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Earn It Save It is always looking to provide tips, tricks, hints and on occasion, step-by-step instructions on how to improve the lifestyles of its readers in a fiscally fun and frugal way. With that in mind, we reached out to our peers in the personal finance realm to discuss one topic in particular – budgeting.
Seriously, what better topic for personal finance experts to discuss than the best budgeting tools and apps? So, we asked 75+ personal finance experts:
“What are your favorite tools and apps for keeping track of your budget?”
The responses contained in this final list of 49 answers took us by surprise.
Overall, we can see that there is no one-size-fits-all budgeting tool.
We had a small number of respondents state that they did not use any tools or apps to track their finances. These particular individuals rely solely on their bank statements to keep them in check. Those responses are not included here.
While some tools were mentioned several times, others only received one mention. As for the experts themselves, well, you’ll read about how they personally use tools ranging from Albert to Quicken. Some even kick it old school style, i.e., paper and pencil.
What we enjoyed most about receiving such great responses was that we learned about a number of budgeting apps that we’d never heard of.
We believe that each budgeting and savings tool mentioned in this roundup is:
- Designed for managing your money and will help you stick with a monthly budget
- Structured to help you track your spending so you can finally create that much needed emergency fund
Here are a few things we hope you’ll gain by reading this post:
- An introduction to the best budget app that works for your personality and lifestyle
- Exposure to another personal finance blog that speaks your financial language
- A tip or two that will be a financial game changer for you
Here are a few quick links to some of the tools mentioned by the experts:
- Numbers by Sean / The Money Wizard
- Mint by Melissa / Sunburnt Saver
- Personal Capital by Holly / Club Thrifty
NEW TO SAVING MONEY?
Here’s a great post for those who don’t think they can save money right now:
Now, let’s check out what the experts had to say….
J. Money / Budgets Are Sexy
“Excel baby!!! I rock my money old school and spreadsheet it all out – particularly my net worth, which I’m finding keeps me much more accountable these days than trying to budget every last penny like I used to… as long as my $$$ is trending up, I know I’m on the right path!”
Irina Vasilescu / Don’t Pay Full
“I am currently working on an article about money-saving apps, therefore after testing dozens of apps here are my top budgeting options: Mint (best for everything); HoneyDue (best for couples); LearnVest (best for college students); and TrailWallet (best for travel)”
Michelle Schroeder-Gardner / Making Sense of Cents
“My favorite money app is Personal Capital. With this app, you can see your net worth, look at your portfolio, cash flow, transactions/expenses, spending, and more, and it’s definitely the top financial app that I recommend. It goes over pretty much everything that’s related to your financial situation and is extremely in-depth.”
Andrew Schrage, Co-owner / Money Crashers
“One of the best tools for tracking your budget is the website Mint, where you can actually create it. It’s simple and easy to use and is rather comprehensive in nature. Plus, it’s free.
Another one is called You Need A Budget. It has similar features and functions, but is essentially a paid product, although there’s a free trial available.
PocketGuard is another tool worthy of consideration and is a good idea for those who want a pared-down version regarding personal finance resources – in essence, it shows how much money you have left for spending after all of your monthly bills are paid.
One of the newer players in this field that you might want to try out is called Albert. It tracks all of your various financial accounts and provides tips and strategies for boosting the overall health of your finances.
It comes with budget creation tools, and gives you a portal to shoot money to a savings account as well. There’s both a free and paid version, depending upon what you want it to do for you and your finances.”
Saeed Darabi, Founder & CEO / Money Pantry
“I find Prism the easiest and most user-friendly budgeting app. The beauty of Prism is that you can manage your bills and pay them from one dashboard. To use it, link your bills with the app. Then link your payment accounts. You can even set reminders so you don’t forget paying your bills.
If you don’t want to share your financial info with apps, good ol’ excel spreadsheet is your best bet. It really doesn’t take much to create a simple and easy budget tracker sheet. You can even find and download pre-made ones online with a quick Google search. Don’t know how to work with excel? Pen and paper still work!”
