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My favorite budgeting apps

Tracking your spending and categorizing your expenses with the best budgeting apps can provide a hand-on or set and forget it method to better manage your finances and see where your money is going.

Empower stands out by offering a variety of features to help you better manage your investments, track your portfolio’s performance, understand your cash flow, and avoid hidden fees. The free financial tools it offers, including a Monthly Budget Calculator, can also help you save and budget.

Best budgeting apps for managing your money

Empower: Best for portfolio management

Empower, known prior as Personal Capital, is one of the best investment and budgeting tools available to deliver an overview of your financial profile.


Empower is a hybrid digital wealth management company and powerful finance app. In addition to paid investment management and advisory services, Empower offers a number of free tools and calculators to help with everything from net worth tracking to saving and retirement planning.

  • Easy-to-use app provides financial 'big picture'
  • Tools and calculators are completely free to use
  • Great security, including two-factor authentication
  • Wealth management fees can be be high
  • May be subject to upsells
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Empower Personal Wealth, LLC (“EPW”) compensates Webpals Systems S. C LTD for new leads. Webpals Systems S. C LTD is not an investment client of Personal Capital Advisors Corporation or Empower Advisory Group, LLC. | Personal Capital is now Empower.

The basic premise of Empower, formerly known as Personal Capital, is pretty straightforward: link up your bank account, and the app tracks your spending. Your results are displayed in easy-to-read charts on this budgeting app. It’s free to use for budgeting and even comes with a net worth tracker and a breakdown to track your investment portfolio.

But what I like most about Empower is the fee analyzer. It can be easy for lender fees to eat into anything you earn. This is especially true if you invest. Empower lets me see all that at a glance so I can constantly look for ways to reduce what I’m paying. That’s not the only chart you’ll get, though. You can also monitor your net worth, see how well you’re staying on budget, and keep an eye on how close you’re getting towards your retirement goals.

Empower also offers its Wealth Management plan, which is a premium service that has an annual fee of 0.89%.

  • Price – Budgeting is free; 0.89% of the first $1 million for investments.
  • Compatibility – Web, iOS, Android.
  • Unique features – Fee analyzer; Wealth Management service for accounts > $100K.

» MORE: Sign up for Empower or read our full Empower review

You Need a Budget (YNAB): Best for planning ahead

Living from paycheck to paycheck poses a very important challenge: what happens if an unexpected emergency drains your checking account? That’s where You Need a Budget (YNAB) comes in. More than a budgeting app, this tool helps you set a monthly budget in a way that actually teaches you about money management.

34-day free trial

You Need a Budget (YNAB) is more than a software program; it’s a lifestyle for budgeting.

Whether your goal is to get out of debt, break the paycheck-to-paycheck cycle, grow your savings accounts, or all of the above, YNAB’s theory is that giving every dollar “a job” can help.

Special offer: Start your journey with a 34-day trial. It’s easy—no credit card or commitment required.
  • Easy to get started with free trial
  • Track spending and saving goals
  • Both automatic and manual account linking
  • No spammy advertising or upsells
  • Learning curve for best use
  • Ongoing fee applies
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YNAB‘s budgeting method is to assign a “job” for every dollar that you earn, so that even before bills or payments come in, you know exactly where your money is assigned.

When you sign up for YNAB, you’ll answer some questions about your monthly expenses and financial goals. You’ll also link to a bank account. This part is optional, but I like to have my spending automatically tracked. I just don’t have time to manually input everything I spend each day.

Once it’s all set up, you can track your spending in each category to see how well you’re staying on target, as well as pull reports for a more specialized view.

  • Price – $14.99 per month or $98.99 per year.
  • Compatibility – Web, iOS, Android.
  • Unique features – Spend tracking, emergency padding.

» MORE: Try YNAB or read our full You Need A Budget review

PocketSmith: Best for forecasting

PocketSmith comes with its built-in financial forecasting helping you understand that what you spend your money on today impacts your financial future.


PocketSmith is an app that acts somewhat like a financial personal assistant. It helps you manage and organize your expenses in a way that allows you to understand your complete financial picture.

You can understand where you spend and then create a financial plan to better organize your spending.

Special offer: Get 50% off a monthly subscription for the first two months with our link and coupon.
  • Excellent budgeting features
  • Comprehensive financial dashboard
  • Links with multiple accounts
  • Pricing can be expensive
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With Pocketsmith, you can even test out scenarios — for example, if you skip your morning coffee and either invest or save that money, to see how that will pay off six months, one year, or 10 years down the line. This can otherwise be hard to see on a day-to-day basis. I liked testing a few different strategies and watching how the graph changed and what changes have an effect.

In addition to forecasting, PocketSmith also gives you a calendar view of your upcoming bills. I’ve found this type of layout makes it easy to see what I have coming up.

