Like everyone else, you are probably doing these two things every day:
- Looking at your smartphone to check Facebook, read your email, check the weather, count your steps or simply play a game.
- Wondering where all your money went.
Keep track of your income, spending and saving with a budgeting app. Turn your smartphone into a personal financial advisor and let it do the budgeting for you.
Downloading a budget app is a simple way to create a budget, learn new positive financial habits and avoid costly mistakes.
How to choose a budgeting app
A good budgeting app:
- Is free – if you are on a budget, you don’t have the extra money to spend on apps.
- Saves time – the app should streamline typical budgeting activities, like allowing you to scan or take a picture of your receipts, calculating automatically how much you spent or being able to connect to all your devices or accounts, etc.
- Tracks your expenses – that’s a no-brainer – after all this is the main function of the app.
- Links to your accounts – it links to your bank accounts and credit cards directly.
- It tracks your credit score – this is a newer feature on some apps, and we are sure others will catch on – if you can snag a free app with credit tracking – go for it.
- Identity theft protection – some apps offer alerts if they uncover suspicious activity or inconsistencies.
Top 7 free budget apps to help you manage your money
- Mint – Mint has been around a long time and is one of the best budgeting apps you can get. It helps create a budget with several spending categories. Then it uses brightly colored graphics to warn the users when they are near the end of the budget in each. It is free and links to your accounts. What’s even better is that it gives you access to your credit score. You can download the app on iOS, Android, and Kindle.
- BillGuard – The app keeps track of your spending by type, month and location. It links to your account and gives you free access to your credit score. You can upgrade for an annual fee of $83.88 and get credit monitoring and identity theft insurance. You can download the app on iOS and Android.
- Dollarbird – The app allows you to divide your spending by category and also adds past and future income and expenses to a calendar. Thus, it calculates the impact on your balance. The disadvantage is that it doesn’t link to your bank account. You can download the app on iOS and Android.
- Good budget – The app uses the envelope budgeting strategy. You can set a budget for each category and it will warn you when the money is about to run out. Then you simply stop spending from this category. It doesn’t link to your account and if you want to sync up to five devices, have access to unlimited categories and five-year history you will need to pay $45 a year. The app is available for iOS and Android.
- Level Money – The app recreates the experience of actually opening your wallet. In order to determine how much you can spend per month, week or day, the app subtracts recurring expenses and savings from your income and then distributes the budget according to the period you have set. It links to your bank account and is completely free. The app is available for iOS and Android.
- LearnVest – The app is quite useful as it categorizes transactions by expense type and helps set and track goals. You can also use it for net worth calculation as well. It links to your bank account and only for $19 per month you can partner up with a financial planner if you wish. The drawback is that it only operates on iOS.
- Personal Capital – This app offers something more than the usual sophisticated budgeting tools. It can be used to track investments and helps to establish goals and models for retirement, college or other important life events. What’s more, since it links to your account, the app will send recommendations for investment opportunities to people with more than $25,000. The app is available for iOS and Android.
Bonus: You can also install an app that helps you with your saving, without any complications or sophisticated actions on your behalf. Acorns app offers to automate savings for you, thus modeling good financial behavior. You need to select a portfolio of low-cost exchange-traded funds (ETFs) and each time you make a payment with a card connected to the app it will round the amount up to the next highest dollar and automatically invest the difference. You can end up accumulating some nice savings over a year – just keep in mind that since it is invested in ETFs, the value of your savings will fluctuate with the market. The good news is that the service is free to college students and costs about $1 per month for the rest.
Download one of these great apps to optimize your budget and identify why and where you are losing money. Once you master your budgeting skills, you can move on to the next level and start actually making money.