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The best budgeting apps for tracking and planning your personal finances

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Freelance contributor,

PCWorld |

Budgeting apps can take the drudgery and dread out of managing your household’s money, a chore only one in three Americans even bothers to do. Quicken was long the gold standard for personal finance software, but an array of compelling —and often free—alternatives have risen to challenge it, whether you want a no-hassle way to keep tabs on your in- and outflows, a tool to help maximize your means, or a guide to build wealth through investments.

We’ve tried all the major applications to see how well they can help you build and follow through on a monthly budget. Read on for our top picks, and you can find links to all of our reviews at the bottom of the page. 

Backed by its four-rule philosophy, YNAB doesn’t just track your finances, it also teaches you to be a better money manager.

YNAB (You Need a Budget) tops our list. Its “zero-sum” budgeting system—allocating every dollar of only the money you have in hand to dedicated spending and saving categories until you have zero dollars left to budget—feels most like the tried-and-true envelope system our grandparents used to live within their means. The apps’ hands-on approach also helps drive home the idea of being intentional about how you spend and save money. If you’re new to budgeting, this is the app to start with. Get all the details in our full review.

Mint is a fantastic automated budgeting tool that will work for many users. It’s not flexible enough for those with irregular income, though.

Mint automatically aggregates and analyzes all your linked financial accounts and gives you a comprehensive look at your money matters. Its more hands-off approach isn’t ideal for first-time budgeters, but if you’ve tracked your spending with pen and paper before, this tool is the best next step. Learn more in our full review.

Wally+ makes it easy to track your daily spending and is a great option for pairing with a more full-featured budgeting app.

The Wally+ Android app makes it easy to record expenses as they’re incurred. As you enter each transaction, you can add context by choosing from location-based list of merchants, tagging who you were with, and attaching a photo or the receipt. You can also set a monthly savings goal as a percentage of your income, analyze your spending trends, and keep tabs on your total income, expenses, and remaining budget.

Income, spending, and savings categories are the building blocks of your budget. They let you know where your money is coming from and where it’s going. As you’ll be assigning categories to every financial transaction you make in order to track your money, it’s critical that they be accurate.

Virtually all budgeting software comes with preset categories like rent/mortgage, utilities, and food. But beyond common expenses like these, most people’s spending is unique to their situation. Budgeting software should provide the flexibility to conform to your financial obligations and goals by letting you add, delete, and rename categories.

Two of the biggest budget-busters are irregular income and expenses that either fluctuate month-to-month (we’re looking at you, electric bill) or are paid annually in a lump sum, like insurance premiums and subscriptions.

If you don’t receive income at a regular interval, such as with a bi-weekly paycheck, avoid software that requires you to enter the same income each month or to budget off of predicted income. As irregular expenses are nearly universal, everyone should look of budgeting software that lets you take the 12-month average of these expenses and allocate them monthly.

Tracking is important at both ends of the budgeting process. In the beginning this data tells you where your money has been going so you can build a realistic financial plan base on past income and expenses. Once you execute your budget, it allows you to closely watch your spending and make necessary course corrections to stay on target.

At a minimum, your budgeting software should generate reports that break down income and expenses by category and show spending trends on a monthly basis. If you like to keep a closer eye on your finances, look for software with a real-time dashboard that constantly updates you on your cash flow, transactions, top spending categories, and account balances.

Most budgeting software sync online with your financial accounts so you don’t have to enter transactions and update balances manually. That means data encryption and password-protected login are a must. All the apps in our roundup meet these requirements, but always read a budgeting product’s security statement to be sure before you sign up.

This story, “The best budgeting apps for tracking and planning your personal finances” was originally published by

PCWorld.

Backed by its four-rule philosophy, YNAB doesn’t just track your finances, it also teaches you to be a better money manager.

Mint is a fantastic automated budgeting tool that will work for many users. It’s not flexible enough for those with irregular income, though.

Wally+ makes it easy to track your daily spending and is a great option for pairing with a more full-featured budgeting app.

Quicken Deluxe’s rich array of features and reports offers a great way to move beyond basic budgeting.

Charlie’s AI advisor is an easy and enjoyable way to stay connected to your spending.

Simple streamlines banking and budgeting but is best used by people uncomplicated finances who already live off their phone.

Mvelopes is a good tool built on sound budgeting principles, but its old-school interface needs to go.

Ramsey’s baby-steps budgeting method in EveryDollar offers a clear path for those just starting to manage their household finances, particularly those who are digging out of debt and who aren’t yet ready for investments and wealth management.

Goodbudgets is an easy-to-use budgeting app for managing simple individual or household finances, but it would be more foolproof if it could sync with your accounts.

PocketGuard is an easy way to stay on top of spending if you have simple financial needs.

Trim is a great money-saving tool to use in tandem with a more full-featured budgeting app.

Personal Capital’s free budgeting tool can help you follow your money, but this app is designed with affluent investors in mind and lacks some of the nuts-and-bolts guidances novices need.

Michael Ansaldo is a veteran consumer and small-business technology journalist. He contributes regularly to TechHive and writes the Max Productivity column for PCWorld.

Copyright © 2020 IDG Communications, Inc.

This Article was first published on itnews.com

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