As part of our ongoing financial wellness series, we’ve talked about negotiating rate and salary, the gender pay gap, how to invest, and even the power of small investors. But we’re not done yet! The backbone of financial wellness, after getting paid what you’re worth, is a strong budget.
Budgeting means you know exactly where your money is going and what it’s buying. Budgeting skills help you prioritize what’s most important in your life, whether it’s saving for retirement, paying off debt, or hitting other financial goals. But how do you budget? What are the best budgeting tools? And how do you know which budgeting app is best when there are so many?
Below, you’ll find seven of our favorite budgeting apps and tools. While it’s not an exhaustive list (and one is pretty old school!) we hope you’ll find something you love. Remember, budgeting is the backbone of finance wellness! You’ll need to get good at it if you want to reach your goals.
Which budgeting app is best?
What you budget with is just as important as how to budget! Here are our favorites.
1. You Need a Budget
You Need a Budget, commonly called YNAB, is a favorite among FIRE community members.FIRE stands for Financial Independence Retire Early, and while there’s a lot of conflicting advice from its proponents about how to manage money, YNAB is a consistent winner when folks ask for budgeting app recommendations.
YNAB is a website and iOS app, so once you have an account you can check your budget nearly anywhere. It does cost a bit of money monthly, but monthly plans start at about $12 and the free trial is super long—34 days! YNAB asks, “What does your money need to do for you between payments or paychecks?” and helps you give each dollar a job. That means you know where your money is going and you can plan line items for savings, expenses, bills, and more. Set goals, keep track of how long money is in your account, and track your spending, which will give you some idea of how financially stable you are and how much you overspend. They also have a financial literacy blog so you can learn more about different money topics.
There is a learning curve to YNAB because it has such in-depth features, but it’s a solid choice for families, single people, and everyone in between!
Mint is probably one of the most well-known budgeting apps around. It's an app only, but it’s available on both Android and iOS. And it’s free! Mint has budget tracking and spending monitoring, but it also has credit monitoring, something most other budgeting tools don’t offer. It connects to your bank account, like most budgeting software.
Mint also has a blog where you can learn financial wellness skills like what to do with your tax refund, as well as books to read and money challenges. They even address relevant topics like managing money while supporting family members or being a caregiver. Mint says on its website that it’s the #1 most downloaded personal finance app of all time, so it helps millions track spending and financial goals!
It’s popular and it’s easy to use, which makes Mint a solid choice for budgeters of all varieties.
3. Hand-drawn budgets
Like we said, we wanted to include something old school here. Sometimes, digital apps don’t work for folks who like to track their money in specific ways or need more flexibility. After all, you can’t exactly change or edit what a website offers.
But bullet journalers know you can always adapt a journal page to your needs, so we found 20 Budget Tracker Spreads you’ll love! Bullet journaling has a huge online community because it’s so versatile; the original creator used gridded paperand a small key of symbols to make sure he never forgot or missed a task. There’s sure to be a monthly budget spread you love.
If it’s in your brain, it should be in a bullet journal, reducing anxiety and forgetfulness. And no matter what you want to track, like financial wellness, you can find a spread that works for you. Some bujo’ers go all out, using stickers, washi tape, and hand lettering. Others take a more casual and practical approach and just use pens and paper.
Whichever you prefer, the point is, it’s up to you! Bujos fit all kinds of lifestyles, but they do take a little planning and work.
GoodBudget is another FIRE favorite, a sure sign it’s a solid choice. GoodBudget is also app-only, but it’s cool because you can sync budgets between devices. That means married couples or other partners can easily share updates and stay on the same page with spending and goal tracking, and it links to your bank account easily.
Like most of the other options, GoodBudget has a blogwith financial wellness posts and skills, but they also have a podcast!If you’re an auditory learner, you may prefer this method, especially since personal finance is often confusing. GoodBudget’s basic features are free, but they do offer an upgraded version for $7/month.
5. Too Good To Go App
This app is location-specificfor those who live in NYC, Boston, Philly, or D.C. But it’s a great option for reducing food waste and getting food more cheaply than simply going to the grocery store without a plan!
According to the app description, “You can buy quality local food for as little as £2.” (We’re guessing it’s also available in the UK). One reviewer said they left the bakery carrying two sandwich croissants, a sourdough and prosciutto sandwich, half a baguette, a cinnamon and raisin swirl, a bagel, a focaccia loaf, two farmhouse loaves, and eight seeded rolls for just £3.
Essentially, the app matches hungry shoppers with businesses and markets that have leftover food, so you can purchase much more cheaply. This also means you’re reducing food waste, which their website says is responsible for nearly 10% of all greenhouse gas emissions. You could say this app is good for your green in many ways!
6. Simplifi by Quicken
Simplifi was named the best budgeting app of 2020, according to their website, and by virtue of being associated with personal finance expert Quicken, we’d say it’s easy to understand. Quicken is one of the top financial and best budgeting tools out there, so Simplifi was created by the experts.
Unlike app-only tools, Simplifi does offer a website browser version as well, so users can choose where to log in. According to the website, you can “Get a consolidated view of your bank accounts, loans, credit cards, and investments, all in one place.” In short, it’s packed with features to help develop your financial wellness and learn budgeting skills quickly.
Simplifi also has a blog with excellent financial literacy resources. The service isn’t free, but pricing starts at about $4/month. Not bad!
7. Personal Capital
Personal Capitalis another FIRE favorite and is a bit more in-depth and feature-rich than some of the other options. This browser-based software does include budgeting options for money management, but it also has “built in investment intelligence” and employs personal finance advisers who offer a free initial portfolio review.
The website also offers long-term financial planning and wealth management as well as a retirement planner! PC does offer a blog with learning opportunities as well as downloadable apps. This service is best for folks with long-term goals in mind who already have some level of financial planning expertise and are looking to level up their game. Younger people may want to start with a simpler budgeting tool, but move to PC once their needs grow and they have more wealth and assets to manage.
No matter which budget app you choose, we hope you’ll find a budgeting tool you love that helps boost your financial wellbeing, understand your spending habits, and keep you on track to hit your savings goal!
Budgeting is key to so much of our success, so if you don’t already have one, hop on it!