Best Overall
Personal Capital is more than just a budgeting app. It’s a suite of financial tools and wealth management services.
You can build a budget and track your spending, but you can also track your investments, liabilities, cash flow, and net worth. By connecting your bank, credit, loan, mortgage, and investment accounts, you get your full financial picture in one place. We love that the Personal Capital dashboard includes all the key insights, including how your net worth is trending over time.
Do you wonder where your money goes each month? Have you ever wondered if you’re on track to meet your savings and retirement goals? Ever wonder whether you’re paying too much in fees for your investments? Personal Capital has the answers. It does a deep dive into your financial picture to analyze your budget, investments, debt, and more and makes recommendations to boost performance.
Recently, Personal Capital even debuted an FDIC-insured bank account through a partnership with UMB Bank. It’s called Personal Capital Cash, and it has no fees.
In our opinion, Personal Capital is one of the best money-management apps on the market — certainly the best free one. Check out our full Personal Capital review for more info.
Pricing: Although Personal Capital’s wealth management services carry a low fee, the financial tools, including budgets, are always 100% free. You can use them indefinitely with no obligation to buy additional services.
The Bottom Line: Personal Capital’s budgeting tool isn’t as powerful as some, but it helps you make a plan for your money and track your spending. Where it really shines is its ability to track investments and net worth, retirement calculator, and investment fee analyzer. Plus, it’s free…so why not right?
Tiller Money – Best for Spreadsheet Budgeting
If you’re looking for a great Quicken alternative, Tiller Money fits the bill. Powered by Google Sheets (or Excel), Tiller Money automatically imports transactions from your bank and credit accounts to populate financial spreadsheets of your choice.
The Foundation Template is the easiest way to get started. It’s a set of prebuilt, user-friendly spreadsheets that cover all your financial bases. Quickly keep tabs on your transactions, balances, and net worth. Customize your spending categories and budget and instantly see where you stand with easy-to-read bar graphs.
People who crave customization can choose from a slew of options available through Tiller Money Labs. Specialized options are available, including one for the zero-sum budgets. Hands-on types can even build their own spreadsheets!
Pricing: After a free 30-day trial, Tiller Money costs $79 per year. That works out to just $6.58 per month.
The Bottom Line: Tiller Money is the best budgeting app available for spreadsheet lovers. It’s super powerful while managing to stay accessible, which is no small feat. Complete spreadsheet newbies will face a learning curve, but those with elementary knowledge can rock the Foundation Template, no problem. And of course, advanced options are available for the more technically-minded.
YNAB – Best for Zero-Sum Budgeting
Unlike some of the money management apps on this list, YNAB (short for You Need a Budget) doesn’t track investments, lower your bills, or offer a checking account. It only has one trick, but it rocks that trick. YNAB is all budgeting, all the time.
In about 20 minutes, you can build a customized zero-sum budget from scratch. You’ll define your expense categories (including savings goals) and make a plan for how you’ll allocate every dollar of your income for the upcoming month. YNAB calls that “giving every dollar a job.” This approach is the foundation of zero-sum budgeting, because when you give every dollar a job, income minus expenses equals zero.
When it comes to logging transactions, you have two choices. You can connect your bank and credit accounts so your purchases sync to the app, or you can enter them manually. As the transactions roll in, you’ll see how your spending aligns with your plan for each category.
The beauty of YNAB is how easy is it to balance your budget. If you overspend in one category, you can quickly borrow from another to cover the imbalance. This is important because, let’s be honest, life happens. But as long as income minus expenses equals zero, it’s all good.
You can also use YNAB to set and track financial goals. You’ll get real-time progress reports and advice on how to adjust your budget to hit your target on time.
Pricing: YNAB is free for the first 34 days. After that, it’s $84 per year or $11.99 per month. If the price gives you pause, you can breathe easy knowing there’s a money-back guarantee.
The Bottom Line: Its flexibility and give-every-dollar-a-job philosophy makes YNAB the best app for zero-sum budgeters. While you can use this style with any budgeting app, I don’t know of any others that make balancing your budget as easy as YNAB does.
MoneyPatrol – Best for Tracking Spending
MoneyPatrol is a financial-tracking powerhouse with a visually pleasing budgeting platform. Like most of the best money management apps, it connects to your accounts and imports your financial data. After setting your spending categories, you can create weekly and monthly budgets. Graphs, charts, and reports illustrate your progress so you always know where you stand.
If you’re the type who likes thorough financial monitoring, you’ll appreciate MoneyPatrol’s notification system. You’ll get email and/or text notifications that summarize your cashflow, remind you of upcoming bills, and provide warning when you’re approaching a budget limit.
Pricing: MoneyPatrol offers a free 15-day trial. The regular annual price is $84, which works out to just $7/month.
The Bottom Line: MoneyPatrol does an excellent job of breaking down your spending so you know exactly when, where, and how you’re spending your money. The unique transaction calendar is an intuitive way to instantly see how your spending habits trend over the month.
