Since last summer, food prices in the U.S. have risen 10%, energy prices almost 35%, and used vehicle prices 16%. Couple that with the fact that wages are only up 5% and the need to save more income as we enter summer 2022 becomes very real.
Luckily, what’s also on the rise is the number of awesome money management platforms that make budgeting easier than ever.
Want to create a system that gives you greater insight into and control over your personal finances in this tough economic climate?
Then we want to help you get there.
Keep reading to learn all about:
- 8 of the best budgeting apps on the market
- 6 features to prioritize when shopping for your best-fit platform
- 1 top-tier personal balance sheet platform to use alongside your budgeting tool of choice
Comparing Today's 8 Best Budgeting Apps
First up, it’s time to get familiar with what’s out there when it comes to budgeting apps. Since there are hundreds of options to wade through, we created this list of eight of our favorites. With a variety of features, we’re hopeful you’ll be able to find one that works great for you.
If you like to read about finances, Personal Capital is a tool that you’ve very likely heard of.
Personal Capital is popular for the dashboard it offers as part of its free version. Here, people can track accounts from lots of different financial institutions. From credit cards to loans, investments, mortgages, retirement accounts, bank accounts, checking accounts, and beyond; Personal Capital can handle almost any mainstream account.
With this financial information, users can do things like generate a net worth calculation, view cash flow, and compare income vs. expenses. Basic budgeting features like charts and customizable categorization enable people to see exactly where and how much they’re spending each month.
It’s important we note here where Personal Capital makes its money. Part of it comes from their paid financial management services, which are advertised heavily to free users. These services become available once a user has $100K+ in their Personal Capital account. Annual pricing starts at .89% of the value of assets under management.
And, another part of it comes from the sale of user data to third parties. Many “free” finance products, including other entries on this list, use this model to make money. To learn more about this practice and decide for yourself if you’re comfortable with it, read Is Personal Capital Free? Not Really.
With that in mind, let’s check out some more budgeting options.
PocketSmith is a heavily-featured budgeting tool that we think is especially helpful for our visual learners.
PocketSmith doesn’t just enable users to view earnings and spending. When you set up a budget for an account inside PocketSmith, it automatically applies that information to the forecast for that account.
But now for the visual part — PocketSmith shows an account’s spending events, income events, and the real-time forecast all together on a monthly calendar! This is one of the more creative ways we’ve seen to literally show people their spending cycles and habits, helping them break bad habits or create more realistic financial goals!
PocketSmith has tons of other features: integrations with thousands of financial institutions around the world, customizable categories and labels, automated currency conversion, “what-if” scenario testing, net worth reporting, reports, cash flow statements, and the list keeps on going.
PocketSmith does have a free tier. After that, plans start at $7.50 a month when purchased annually.
You Need A Budget (YNAB)
Another well-known option for budgeters is the perfectly-named You Need A Budget, or YNAB.
We like YNAB because it’s simple and straightforward, making it especially fitting for beginners. The core principle behind YNAB is zero-based budgeting, which is the concept of giving every dollar of income a purpose.
The YNAB platform is built to enable users to budget by these four guiding rules:
- Give every dollar a job
- Embrace your true expenses
- Roll with the punches
- Age your money
YNAB’s pretty dashboard is available on all digital devices and includes features like bank connectivity, smart categorization, spending reports, net worth charts, goal tracking, an active community, and educational resources.
YNAB offers a free trial. The paid version costs $14.99 per month or $98.99 when you purchase a full year upfront.
Do we have any business owners in the house? If so, Quicken is the budget management platform for you.
On the personal finance side, you can use Quicken to do a lot. Plug in your banking, investment, retirement, credit card, and other accounts; categorize transactions; then monitor the spending/saving that takes place across these accounts against your custom budget. Other features like visibility across devices, bill payment, investment account tracking, and retirement planning round out Quicken’s deep financial planning platform.
Then, there’s the business side of things.
In the same Quicken account, users can manage both personal and business finances. Monitor business assets and liabilities, create and send branded invoices, store important business documents, and even create several different types of tax reports when you use Quicken’s Home and Business tier.
