Reaching your financial goals requires a budget to help you track your spending. However, everyone has different budgeting goals, and managing your financial goals can prove challenging. That’s where a good budgeting app can help you reach your financial goals by following your income and expenditure and sticking to your plan.
Several crucial elements form the basis of deciding on the best budgeting apps. Here’s how you can also track and save with these affordable tools.
1. Top Budgeting Apps: Find the Best App for Budgeting
The top budgeting apps have several standard features that make it easier to control your finances. Two of the essential features are the ease of integration with your bank account and credit cards for easier control of your chosen budget plan and an affordable price point. Other vital features for top budgeting apps include future financial planning, categorized expenses, customization, accessibility from all your devices, sharing, and alerts for upcoming payments.
Our choice of the top budgeting apps does not include the popular Mint since Intuit is shutting it down early in 2024.
YNAB (You Need a Budget) deserves a spot in the top budgeting apps. The reason is its budgeting philosophy, which aims to get your spending on track so that you don’t live paycheck-to-paycheck but are a month ahead, spending the money you earned a month ago.
With YNAB, you plan for every dollar earned with their zero-based budgeting structure by categorizing your spending, debt, and savings. Once you sign up, you can upload your data, sync the app to your bank accounts, credit cards, and loans, and create your first budget.
Take advantage of YNAB’s extensive educational resources to help you create a budget and use the app to its full potential. There’s also excellent customer support.
You can use YNAB on any of your devices knowing that your information is private and secure, thanks to their commitment to privacy and security.
Pros of YNAB
- A hands-on approach for a complete budget makeover
- 34-day free trial
- Comprehensive educational resources and excellent customer support
Cons of YNAB
- It is more expensive than most at $99 annually or $14.99 monthly
- Quite a steep learning curve
Even though PocketGuard doesn’t have as many features as other budgeting apps, it’s huge on simplifying the process with its cash flow and spending tracker that tells you how much you can spend daily. It can also track your net worth.
The app uses an algorithm to track all your synced accounts, loans, credit cards, and investments. It uses this information to show you what to spend after setting money aside for your bills, necessities, and savings goals. PocketGuard can also enter information manually if you don’t want to link accounts. There is also a manual option if you dislike linking your accounts.
PocketGuard Plus has added features. These include creating customized categories, changing transaction dates, exporting data capabilities, tracking cash, managing ATM deposits and withdrawals, and transaction splitting. An educational blog provides opportunities to learn more about using the app successfully for your budgeting.
PocketGuard prioritizes security with several layers of protection.
Pros of PocketGuard
- The basic PocketGuard is free
- Easy to use
- See your cashflow at a glance
Cons of PocketGuard
- Has had some technical issues
- No phone support
- PocketGuard Plus costs $7.99 per month, $34.99 per year, or make a lifetime purchase at $79.99
Empower is a free app, but you can add investment management for 0.89% if you have less than $1 million in your account.
It’s an excellent app for spending and tracking your wealth building. You cannot manually add budgeting goals, but it allows you to add investments manually without syncing them to the app. When you add your budget, you can see your income and expenditure based on your categories and compare them to previous months.
With Empower, you can track your spending and wealth by linking it to your bank accounts, credit cards, IRAs, 401(k)s, mortgages, and loans.
Its most dynamic features include its education and retirement planner tools, the Fee Analyzer for those wanting to see the portfolio fees, and the dashboard for seeing your net worth.
Experienced users and beginners can learn from the financial planning topics provided by Daily Capital, Empower’s blog. Its security features include data encryption, fraud protection, and robust user authentication.
Pros of Empower
- Free unless you choose investment management
- Retirement and education planning tools
- Tracks your net worth
Cons of Empower
- Not very budget-focused
- Cannot manually add budgeting transaction
- Promote their wealth management services with sales calls
Zeta is the ideal budgeting app for all types of couples, whether they have joint or separate finances. With the app, you can sync all your accounts to manage your bills, track your spending, and see your net worth.
The app is free; you only pay if you’re interested in investment services. You can also get a free joint bank account, joint cards, and Zeta’s Money Manager app to manage your bills and spending.
You can sync your accounts or add data manually for a shared view of your finances. From there, use the app to create joint goals, develop budgets, track spending, bill reminders, etc. The special features account holders enjoy include contactless payments, unlimited transfers, and bill pay.
You can also boost your financial knowledge and learn more about money in a modern relationship from Zeta’s Money Date Mag. Finally, Zeta uses bank-level security to protect you and your data.
Pros of Zeta
- Free budgeting app for all types of couples
- No-fee joint bank account
- Features include contactless payments and bill pay
Cons of Zeta
- Zeta’s joint account has a low APY’s
2. Best Free Budgeting Apps: Take Control of Your Finances
If you want a zero-cost budgeting app, we give you three to choose from:
You get 20 free envelopes on Goodbudget for one account to use their “envelope method” of budgeting on two devices. You can plan your spending by allocating a budget to the categories you choose by portioning your monthly income and debts. If you overspend in any of the categories, the envelope goes red.