Allan Liwanag / The Practical Saver
“Out of all the budgeting tools and apps that I have used, I particularly like Spentapp. It has tremendously helped us with our finances. It automatically analyzes our expenses, identify our mistakes, and recommends financial decisions, which we use all the time. Spentapp was one of the reasons that we were able to get out of our $40K debt and saved over $70K in 2.5 years. It also helped us reduce our grocery bill to $150/mo for a family of 3. For me, it’s more than just a budget. It’s a personal financial assistant that worked and work so well for us.”
Jeff Proctor / Dollar Sprout
“I’ve always been a fan of the Mint app for not only budgeting but seeing my entire financial picture on one screen. I can see my investments, my bank accounts (checking, savings, and business checking), as well as my existing debts, credit score, and anything else I can think of!
I’m also a huge fan of simplicity – the clean interface is super easy for me to navigate. I also love that it doesn’t just keep track of your spending habits, but it also gives you tips along the way for areas where you can improve.”
Sean Bryant / One Smart Dollar
“I am very old school when it comes to my family’s budget. I handle everything with an Excel document. I love the hands-on approach. It also forces me to stay very proactive with where we are on any given month. But even though I go at it by hand I also have an account set up with Personal Capital. They allow me to keep track of my investments, making sure I and moving in the right direction.”
[clickToTweet tweet=”I am very old school when it comes to my family’s budget. #OneSmartDollar” quote=”I am very old school when it comes to my family’s budget. #OneSmartDollar” theme=”style3″]
Peter Anderson, Founder / Bible Money Matters
“My favorite tools and apps for keeping track of a budget have evolved over the years. My current favorites include You Need A Budget and Tiller Money. You Need A Budget is a desktop and online budgeting software, which helps you to track a family budget, get reporting on your finances and more. I also now use a tool called Tiller Money which allows you to connect and sync your online banking accounts to a Google Spreadsheet budget. If you’re an excel spreadsheet lover, it’s the one to use.”
“We used online banking and spreadsheets. Mint.com is not insured by Canadian banks so it is too risky to use. Canadian investment tools lag behind American and British offerings.”
“Personally, I’m a big fan of Personal Capital for aggregating all of my accounts so I can track my spending and net worth in real time. I also cross reference my Personal Capital account with my bank accounts and a good old-fashioned spreadsheet where I track every penny I spend and every penny I earn.”
Holly Hammersmith / Welcoming Simplicity
“I like using Mint.com to create my monthly budget and to track spending. I make a point to log in and check my spending on the 1st of the month, around the 15th of the month and also on the last day of the month. This helps me stay on track with my financial goals!”
Tonya Stumphauzer / Budget and the Beach
“I use an app called Spending Tracker to keep track of daily expenses, but use Personal Capital, as many other PF bloggers do, to keep track of my net worth. For my budget I use a simple excel spreadsheet. I tried fancier budgets like YNAB, but in the end, simple works better for me!”
Melissa Garcia / Consumer Queen
“I use lots of money saving apps but I don’t use any apps to keep track of a budget right now I use Google Docs.”
Sean / The Money Wizard
“I’m a huge fan of tracking my Spending through Apple’s Numbers app. It’s an often overlooked app that comes installed on all iPhones, and it just might be the best budget tracker ever.
Numbers is basically the iPhone’s spreadsheet app. The beauty of numbers is that it’s always in my pocket, and it’s crazy fast and easy. I can literally record my spending before the cashier is finished ringing me up.
Sure, there’s fancier tools out there, but I’ve always found a certain magic in putting pen to paper. (Or in this case, keypad to spreadsheet.) By manually tracking, you’ll automatically become more aware of your spending, and you’ll soon find yourself looking for all sorts of ways to spend less and save more.”
Kylie / The Thrifty Issue
“The apps for my online banking and my investments are the only things I use. I check them each morning but that is it. I have decided where my money is going well before it hits my account and it is divided accordingly with daily expenses, my savings and investments. Having it split as a percentage and knowing where it all goes means other tools are unnecessary for me.”
