Finding the best money management app can take some research, but the effort is well worth it.
Only 41% of adults actually attempt to take on a budget, which is a critical step to making your hard-earned money work smarter.
And optimizing your spending is exactly where the best budgeting apps shine. By identifying your income, expenses and extras, you can outline a budget that works for you.
Here are five of the best budgeting apps designed to help you take control of your finances — and maximize your income.
- EveryDollar and YNAB (You Need a Budget), for zero-sum budgeting
- Goodbudget, for virtual envelope sharing and great for couples
- Tiller Money, for spreadsheet geeks
- Personal Capital, for investors
The name of the game is right there in the name itself. Basically, every dollar you earn is applied to an expense until your expenses equal your income giving it a zero balance. This is zero-sum budgeting.
EveryDollar — backed by personal finance guru Dave Ramsey — advocates a baby steps approach, which starts with paying off the lowest-balance debt first. This app is good for those who are new to budgeting. There’s a free version that allows you to create your first budget in minutes.
Syncing the app with your accounts requires an upgrade to EveryDollar Plus, which costs $129.99 annually.
Like Everydollar, YNAB (short for You Need a Budget) is a zero-sum budgeting app.
Users create categories for income allocation, and then set and fund goals. If you overspend, you learn to reallocate from another category. Credit card spending is tracked like cash.
YNAB allows for a clean link to your bank accounts and offers a .CSV file workaround for those users who’d prefer to do it manually. Clear direction and personal positive-minded professional support is only a click away.
The formula is basically budget, spend, adjust, spend and adjust again. Repeat. Charts, balance sheets and net worth trackers are handy.
YNAB offers a 34-day free trial and then it’s billed annually at $83.99. Students can get their first full year for free.
Goodbudget goes old school by offering the put-your-money-in-an-envelope-for-specific-spending-needs system … only virtually.
Users create monthly or future spending categories (aka envelopes) and draw from them when necessary. It works great for couples with a shared income.
Goodbudget doesn’t link to bank accounts, but you could enter your data manually. The reports offered are helpful to control expenditures. This is a great simple app to set your savings goals, track your spending and live within your budget.
The free version offers 20 total envelopes (10 regular and 10 custom), a single account, one year of history, debt tracking and community support. Upgrading to Goodbudget PLUS for $50 annually provides unlimited envelopes and accounts, up to five devices, seven years of history and email support.
Tiller Money, www.tillerhq.com
Tiller Money is a spreadsheet lover’s dream. It uses Google Sheets, so you do have to use or create a Google account.
With easy-to-add rows, columns and tabs, you can customize your financial plan. There are editable templates, too.
Collaboration is easy, and Tiller Money is accessible anywhere, on any device via the cloud. Link and sync with your banks to automatically import your income and expenses. And Tiller Money support is friendly and helpful.
Tiller is free for 30 days and $59 per year after that. Students get a free first year, too.
Personal Capital, www.personalcapital.com
Personal Capital is primarily an investment tool that utilizes both robo assistants and human advisors to help manage your investments and financial portfolio.
However, there’s a free app designed to help you track expenses and manage spending habits. You can link your checking, savings, credit card, IRA, 401(k), mortgage and loan accounts to sync with your dashboard. This way, you can view your portfolio breakdown and net worth tracker in one place.
This app is designed for advanced users.