The Best Apps If You Want To Start Budgeting

The Best Apps If You Want To Start Budgeting

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If you’re looking to start budgeting — or enhance your existing budgeting method — there are many apps that can do the bulk of the work for you. Using any of these apps to organize and track your spending will undoubtedly help you stay on top of your financial game. And since many of today’s most popular budgeting apps are available for free, there’s no reason not to take advantage of them.

With so many budgeting apps available, we picked a handful of the most popular ones — 11 in total — and put them to the test. We used our own financial information to see which apps helped us keep our budget in order the best. And although all of these apps have something to offer, we found three winners that can fully keep your finances — and budget — in check.

Best budget app overall

Without question, PocketGuard is our favorite budget app. It’s easy to set up an account and straightforward to use. The app is available the Apple Store and Google Play, and there’s a desktop version if you get sick of the tiny screen on your phone.

Best budget app for couples

If you’re looking for a simple budgeting app for you and your significant other, look no further than Honeydue. This entirely free app is as easy as it comes, and can truly ensure that you and your partner are synced up when it comes to budgeting.

Best budget app for account tracking

Mint is one of the most well-known money management apps out there — and it’s easy to see why. This completely free app offers the longest list of features of any app while neatly laying out all your financial information.

PocketGuard can link all your credit card and checking accounts together, along with other types of financial accounts, to help you build a robust budget. You can also manually add any additional income you receive, such as cash or checks that don’t hit your bank account.

To create an initial budget, the app shows you what you’ve spent in prior months as a baseline, which you can adjust as desired. When creating your budget, PocketGuard offers many categories to choose from as well as the option to create your own categories — a feature that not all apps have.

The app automatically categorizes your transactions, but you can edit the category for any transaction if the system gets it wrong. However, in our testing, PocketGuard’s categorizations were pretty accurate.

Once your initial setup is complete, you’ll see how much money is left over for the month — which the app calls “In My Pocket.” This helps you determine how much money you can save or spend on everything else.

Then, throughout the month, your budget is updated in real time based on your transactions so you can see how much over or under budget you are in each category. PocketGuard’s budgeting charts also provide some great visuals of your month-over-month spending habits.

A newer feature is that you can set up push notifications to receive alerts in regards to your finances, such as if a bill due date is approaching, income has been received, you’ve gone over your budget and much more.

PocketGuard can even help you lower some of your bills. For example, the app noted that my monthly Verizon bill was $218.97 per month, and estimated that it could negotiate a savings of $12.48 per month. While this is a free service, if PocketGuard is successful at saving you money, it takes a 40% cut of the savings.

This money-saving service is available for many types of bills, including phone, internet and cable. Of course, there’s no guarantee that PocketGuard can save you money, but it never hurts to have someone else try to save you money on your behalf, especially if you don’t want to go through the effort of negotiating with your service providers on your own.

The one downside of the app is that while the basic version is free, to get the full picture, we recommend signing up for the paid version known as PocketGuard Plus, which costs $4.99 per month, $34.99 per year or $74.99 for a lifetime subscription. The main draw of the paid version is that you have access to unlimited budgets and can track your cash spending. While the fees can get expensive, the potential savings can quickly outweigh the cost. One big tip: sign up on the web version as the plans offered through the app are more expensive (the prices mentioned here are the website prices).

And if you’re a true hustler, there’s a referral program that provides an opportunity to receive the premium PocketGuard Plus service for free. Refer enough friends and family members — which translates into points — and you’ll earn free months of the premium service.

Overall, if you want an easy-to-use app with great visuals and capabilities, PocketGuard is the way to go. Just know that you’ll probably want to splurge for the upgraded version to get the most out of this app.

With Honeydue, you and your partner can create a household budget by pulling all your financial accounts into one dashboard. The app allows you to link accounts from almost any financial institution, including credit card accounts, checking accounts, savings accounts and more. This allows you and your partner to toggle through the system to see both individual and joint account activity.