Upgrade to Goodbudget Plus for $70 a year or $8 monthly for other perks, more devices, and unlimited envelopes.
Since you cannot link to accounts, you must manually input your transactions into your “envelopes.” It takes quite a bit of work to remember to enter every expense to make the app effective.
Pros of Goodbudget
- Free for up to 20 “envelopes” and one year of debt tracking and community support
- Customization of envelope categories allowed for creating savings, an emergency fund, etc.
- Realtime updates of your transactions and their impact on your budget
- Good security features
Cons of Goodbudget
- Can’t sync to accounts and credit cards
- You must pay for use on more devices, unlimited “envelopes,” and longer debt tracking, transaction history, and email support.
GnuCash is another free budgeting app available on desktop and Android users. Its double-entry accounting method tracks your income, expenses, and investments by importing your bank information. Reports and graphs help you visualize your data. You can set recurring transactions and reminders.
Small businesses can also benefit from the basic account functionality offered by GnuCash to manage invoicing, payroll, and bill payments.
GnuCash’s software runs on your computer, meaning no one can access your data. That means you must keep it safe on your desktop, a hard drive, or cloud storage.
Pros of GnuCash
- Free to use
- Great accounting program for people on limited budgets
- Multiple languages and currencies
- Easy to search for specific transactions
Cons of GnuCash
- More suitable for small business owners
- Outdated interface on the desktop version
A simple zero-based budgeting framework makes EveryDollar easy to use and manage. On the free version, you cannot sync to your bank accounts. You must manually add your income and expenses and then categorize the items in your budget. With EveryDollar, you can also set reminders to meet your bill payments.
Pros of EveryDollar
- Free to use
- Assign and track each dollar of income with its zero-based budgeting approach
Cons of EveryDollar
- The budgeting features on its free version are very basic
3. Budgeting App 2023: Stay Ahead of Your Financial Goals
Staying ahead of your financial goals requires strategic planning, disciplined execution, and adaptability. Any of the budgeting app 2023 can help you meet these goals. Here are some tips to help you stay ahead of your financial goals:
Set Clear and Precise Goals – Start by defining your financial goals clearly. Whether saving for an emergency fund, paying off debt, or investing for retirement, having specific goals helps you create a focused plan.
Create a Budget – Next, you must develop a realistic budget that aligns with your financial goals. To do this, you must understand and note all your income and expenses to ensure you live within your means and allocate funds to your priorities.
Prioritize and Focus – Identify the most critical financial goals and focus on those first. Prioritize high-interest debt repayment and emergency savings before allocating funds to less urgent goals.
Automate Savings and Investments – Set up automatic transfers to your savings and investment accounts. Automation ensures consistency and helps you avoid spending money before saving or investing.
Regularly Review and Adjust – Periodically review your financial situation and adjust your goals and budget as needed. Life circumstances, income changes, and unexpected expenses may require you to adapt your plan.
Emergency Fund – Build and maintain an emergency fund to cover unexpected expenses. When unexpected costs arise, a financial safety net can prevent you from derailing your progress.
Educate Yourself – Stay informed about personal finance and investment strategies. Knowledge permits you to make informed decisions and adapt to changing economic conditions.
Diversify Investments – Diversify your investment portfolio to spread risk. A well-diversified investment strategy can help protect your assets during market fluctuations.
Stay Disciplined – Discipline is vital to achieving financial goals. Avoid impulsive spending and stick to your budget. Regularly remind yourself of the long-term benefits of staying on track.
Increase Income – Look for opportunities to increase your income, such as pursuing career advancement, taking on additional responsibilities, or exploring side hustles. Increasing your income can accelerate your progress toward financial goals.
Celebrate Milestones – Recognizing and celebrating milestones, even small ones, can help maintain motivation and momentum, so celebrate your achievements.
Reaching your financial goals requires long-term planning and commitment. To stay ahead, you need patience and persistence. Using one of the best budgeting apps allows you to track your income and spending to ensure you keep on track.
4. Best Budgeting Tools: Simplify Your Money Management
Many people consider budgeting tedious, but it’s the best way to understand your spending habits. Using any of the best budgeting tools simplifies your money management, making progressing with your financial goals easier. See more budgeting tools on ZDNet.
Whatever budgeting tool you choose, remember that each uses a different approach to tracking your money. Some have a more hands-on method where you manually enter your transactions, requiring more time, but the process can help you better understand your spending and the importance of putting more thought into it.
As you saw above, some tools are free, but you will have a monthly or annual premium if you prefer more robust features. YNAB is one of the best budgeting tools because it offers a 34-day free trial to decide if its features meet your expectations. However, there are some excellent budgeting apps to meet everyone’s needs.
Here’s how to simplify your money management in just a few steps:
Calculate Net Income – Determine your monthly income after taxes.
Determine Your Monthly Expenses – Next, determine your cash outflow by noting all your expenses. These include rent, mortgage and loan payments, utility bills, insurance costs, transportation, groceries, dining, childcare, travel, streaming subscriptions, etc. You must also include your savings contributions, such as a 401(k).