Matt Matheson / Method To Your Money
“The only app that I use to budget is EveryDollar. I use the free version because I don’t like to have 3rd party apps link to my bank. It works amazing. I have the app on my phone so I don’t need to keep nearly as many receipts as I used to. I just enter the cost right into the app as soon as a purchase is made. It syncs very quickly with the online platform and is slick. My wife and I use it for our monthly budget meetings and it has been great. We used to use a spreadsheet. We’d keep all of our receipts and then manually enter them. It was such a pain. This is so much better! “
Jon Dulin / MoneySmart Guides
“My favorite budgeting tool is GoodBudget. It’s an envelope based budgeting app that my wife and I use to track our spending. We love it because it is always up to date and we can access it on either of our phones. So when one of us is our shopping, we can see exactly where we stand for a given spending category or envelope. My wife really enjoys it because personal finance isn’t her thing but she still wants to make sure she manages money in smart way.”
Lisa / Mad Money Monster
“My absolute favorite money management tool is Personal Capital. Not only does it allow me to keep track of everything in one place, it also allows me to quickly see my net worth in real time and provides useful calculators to project the future of my finances. The best part: It’s secure and FREE. And I love free.
Another app I love using is Acorns. Acorns allows me to invest in the stock markets via incremental quantities. I have mine set to round up every purchase make on my debit card to the next dollar amount and it automatically invests the difference. I definitely won’t get rich using Acorns, but it’s a great way for me to save and invest on autopilot. My goal is to use it to help my daughter purchase her first car 10 years from now.
I highly recommend Personal Capital to anyone who is ready to take their finances seriously, eliminate debt, and build wealth. I even wrote a post all about why tracking your net worth is so important. Check it out here.
I also recommend Acorns for anyone wanting a small investment fund earmarked for a particular down-the-road purchase. Because Acorns is investing your money in stocks, it should be seen as a long-term investment (over 5 years) and not used as an emergency or vacation fund. It’s also a great way for someone just starting out on their own or someone without a lot of money to invest.”
Brad Kingsley / Maximize Your Money
“When I answer this question about budgeting I find that I’m often unique in my preference. Largely though because many people haven’t even considered the option I use.
My wife and I have been budgeting together since 2003. Yes, we even do it today even though we’ve achieved early retirement and have a good level of margin in our spending.
The tool we’ve used for the past 15 years is Quicken on Windows. I wish it were totally cloud-based like some newer options, but it’s worth putting up with the desktop factor. They are moving to a more mobile/cloud direction too, so I suspect we’ll see great improvements there in coming years.
Why do we like it so much? What are some features that make it stand out?
Quicken is the only product we have found that will let us budget an entire year – with different amounts in different months. For example, we pay car insurance twice a year. Rather than adding it together, then dividing by 12, then being “over” some months and “under” on others – we just add the exact payment amount in the two months when we know the bill will be due. It makes for a much cleaner experience.
We can also set certain categories – like vacation – for the full amount in January and it will carry over the remaining balances all through the year. We don’t always know when we are going to spend that money so it makes sense for us to have it all loaded up to be used as needed.
Also, Quicken doesn’t try to force you to budget every single dollar of income or that is sitting in your bank account. YNAB, EveryDollar, and others don’t like “extra” money lying around. Each has a way to work around the issue, but it feels clunky and restrictive. We always have several thousand sitting in our bank account – beyond our expected spending for the month. And Quicken doesn’t yell at us for keeping it there. 🙂
Oh, and another thing, for early-retired people: We don’t have a regular income. Some tools will absolutely freak out when you try to spend more than your income. With a zero monthly income (we draw from investments on a strict schedule – not monthly) this can cause a lot of additional headache with the mainstream tools.
Quicken also has a mobile app so we can record purchases right when we make them. It then syncs with the desktop to keep everything in balance.
When we reconcile our bank accounts each month, Quicken basically does this for us. It matches up all the transactions and let’s us know if something needs to be figured out or not.
BUT… admittedly, there are a couple of drawbacks.
- It’s a Windows desktop application.