Like some of the other budgeting apps on this list, you can connect multiple accounts and monitor everything in one place. This includes your checking, savings, credit cards, and loan accounts. As you pull those accounts in, your transactions are automatically slipped into categories to help you better see where your money is going. This feature alone makes PocketSmith a great budgeting tool.

  • Price – Free to $19.95 a month.
  • Compatibility – Web, iOS, Android.
  • Unique features – Financial forecasting and bill calendar.

» MORE: Sign up for PocketSmith or read our full PocketSmith review

Also great

There’s a ton of good apps for budgeting out there. Data nerds, for instance, loved the former Mint app because they could analyze their spending habits and create a budget accordingly.

In our search for the best, we came across some other great ones that can provide more clarity on your financial picture or work best for couples. Compare them with our picks to see what works best for your personalized budgeting needs.


Simplifi connects to your bank accounts and automatically pulls in all of your transactions for easy categorization. It also recommends a budget based on your past spending habits but that is fully customizable.

Simplifi by Quicken

Simplifi by Quicken delivers a fresh personal finance app from an undeniably trustworthy brand to keep up with all of your money in one easy-to-use interface. 

You won’t have to spend time bopping from account to account just to see where your finances stand. Instead, you can log into Simplifi to see the big picture at a moment’s notice.

Special offer: Get 50% off your annual subscription vs. monthly and 30-days risk-free!
  • Provides extensive financial reports
  • User friendly experience
  • No ads
  • No free version
  • No credit score insights
Learn More

Simplifi was created by Quicken which is a powerhouse in the world of financial software. The Quicken products have been used by over 25 million people over four decades.

You can set goals and see your progress as you work towards them. It also allows you to pull reports so you can see exactly how you’ve spent your money. This can be a real eye-opener. In addition to your bank accounts, it can also connect to your loans, savings, and investment accounts so you can see your whole financial picture at a glance.

  • Price: $35.99 for the firster year (+ 30-day free trial)
  • Compatibility: Web, iOS, Android
  • Unique feature: You can see your whole financial picture in one place.

» MORE: Try Simplifi or read our full Simplifi review


Oportun Logo

Oportun, formerly Digit, is a budgeting app that takes automatic savings beyond what you typically see, using technology to help you set some money aside.

With Oportun, out of sight is out of mind. Oportun saves money in a way that you won’t notice, taking a little here and a little there until you reach your goal.

There’s also budgeting. After you link bills and credit cards it will automatically move money you’ll need for bills into a separate, dedicated account. Instead of budgeting your expenses each month, as you would with other apps, the Oportun app calculates a smart amount to budget for your bills whenever you make a deposit.

  • Price – $5 per month.
  • Compatibility – Web, iOS, Android.
  • Unique features – Automatic savings powered by algorithms.


Empower App Logo

Sometimes, no matter how well you budget, you need a little extra money to get to payday. Empower steps in to help with that, issuing you a $250¹ advance with no interest. The money is just taken out of your next paycheck.

What sets Empower apart for me is that you get a debit card with your account. When you make qualifying purchases, you’ll earn 10% cash back at qualifying retailers (yes, 10%!). The offers are customized to your spending habits so, over time, you’ll save even more.

Empower’s budgeting feature comes in the form of reports you can pull each month that show where you’re spending. You’ll be able to see your income, expenses, and savings across all the accounts you have linked. You can also set monthly spending limits to keep yourself in check.

To help you set money aside, Empower has an autosave feature that’s based on your spending habits. Each week, Empower makes up to four transfers to your savings account in small amounts as it looks like you can afford them. Over time, your savings will grow without you having to make any extra efforts to get it there.

  • Price – $8 per month; no fees for checking.
  • Compatibility – iOS, Android.
  • Unique features – Cash advances up to $250¹.

» MORE: Read our full Empower App review

The competition

Some more budgeting-related apps you may have heard of.


Goodbudget is a budgeting app is ideal for those who use the “envelope system” and don’t care for sophisticated money management apps that come with a steep learning curve.

With traditional envelope budgeting, you literally use envelopes for each of your specific spending categories. Then, your money physically goes into its designated envelope. No taking it out for anything else. But since few people carry much cash these days and most of our bills are paid online, Goodbudget has brought the old-school system into the digital age. Goodbudget is ideal for couples as you can share multiple envelopes to see how your spending’s going as a team.

  • Price – Free option; Goodbudget Plus is the premium version at $8/month or $70/year.
  • Compatibility – Web, iOS, Android.
  • Unique features – Allows you to use the envelope system.


PocketGuard is all about simplification, both in-app and of your finances, with a focus providing you a quick snapshot of your spending and monitoring of your progress.

With PocketGuard, you can link your banks, credit cards, loans and investments in one place. This helps keep track of your account balances and make sure you have enough for bills, goals, and necessities. PocketGuard also incidentally works as a fraud detector on your bank account if it’s linked.

There’s a milestone system to set specific, measurable, achievable, and timely goals to hit. The idea behind this is that small wins motivate you to set more goals and move forward.

