5 Great Apps For Managing Your Budget

From an early age, I had a budget. That is thanks to my parents. They taught me and my siblings that the best way to manage your money and help it grow is to not only know where you are spending your money but plan how you will be spending your money.

When we started getting an allowance our mom drew up a budget for us with a certain amount going towards our tithe, some to savings, and the rest was spending money. As I got older and started working I also created a budget that helped me reach some of my early savings goals.

When I first started budgeting as an adult I just used a spreadsheet and mapped out what I thought I should be spending each month. Because I was newly living on my own I didn’t have a good idea yet of what things like groceries and utilities would cost. So my first few budgets were fails which I found to be typical when you first start budgeting.

Soon I switched over to using a website/app to create and manage my budget. I liked using the site/app because it allowed me to easily see what I was spending each month and adjust my budget categories accordingly.
Great Apps For Managing Your Budget | A Relaxed Gal
(This information is not meant to be financial advice and is just for educational purposes. This post may include affiliate links. Should you click an affiliate link and make a purchase I may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.)

Since then I’ve become a little more sophisticated with my budgeting and have started using the zero-based budget method which is great for consistent tracking of your expenses and income because I take my income and assign every single dollar of it to expenses or savings so that it equals zero. I’m still also using a budgeting app which helps make this type of budgeting extremely easy.

I’ve used a few different budgeting apps over the years. Each one is slightly different from the others as my needs for budgeting would change over the years. Here is what I look for in a budgeting app:
  • Account connections: There is an option to connect my bank accounts so I don’t have to manually enter any transactions outside of cash transactions
  • Easy to use: This is important because I don’t want to spend a lot of time figuring out how to move transactions around, or set up my budget.
  • Clean interface: The app wasn’t cluttered by a lot of ads or other images or info that won’t help me with my budget.

If you’re looking to start budgeting and want an easy way to track your budget, here are five different apps I’ve found that not only can help with that but also meet my criteria.

Free budgeting apps

1. Empower (formerly Personal Capital)

After using Mint for several years, I decided to try another money management app which led me to Empower. For the length of time that I used it, I liked it. Mainly because I felt it gave a much higher level view of my whole financial picture and allowed me to easily track my net worth.

I also liked that once you link your accounts, Empower automatically creates your budget using your spending over the past few months. So there’s a lot less manual upkeep that you need to do with Empower.

What Empower claims
Take control of your finances by keeping “your spending in check while ensuring your financial goals are always front and center.”

What Empower is
It’s a free app that may seem similar to Mint with one key difference. Empower seems more geared toward people who have multiple investments and want to track their overall financial picture versus just their budget. You can link your savings, checking, loans, credit cards, and investment accounts. Most budget apps only link savings, checking, and credit cards.

Empowers key features
  • Net worth calculation
  • Monthly summaries showing where your money is going
  • Notifications when bills are due
  • Ability to set savings goals and spending targets
  • Cash Flow Analyzer to help you with strategies to meet your financial goals

If you have multiple investment accounts and want to get a better view of your overall financial picture in addition to your monthly budget then Empower is a great choice.

Empower pricing
For now, this app is free but you do get regular communications from them trying to sell you on their services.
Apps For Starting Managing Your Budget | A Relaxed Gal

Paid budgeting apps

2. GoodBudget

I have never used this app but from what I’ve seen if you like to use the envelope system this may be the perfect budgeting app for you. In reading about it I like that it focuses more on planning your spending vs. just tracking your spending.

What Goodbudget claims
“Budget with a why: Spend, save, and give toward what's important in life.”

What Goodbudget is
It’s an app that takes the envelope system to the virtual world and helps you build a budget based on what you financially value and want to achieve. You create an envelope for each budget category (e.g., housing, groceries, restaurants, sinking funds, etc.). You then set aside money to spend in each category based on your income and not your account balance.

Goodbudget features
  • Debt tracking
  • Budget syncing across all devices (2 devices with the free plan, 5 with the paid plan)
  • Can create multiple envelopes (20 with the free plan, unlimited with the paid plan)
  • Can easily set up and track sinking funds
  • Access to a library of financial resources to help with getting out of debt or navigating financial changes in life
  • Email support

Goodbudget pricing
There is a free plan but you get better features with the paid plan. The paid plan is $8 per month or $70 annually.

