Making a budget is one of the most basic tasks of all adulthood. And one of the toughest. Before technology streamlined the process, people could spend entire afternoons balancing their checkbooks. Wallets were stuffed full of receipts. You had to mail in your credit card bills. Literally, no one misses that era.
Thankfully, there are now scores of apps out there to help you settle your accounts before they settle you. The overall theme is the same but they all have very different styles and approaches. To help you build a budget that fits your personality, we’ve provided a list of the best apps around for a variety of different approaches to money.
Best For: People who need a comprehensive, quick solution.
The long-running budget website is probably one of the best tools out there. It’s simple: Log into the app, or the site, punch in your various passwords and access codes, from your student loans to your credit cards, and it puts those expenses all in one place. Next, set limits for what you want to spend in various categories, and you’re good to go. Mint is really, really good at getting your money together, debts and assets alike, and it’s worth using just for that angle.
Still, it lags a bit in its automated alerts, and you may find some weird costs popping up in places they don’t belong. But as balancing checkbooks go, that’s way better than, uh, actually balancing your checkbook.
Best For: Anybody who shares a bank account with anybody else.
There is no moment more stressful for many couples than the fiscal reveal. When you make a commitment, that’s usually the moment when it comes out that, um, “I have a teeeeeeny bit of credit card debt.”
Goodbudget is an app designed for couples and shared households so you can know what’s going in, what’s coming out, and why. It’s also advanced on the techical side, using cloud sync so that anybody who’s a part of the budget can pop open the app and see where the cash is heading. The only downside is that if you’re not a fan of the “envelope” style of budgeting, it may not work for you.
Best For: Anybody with a side hustle.
Everyone’s got a side hustle, these days, but we all quickly discover there are downsides to being your own boss. Especially if you have a small side business or are an independent contractor for a gig economy company, that makes doing your own books particularly important or you’re going to get whacked at tax time. QuickBooks Self-Employed has finally arrived after years of freelancers looking for a solution, and lets you quickly figure out your deductions and your self-employment tax, so you don’t have a nasty surprise waiting come April.
Best For: People who need to do their personal errands on the go.
Prism is designed to make budgets and money management painless. You connect your bills and your accounts, and it tracks when they’re due. When you need to pay them, just swipe and it’s done. It’s more or less money management for people who have five minutes at the coffee shop to square away personal business before going right back to the grind. It’s not as detailed as some solutions, but if you’re on the go and just need something to get this chore out of the way, it streamlines it all down to a swipe or two.
Best For: People who are detail-oriented and type-A about their money
YNAB, short for You Need A Budget, is about, as the site says, taking “total control” of your money. They mean it, too; once you’ve got your finances in order on the app, you assign every buck that comes in some sort of job to do, be it saving for retirement, shutting down debt, or the all-important Netflix. It is probably the fussiest and most granular app you’ll find about your money, and if that doesn’t appeal to you, or if you want more automation or to not think about your money, this isn’t the app for you. But if you need to build your finances from the ground up, or recover from a fiscal hit, this will help you budget.
Best For: People who forget their bills until the last minute.
For better automation, especially if you’re bad at tracking bills, Even is your best friend. The app looks at your past bills and deductions from your bank statements and your credit cards, and uses them to help you plan ahead with your paycheck. It doesn’t just track due dates, but tells you what usually comes out of your bank balance so you can think ahead and know just how much you really have to spend from your account. The one problem with Even is that it’s not terribly good at anticipating sudden expenses, so if you rack up an overage on your phone bill, for example, you might need to plan for that independently. But it’s a handy snapshot of your finances and if you always want to know just how much cash you have on hand, it’s perfect.
Best For: People who look at their credit card statement and say “Wait, I’m still paying for that?!”
Gym memberships, streaming services you never watch, magazine subscriptions that pile up; there are a lot of things we buy, that charge to our credit card every month, that we really need to stop using. That’s Clarity’s strongest point, as an app that forms a picture of your cash situation and calls you on that snack subscription. Do you really need the Pretzel Of The Month Club? Reeeeally?
It also looks through your spending and recommends possible credit cards for you to get rewards, although if you’re already paying off cards, that may not be the best idea.
Best For: Investment junkies who want to know how much money they have to put in the market.
Personal Capital is all about personal investing, but it wisely acknowledges that personal investing is a two-way street; that is, you need to have money to invest, so figuring out your debt and getting it off your books is a big part of that. It’ll help you budget, and then nudge you towards the investing side of things. So if you want your money to make you some more money, this is a good place to start.
Best For: The do-it-yourselfer, or people who don’t want to fork over their data.
If you don’t trust any app with your financial data, and that’s a fair concern in this era of data breaches and Facebook leaks, it might make more sense to just fire up a spreadsheet and do it yourself. Sure, there’s not a single frill, and you’re going to have to teach yourself a little bit of how spreadsheets and equations work. But if you want to just store a sheet locally, or just don’t want to share any more data than you absolutely have to, it’s easily the best option.
Best For: People who have their budget on lock, but need to know more about their fiscal health
Credit Karma does one job, and it does it very well: It tracks your credit score. Does it go up, does it go down, and why? Credit Karma offers the clearest answers to those questions, even if some of them will make you cringe. Hopefully, that high-interest card you got in college was worth the t-shirt.
The Best Of The Rest
Albert: If you want Mint, but also want to talk to a human about money, Albert’s big advantage is its real-life financial advisors
EveryDollar: Designed to be up and running in ten minutes, it’s useful, but it’s more a jack of all trades than a master of any particular approach.
FedLoan: Got student loans with the government? FedLoan helps you stay on top of them, even if just looking at that balance makes you cringe.
Spending Tracker: Just want to see what goes out of your wallet? This no-frills app will do the job.
Virtual Wallet: A pretty good all-around app, but it’s only for customers of PNC Bank.
Pocket Expense: An iOS-only app that’s a lot like Mint, but with a much prettier interface.
Dave: A solid all-around budget app, aimed at people for whom money is constantly tight.