5 Budget Apps That Will Change Your Life (And 1 That Won’t)

Doing a budget is one of the most powerful ways to gain control over your money and turn your financial life around.

But getting started can be a monumental task.

There’s always the tried and true pen and paper technique, but it’s not 1873 and trying to keep the ink on those quill pens is dreadfully tedious.

You could whip out a spreadsheet. And then…well…making progress from there is a real uphill battle.

And this is where the internet swoops in and solves all our problems, right?

Not really.

There are literally hundreds (if not thousands) of budget apps out there…and that’s not really helpful.

And we don’t need 1,000 budget solutions or even 10 budget solutions. We only need 1.

Luckily for us, most of the budget apps out there totally suck.

And that’s good news because it means that today I can present to you with these 5 budget apps that will change your life.

I’m certain from this list you will find the one budget solution that best suits the way you think about and manage your money.

And, of course, I’ll be discussing one budget app that won’t change your life, and I’ll share why it’s a very valuable tool…just not for budgeting.

So without further delay, let’s unleash the apps.

5 Budget Apps That Will Change Your Life

1. You Need a Budget (YNAB)

You Need a Budget, or YNAB (why-nab) as it’s often referred to, is a budget app built around 4 basic money rules, the very first of which is Give Every Dollar a Job.

YNAB uses a zero-based budget method that requires you to assign every dollar to a budget category. This is a pretty standard budgeting method used by many different apps.

Where the YNAB method differs from some other budget apps is that you only budget dollars you currently have in your bank account right now. You’re essentially assigning dollars to categories as each paycheck hits your checking account.

One really unique benefit of YNAB is the popular community that has grown up around the tool. If you’re new to budgeting, you’ll quickly find many others willing to offer assistance and answer questions in their online forums and on their site.

They also offer free online workshops to provide real-time answers to customer questions as well as tutorials on how to use the many YNAB features.

Supplementing those resources is an extensive library of tutorials in both written form on its website and in video form on its YouTube channel.

If you’re just starting out with budgeting and looking for the whole package, YNAB is a great place to start.

Price

$11.99/month or $84/year | 34-Day Free Trial

Apps

  • Website, iPad, iPhone, Android, Apple Watch, Alexa

Key Features

  • Free education via YouTube, Facebook Community, Online Workshops
  • Connect your bank account to load transactions automatically.
  • Spouse/Partner Sharing
  • Enter transactions manually or link bank accounts for automatic syncing.
  • Syncs across multiple devices

Get it here: You Need a Budget (YNAB)

2. EveryDollar

EveryDollar is the budget app created by the team at Ramsey Solutions and is part of the Financial Peace University classes taught by radio personality and personal finance guru Dave Ramsey.

As the name suggests, EveryDollar uses a zero-based budgeting method that requires you to assign every dollar to a budget category.

The key difference from YNAB is that EveryDollar wants you to budget your money monthly based on your expected income, not paycheck to paycheck based on the money you’ve already received.

From there, the budgeting concepts are largely the same – assigning dollars to specific categories and tracking expenses to make sure you stay within your budget for each category.

You can roll unspent money from each category over to the next month’s budget building in a nice incentive to spend less each month.

EveryDollar is tied closely with the 7 Baby Steps that are taught in the Financial Peace University classes.

The 7 Baby Steps are:

  • Baby Step 1: Save $1,000
  • Baby Step 2: Pay Off All Debt Except Your Home
  • Baby Step 3: 3 to 6 Months of Expenses in an Emergency Fund
  • Baby Step 4: 15% of Income Invested for Retirement
  • Baby Step 5: College Savings
  • Baby Step 6: Pay Off Your House Early
  • Baby Step 7: Build Wealth and Give

Progress in the app is tied to achieving these milestones and encourages budgeters to continually make progress toward these goals.

EveryDollar offers a free version for those willing to enter spending transactions manually as well as a paid version that connects to your bank account pulling transactions automatically.

If you’re someone who prefers the detail of entering your transactions manually, the free version is a nice option.

Price

EveryDollar: Free – Manually Entering Transactions
EveryDollar Plus: $9.99/month billed annually for $129.99 | 15-Day Free Trial

Apps

  • Website, iPhone, Android

Key Features

  • Free Version
  • Built Around the 7 Baby Steps
  • Spouse/Partner Sharing
  • Enter transactions manually or link bank accounts for automatic syncing.
  • Syncs across multiple devices.

Get it Here: Every Dollar

3. Mvelopes

Mvelopes is a budgeting system based on the classic budgeting process of putting physical cash into physical paper envelopes designated for specific spending categories.

A tried and true budgeting method for over a hundred years, Mvelopes brings the same methodology into the age of digital money and smartphones.

Like, YNAB, Mvelopes is built around the concept of budgeting only money you currently have in your bank accounts. As more money comes in, you’ll be prompted to allocate those dollars to specific categories at that time.

Mvelopes encourages financial growth through the earning of colored belts, like in martial arts. As you complete certain financial steps, you’ll earn higher-level belts, ultimately becoming a Black Belt Budgeter.

Also similar to, YNAB, Mvelopes has a robust Learning Center with videos on how to use the tool, but also on general money management and financial education topics as well.

Unlike other services, Mvelopes offers one-on-one financial coaching, providing either quarterly phone calls or monthly phone calls with Personal Finance Trainers that will walk you through setting up your budget and help hold you accountable to meet your goals. Think personal trainers at the gym, except for your money.