List Essential and Non-Essential Spending – List which monthly expenses are fixed or variable. Fixed costs include rent, utility bills, transportation, insurance, food, and loan payments. Your dining, travel, clothing, subscriptions, etc., are variable costs. This step is vital because it allows you to see where to reduce spending.
Determine Monthly Costs for All Expenses – Use your bank statement, credit cards, and purchase slips to determine how much you spend on each expense monthly. Budgeting apps make this step very easy.
Use the Information to Adjust – Once you have completed the four previous steps, you will better understand your net income, monthly expenses, and where to make adjustments, like cutting back or increasing investments. You are now ready to create a fine-tuned budget. Revisit it often to make tweaks.
Use one of the best budgeting apps to simplify your budgeting process. You can read more about some of the apps mentioned above on Investopedia. The best apps allow you to opt in or out of syncing your financial accounts, track and plan, and create expense categories. Also, look out for bill tracking and due date alerts. Budgeting apps you can access from various devices and share with your partner make your budgeting experience seamless.
Smart Budgeting for 18-Year-Olds: Mastering Money Management Early On
As you enter adulthood at 18, managing money becomes crucial. Whether you’re heading to college, starting a job, or exploring entrepreneurship, effective budgeting can set you on the path to financial success. Here are tips tailored for 18-year-olds:
- Understand Your Income Sources: Recognize all your income sources, be it from a part-time job, allowances from parents, scholarships, or any other. Knowing your total income is the first step to managing it wisely.
- Track Every Penny: Use a budgeting app to track your expenses. It’s not just about the big spends; even the small daily purchases add up. This habit will give you a clear picture of where your money goes.
- Set Realistic Goals: What are your financial goals? Saving for college, a car, or maybe a trip? Set achievable short-term and long-term goals and allocate funds accordingly in your budget.
- Learn the Essentials of Saving: Start with a simple rule – pay yourself first. Set aside a portion of your income into a savings account before you start spending on other things.
- Beware of Credit Traps: Be cautious with credit cards. Understand interest rates and fees to avoid falling into a debt trap. Use credit cards wisely and pay off balances in total to build a good credit score.
- Educate Yourself on Financial Literacy: Invest time in learning about personal finance. Many online resources, books, and podcasts target young adults to help them understand budgeting, saving, investing, and more.
- Budget for Fun: Yes, budgeting isn’t just about restrictions. Allocate a portion of your budget for entertainment and leisure. It’s important to enjoy your money responsibly.
- Use Technology to Your Advantage: Leverage budgeting apps that cater to young adults. Look for features like easy expense tracking, reminders for bill payments, and tools for setting and tracking financial goals.
- Plan for the Unexpected: Start building an emergency fund. Life can be unpredictable, and having a financial cushion can help you navigate unforeseen expenses without derailing your budget.
- Seek Advice When Needed: Don’t hesitate to ask trusted adults or professionals for financial advice. Learning from others’ experiences and expertise can be invaluable.
Remember, mastering money management is a continuous journey. Start now, and you’ll thank yourself later!
Frequently Asked Questions
I’m 18 and new to budgeting. Where should I start?
Begin by tracking your income and expenses. List all your income sources (like jobs, allowances, or scholarships) and every expense, no matter how small. Use a budgeting app to make this easier and more accurate.
How much of my income should I save?
A good rule of thumb is the 50/30/20 rule – 50% of your income goes to necessities, 30% to wants, and 20% to savings. However, adjust these percentages based on your personal goals and financial situation.
Should I get a credit card at 18?
A credit card can be a helpful tool for building credit if used responsibly. Make sure to spend within your means and pay off the balance in full each month to avoid interest charges and debt accumulation.
What are some common financial pitfalls I should avoid at this age?
Avoid overspending on non-essentials, accumulating credit card debt, and not having an emergency fund. Also, be wary of impulse purchases and not tracking your expenses.
How can I make budgeting more engaging and less of a chore?
Try gamifying your budgeting. Set challenges for yourself, like a week of no eating out or a month of no online shopping. Reward yourself when you meet your savings goals. Use budgeting apps that have interactive and user-friendly interfaces.
Is it too early to think about investing at 18?
It’s never too early to start learning about investing. While you might want to focus on saving and budgeting first, educating yourself about investments can benefit your long-term financial health.
How do I balance saving for the future and enjoying my money now?
Create a budget that includes both savings and discretionary spending. Enjoying your youth and having experiences is important, but it’s also crucial to plan for future needs.
What should my financial priorities be at this age?
Prioritize building good financial habits like saving, budgeting, and living within your means. Start an emergency fund and consider long-term goals like education or travel if possible.
How often should I review and adjust my budget?
Review your budget at least monthly. Adjust your budget to stay on track as your income, expenses, or financial goals change.
What are some good resources for financial education?
Look for online resources specifically geared toward young adults. Websites, podcasts, and books on personal finance can be very helpful. Also, consider attending workshops or seminars offered by schools or community centers.