  • Price – Basic is free; PocketGuard Plus is $7.99/mo. or $34.99/year with the option to purchase to own it for a lifetime for $79.99.
  • Compatibility – Web, iOS, Android.
  • Unique features – SMART goal strategy.

How to choose a budgeting app

Now that we’ve looked at the best budgeting apps out there, it’s time to help you decide which one to go with.

When you’re looking for a budgeting app, certain features make some better than others. Here are some important factors to consider to help you decide on the best money management app for your unique situation.

Budgeting capabilities

Budgeting is the most basic feature provided by money management apps. Each has a somewhat different way of going about the process, and all the apps listed are designed specifically to accommodate various personal preferences. I prefer budgeting apps that connect easily to your bank accounts so that you can track your finances stress-free.

Additional features

Most budgeting apps go beyond basic budgeting. Some will provide advice on debt and investments, others will identify unnecessary expenses, and some will even renegotiate existing bills. You can also look for budgeting apps that offer unique perks like credit monitoring services so that you can really get to the next level with your finances.

Automatic bill payment capabilities are another good feature to look for in a money management app, unless you prefer to handle bill paying on your own schedule. It all depends on how hands-on you want to be with your money management.


The best budgeting apps will synchronize your accounts automatically, making money management easy. Make sure you’re comfortable with this, though. There are some apps that will give you the option to do it manually if that’s your preference.


We’ve included apps ranging in price from free to as much as almost $600 per year. The free versions may provide all that you need for your own personal budgeting activities. Or, you may want to pay for a service that offers special tools and features you specifically need or want.

On that note…

Free vs. paid budgeting apps

Is it worth paying for a budgeting app when there are so many free money management apps available?

That all depends on the tools and features the app offers. If an app is free, that provides an obvious money-saving opportunity. But if it doesn’t have the capabilities you need to better manage your budget, you’ll be better off with a paid version. Since the cost of budget apps is relatively low, this is usually not a major problem.

However, just because a budget app is free doesn’t mean it’s a bad choice. You may decide to go with a free app because it provides only basic budgeting capabilities, and that’s all you’re interested in. You may not need all the bells and whistles offered by the paid versions.

Customer service

Budgeting is best when you can focus your mental energy on the cash coming in and out — you don’t want to be frustrated by a tech or system issue popping up.

Try contacting customer service with a question before you sign up, to see how responsive and supportive they are.  You can also check review sites like Trustpilot to see what others have to say about their experience with the app


Since you’re connecting your most sensitive information, you may be wondering if your financial information is safe on these budgeting apps.

Generally speaking, yes. But absolute safety of information isn’t achievable on any app, or on any other Internet-based service for that matter. There are certain vulnerabilities inherent in operating on the Internet, and while each app has its own safety features built-in, there’s never a guarantee. Like with everything these days, be sure to read the fine print on security before signing up for any budget app — or any online or mobile app at all, for that matter.

Ease of use

It does little good to use a budgeting app if it’s too complicated. We’ve naturally favored those that are easier to use on this list because we feel that the best money management apps should offer simplicity.

Ratings by app users

Each of the apps on this list has been included because it is generally considered to be user-friendly by actual users on the Google Play or App Store download pages, where available.

Why should you use a budgeting app?

The idea of using a money management app can seem like another barrier when you’re new to the world of personal finance. However, budgeting apps are a tool that make managing your finances much simpler.

Here are a few reasons why you should use a budgeting app.

You want to make budgeting easier

A personal finance app is convenient. That’s why you have your phone attached to you at all times. Taking advantage of budgeting apps can make budgeting much easier — all you have to do is connect your bank account and most apps will take care of the rest. You can see where your money’s going, how you’re progressing towards your various financial goals, and where you could use some assistance.

Having an app automatically sort your transactions and remind you when bills are due is like having a personal assistant right in your pocket.

You need motivation

No matter what your financial goal is, it can be tough to stay on track. A budgeting app gives you an incentive to pay attention to your spending habits. If you’re the type who’s motivated by seeing results on a screen, it can really work for you when you see how close you are to having enough money for that vacation.

You have a hard time remembering due dates and account balances

Some budgeting apps go beyond just helping you budget and track your purchases. Some can send you alerts when you’re nearing a category threshold, while others can alert you to upcoming bill due dates.

There are even some that will alert you to the fees you’re paying and negotiate certain bills on your behalf. All of those things can make budgeting apps appealing no matter what your situation.


If you’ve been having difficulty managing your finances, you can definitely get good, reliable help with the many budgeting software options out there. Since there are so many, the trick is going with the one that best fits your personal needs and preferences.

Finding the best budgeting app means adding one of the needed tools to your personal finance toolkit of best personal finance products to get ahead on your finances. The best money management app will be the one that helps you gain control of your finances so that you know where your money’s going and what your finances will be like in the future.

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