The Best Budgeting Apps Of 2020
Dan Rafter6-minute read
February 10, 2022
You know that creating a household budget is the best way to track your spending, savings and income. A good budget might prevent you from splurging on a big-screen TV you can’t afford.
It can also help you build an emergency fund so that unexpected expenses don’t send you into more debt. A budget can even serve as a valuable tool as you’re deciding how much of a mortgage payment you can afford each month.
Why, then, haven’t you created your own monthly budget? Maybe you’re worried that crafting a budget will take too much time. Maybe you’re worried that putting together a budget will be difficult.
Here’s the good news: Building a household budget isn’t that difficult. Even better? There are plenty of apps out there that can help make the process even easier.
Here, then, is a look at what we consider the best budgeting apps of 2020. Turn to these apps if you’re ready to gain control over your household finances.
Best Budget Apps: Features To Look For
Not all budgeting apps are created equal. And not every app is a perfect fit for every person.
Here are some of the features you should look for when choosing the budgeting and money management app that's best for you:
Is there a visual component? The best apps allow you to turn your budget's raw numbers into graphs, charts and visuals. This makes it easier for you to understand where you’re spending the most money each month.
Can you create your own income and expense categories? Every household's budget is different. That's why it's important to work with a budgeting app that allows you to customize your income and expense categories. Look for apps that provide the most flexibility.
12-month averages matter: Not all of your household expenses remain constant throughout the year. Expenses such as utilities, groceries, travel expenses and car maintenance fluctuate from month to month. This can complicate the job of creating an accurate budget.
Work with a budgeting app that will create a 12-month average of these variable expenses that you can then plug into your expense numbers. This will make budgeting for these variable costs an easier task.
Security: Budgeting apps often sync with your online bank accounts or credit card accounts. That's why it's so important to only work with personal finance apps that come with strong online security. Make sure your budgeting app encrypts data. That will help keep your personal finance information safe from prying eyes.
Tracking and reporting: A budgeting app is only as good as its reporting features. You want an app that allows you to create a variety of spending and savings reports. You might want to compare this year's dining out dollars to last year's.
Maybe you want to compare how much you’re spending on utilities during the winter months versus the hottest days of the summer. A good budgeting app will let you print out reports that can help you better analyze your spending and saving patterns.
The Best Money Management Apps For 2020
Mint remains one of the most popular budgeting apps available. There's a reason for this: Mint does just about anything you could possibly want. As an added bonus? It’s free.
Mint automatically imports, updates and analyzes your transactions. This provides a complete picture of your spending habits and gives you the information you need to make changes to reduce your expenses and boost your savings. You can use Mint to create spending categories, track your bills and payments and set up alerts when you're overspending in specific categories.
If you want a money management app that gives you complete control of your finances, Mint is a good place to start.
Standing for “You Need a Budget,” YNAB is one of the bigger budgeting app competitors to Mint. On the downside, it’s not free. An annual plan costs $84. You can also sign up for YNAB’s monthly plan and pay $11.99. On the upside? This money management tool comes with plenty of features.
YNAB is all about helping users carefully track their spending. In fact, YNAB focuses on educating users on how to track every dollar they earn. This makes YNAB a perfect budgeting app for users who are committed to accurately tracking their spending and income.
You can connect your bank accounts to YNAB, set spending and income goals, customize spending categories and contribute to your savings accounts all through the app. YNAB also offers its own workshops and budgeting advice.
YNAB, then, is like a more advanced version of Mint.
The free app EveryDollar is based on the economic teachings of financial guru Dave Ramsey. Its focus is on helping users spend less than they earn each month.
To get started, you’ll first enter your monthly income. The app then provides you with a template that helps you create estimates and goals for your monthly spending. As you spend throughout the month, you enter a transaction record for every purchase. The app then calculates how much more you can spend in that particular category before blowing your budget.
If you want a more advanced version of this app, you can sign up for RamseyPlus. This version costs $129.99 a year.
Remember the old paper envelope system? That's when people put cash in a series of envelopes labeled for different expenses. There might be an envelope for groceries that held $200 for the month. There might be another one for transportation that held $70 a month.
When you spend money on a certain expense, you withdraw cash from its envelope. When that cash is gone -- say your "restaurant" envelope is empty -- you can't spend on that category until you refill the envelope next month.
Goodbudget works on the same premise. It allows you to create virtual envelopes for different spending categories such as food, housing or transportation. This envelope system makes it easy for you to see exactly where you spend the most money each month. It also helps you easily track when you're overspending in a particular month.
Goodbudget offers both free and paid plans. Paid plans run either $7 a month or $60 a year.
Worried that you won't have enough money left in your checking account to make your car payment or rent at the end of the month? The PocketGuard budgeting app can help.
PocketGuard keeps a running tab of how much money you have left to spend after accounting for your monthly bill payments, contributions to savings accounts and money you've spent already. Basically, the app shows you how many dollars are left in your pocket for the rest of the week or month.
You can also link your bank accounts, credit cards, loans and investments to the app. This allows you to see a complete picture of your financial health on one screen. If you want more information on your personal finances, PocketGuard gives you a snapshot on how much you've spent on customized categories such as housing, dining out, groceries and entertainment.
And if you want to grow your savings, you can turn on the Autosave feature. PocketGuard will then deposit the amount you want to save each month into your savings accounts for you.
PocketGuard is free. You can purchase PocketGuard Plus, though, for $3.99 a month or $34.99 for an annual subscription.
Clarity Money is another free budgeting app worth checking out. It lets you link your bank and credit card accounts, categorize your expenses, track your expenses and create buckets for the money you spend in different categories.
But Clarity Money offers some other perks, too. You can use the app to monitor changes in your three-digit credit score. Tracking this score matters: Lenders use it to determine the interest rates they’ll assign you when approving you for mortgage, auto, student and personal loans. A high credit score also makes it more likely you’ll get approved for loans and credit cards.
You can also use the app to search your monthly subscriptions. You might find several subscriptions -- like the one for the music service you don't use or that movie-streaming site you rarely visit -- to cancel. Clarity Money allows you to unsubscribe from these unwanted services directly from the app, which can save you a good chunk of money each month.
If you're focused on saving enough money for retirement, the Personal Capital budgeting app is a good choice. This free app features a powerful Retirement Planner that lets you set retirement goals and updates you on whether you're on track to meet these goals or if you're falling short.
But that's not the only feature of this money management app. Personal Capital also offers a Net Worth tool. After you link all your financial accounts, this tool will track your true net worth. Your net worth provides a snapshot of your overall financial health. It’s important, then, to track this on a regular basis to make sure your net worth is heading the right direction.
Personal Capital also offers an Investment Checkup tool. This feature charts the performance of your investments. You can use this tool, too, to compare your investment portfolio to other suggested allocations. You might discover that you can boost your investment performance by moving your money into different vehicles.
Managing your money and creating a household budget is a key step in building your savings and reducing your expenses. And with the number of budgeting apps on the market – both free and paid versions – tackling this job is a far simpler task.
Don’t delay. Pick one of these best budgeting apps of 2020 to take control of your finances today.
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