- There is a bit of a learning curve figuring out how to initially set up the budget for your specific needs. Because of the extreme flexibility, that also means a bit more upfront work to get it set up.
Aaron / Three Thrifty Guys
“As for our favorite tools / apps for keeping track of the budget? We’d have to say that our 2 Checking Account System works wonders as it (can) alleviate using a budget altogether. By distinguishing between fixed / variable expenses, it makes finances so much easier and manageable. Charlie and I both use it.”
Todd Weitzman / Money Hax
“There are a few apps to use when managing budgets. Personal Capital is one I would recommend for those with higher balances, given it’s robust dashboard and features. Mint is still another great alternative as well, although we like to avoid all of the advertising that comes with the dashboard.”
Kevin H. / Financial Panther
“A few of my favorite apps for keeping track of my budget are Mint, Qapital, and a newer app I’ve been using lately called Albert. Mint gives me an overall view of my accounts. I use Qapital to round up all of my transactions and save the spare change for me. And then I use Albert’s smart savings feature to monitor my bank account and pull out extra money each week that it thinks I won’t need. It’s a great way to squeeze our just a little bit of extra savings without even noticing it.”
Andy Hill / Marriage Kids and Money
“I’ve been a Mint fan for 7 years. It helps my wife and I stay on top of our monthly spending, saving and giving. By tracking our money through Mint, we were able to pay off our 15 year mortgage in less than 5 years.”
David Cahill / FinanceSuperhero
“I have to be honest: I’m a 100%, full-blown budget nerd. I’ve kept a unique monthly budget without fail since I started my first job out of college in August 2009. (If someone wants to send me a plaque on my 10 year anniversary, that’d be GREAT.)
When it comes to budgeting, I think I’ve tried it all: paper and pencil, template worksheets, Microsoft Money (does anyone else actually remember this?), Personal Capital, Gazelle Budget, and now EveryDollar.
I always recommend that anyone who is looking to create a budget for the first time do so with paper and pencil. It is really eye-opening to comb over your numbers in detail, do some old-fashioned number crunching, and really pay attention to where you’re spending your money.
Personally, I use the EveryDollar app these days for my own budgeting needs. It easily syncs with all of my bank accounts while still forcing me to actually do the work of sorting my transactions. I love that it has an easy to use drag-and-drop feature, allows me to build funds for all of (our) savings goals, and even reminds me to create a new budget for the month ahead a few days in advance.
And since I like to stay pretty busy (husband, dad, full-time teacher, realtor, and blogger), I like that I can keep my budget in order in just a few minutes each week using EveryDollar.”
[clickToTweet tweet=”I have to be honest: I’m a 100%, full-blown budget nerd. #FinanceSuperHero #budgeting” quote=”I have to be honest: I’m a 100%, full-blown budget nerd. #FinanceSuperHero ” theme=”style3″]
Kelan & Brittany Kline / The Savvy Couple
“Our number one favorite app to help keep track of our budget is Mint. Not only is the website user-friendly, but their app is just as easy to use! If you have not started a household budget, Mint is the perfect starter tool and the only tool you will ever need to track your budget. It is simple to connect all of your accounts; mortgage, cars, bills, loans, savings accounts, investment accounts and more all in one place.
After you connect your credit and debit accounts, every transaction starts to show up to be placed into a budget category. You set your budget limits for each month. They use a three-color system (green, yellow, and red) to help you visually see how your spending is progressing throughout the month.
We love being able to track our net worth and aim for early retirement while we strive for financial independence.”
Lance Cothern, Founder / Money Manifesto
“My favorite tools for keeping track of my expenses is an old 2015 desktop version of Quicken. As an accountant, I like the way Quicken works and the reports the software generates, as well as the fact that I can keep my database of info without renewing a subscription each year like the new Quicken requires.”
Andrew / Family Money Plan
“My favourite tool for keeping track of my budget is my net worth tracker. I’ve found by having this tool/spreadsheet, and updating it every month, keeps me focused on growing my assets and keeping my spending in check. It was a big reason on how we paid off our mortgage in 6 years.”