This one-on-one coaching is highly valuable to some people but is also likely the reason this is one of the more expensive solutions out there.

Price

Basic: $6/month
Live Chat Support, Weekly Training Webinars


Plus: $19/month
Basic features plus – 1-on-1 Setup Assistance, Quarterly Personal Finance Trainer, Full Access to Learning Center Video Library


Complete: $59/month
Plus features plus – Monthly Personal Finance Trainer, Custom Budget Plan, Custom Education Plan

30-Day Free Trial

Apps

  • Website, iPhone, Android

Key Features

  • Personal Financial Trainers
  • Video Education & Tutorial Library
  • Spouse/Partner Sharing
  • Link bank accounts for automatic transaction syncing
  • Syncs across multiple devices.

Get it Here: Mvelopes

4. Mint

Founded in 2006, Mint is one of the grandfathers of digital personal finance apps.

Originally built as a fairly simple aggregator of financial information, Mint has grown into a full-fledged budgeting and spend-tracking solution.

Mint’s bread and butter is its powerful tagging capabilities for transactions, allowing it to surface spending patterns and even suggest budget amounts based on past spending behavior.

Like, EveryDollar, Mint allows you to enter your expected income, then budget according to that dollar amount…or not.

In Mint, you can create a budget for your entire monthly spending, or just pick a few categories that you want to monitor.

You have a lot of freedom to do…or not do…whatever you’d like.

Mint is completely free, which is a big selling point for a lot of people, but that means you’ll have to be ok with lots of advertisements trying to push you into different paid products such as loans and credit cards. As long as you’re ok glancing past those every day, Mint could be a quality solution for you.

Price

Free.

Apps

Website, iPhone, iPad, Android

Key Features

  • Free.
  • Excellent spend-tracking charts and graphs.
  • View your Credit Score anytime.
  • Spouse/Partner Sharing
  • Link bank accounts for automatic transaction syncing
  • Syncs across multiple devices.

Get it Here: Mint

5. HoneyFi

HoneyFi is a relatively new mobile-only budget app built specifically to help couples who prefer to manage their money separately but want or need to share specific money obligations.

Unlike other budgeting solutions, each person gets their own unique login credentials and can choose how much information to share with the other.

You can share bills, add notes to shared transactions, and even assign transactions to each other.

A unique feature of HoneyFi is that when you save money for future goals you actually transfer that money into your goals account in HoneyFi where it is stored in a savings account behind the scenes.

This feature is offered as a solution to keep your money for future goals in a separate account from your main spending account, hopefully reducing the chances you’ll raid that money during a shopping spree or night out on the town.

While HoneyFi isn’t as robust as YNAB or EveryDollar, it is the only solution truly built for couples that need or want more granular sharing options when it comes to their finances. If that’s you, HoneyFi is worth considering.

Price

$9.99/month
$59.99/year (About $5 a month.)

Apps

iPhone, Android (Mobile Only)

Key Features

  • Share only what you need or want
  • Assign transactions to each other
  • Save money for future goals in your HoneyFi Goals account.
  • Spouse/Partner Sharing (Duh!)
  • Link bank accounts for automatic transaction syncing
  • Syncs across multiple devices

Get it Here: Honey Fi

And 1 Budget App that Won’t Change Your Life

6. Personal Capital

Personal Capital is not a budget app. It is a wealth management app with some minor budgeting features thrown in.

I include it here simply because I see this app pop up all too often in many “Best Budget Apps” lists.

Personal Capital is a great financial aggregator, like Mint, pulling in all your various financial accounts so you can see your whole financial life in one clean dashboard.

For investments, it has a great analyzer that shows your current holdings and you can easily see a breakdown of your positions by asset class as well as earnings over preset or custom time periods.

For budgeting, though, you’re only given the opportunity to set a specific monthly budget amount, then track your spending to see how well you do. You can tag transactions with specific spending categories to generate nice charts and graphs of your spending over time, but there are no alerts when you spend over your desired monthly budget amount, and no way to set more granular budget limits for specific spending categories.

I use Personal Capital and I love it. It’s a great way to see all of our financial assets in one place. It’s a great way to keep track of our investments and our overall net worth. It’s a great way to see our monthly, quarterly or annual spending habits.

But it is not a great way to budget our money.

Personal Capital is a fantastic overall money management tool specifically geared towards investments, but if you’re trying to get a handle on your money and put guardrails in place to keep you from overspending, Personal Capital is not the right tool for that job, even if the price is right. (Free!)

Price

Free

Apps

Website, iPhone, Android

Key Features

  • Investment Tracking
  • Investment Fee Analyzer
  • Investment Advisory Services if Necessary (for a fee)
  • Not Budgeting!

Get it Here: Personal Capital

Time to Do a Budget and Change Your Life

If you’re ready to start taking control of your money, I’m certain one of the 5 budget apps above will help you do just that.

Remember, doing a budget isn’t a one-time thing. It’s a whole new skill you’re learning, so be patient with yourself. Give yourself time to use the learning resources for the tool of your choice.

You’ll learn a lot in month one, but you’ll do even better in month two.

By month 6 you won’t even recognize yourself anymore.

All it takes is one step to get started.

And if you’re interested in the super awesome budgeting solution that my wife and I have used, feel free to download my Live Your Wage Budget Spreadsheet.

This is a simple version of the exact budget spreadsheet my wife and I have used for over 10 years.


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