If you’re trying to stick to a budget or just manage your money better, there are plenty of apps designed to track your finances and promote smarter saving and spending habits. Budgeting apps sometimes have different features, but they all essentially work to give you a better idea of where your money is going.
MagnifyMoney reviewed several budgeting apps and determined which ones were best for specific needs. We emphasized apps that are broadly useful and accessible for most people, with priority given to those that are free to use. Read on to learn more about the best budgeting apps available in 2021.
- Best budgeting apps in 2021
- Other budgeting apps to consider
- Compare the best budgeting apps
- Budgeting apps: FAQs
Best budgeting apps in 2021
Best for overall budgeting: Mint
MagnifyMoney’s choice as the best overall budgeting app is Mint, one of the most popular and well-established apps in the space. Mint has built-in integrations for automatically syncing information from financial institutions and allows users to customize their budget with a degree of flexibility that’s not always available with other budgeting apps. Importantly, it’s free. Mint generates revenue with third-party advertisements.
Users can choose to classify their budgets and savings goals however they want, and Mint records all transactions for them. Mint provides users with useful and accessible historical data and insights on spending trends — it’s simple to use but provides comprehensive information. Mint also sends users notifications for budget updates and suspicious financial activity.
- Completely free for all features
- Budget and goal flexibility
- Benchmarks for financial goals
- Credit monitoring, including credit-score tracking
- Occasional data synchronization issues
- Not geared for complex investments
Why we chose Mint
Among free apps, Mint offers the deepest and most robust tools for budgeting with custom goals and categories. It’s the best choice for most users, including and especially those who are new to tracking budgets and financial goals.
Best for complex budgeting: You Need a Budget (YNAB)
Cost: $11.99 a month or $84 a year
Free trial: 34 days
You Need A Budget (YNAB) has a different philosophy than many other budgeting apps: instead of budgeting based on expected expenses, YNAB sets budgets based on income with an approach called zero-based budgeting. YNAB preemptively assigns each dollar of income to either an expense or a payment toward savings, investments or debts. The potential costs of exceeding budgets become a bit more tangible: every dollar is accounted for somewhere, so any excessive spending in one area will directly impact another.
YNAB claims to save users significant amounts of money over the course of the year, but the annual price tag of $84 may scare off some potential users.
The zero-based budgeting approach has given YNAB a dedicated user base. For those who are willing to try a more stringent budget, YNAB offers a lot of instructional resources and customer service. They also have the ability for you to synchronize balances and transactions as well as manually reconcile that data with your own numbers.
- Emphasis on zero-based budgeting
- Free trial period to try the technique
- Good flexibility for budget categories
- Costs at least $84 per year
- No tools for tracking investments
Why we chose YNAB
You Need A Budget may not be for everyone, but for those who are able to commit to a zero-based budgeting strategy to pay off debt or boost their savings, YNAB offers a more rigorous way to stick to those goals.
Best for controlling spending: PocketGuard
Cost: Free (or $7.99 per month, $79.99 per year or $99.99 lifetime for premium)
PocketGuard’s services are based around an algorithm called the In My Pocket feature, which identifies how much money users can spend on a daily basis depending on factors like income, bill payments, debt obligations, budget goals and recent spending habits. It’s built around day-to-day diligence in sticking to your budgeting goals and geared toward reinforcing saving habits.
Its most simple features are available for free, but there is a membership that allows users to set specialized plans for debt payments, customize their budget categories, export transactions, view all historical data and create as many categories and budgets as they want. Some of those features are available for free with other apps.
- Intuitive platform for daily budgets
- Provides users basic budgeting for free
- Helps find better deals on cable, phone and other bill payments
- Not all PocketGuard services are free
- Some reports among users of technical issues
Why we chose PocketGuard
By calculating how much money users can spend each day, PocketGuard is designed to help curb overspending. It tracks your income, expenses and savings for free, but some services like category customization and debt payoff plans are part of a premium service called PocketGuard Plus.
Best for budgeting and investing: Personal Capital
Personal Capital is available as an app or as an online platform, and while there are some premium investing services, the budgeting tools are free. Their budgeting services can be more detailed and comprehensive than most other budgeting apps — information syncs automatically from financial institutions, but there are no options for manually reconciling the information if there’s a mistake.
Among the tools offered by Personal Capital for investing are a net worth tracker, a portfolio fee analyzer and a retirement planner. There are also some educational resources available to investors on the platform. Their free services are designed to entice customers for investment advising, but Personal Capital has a strong suite of services for free — it’s a solid choice for investment-focused budgeters.
