Affectionately known as YNAB, You Need a Budget isn't just an extremely popular personal finance app. It practically has its own cult following.
The current version of YNAB packs in many features and improvements over earlier versions, and it actually teaches some solid budgeting practices as well. It runs on both Windows and Mac and it backs up data automatically. Budgets can be shared among multiple users.
It might be one of the easiest apps out there, and that can be attributed to the fact that it's designed for budgeting beginners. If you've tried to budget in the past and failed, this could be the app for you. It's not overloaded with a lot of complicated features that you really don't need just yet, and you can sign up for classes online with a real live instructor if you want some help. Failure is less of an option because the app comes with an "accountability partner" that will wave a red flag at you if you stray from the budget you've created.
YNAB is a browser-based program, but it also offers Android and iPhone apps that sync data to your desktop. It costs about $50 a year as of 2017.
Mvelopes is a fully featured online personal finance app that's based on the old "envelope budgeting" premise—put your cash in envelopes, mark the envelope as to what the cash is for, and when it's gone, it's gone, at least until your next payday. You're not supposed to borrow from the "grocery" envelope when your "clothing" envelope is depleted. Mvelopes just makes your envelopes digital. When your envelope is empty, the app will light it up in red.
Mvelopes includes mobile apps for Android and iPhone, and you can sync to all your bank and credit accounts. You can choose from three versions depending on your budgeting needs and expertise: Mvelopes, Mvelopes Coaching, and Mvelopes Premier. The first is free, but the other two are subscription-based.
No list of personal finance and budgeting apps is complete without mention of Quicken, and with good reason. This app almost predates the computer age—it's been around in one version or another since 1983.
That said, it's a bit old-fashioned in some ways. It set the standard so it does all the basic things you'd expect a budgeting app to do, and it does them well. But although Quicken allows you to sync with your bank and credit accounts, it doesn't do it for you automatically like some apps. You have to ask it.
Quicken isn't a browser-based Internet program. You have to buy the software and install it on your PC or Mac. Depending on the version that best meets your needs, you'll spend anywhere from about $40 to $120 as of 2017. The Mac version is about $75. But at least your user experience won't be peppered with pop-up and banner advertisements.
Mint is also a very well-known and popular app, and it shares several similar features with Quicken. Intuit once owned Quicken, then it purchased Mint in 2009—thus the similarities. But Mint is different from Quicken in at least one important way: It's free.
Of course, this means you'll have to deal with a lot of ads, but you'll get almost all the same integral features you'd get with any other app. It allows you to connect with your bank and lenders. It sends you alerts when bills are due. The dashboard is easy to understand and to navigate.
If you're the type that chafes against the restraints of an immutable budget, you might like this one. It doesn't nail your budget down to every precious dime, so you have some flexibility. An oft-heard complaint is that Mint "decides" some aspects of your budget for you, such as how much you can/should spend on entertainment based on your income. But you can override these entries and create your own limits and categories.
It's also said to be a bit time-consuming to set up, but the budgeting tedium should stop here after you're up and running.
CountAbout is browser-based and offers two versions: Basic, which is most appropriate for budgeting novices, and Premium, which has several more bells and whistles. The first costs about $10 a year as of 2017, and Premium will run you about $40 a year.
If you want an app that automatically connects to your financial institutions and downloads your transactions, go with the Premium version. It provides connections to over 12,000 banks, lenders, and brokerages. The basic version allows you import your transactions from other sites, but you'll have to go through the steps to do it yourself.
The downside: You can't use this app to pay your bills online. The upsides: As of 2017, this is the only app that lets you import data from Mint and Quicken, and it offers limited ability to manage your investments as well.
This app is essentially a Quicken app for Mac users. It does everything that Quicken and many other apps do, helping you to set up a budget and sounding alarms when bills are coming due. It lets you make charts and graphs to help track your spending. The homepage is a comprehensive snapshot of your current financial situation.
It also does a couple things that not all personal finance budgeting apps offer. Money Dance also keeps track of your investments, and it alerts you to monthly changes in your net worth. It may not be appropriate for budgeting beginners, but it has a lot to offer more experienced personal money managers. It costs about $50 as of 2017.
This app requires a bit of an upfront investment and is probably a lot more than the average beginning budgeter needs. Yes, it includes all the usual personal money management features, but it's geared more toward creating and maintaining an overall financial plan.
LearnVest includes investing tools and access to an advisor to help you along when you have questions. How much will you pay for all this? The Premium version is about $300 upfront as of 2017, and you'll pay $20 a month for a web-based subscription on top of that.
A software app, Personal Capital is pretty popular and offers a lot of features that make it a good choice for just about anyone.
It's a budgeting tool that lets you import transactions from your various accounts, just like most others. Unfortunately, it doesn't let you create your own budget categories. You're stuck with the list the app provides. This can require a little improvisation—where to stick the cost of maintaining your state-of-the-art aquarium? After you get that down, however, you can create numerous charts for both spending and savings and compare your budget from one week or one month to the next. And Personal Capital also has an awesome dashboard.
This app is very well suited to those who want to grow their wealth. It keeps track of your net worth and it includes investing tools that will allow you to monitor the Dow Jones and S&P 500, as well as related fluctuations in your own holdings. It even tracks fees you pay to brokers and will tap you on the shoulder if it begins to appear that you might want to bail on a particular investment and think about putting your money elsewhere.
Surprisingly, this app is free, although you can purchase a premium version for more personalized care.
Acorns is more like a wise, protective parent than a budgeting app. It's pretty unique. It literally saves and invests your spare change for you. You get it...acorns grow into mighty oaks.
This app tracks your credit and debit card purchases and rounds them up to the nearest dollar, then it invests the difference for you in safe exchange-traded funds in one of five ready-made portfolios that you can select. If you spend $69.20 at the grocery store, Acorns will automatically divert 80 cents to your ETFs. How's that for pain-free saving?
You probably won't miss the money and you won't even have to drain your savings to maintain the app. It only costs $1 a month until your portfolio hits $5,000, then it costs 0.25 percent of your balance. If you happen to be a college student, it's free. Contrast that to the $30 to $180 a month that Acorns claims to save for each subscriber.
You're not limited to investing just those "round-ups" either. You can invest other money through the app as well, up to $30,000 lump sums. Acorns is web-based and is also available for iPhone and Android.
2017: Top 9 Personal Budget Software Apps
There's an app out there for almost any budgeting goal
Budget. The word makes a lot of people panic. Budgeting has a rep for being both tedious and challenging, and it brings to mind images of self-deprivation.
Personal budget software apps can't help much with the self-deprivation—your income is what it is and it's up to you to work within it or change it. But these best software choices can take the tedium and the challenge out of the budgeting process. They can help you create and stick to a spending plan, and many come with some pretty handy extra features as well, depending on your needs.