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Best Budgeting Tools: Our Favorite Apps and Websites

The best budgeting tools for controlling your spending; free and paid apps and Websites to help you manage your cash flow and save more money.


We live in a world where technology makes it possible for you to get a little help with your finances from web apps. Budgeting tools — apps and Websites — can help you keep track of where your money is right now, as well as help you recognize trends in your spending so that you can identify problems and make changes.

Below are some of the most popular budgeting tools. Consider your personal financial style and choose an app that works well with your individual money needs.

Personal Capital

Best budgeting tools: Personal Capital

If you are really into the investment component of your finances, Personal Capital offers you the chance to manage your finances and make better investment decisions. You can track your other accounts, but Personal Capital shines by pulling in your investment account information and analyzing.

Personal Capital can help you put together a long-term investing plan in a way that Mint can’t compete with, and that LearnVest requires payment for. You can use the fee analyzer to see if you are getting the most efficient use of your money, and you can also use get help with asset allocation. This budgeting app is more about planning and the future, and can help you put together a retirement investment plan that can benefit you for years to come.

Personal Capital is free, but you can choose to pay for premium services if you want them.

Read our complete review of Personal Capital here.

LearnVest

Best budgeting tools: LearnVest

While Mint offers the ability to track your investments, it falls short in terms of offering insights and advice about what you should do next. LearnVest makes up for this. Originally, LearnVest was aimed at women, but now it’s aimed at everyone.

LearnVest allows you to plan your finances, and helps you track your transactions. You can also use LearnVest to keep up with your investments, and get helpful hints on how to proceed. LearnVest adds a personal touch to budgeting, and takes it to the next level, with its educational tools. You can pay for premium services which help you put together a five-year plan, and you can access “boot camps” that teach you the basics of money management and investing.

Use the free Financial Checkup to see exactly where you stand with your money, and see where you need to go next.

You Need a Budget (YNAB)

Best budgeting tools: You Need a Budget

One of the more popular budgeting apps in recent years is YNAB. This app works on the zero-based budgeting principle. YNAB helps you take your regular income and give every dollar a job. One of the nice things about YNAB is that you can manage your cash flow, by figuring out the timing for your income, and coordinating it with your expenses.

YNAB syncs between your desktop and your mobile device, and allows you to enter transactions on your mobile device in real time. YNAB places priority on your involvement with your money, helping you manage things in a way that is very “hands on” when you compare it to Mint. YNAB requires a purchase of the app.

Mint

Best budget tools: Mint

One of the most well-known budgeting apps is Mint. The company was bought by Intuit a few years ago, and as a result it’s no surprise that Quicken looks a lot like Mint now.

Mint connects to your bank accounts and keeps track of your transactions. At any given time, it’s possible to take a look at where you stand. The mobile app means that you don’t need to be at home to look at your finances.

Mint is known for its easy-to-read and visually attractive graphs. You can easily see where your money is going. You can incorporate credit card accounts, other loan accounts, and even track your investments. Additionally, Mint makes it easy to compare fees you might be paying and look for savings in your budget. You can also set up reminders and alerts to keep you on top of bill pay and warn you if account balances fall below certain levels.

HelloWallet

Best budgeting tools: HelloWallet

Any account can be added to HelloWallet, and it will help you track your net worth and your spending. One of the cool things about HelloWallet is that you can enter an asset — such as a valuable piece of art — and it will include that information in calculations. While you can’t pay your bills from this app, you can set up a variety of reminders to help you stay on top of any situation that involves money.

You can also receive daily guidance about what to do with your money, based on your net worth and your spending habits. This is quasi-tailored to you, based on the habits of others in your peer group. Plus, you can also add a layer of categorization to your spending, based on your feelings about the expenditure. You will pay a monthly fee to use HelloWallet, but it can be useful if you want a little more nuanced experience with your money.

BillGuard

Best budget tools: BillGuard

BillGuard is more of a supplement to your budgeting apps. BillGuard tracks your spending and compares you to other consumers. It also analyzes your spending and presents you with opportunities to save money. The coolest thing about BillGuard, though, is the way it helps you identify third-party charges and recurring charges that you might not realize you are still paying. With the knowledge from BillGuard, you can address billing problems and save money each month. BillGuard even lets you resolve billing problems by connecting you to merchants and retailers.

Mvelopes

Best budgeting tools: Mvelopes

As you might gather from the name, this app takes the old “envelope” system of budgeting and makes it compatible with technology. However, you will pay for the service each quarter or year. With Mvelopes, you can see your past spending with the help of linked accounts, and then assign future money to “mvelopes” that help you stick to a budget. As with YNAB, you can’t track investments. You also can’t track your credit cards with Mvelopes.