Pocketsmith – Best for Financial Forecasting
Pocketsmith offers flexible, intuitive budgeting paired with automatic imports and currency conversion. But Pocketsmith’s coolest features are its financial forecasting and “what if?” scenarios.
The easy-to-use budget calendar helps you create a plan for your income and expenses. Based on that plan, you can flip forward in the calendar and project how your finances will look as far as 30 years in the future.
The “what if?” scenarios help you visualize how a choice you make today will impact your future self. For example, what will happen if you increase your retirement savings from $400 per month to $500? What if you splurge on a family vacation?
Pricing: Pocketsmith offers three plans. The Basic plan is free but relies on manual imports and limited budgets and projections. The Premium plan is $90 per year or $9.95 per month. It includes automatic bank feeds for 10 accounts, unlimited budgets, and 10-year projection capabilities. The Super plan is $169.92 per year or $19.95 per month and adds unlimited accounts and 30-year projection capabilities.
The Bottom Line: Anyone who wants to assess how the choices they make today will affect their future finances will love Pocketsmith’s unique forecasting tools.
Empower – Best for Automating Savings Goals
If you need to kick start your savings, Empower is one of the best budget apps available. In addition to automatic imports, user-friendly budgeting, and powerful financial tracking, Empower actually helps you find and save money.
When you set a weekly savings goal, Empower analyzes your income and spending patterns to identify spare money. It then transfers that surplus into a separate savings account. This way, you always save what you can afford. Sometimes it’s more than you think!
Empower also analyzes your recurring bills and looks for better deals, even negotiating on your behalf. It rounds up your subscriptions so you know what you’re paying for. See something you don’t like? Empower will cancel it for you.
There’s also a money coach you can reach out to with questions via live chat. And an interest-bearing, FDIC-insured checking account that includes three ATM fee reimbursements per month. Empower also has the option to secure a $150 cash advance, interest-free. Talk about well-rounded!
Pricing: Empower packs a ton of value into its $6 monthly fee. Try it for free with a 30-day trial.
The Bottom Line: Empower harnesses the power of in-depth financial tracking to actively save you money. If you need help in that department, it’s the money management app for you.
Goodbudget – Best for Envelope Budgeting
Based on the envelope system, Goodbudget is an app that helps you take control of your money using a zero-sum budget.
If you’re not familiar with envelope budgeting, it’s an old-school style that involved keeping an envelope of cash for each expense category. For example, you might start the month with $600 in your grocery envelope. When the envelope is empty, that’s it. If you need more groceries, you can move money from another envelope, but then your purchasing power in that category is reduced.
Of course, these days, most of us don’t carry around envelopes of cash (although that would feel kind of cool). Instead, Goodbudget has taken the concept digital, helping you keep your finances organized and your spending on track. You can set goals and track debt, too. Your budget syncs across devices, which is super convenient for couples sharing a household budget.
The downside with Goodbudget is that you have to manually import bank transactions.
Pricing: The Free plan includes 10 regular envelopes, 10 additional envelopes, one account, and two devices. For $7 per month or $60 annually, you get unlimited envelopes and accounts and five devices.Best For: Envelope Budgeters
The Bottom Line: If you love the simplicity of the envelope system, Goodbudget is a great choice.
Mint – Best for the Fee Averse
Mint may not be the sleekest budgeting app on the market, but it’s one of the few options that is 100% free.
As you might expect, being free means that it can occasionally be clunky. That is why so many people have moved away from the program and started using one of the dozens of Mint alternatives instead.
With that said, this program connects to your bank, credit, investment, and loan accounts to track your financial picture in one place. You get simple budgeting, net worth at a glance, and goal setting and tracking. The app even tracks bill payments and reminds you when one is coming due.
Another cool feature it offers is unlimited free credit scores and credit monitoring. You’ll be notified whenever a creditor reports new information to TransUnion. This is a great way to keep tabs on your financial health and watch out for possible errors on your credit report.
Pricing: Mint is 100% free.
The Bottom Line: If you’re looking for a budgeting app that’s completely free, Mint should be on your short list. You can get started here.
EveryDollar – Best for Dave Ramsey Fans
EveryDollar is Dave Ramsey’s budgeting app, and it really does make the task easy. Project your income, plan your expenses, and track your spending — the basics that work.
If you opt for the free version, however, you’ll have to manually input your transactions. That takes extra time, but some might say it makes you more mindful of your spending. Ramsey+, the paid version, includes automatic syncing with your bank and credit accounts and incorporates Dave Ramsey’s 7 Baby Steps plan.
Pricing: EveryDollar’s basic plan is free, but a paid version available. Ramsey+ is much more sophisticated, which is reflected in the price — $129.99 per year after a free 14-day trial.
The Bottom Line: If you’re a Dave Ramsey fan, you’ll want to check out his budgeting app. EveryDollar is a good basic free option, while Ramsey+ includes Dave Ramsey’s famous 7 Baby Steps plan.