- Free wealth management tools
- Geared toward retirement planning
- Analyzes fees for your portfolio
- Not primarily a budgeting tool
- No manual transactions
Why we chose Personal Capital
Personal Capital is an investing platform at heart, but its expense and budget tracking tools are an excellent free service as well. It’s the best budget app for users who want the ability to manage and track more complex investments as part of their bigger financial picture.
Best for budgeting with a partner: HoneydueCost: Free
There are some apps specifically designed for couples, and Honeydue is built for couples to track their money together. Honeydue helps track the balances across accounts, tracks when bills are due (and who’s supposed to pay them) and allows users to chat with each other in the app. There’s also a free option for a joint bank account held by a Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation-insured bank.
Budgets can be viewed together or separately in the app, and like most budgeting services, Honeydue alerts users when a budget is exceeded or when a bill is due. Honeydue merges information for both partners, and it’s the best option for couples who want to manage their money together.
- Automatically syncs with bank accounts
- Offers options for which accounts to share
- Features a joint bank account for users
- Sometimes slow in syncing data according to users
- Limited collaboration on savings goals
Why we chose Honeydue
Honeydue is a standout among budgeting apps designed for couples: users and their partners can jointly check transactions, track accounts and coordinate bill payments on the platform. It’s the best free app in this category, and it has robust tools for tracking a couple’s finances.
Best for envelope budgeting: Goodbudget
Cost: Free (or $7 per month or $60 per year for premium)
Envelope budgeting is based around putting a month’s worth of cash in an envelope labeled for a specific budget category. Once that money’s gone, the budget’s been reached, and if there’s some money left over, there’s some extra disposable income for expenses outside of the budget.
Goodbudget is a tool that brings that dynamic into an app and online platform. There are no integrations with financial institutions — every purchase must be entered manually. It’s a good tool for couples or for families with kids who are learning to budget because it easily accommodates multiple users. It’s a straightforward envelope budgeting app.
- Some free features
- Good for couples to budget together
- Tracks debt payment progress
- Doesn’t link with financial institutions
- Premium features needed for more envelopes
Why we chose Goodbudget
The envelope budgeting method is more of an old-school way to track your finances.Though most people don’t rely on cash or envelopes for budgeting anymore, apps like Goodbudget have stepped up as a 21st-century solution.
Other budgeting apps to consider
There are several other useful budgeting apps beyond those that MagnifyMoney selected as the best for specific categories. Here are some of the apps that were considered but ultimately not chosen as the best:
- Simplifi — Despite being a fairly simple budgeting tool, Simplifi comes with a monthly subscription cost.
- Zeta — A free budgeting app designed for couples, Zeta offers a joint bank account with two debit cards.
- Stash — Really more of an investing than a budgeting app, Stash promotes incremental deposits to build a portfolio.
- Digit — Within your predetermined preferences, Digit automates the process of saving and investing for you.
- Wally — Much like other budgeting apps, Wally aggregates information from financial institutions and tracks your progress.
- Mvelopes — Another envelope budgeting option, Mvelopes offers a free trial before users must upgrade to plans with different tiers.
- Everydollar — Part of the Ramsey+ suite of services, EveryDollar emphasizes financial education as part of its platform.
Compare the best budgeting apps
|App||Cost||Syncs data with your bank accounts||Allows you to manually add transactions||Key feature|
|Mint||Free||Yes||No||Flexibility in creating budgets and goals|
|You Need a Budget (YNAB)||$84 per year||Yes||Yes||Zero-based budgeting system|
|PocketGuard||$79.99 per year (also a free version)||Yes||No||Daily budgets to limit overspending|
|Personal Capital||Free||Yes||No||Robust investment tracking tools|
|Honeydue||Free||Yes||Yes||Budgeting designed for couples|
|Goodbudget||$60 per year (also a free version)||No||Yes||Modern envelope budgeting platform|
Budgeting apps: FAQs
There are a lot of factors to consider when choosing a budgeting app, including cost, available features, customizability and its approach to the budget process, whether that’s zero-based budgeting, envelope budgeting or a more common approach.
Budgeting apps can’t force you to stop spending money, but they’re a great way to track your progress and set goals and benchmarks for yourself. If you stick to the plan, those budgeting apps can work wonders.
MagnifyMoney chose Mint as the best free budgeting app because it offers quite a bit of flexibility and depth despite being an entirely free platform. In addition, Mint was our choice for the best overall budget app among all free or paid options.
User preference really determines what’s the easiest budgeting app. Most apps offer synchronization with banks and financial institutions to streamline the process and provide users with digestible information on their platforms.