Money Dance

Best budgeting tools: Money Dance

If you are looking for something that reminds you of how Quicken used to be, Money Dance can be a good choice. You’ll pay for the software, but it has a number of features. The display looks like a ledger, and you can automatically add recurring transactions, create charts and graphs to visually represent your spending, and project your finances. Money Dance has a homepage that quickly summarizes your financial situation, including assets and liabilities, and your net worth.

You can also track your investments, and there is functionality for multiple currencies. Money Dance is also compatible with the idea of reconciling your bank statements. If you wish that Quicken 2005 was still a Thing, Money Dance is probably right for you.

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Comments

  1. You should also link to YNAB (You Need A Budget)–a strength of this program is that it tracks accumulating sinking funds. –That’s where my system breaks down, but I’m fiddling around with a solution now. If it doesn’t work, I’m getting YNAB.

    http://www.youneedabudget.com/index.php

  2. Let it just be stated that I am concerned about privacy and do not like having my financial information stored on more servers than necessary. Partially because of these concerns, I’ve elected to use money management systems stored locally on my own computers.

    For those who use Linux, a very popular program is GnuCash. GnuCash allows users to download transaction records directly from their credit and banking institutions (that is, if their online banking and account management supports the common protocol: e.g. Citi lets me download my credit card transactions, whereas my regional bank does not for “security reasons.”) I find that this tool allows me to organize and analyze my expenses intuitively for the nice price of $0.00. GnuCash also works for people outside of the US as well, something I’m not sure of for Microsoft Money or Quicken.

  3. If you enjoy using Excel, you may want to consider a customized Excel file that includes registers (similar to a checkbook to track your accounts), the ability to create your own categories, create a monthly budget and view reports such as budget vs actual in a simple dashboard layout. See:

    http://www.georgesbudget.com/

    • Georges Budget is too restrictive, and the publisher does not address concerns, once he has sold you the goods. One example is that there is only room to post 4 accounts. I have more than 4 bank accounts, then I have a few credit cards. In this program there is no way to add more than 4 accounts.

      I suspect I am not alone with my opinion of this template, but since the “blog” feature on georgesbudget.com does not post your comments, I will never know. Interesting that the owner has even gone to the extent of disabling the comment tab on his youtube videos regarding this product.

      Dave

  4. http://sites.google.com/site/simpledbudget/

    I know that there are a lot of impressive and robust budgeting solutions around, but since my needs are simple … I like things that ARE simple, and free.

    I ran across a nifty little program called SimpleD Budget about a year ago when my finances were a mess and I desperately needed something I could use to figure out my spending.

    The simplicity is it’s power, in that you can bend it’s functionality to your own needs. The only serious issue is that the print function doesn’t work.

    It’s free, it’s easy and you can plan for months ahead if you wish. I’ve tried Quicken online and though I find it impressive, I still want more freedom than it allows. SimpleD lets you do whatever you want, and that’s what I want.

  5. Nate, I wasn’t able to get to the site you linked (insufficient privileges) I personally am a little weary of my info being out on someone else’s server, I mainly use a homemade spreadhsheet (like george’s but not as intense) to track my budget. whatever the tool, tracking a budget is so important!

  6. I use My Portfolio with Bank of America and it provides net worth figures and a budgeting option.

    It allows you to assemble all your bank deposit accounts, investments, credit cards, and loans, into a dashboard net worth view. Get this, you can even include non-Bank of America accounts in your net worth presentation. In addition, you can even add Other Assets and Other Liabilities through the “Manual Accounts” feature. This is useful for items that have value, but do not have traditional log-on website such as — the fair market value of your car, art, jewelry, etc., personal loans you owe to family/friends, company reimbursements due you, etc.

    To me, My Portfolio is just like mint.com but it is all embedded in the Bank of America website.

    Catch: You must participate in Online Banking with Bank of America which means that you must have either an online checking or online savings account.

  7. My first foray into budgeting software took me to Mint. But I didn’t like the way the interface worked, it wasn’t intuitive back then. So I landed on a product called MoneyWell. I believe it may only be for Mac (and now iOS) but it worked and I managed it for more than a year! It completely changed the way I spent money. It also uses the envelope theory. They have a free trial and then you have to pay for it. You might want to check it out if you’re not loving Mint.

  8. Buxfer.com is great! And free! You can tag things, and it gives you pie charts and bar graphs to show you where your money is going! Its simple too!

  9. Ty@Thriftability says:

    Thought this was great good article for someone like me who has a hard time trying to budget.