Budgeting used to be a messy affair involving piles of receipts, sharp pencils, and paper ledgers, but in the digital era, a few taps on your phone or laptop can let you take charge of your finances and your life.
Personal finance tools and apps are evolving so rapidly that these days you can find one to manage just about any need. We’ve put together this list of the best budget apps and personal finance tools so that you can spend less, save more, and keep your money goals on track.
Some apps are free and others charge a monthly or annual fee, but you may be able to find discounts for those via Google search.
Best free tools
1. Mint tops just about every list of useful personal finance tools, so it may well be the best budgeting app on the market. Mint is owned by Intuit, the same company that makes Turbotax software, and was one of the earliest personal finance apps to launch—giving it a headstart on the other apps when it comes to learning what users want.
This free tool puts all your bank accounts, credit cards, bills, and investments in one location. When you open the app, you will quickly see an overview of your vital financial data, including your credit score and net worth. MintSights, one of the app’s newer features, analyzes your data, and provides tips for reaching your financial goals. Mint users can also sign up to receive fraud alerts.
2. Wally is a free app that is primarily a budgeting tool. It can streamline budgeting by allowing you to scan receipts instead of manually entering spending data.
Unlike many of the other best budgeting apps, Wally allows you to manage accounts and transactions in foreign currencies, which can help if you live abroad or travel frequently.
3. Personal Capital puts investment information at your fingertips, helps you spot hidden fees, and provides guidance on how to invest. You can also set and track spending targets, and it even works on the go, delivering spending updates to your Apple Watch.
4. Venmo’s payment app takes the pain out of splitting bills and saves you from having to write a check. You can use it to pay everyone from friends to your babysitter, as well as some retailers.
Venmo can also keep track of what you owe, who owes you, and what you have purchased. Finally, you can personalize payments to say thanks or add a fun emoji to note what the payment is for.
5. The free Vertex42 budget template is an easy spreadsheet-based budget template. It offers lists of common spending categories, allowing you to see where your money is going and spot potential savings.
Vertex42 is one of the more popular options, but you may also want to consider these other free budgeting templates.
Helpful tools that charge a fee
6. You Need a Budget, or YNAB, is free for the first 34 days, and $83.99 a year, or $6.99 a month, after that (students can get a year for free)—and some users say it is the first tool that has allowed them to finally conquer financial challenges.
“We started using YNAB and went from $2,000 over-budget to a month ahead on all our expenses, because we gave every dollar a job . . . “ reads one typical YNAB review in Apple’s app store.
YNAB gives every dollar in your budget a job, forcing you to identify budgeting and spending priorities. It syncs to your accounts, gives you real-time access to your data and is easy to share with your spouse or partner.
7. The Acorn app works like a digital coin jar, allowing you to invest spare change from purchases. For example, if you spend $50.62 on clothing and $7.51 at the coffee shop in one day, Acorn will round up the difference in both purchases (38 cents plus 49 cents) and invest the money into a diversified portfolio of exchange-traded funds, or ETFs.
This savings tool costs $1, $2 or $3 per month, depending on which option you choose, but is free to students. Those fees may be high as a percentage of the amount invested, so do the math on your own situation to see if it’s worth it.
8. The AwardWallet app helps you stay on top of your loyalty programs so that those credit-card points and frequent-flyer miles pay off. It costs $30 per year and supports 694 loyalty programs—just be aware that some airlines have chosen not to participate.
“I honestly do not know where I’d be without this app,” one reviewer says. “It monitors and consolidates most every mile/point my family earns into a single interface.”
9. PocketGuard can keep you within your spending limits. It stays on top of all your accounts—bank accounts, credit cards, loans, savings and investments—in a single app.
PocketGuard charges $3.99 a month, or $34.99 a year, and reminds you of how much you can spend once your bills and savings are taken into account. You can also set spending limits and savings goals. With this feature, you can, for example, see whether that new pair of jeans will exceed your spending limit before you buy them.
10. Quicken’s personal finance software revolutionized digital financial planning decades ago. Users enjoy its comprehensive spending categories and ability to transform numbers into graphics that make it easy to see where your money is going.
Prices for Quicken software, which has a companion app, range from $34.99 per year for the starter version to $89.99 per year for the home and business version.
11. Betterment is an online financial advisor. It charges 0.25% of the value of your account. In return, you get digital advice so that you can identify financial goals and select an investment portfolio to achieve them.
12. Wealthfront is also an online financial advisor. Like Betterment, Wealthfront provides low-cost investment portfolios aligned with your goals.
Betterment and Wealthfront offer similar programs. Both can automate your investments for relatively low fees. For information on whether one of these digital advisors is right for you, check out this comparison from NerdWallet.
By experimenting with these tools, you can find the best budgeting app for you— one that allows you to save money and organize your financial life to achieve your goals.