Home and Business is the most expensive package at $5.99 per month when billed annually. The most affordable option is Quicken Deluxe for $2.99 a month.
Speaking of Quicken, Simplifi by Quicken is a stripped-down personal finance mobile app that focuses on helping users manage their finances in just five minutes per week.
On the budgeting front, Simplifi automatically generates a monthly budget based on the accounts, income, expenses, and savings information you’ve added to the app. Of course, you can further personalize your budget and watch as it updates in real-time throughout the month.
In addition to a personalized budget, Simplifi makes it easy to set and build toward short- and long-term goals, keep an eye on accounts across financial institutions, create up-to-date cash-flow projections, categorize spending in various categories, and generate reports that grant deeper insights into spending patterns.
After a free trial, Simplifi comes in at $3.99 per month, annually.
With a flexible yet robust budget builder, CountAbout is for those of you who want all the data as well as a personalized, easy-on-the-eyes way to digest it.
CountAbout seamlessly imports financial data from both Quicken and Mint, automatically syncs with your financial accounts, enables deeply customizable spending categorization, and provides customizable projections — all in an ad-free environment for ultimate simplicity.
We especially appreciate the platform’s privacy promises. CountAbout doesn’t sell or use ads and is committed to never sharing user data. A free trial is available, and pricing starts at $9.99 per year when billed annually.
Tiller is unique among finance apps as it’s one of the only platforms that still makes use of spreadsheets.
Tiller connects to Google Sheets and Microsoft Excel to help automate all the processes that used to make spreadsheets so tedious.
Get started with any one of Tiller’s detailed templates, then customize to a degree that few other budgeting platforms allow. Tiller’s bank feeds enable users to connect credit cards, bank accounts, and more to their spreadsheets, so they update the minute your accounts do. With Tiller, you can search, filter, and view your transactions using your preferred method; create rules to automatically categorize transactions; set budgets for every single category; and use reports and charts to monitor progress against your spending and savings goals.
In addition, a U.S.-based customer support team and a community of super users and fans mean anyone can become a Tiller expert.
Tiller comes out to $79 per year, and interested users can sign up for a free trial before committing.
We’ll end our list with a quick breakdown of one more popular budgeting tool: Mint.
Mint, from the financial software provider Intuit, is an original and a leader in the budgeting space. Why? Because it’s powerful yet simple.
With Mint, users can create unlimited custom spending categories (and subcategories), set up spending limits for each of those categories, view real-time spending tracking, and sign up for notifications about overspending and budget improvement ideas.
Because it integrates with all of your financial accounts (banks, credit cards, loans, investments, and more), Mint can also track cash flow, help manage bills and subscriptions, calculate net worth, provide credit score monitoring, and generate insights that help users gain even more control over their finances.
Mint is a free budgeting tool. As we warned earlier, this means they have to generate income another way. In their case, they sell advertising space on their platform and also have a rich partnership program through which they receive a cut when a user signs up with a partner credit card, loan provider, insurance seller, investment platform, etc.
Learn even more about Mint in The Best Alternative to Mint for Modern Wealth Tracking.
6 Features to Look for in Budgeting Software
Excited about the options? Awesome! But before you pick just one, let’s be sure that it has all the features you need before diving in.
Not 100% certain on which features you want exactly? Here are some main ones we suggest shopping for to ensure your budgeting tracking tool makes your life easier.
Integration with Credit Cards, Bank Accounts, and Other Financial Accounts
We’ve talked a lot about integration today. Most top budgeting apps will work with most mainstream financial institutions, so this is really only something to double-check if you’re using a unique financial account or institution — such as a small, local bank.
Lack of integration shouldn’t be a dealbreaker, however. Today, it’s nearly impossible for most budgeting tools to be able to account for every kind of asset a person can hold. That’s why, in the next section, we’ll introduce you to a complementary tool that excels at tracking all of those diverse assets. Modern investors, take note.
Graphs and Charts That Help Visualize Spending Habits
Part of the reason modern budgeting tools are so much more useful than manual spreadsheets is that they provide dynamic visuals. There’s nothing like a pie chart for showing how spending compares across categories or like a bar graph fading from green to red as you approach your limit for the month. If you’re a visual learner at all, we highly recommend prioritizing budgeting platforms with visuals that make it easy to understand spending patterns at a glance.
