For me, it’s all about the pie chart. There are all sorts of budgeting apps that track your spending, but numbers alone rarely make the the emotional impact of a pie chart that slices your money into shapes. Spending creep is real, people, and and it’s not going away, which is why unerring visuals like a pie chart can be so effective. Pie charts are a staple of the budgeting app and can illustrate lifestyle changes — like working longer hours — that have ripple effects such as spending more money on take-out.
Seeing that visual may help you curb you behavior before it gets out of control, and the four budgeting apps below all aim to help you manage your money better. They track your spending and in some cases will track your reoccurring expenses in the event you want to cut them from your life.
There are a lot of of budgeting apps out there. I’ve pared it down to the list below, using gifs from The Simpsons — which had so many episodes about personal budgeting. Find the the app that’s right for you before your money goes 💸💸💸. Good luck!
What Mint Does: Mint is one of the original budgeting apps. It tracks your spending, groups purchases by type, and alerts you if you go above your typical spending rate. If you have $0 budgeted for airfare, you’ll get a spending alert for going over budget the next time you book a trip. Mint.com was launched in September 2007, and it was bought exactly two years later by Intuit, the company famous for making the Turbo Tax software. Back then, Mint claimed some 1.5 million users, a number that’s now more than 10 million. Mint also shows your credit score — which used to be this elusive number you had to pay a company to get. Thankfully, the credit score — the number you need to get a car, an apartment, more credit — has come out of the shadows in the last decade. And you can get it a lot of places, including Mint.
Mint Secret Sauces and Differentiators: Mint offers the ability to create budgets by category. What’s your Uber budget? Your concert tickets budget? Your milkshake budget? Mint will help you track spending as the app has done for years. Even if you only look at those budgets as a reference point — cough-me-cough — you might find they positively affect your decision making. Now then, stop getting iced coffee so often and drink the stuff they brew work.
How Much Does Mint Cost? It’s free. Mint makes its money through ads or referrals to sign up for credit cards or banks.
Clarity (Soon to be Marcus!)
What Clarity Does: This app aims to help you make better decisions, based on suggestions from its algorithms that monitor your spending. It calls itself the “champion of your money” and boasts total transparency. It also offers credit cards if you’re looking to add credit to your life. One of its key differentiators (below) is why you should check out Clarity.
Goldman Sachs, the investment firm that also owns the consumer-facing personal loan operation Marcus, recently bought Clarity, so it will be interesting to see how the popular money managing app and the personal loan operation work together. One thing’s for sure — the name Clarity is going away. It will be rebranded as Marcus, according to reports.
Clarity Secret Sauces and Differentiators: Clarity tracks your reoccurring expenses (i.e., your subscriptions) and asks if you want to continue them. It’s a great feature, especially as cord-cutters continue to accumulate the number of services to which they subscribe for entertainment. If you don’t use it, why pay for it?
How Much Does Clarity Cost? It’s free for you and ad-supported. In other words: “While compensation influences whether products appear on Clarity Money, it doesn’t affect the analysis and opinions of our writers or data science team,” the Clarity website explains.
What Wally Next Does: The descendant of earlier Wally and Wally Lite apps, Wally Next is great for daily expense tracking. Think of it as a simplified version of Mint, in that it allows you to lump purchases into groups. You can also tag people on expenses, making it a good group-expense tracker.
Wally Next Secret Sauces and Differentiators: Wally has all the currencies one could want, “from the American Dollar to the Congolese franc,” claims its website. It would be a great resource of anyone traveling or monitoring spending across borders. There is no desktop version of Wally — you can only use it on your phone — but one is in the works.
How Much Does Wally Next Cost? Wally is totally free. There are no ads and no fees. The plan is to add paid features in the future, though.
What You Need a Budget Does: YNAB has an incredible mission statement: “Stop living paycheck to paycheck, get out of debt, and save more money.” It promotes a three-step plan: “1. Get some dollars. 2. Prioritize those dollars. 3. Follow the plan.” This three-step plan is the opposite of just dumping your paycheck into a checking account and spending without regard to The Plan. YNAB is a way of life more than an app, but its supporters can’t be ignored.
The site is full of testimonials by people who claim to have had dramatic, life-changing experiences using it. People who have paid off student loans that totaled more than a sports car, and others say they went from being “nervous wrecks” to “completely confident” when it comes to money after using YNAB.
You Need a Budget Secret Sauces and Differentiators: YNAB is all about personal empowerment and using its system of dividing up spending (and sticking to The Plan) to live a sustainable life. Jesse Mecham, the founder of YNAB, has even turned the system in the app into this book.
How Much Does You Need a Budget Cost? It’s free for 34 days and then costs $7 a month, which is billed annually at $84.
There you have it, four budgeting apps to download and crack open this year. Remember, some of these may only be available in the United States. Love an budgeting app that’s not on here? Tell me your story at firstname.lastname@example.org.