Let’s face it, no one loves budgeting, it’s just something everyone has to do at some point. That being said, making a budget shouldn’t be painful or difficult. I think people treat budgeting like taxes — they get stressed out about them, but then they sit down, do them, and it’s over. Budgeting just happens more regularly. So, how do we make it less stressful? Not shockingly, there’s an app (or many) for that.
How to Make a Budget
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One of the reasons people hate budgeting so much is because they don’t know how to. They know the basics — keep money for emergencies, bills, and groceries (maybe an F-Off fund?), but then what? Do you need to set aside a retirement fund? What about savings?
The first thing to do when you’re making a budget is to determine how much money is coming in. Once you’ve determined how much is coming in, you can decide how much goes out. The best way to do that is to find different ‘buckets’ of spending. These could be food, transportation, bills, subscriptions, and anything else that fits your lifestyle.
It sounds easy, right? Not exactly. So, I tried the best budgeting apps to see if they could ease my anxiety.
Best Budgeting App Overall: Mint
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The first question Mint asks is how it can help you. This could be, ‘Crushing debt,’ or, ‘Understanding my spending habits.’ If you don’t have a specific goal, ‘I’m not sure and want Mint’s help’ is a great option too.
I connected it with my bank and it immediately showed me a chart that categorized all my monthly expenses and how they compared to last month’s.
The budget section is very user-friendly — just put in your income and expenses and it calculates any extra money you’ll have left over. You can also create weekly spending targets at the beginning of each week if you want to challenge yourself to save more.
One more element I fell in love with was the badges that Mint gives out. At the bottom of the monthly roundup page, Mint asks if you want to earn your ‘Spending for Joy’ badge. This badge explained, “Developing an awareness of what brings you joy (and what doesn’t) can help you learn how to spend in a way that brings you the most happiness.” It then asks you to review your purchases (bills included) to see if they brought you joy. I love this because, no, not all of my purchases bring me joy. Buying gas currently makes me want to sob. But, when I do buy things, I want them to bring me joy, rather than buying them just to buy them.
Best Budgeting App for Overspenders: PocketGuard
PocketGuard offers a free basic version and a pro version for $7.99 a month. This app is perfect for those who aren’t great at saving. PocketGuard makes it easy to cancel subscriptions that people forget about.
After you connect to your bank account, PocketGuard gives you the option to add in your cash funds. This was brilliant because a lot of us have extra cash that we never include in our budgets because it’s not sitting in our bank accounts.
The app’s look isn’t as pretty as Mint’s, though that doesn’t matter to everyone. It’s very dark and cold, while Mint is pastel and light. I understand that the interface of an app shouldn’t make or break it, but this app looked a bit scary to me.
The set-up process was easy: it asks for your income, which you can put in manually if it fluctuates, or you can search previous statements on your card. Then it asks if you need to upload any other bills, aside from the ones it finds in your account. After that, it sets up your budget and you’re ready to go!
My favorite part of the app was where you can upload a photo of your bill and they try to lower it. I had just spent one hour on the phone lowering my internet bill last week, so taking a single picture and uploading it sounded magical. When you click on certain companies and bills under the section, they come up with a statement saying how much they usually lower your bill amounts, on average. There’s another section where you can cancel your unwanted or forgotten subscriptions.
This app isn’t bad at all, but it did make me feel like I needed to lower all my bills, question all my subscriptions, and fix everything the second I downloaded it.
Best Budgeting App for Tracking Your Spending: You Need A Budget
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YNAB is different from most budgeting apps because it doesn’t rely on traditional budgeting sections, but rather, an electric envelope method. You can sign up for a free 34-day trial, but it costs $98.99 annually or $14.99 monthly.
The first thing you’re met with on the app is a little video telling you how wonderful you are at what you do. The video was a perfect introduction to the app because it shows that the creators understand that it’s stressful to keep up with all your finances and everything else in life, so they can handle it for you.
The entire app is geared towards making your budget less stressful, so you don’t have to worry about how much you’re spending when you go out.
YNAB uses an electronic envelope method to help you keep track of your spending. The app automatically assigns every dollar a “job” and sends it to bills, savings, investments, or anything else. If you budget $200 for groceries and end up spending $230, the app will then take out $30 from another envelope to cover that cost. This method helps you know where your money is going, helps you save, and also gives you a visual update of what happens when you spend outside of your budget.
