The word "budget" has the power to make a lot of people panic, as it has a reputation for being both tedious and challenging.
Personal finance and budget software apps can take the tedium and challenge out of the budgeting process. They can help you stick to a spending plan, and many come with handy extra features depending on your needs.
The 8 Best Personal Budget Software Apps of 2021
You Need a Budget (YNAB)
Affectionately known as YNAB, You Need a Budget is an extremely popular personal finance app.
The current version of YNAB packs in many features and improvements over earlier versions, and it intuitively teaches some solid budgeting practices. It runs on both Windows and Mac and it backs up data automatically. Budgets can be shared among multiple users because this app can connect to a huge range of devices like laptops, desktops, tablets, smartphones, and you can even connect it to an Amazon Echo for verbal budget reports from the app.
It might be one of the easiest apps out there as it was designed for budgeting beginners. If you've tried to budget in the past and failed, this could be the app that you need.
If you need help, you can sign up for classes with a live instructor. Failure is less of an option because the a YNAB function that will alert 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. As of March 2021, it costs $11.99 a month or $84 for an annual plan.
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 is gone, it is gone, resetting during the start of your next pay period.
You're not supposed to borrow from the "grocery" envelope when your "clothing" envelope is depleted. Mvelopes just makes your envelopes digital.
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 Basic, Mvelopes Premiere, and Mvelopes Plus.
As of March 2021, the Basic package costs $5.97/month, Premiere costs $9.97/month, and Plus costs $19.97/month, although each come with 30 days free. Basic offers unlimited access to financial institution accounts, auto transaction importing and account balance monitoring, and interactive support. Premiere includes all of this plus access to the Mvelopes learning center and debt reduction resources. Plus package grants you quarterly consultations with a personal finance coach as well as a personalized financial plan.
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 has been around in one version or another since 1983.
That said, it is 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. Quicken provides an overview of your banking, investment, retirement, and credit card accounts in one place, and tracks your spending categories for you.
Depending on the version of Quicken that best meets your needs, you'll spend anywhere from about $51.99 to $77.99 per year if you are using a Mac and can select one of two plans, as of April 2021. If you are using Windows, the prices are just a bit steeper. The Windows version provides you with more services. You can expect to pay anywhere between $51.99 to $103.99 per year and can select your choice out of three plans. There are limited versions for Mac, and you will not be given the option to Quicken's most powerful version, Home and Business.
Mint is a 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 an important way: it is free.
This means you will have to deal with ads, but you will get almost all the same integral features you would get with any other app. It allows you to connect with your bank and lenders, sends you alerts when bills are due, and the interface is clean and easy to understand.
It does not 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.
CountAbout is browser-based and offers two versions: Basic, which is most appropriate for budgeting novices, and Premium, which has more in-depth features. As of March 2021, Basic costs $9.99 a year and Premium will run you $39.99 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 financial institutions. The basic version allows you to import your transactions from other sites, but you'll have to update it manually.
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, and it is compatible with Windows, macOS, and Linux.
It also does a few things that not all personal finance budgeting apps offer. Moneydance 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 for more experienced personal money managers. The price as of March 2021 is $49.99.
Software app Personal Capital is pretty popular and offers a lot of free tools that make it a good choice for just about anyone.
It is 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.
After you understand how to navigate the site, you can create numerous charts for both spending and savings, comparing your budget from one week or one month to the next.
This app is very well suited to those who want to grow their wealth. It keeps track of your net worth and it includes free investing tools that will allow you to monitor the Dow Jones and S&P 500, as well as related fluctuations in your personal holdings. It even tracks fees you pay to brokers and will alert you if it begins to look like that you might want to bail on a particular investment and think about putting your money elsewhere.
Acorns is more like a wise, protective parent than a budgeting app. It is pretty unique, and it literally saves and invests your spare change for you.
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 $0.80 to your ETFs.
You probably won't miss the money and you won't even have to drain your savings to maintain the app. Acorns offers three plans, Lite, Personal, and Family. As of April 2021, Lite costs $1 per month and allows you to invest your spare change with round-ups, plus you can earn bonus investments from over 350 of Acorns' Found Money shopping partners. Personal costs $3 per month and comes with the addition of access to an IRA as well as a checking account. Family costs $5 a month and offers investment accounts for kids, retirement, and checking accounts.
What Does a Personal Budget Software App Do?
Personal budget software apps can help you manage your budget, spending habits, and saving habits on the go. They provide a budget template so you don’t have to create one from scratch. Each app offers basic features and possibly unique features to help you stay on track. Some budgeting apps also can help you track credit card balances and money in banks and brokerages.
How Much Does a Personal Budget Software App Cost?
Personal budget software apps generally aren’t very expensive. Some cost as little as $1 per month and have just one or two features like rounding up your spare change and investing it for you. Apps with more features, such as built-in budgeting tools and helpful tips, may cost around $6 to $12 per month.
Is a Personal Budget Software App Worth the Cost?
Personal budget software apps are worth the cost if you have tried and failed to budget on your own. Such apps can help build positive habits if you commit to inputting your data and following the budget you create. It’s probably not worth the cost for people who already successfully follow a budget, pay bills on time, and have an investment plan.
How We Chose the Best Personal Budget Software Apps
We chose these best apps based on the features and tools they offer, their prices, ease of use, compatibility with devices, and their financial goals.
University of Pennsylvania. "How Intuit Found Fame and Fortune, and Beat Out Microsoft." Accessed March 8, 2021.
Mint.com. "Tried and True Combines With Fresh and New." Accessed March 8, 2021.