And while the goal of Honeydue is for you and your partner to be on the same financial page, the app does offer the option to change permissions on what your partner can and can’t see. So you can decide if you want your significant other to have access to both your balances and transactions, just your balances or nothing at all.

The app also categorizes all of your transactions so you can monitor your household’s spending within each budget category. You can set a spending limit for each category, and the app will send you and your partner a notification when you’re close to hitting the limit. You’ll also receive notifications when money comes in or out.

The real upside of Honeydue is its communication features. You can add comments to different purchases, or even send your partner a particular transaction through the chat feature. It even has fun emojis you can use to make budgeting not seem like such a chore.

All these features allow you and your partner to fully communicate about your finances, and to use the app to budget and keep everything in one place so nothing gets forgotten. It might even help you avoid some of those tough-to-have conversations at the dinner table.

Other great features of Honeydue include adding bills and their due dates to a calendar so both you and your partner receive reminders. This can help you manage your household expenses to ensure there’s money in your accounts to pay any upcoming bills.

More recently, Honeydue added a joint bank account option, which is fee-free with no monthly minimums. If you don’t already have a joint account, this is an easy way to track your banking together. But be aware that Honeydue Joint Banking is only available through a mobile app, and there’s no web browser option. You also can’t deposit your checks through the mobile app.

While Honeydue doesn’t feature all of the bells and whistles of some of the other apps on our list, for an entirely free app, it’s a great option for couples. With its communication capabilities and notification features, Honeydue will help you and your partner stay on track without unknowingly spending more than your household can afford.

Mint’s setup process is extremely easy, even for those who aren’t tech savvy, as it pulls in all your bank account, credit card and investment account information. At any time, you can check Mint and see how much money you have across all your accounts.

The app allows you to categorize your transactions across all your accounts to paint a clearer picture of your spending habits. This feature also helps when sorting Venmo transactions — which many apps don’t link to — as you can differentiate between the $50 you earned helping your friend move and the $50 you were reimbursed after paying for lunch.

Although the app provides a ton of information, one of Mint’s most useful features is its budgeting tool. Based on your spending habits and average spending in each category, Mint will provide a monthly budget that it thinks you should adhere to, which can help you not only budget better, but also save you money. Of course, you can customize the budget based on your particular needs and desires, but having the system guide you can be extremely helpful, especially if you aren’t sure where to start.

Once your budget is set up, Mint will monitor your progress and send you notifications if you go over your budget in any category. It’s also very easy to log into Mint on a daily basis, see your individual progress and track any goals you’ve set up.

Another unique Mint feature is that all users get a free credit score. While you can get your credit score for free from several sources, having your score provided along with all your expenses is a nice bonus. You can update your credit score every three months through the app, which can help you stay on top of all the major aspects of your score, such as your outstanding bills and total available credit.

Ultimately, if you’re looking to see all of your financials in one place and venture beyond just budgeting, Mint is a great choice.

We downloaded each app and went through the entire process of getting our personal data into the app as if we were a real-life user by linking our bank accounts, credit cards and any other financial information (for apps that allow this). We then experimented with each app to test all of its features. We started with the basic version of each app and, if available, upgraded to the paid version to truly understand each app’s potential.

We started our testing in 2020 and have updated this guide since then with new apps and new features on an annual basis. We’ve continued to use the same criteria mentioned below and the same financial information.

The main criteria we evaluated included:

Usability: We looked at many different aspects of each app when determining how easy each one was to use. This included overall usability, the ease of setting up an account, reporting availability, the option to upload information from a variety of financial institutions and any other unique capabilities. Tracking and goals: This included the number of categories we could budget for, real-time tracking updates and the option to set goals. Availability: Apps that were available for both Apple and Android users scored higher in our testing, as did apps that offered a desktop version. Cost: We compared the cost for each app as well as any fees for upgrading in-app features. While our best options abo

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