Cynthia / Saving and Simplicity
“In answer to your question I really like the Dave Ramsey Every Dollar app to keep track of our family budget. I am also a fan of writing everything down the “old school” way and having a paper budget. In the world of personal finance, I am supportive of whichever way will help a family succeed in their budgeting goals. In the end as long as you stick to your budget and achieve your financial goals the road you travel and the tools you use is of personal choice.”
Melissa Berry, Editor and Content Manager / Sunburnt Saver
“My number one tool for keeping track of my budget is Mint! I know, it’s been around forever and it’s free, but it works!! I love Mint because it’s easy to set up, makes seeing your budget super easy, and it’s free. It helps you stay on track as long as you log in and check it! :)”
Kristin Larsen / Believe In A Budget
“One of my favorite apps that I use every month is Ibotta. I use this app after every shopping trip to redeem instant cash-back rebates. This, whether it’s the grocery store or a big-box store. This helps me to save anywhere between $20 – $30 per month. I like to let my savings add up in the Ibotta app throughout the year. Then towards the holidays, I cash out my balance and have instant money to spend on gifts and travel!”
Joe Udo / Retire By 40
“I use two things to keep track of my spending. I update my cash flow spreadsheet once per month. This takes time, but it gives me a good overview of how we make and spend money each month. It’s a really good review for me. For casual checking, I use Personal Capital. It gives me a quick overview.”
Matt / Distilled Dollar
Instead of setting a budget, I focus each day on being frugal and living by the principles of minimalism. I make my money decisions on what to buy and what not to buy from this framework. If you’re not monitoring your spending, and if you’re not spending in accordance with your values, then I believe a budget becomes a necessity.
I would highly recommend Mint and Personal Capital to at least monitor spending. If you prefer a budget, then each of these resources is my #1 recommendation to set up your budget for free.
Jacob Fisker / Early Retirement Extreme
“I don’t keep track of a budget. Instead, I consider the price I paid for something from which I subtract the price I could recover if I were to sell it and divide by either the numbers of days, months, or years I’ve owned or the number of times I’ve used it. This gives me the “imputed rent rate”. I simply minimize that number as much as possible. Doing it this way gets around the idea implied by budgeting that all outlays are permanently “sunk”. What matters is how quickly they’re sinking.”
[clickToTweet tweet=”I don’t keep track of a budget. Instead, I … #EarlyRetirementDream #budgeting” quote=”I don’t keep track of a budget. Instead, I … #EarlyRetirementDream” theme=”style3″]
Brian Meiggs, Founder / My Millennial Guide
“One of my favorite financial tools is Mint. I use Mint to manage my personal finances which include my budget, tracking daily transactions and keeping up with my net worth. I’m able to use it to link up my bank accounts, credit cards, loan, and investment accounts to track all the activity. I set up a detailed budget with specific categories and receive alerts for bills as they come due or when balances dip. I really am able to build wealth with this app as I can map out my entire financial life. I would recommend using Mint to just about anyone who wants to take control of their financial lives!”
“My favorite app to track my budget is Personal Capital. Not only is it a great budgeting app but it also provides a holistic picture of one’s finances. Personal Capital is the only app that I check on a daily basis.”
Jasmine Watts / Editor-in-Chief at Miss Millennia Magazine
“I love Cinch, Stash, Debitize and Digit to name a few. I have a great post with my favorite budgeting tools here as well.”
Eva Baker, Founder / Teens Got Cents
“My favorite app for teens is Good Budget. It is a digital envelope system, which is the system I suggest teens start with as they are learning to manage their money. In the beginning I think it is helpful to deal with cash money but once a teen has that down it’s easy to move to a digital platform. I keep track of my income and all spending right from my phone when I make a purchase. It’s very helpful to know where every dollar is going especially because most teens don’t make all that much money.
Good Budget has a free version with 10 envelopes that is perfect for most young people.”
Kamika Brown / The Kay Saga
“My app for keeping track of my budget is You Need a Budget, also known as YNAB. This app has taught me how to tell my money where to go instead of wondering where it went. I have also been able to live on last month’s income as a direct result of using this app. It more than pays for itself with the amount of money that I save in my budget each month.”