Just create your envelopes and add a target amount for each section. They can be bills, rent, subscriptions, grocery money, gas, or any other expenses you might have. You can also use the calendar feature on this section and YNAB will alert you when your bills are due.
While I like the idea of the app, it isn’t special enough to warrant a subscription. There aren’t too many original and groundbreaking features that make it different from any of the free budgeting apps out there.
Best Budgeting App for Retirement: Personal Capital
While this isn’t exactly a basic budgeter’s app, Personal Capital is still an amazing app. The app allows you to track your budget and investments all in the same place. It provides free advisors that analyze your investment fees, asset classes, and other important details.
If you’re looking for a cute little budgeting app, this isn’t it. I said that PocketGuard’s design scared me, but I had no idea. The first question this app asks you isn’t how it can help you or what you want in a budget. It asks your current age, when you plan on retiring, and how much you have saved up. Screw your groceries – Personal Capital is getting you to retirement.
I’m not going to lie, I didn’t get too far on this app because I am not currently in a place where I’m even thinking about retirement.
That being said, if you’re in that place, this is a great app to help you plan for the future. It allows you to check in on your investments and tells you if you’re taking too much of a risk or not. It also lets you calculate your net worth. All of these features are free, so you don’t need to worry about a subscription. It also comes with a newsroom where you can read up on current events and see how they might affect your saving plans.
This is not the app for me, but I can see myself using it in the future when I’m a bit closer to retirement.
Best Budgeting App for Beginners: Wally
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This app is great for those new to budgeting. It’s adorable, and I love it. Wally offers a free basic version and a Gold version that costs $39.99 annually or $8.99 monthly.
Wally is designed very similarly to Mint. It asks what elements of budgeting you want help with, then it connects to your bank account.
You can then choose what, if any, notifications you want from Wally. It can notify you when you receive income, bank fee updates, weekly spending updates, low balance updates, and budget updates.
Something that I both love and hate is that the app doesn’t break down your spending by month, but instead, by day. So, if you’re like me and pay bills once a week, but don’t leave your house most days, it’s a little shocking to see a bill for thousands of dollars one day and nothing for the rest of the week. If that stresses you out as much as it stresses me out, there’s also a spending section where you can click on each graphic and see where all your money is going.
The budgeting section is where you can see your average spending per month and decide how much you want to budget for each section. This means that you’re not creating a budget blindly, as many of us do.
The app is ridiculously adorable and I could see myself using it, but it seems more geared toward a younger demographic.
Best Budgeting App for Joint Accounts: HoneyDue
This app provides interactive platforms that allow you and your partner to access finances, budgets, and goals. HoneyDue has a calendar feature so you can see when bills and other upcoming payments are due, and a chat section where you can talk to your partner about expenses.
I like this app, but I do not love this app. I am currently not in a place where I share expenses with my partner, so I understand that I’m not the target demographic for this app. That being said, I don’t know if I’ll use it when I get married.
I downloaded the app and my first thought was, “My fiancé would hate this.” My fiancé and I have separate accounts, and while we pay for some expenses together, we don’t track each other’s spending. When we move in together, we’ll have more shared expenses and this app might be needed, but I don’t necessarily want to get a notification when he buys something, and I don’t need him to do the same for me.
This app is all about open and honest spending. You can see how much is in your account, your partner’s account, and any other joint accounts you might have. I see how helpful it is for the joint expenses you might have with rent, wifi, electricity, and others.
As of right now, I don’t like this app, nor do I see us using it in the future. If that’s how you and your partner budget best, that’s amazing and this app is great for y’all to budget together. If you and your partner like to spend separately and not necessarily track every time one of you spends money, maybe go in on your own budgeting app.
My Experience With Budgeting Apps
I should not have started with what everyone says is the best app — because it was, everything else fell flat in comparison to Mint. That being said, my review is just my review and you might resonate with apps that I didn’t love. I did keep Mint throughout this entire week and will, more than likely, continue to use the app. It’s really easy to use, really beautiful to look at (yes, that matters to me), and it didn’t make me stressed out.
Budgeting is not fun, but there’s no need to go at it blindly or to worry about it too much when you have the best budgeting apps in your pocket at all times.
Do you use a budgeting app? What’s your favorite? Comment below!
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