Customizable Spending Categorization
Another feature we’ve mentioned several times is customizable categories, which help label and group transactions. These days, categorization is a must among budgeting tools. Most of them should even have customizable categories by now. The new frontier in this space is automation that can learn to categorize your transactions for you. If that time-saving feature is important to you, make sure you’re paying special attention to whether or not the platform you’re looking at offers automation.
Availability Across Digital Devices
Maybe it’s a no-brainer, but we gotta say it — make sure your platform is easy to use across devices! Sure you might use your desktop most often, but what about when you check your budget via smartphone while traveling? Be sure to visit the tool on all devices to catch whether or not it’s going to be a pain to use effectively.
Pleasant User Experience
Your bank might not have updated its online portal since 2002, but that doesn't mean all financial tools must be outdated and hard to use.
While things might have been different a few decades ago, today there’s little excuse for a financial technology interface that’s unpleasant and ineffective. There are so many great options on the market — choose one that has all your fave features and is a delight to use.
Strong Security and Privacy Measures
Last but certainly not least are privacy and security measures. These features are especially important when you think of all the sensitive financial info budgeting platforms can have access to — and how many of them actually pass along some of your information to other parties.
You want to know for sure that these tools are keeping your personal information as secure as possible in today’s environment. If the platform you’re considering doesn’t make its security and privacy details clear, that may be a red flag. And if they can’t clarify how they keep your information safe after reaching out to their support team, it’s time to move on.
Complement your Budgeting Tool with Comprehensive Balance Sheet Software
Just a moment ago when discussing the integration capabilities of most budgeting platforms, we brought up an important, new reality — most of these tools can’t actually track the entirety of a modern portfolio.
If you’re anything like our team, your net worth isn’t all standard banking and retirement accounts. It’s also made up of cryptocurrency, real estate and REITs, family heirlooms, NFTs, precious metals or ETFs that track precious metals, and maybe even some physical currency from around the globe.
With volatile markets and a recession on the horizon, portfolio diversification is more vital than ever. But with diversification comes a lot of different asset types that simple budgeting platforms alone can’t track.
But Kubera can.
As a user, all you have to do to get started is add all — and we mean all — of your assets to Kubera’s spreadsheet-like dashboard. When you add your credentials for online accounts, Kubera will stay updated in real-time as those accounts change. For anything without an online account, such as those physical assets like artwork and precious metals, it’s easy to pop into your Kubera profile and update their value from time to time.
In addition to the easy-to-edit dashboard fields, Kubera also comes with stock market and cryptocurrency tickers as well as integrations with asset valuation platforms (like Zillow, for example).
With our uniquely flexible interface and comprehensive integrations, you can see every single one of your investments, assets, accounts, and whatever else you own all on the same page in Kubera.
Beyond just tracking all your assets within a single view, Kubera also simplifies the process of finding the return on each of your investments.
All you have to do is make sure the value, purchase price, and cash flow details are accurate for your assets. From there, Kubera will add in the holding time to automatically calculate IRR for your investments. Why IRR (AKA internal rate of return)? Because it’s easy to understand like ROI, but even more accurate as it takes holding time and value change into account.
For an example of Kubera’s IRR calculator in action in a real-life scenario, read the help center article.
In addition to insights on how your investments are generating return, Kubera also provides a detailed breakdown of changes over time, so you can easily monitor the progress of each individual allocation, your entire portfolio, and your all-important net worth number.
See it all from our recap screen, where Kubera crunches the data to provide everything from a super granular view of daily progress all the way to a more holistic view of yearly progress.
Kubera is available on desktop, iOS, and Android. If you work with a financial advisor or wealth manager, no worries, you can still take advantage of Kubera’s awesome features! Any institution can build our white-label solution into their portal to create an even more pleasing user experience for you and the rest of their client roster.
Sign up for a free trial — personal pricing is super simple. We charge only what we need to to be able to provide a highly secure and private experience. We don’t access your credentials and we don’t show any ads or sell any user data.