Lauren Bowling / Financial Best Life
“I like Qapital – the app works with my budget and helps me save without feeling the pinch by sneaking away bits of change here and there. It’s come in handy for when I want to budget/save more for traveling. but I don’t want to take away from the automatic deductions already transferring to my savings account.”
“I am really old school when it comes to tracking my money, and I just make sure to log into my online banking every morning as part of my morning routine. I make sure that everything is as I expect it to be, and if it isn’t then I take action. This is how I spotted £1000’s worth of fraudulent transactions from my bank account and was able to act quickly to inform my bank and retrieve my costs.”
Latoya Scott, CFEI/Writer/CEO/Founder / Life And A Budget
“Truthfully, my favorite way of keeping up with my budget has by far been pen and paper. I’ve created a few printables that help me remember everything I’m supposed to track and it helps keep my husband and me on the same page for the most part. I have tried a lot of budgeting software systems and my favorite is Every Dollar; however, what annoys me most about online systems is that I need a computer. Sometimes having things written down comes in handy because I feel like I can grab what I need at any moment without always having to be chained to my computer or cell phone.”
Alex Nettheim / The Penny Pincher
“With so many financial apps available, it’s hard to choose a favorite! Our top three would be Debitize, Status Money and Digit. But if we had to pick one, it’d be Digit because it makes saving simple – automating the perfect amount of savings based on your income & spending is a genius idea.”
Alexa Mason / Single Moms Income
“I actually prefer to sit down and do a written budget every few months – especially if I know my expenses are about to (or need to) change. I’ve always preferred pen and paper when it comes to budgets however, I do also use the Mint App. Mint is free and it makes tracking money incredibly easy. Plus, it’s nice to be able to instantly view where my spending is at for the month.”
Tina Roth / Pro Finance Blog
“With lots of apps available to track & manage our budget, I always prefer free and simple apps to use. MINT is my first choice and among others I use Goodbudget, and BillGuard. Believe me, Excel is still pretty easy way to track and manage your expenses.”
Zina Kumok / Conscious Coins
“I really like using Mint and have been doing so for more than seven years. At this point, Mint has figured out which expenses belong to which category, so it doesn’t take me long to sort through. I like how easy it is to use, especially since I have multiple bank accounts and credit cards.”
Elle Martinez / Couple Money
“Right now our favorite apps to manage our money and save more are Personal Capital and Qapital. We have monthly money dates and it is wonderful to pull up our numbers quickly to review how things are going. I’m enjoying Qapital as it makes savings really easy and gamifies the process.”
Holly Johnson / Club Thrifty
“We use a zero-sum budget each month, but we don’t use a snazzy spreadsheet. We write out our budget with pen and paper instead, and “mark” things off as they are paid. We also track our spending by logging into our checking and credit card accounts a few times a week. Last but not least, we use Personal Capital to track our net worth and get a holistic view of our finances in real time.”
John Schmoll, Jr. / Frugal Rules
“I’m old school with our budget and track everything through Excel. It’s easy for me to use and (I) can get a quick glimpse of where we stand within a few minutes. For something more automated I tend to refer people to Tiller or YNAB as they’re both fairly simple to use. The important thing is to find something you like and (that) works for you. There are so many free, or cheap, tools out there to manage your budget that you have plenty of choice if just starting out.”
Jonathan Ping / My Money Blog
“My favorite tools and apps for tracking my budget are Mint and Personal Capital.”
AND ONE MORE…
“Keeping tabs on your personal finances and spending habits can be difficult, but Planswell’s online monthly budget calculator makes it easy for you to tally up your total monthly expenses, annual expenses and your income.” Kristian / Plan$well
Wow! Over 30 of the best budgeting tools were mentioned.
- Personal Capital
- Excel Spreadsheets
While these were the tools that received the most mentions, we’re definitely checking out the ones that don’t get much airplay. Were any of your favorites on the list? Do you have a favorite budgeting tool or app that wasn’t mentioned?
Please let us know about it in the comments.