3. EveryDollar

This is the app that I currently use to budget and manage my monthly income. It’s really easy to set up and customize because a budget template is already set up when you first sign up. All you have to do is add in your income and expense amounts. The interface is pretty clean and easy to use. 

What Every Dollar Claims
“The simplest way to budget for your life”

What Every Dollar is
This is a budgeting app created by Ramsey Solutions. While it seems to be created specifically for those who are following the Ramsey Baby Steps anyone can use it. Just like YNAB (You Need A Budget), this app is based on the zero-based budgeting approach.

Every Dollar features
  • Easy to set up in 10 minutes or less
  • Drag and drop interface for categorizing transactions
  • Ability to track debt interest and payments to keep debt balances accurate
  • Can create savings or sinking funds
  • Customized budget reports
  • The paid plan also gets access to exclusive features like Goal Setting, Paycheck Planning, and Financial Roadmap

Every Dollar pricing
There is a free and paid version but you can only sync up your bank accounts in the paid version and you get several more features.

One thing I noticed is that while most of these apps kinda bury their pricing you can eventually find it. With Every Dollar, I had to do a Google search to see what the pricing was. I'm not sure it's correct so I decided to not include it.

4. You Need A Budget (YNAB)

This is a popular money management app and is constantly recommended by those in financial Facebook groups I’m in. It’s a little pricey though so I would recommend using the free trial first.

What YNAB claims
A “friendly, flexible method for managing your finances.”

What YNAB is
This app follows the zero-based approach to budgeting. This means as soon as you have income come in you assign those dollars to a budget item. the goal is to help you take a more active role in managing your money.

YNAB features
  • Automatic syncing of your bank accounts, credit cards, and investment accounts
  • Access from any device, anytime so you can collaborate and share info with your spouse
  • Alerts when you’re starting to overspend
  • Goal tracking so you can see how close you are or aren’t to your savings and spending goals
  • Progress reports
  • Personal support via email
  • Free online workshops

YNAB pricing
There is a yearly subscription cost of $99 if you pay the annual rate. If you want to pay every month it costs a bit more, about $180. If you're not sure you want to spend that kind of money without a test drive, you can get a free trial for about 30 days.

5. Monarch

I had never heard of Monarch before and did a bit of research on them. From my research, I found what looks to be a very comprehensive money management app. This app has a lot of great features.

What Monarch claims
Monarch claims to track all of your account balances, transactions, and investments in one place. The features it has provides you with clarity, confidence, and peace of mind for your finances. It also allows you to easily collaborate with your spouse about your finances and reach your goals faster.

What Monarch is
This is a financial management app that puts all of your financial accounts and transactions in one place so you can track your budget, your investments, and find ways to reach your financial goals. 

One thing that stood out to me is that Monarch says it "syncs with multiple financial data aggregators, more than any competitor, to give you the best chance at connecting all of your accounts and keeping them in sync."

Monarch features
  • A dashboard that brings all parts of your finances together in one view
  • Budgeting tools that allow you to customize your budget with categories, groups, and rollovers
  • Net worth tracking
  • Investment portfolio tracking
  • Set and track progress for financial goals like buying a house or saving for retirement
  • Customized reports
  • Manage and track your transactions manually or with the help of AI
  • A calendar to manage all bills and subscriptions
  • Ability to invite and collaborate with your spouse

Monarch pricing
To use Monarch there are two pricing structures to consider and the cost varies. If you pay the annual fee it costs you $99. If you pay monthly it costs you almost twice as much at about $180.

Bonus: Your bank

Many banks have stepped up their game in the last few years and are providing financial management tools to their customers. These financial tools allow you to aggregate all of your financial accounts into their platform. By using your bank you can cut down on the number of logins you need to review and manage your finances.

Things to keep in mind when choosing a budgeting app

Free budgeting apps aren’t really free. They have to make money somehow and there are three typical ways they do that
  • Some of them sell your info to other companies who then market you with their products and services
  • Some sell ad space so you may be inundated with ads when using the app
  • Others push their paid products or services (cross-sell if I want to use marketing terminology) hoping to make money from you that way