Ready or not, happy 2016! We always look forward to the new year and a chance to start anew, wipe our financial slates clean, set new goals, and rededicate ourselves to keeping a budget. And this year is no exception. One of biggest keys to keeping a budget is finding the right budgeting and expense tracking method for you. So without further ado, we give you the best budgeting and saving apps of 2016.
NOTE: All apps listed below are for iPhone. While we can’t speak to the availability or functionality on any other devices, many of them are available for Android.
Paid Budgeting Apps
We don’t often recommend spending money, but these apps may just be worth an exception. Occasionally, paying for something can actually save you money, such as budgeting apps. If a few dollars spent equals many dollars saved, we give it two thumbs up:
HomeBudget with Sync ($5.99 – 3.5 stars)
This is the app that we’ve used for a few years, and we continue to use it. If you’re looking for an app that requires you to manually enter your income and expenses, this is a great option. The setup is easy, you can make your budget as comprehensive as you’d like (or not like), while keeping it uncomplicated. Our favorite feature is that the app syncs between our devices so we can keep each other in the loop on our expenditures in real time. It’s not totally perfect, but as one reviewer put it, HomeBudget’s the least bad money tracker out there.
Coinkeeper ($1.99/month – 4.5 stars)
Coinkeeper has a fun interface of dropping “coins” into different expenses. Much like the “envelope system,” it’s nice to actually watch your money move from your accounts to your various categories. Its light, clean, simple design makes it easy and enjoyable to use. You manually enter your planned expenses and income, and it’s all visible in one place. The app is listed for free, but the premium (i.e., paid) option would be necessary for most to budget effectively. It is developed in Russia, so some of the text and labels in the app are lost in translation, but all in all, this is a very worthy app.
YNAB ($5.00/month – 3 stars)
The latest and greatest version of YNAB (which stands for You Need A Budget) automatically imports your bank accounts and expenses, but you still create your custom budget. You use the phone app in companionship with the web app, which allows you to create a budget that’s whole and comprehensive. And although your expenses are automatically imported, you still manually categorize and approve them so that you remain an active participant in your budgeting (which we’re huge proponents of). As with HomeBudget, YNAB syncs between devices so you and your spouse/partner can stay up to date.
Free Budgeting Apps
You won’t spend a dime on these apps, but they may save you lots and lots of dimes. If one of them sounds like it’ll fit your current budgeting needs, go get that freebie right now:
BillGuard (4.5 stars)
Unlike the other two free apps listed below, Billguard automatically tracks your spending, rather than entering it manually. You simply add your accounts during setup and all of your expenditures will be imported for you. But what makes Billguard unique from other budgeting and personal finance apps of its kind is that you can review your expenses and approve them. And true to its name, Billguard alerts you of any suspicious or duplicate charges to help keep your finances safe as well. Whether you end up using this app for tracking your budget or not, it’s worth downloading for this feature alone.
Dollarbird (4.5 stars)
This app is just a delight with its bright, simple design. This is a great option to get you started budgeting with just a few quick, easy steps. And the concept is simple: how much money you currently have versus how much you’re spending. Their unique calendar-view approach makes it super easy to see an overview of how much you spend each day throughout the month.
Fudget (3.5 stars)
If you’re looking for free and simple, Fudget is the budgeting app for you. They strip away all the bells and whistles and complexities of budgeting, but keep the meaty basics. This app helps you track your income and expenses and see where you stand, period. This is a great option for budgeting beginners and minimalists alike who just need/want to get in the habit of tracking where your money goes each month.
Free Savings Apps
We couldn’t resist including this category this year since there are so many clever, effective apps for saving money. We’ve used (and still use) all three of these apps and would recommend each and every one:
Digit automates your savings like a boss. It connects to your bank account, analyzes your spending, and then takes small amounts of money you don’t need (usually between $5 and $50) and saves it for you. It then updates you via text and tells you how much it has socked away into savings for you each week. The entire “app” takes place via text messaging, so if you ever want to check your balance or withdraw/transfer some of those savings, you just have to send a text and you’re on your way. We love how painless savings becomes with Digit. Get $5 deposited into your account for free when you sign up here.
Qapital (free – 4.5 stars)
Qapital helps you save by using rules, or more specifically IFTTT (if this then that) recipes. When one of the rules or goals you’ve set gets triggered by the recipe you’ve created (like completing a run with Nike+), money automatically gets saved. On the flip side, you can also have money taken away when you break rules you’ve set for yourself (like shopping at Target). Here are some of our favorite Qapital recipes. Qapital puts a fresh, fun, personal spin on saving money, and we can’t get enough of it. If that tickles your fancy, sign up here and earn $10 just for starting an account.
Acorns (free* – 4 stars)
Investing is no walk in the park, but Acorns makes it easy peasy. This app invests your spare change by rounding up your expenses to the nearest dollar and invests the extra into a diversified portfolio. It’s completely automatic, and your money doesn’t just get saved — it grows (assuming the markets are doing well). You can also deposit or withdraw your own specified amounts at any time. And while the app is technically free to download, once you start investing, it costs $1/month (but free if you’re a student).
General Finance Apps
Just in case keeping a budget is merely whetting your financial appetite, we’ve listed some general finance apps that are super helpful in their own special way:
Personal Capital (free* – 4.5 stars)
If you like Mint, you’ll love Personal Capital. If you’re already investing and starting to save for retirement, you may use Personal Capital to simply track your money over time. You can view all your accounts and investments in one place, analyze your net worth, and set financial goals. You can also receive personalized help from their financial advisors anytime you need it. And while the app is completely free to use, they do charge a 0.89% fee on all assets that are actively managed.
Penny (free – 4.5 stars)
Penny is billed as a “personal finance coach.” This clever app offers fun and useful insights about your spending, and it does so with a very personal interface. The entire experience happens via chat with “Penny,” your money coach, who tracks your spending and income, shares facts about your spending habits, and helps you plan for the weeks and months ahead. Penny is like having your very own financial assistant/friend who will never give you up, let you down, run around or desert you. (thanks, Rick Astley)
Mint (free – 4.5 stars)
When it comes to tracking your finances, Mint is the pioneer and godfather of all the personal finance apps. And although you can create your own budget in the app, we steer clear of using it for this purpose for a number of reasons, including the annoyance that many transactions end up miscategorized. So while using it for budgeting can be more tedious than it should be at times, we absolutely love using it as a way to see an overview of our money. All of our accounts are listed, so we can easily see where we stand financially with a big-picture perspective. When we track our net worth at the end of each month, we always use Mint to get it done.
We shop online for anything and everything these days. And one of our absolute favorite tools for maximizing our savings while we’re shopping is Ebates. They offer cash back if you shop through their site for most online stores. We save a couple hundred dollars each year from using it during our typical online shopping purchases. We couldn’t recommend it enough. And the best part? It’s totally free. No strings attached, no catch, and no gimmicks. Sign up for Ebates, and don’t miss out on any more free money!
Pin the image below to bookmark this post!
Hopefully one of these apps is just what you (and your budget) have been looking for. Finding the right app is only part of the solution. Our How to Start a Budget guide will help you figure out everything else.
May 2016 be the year we all have our very best budgets yet!