~Last updated July 2019~
Is there a budgeting app or software that “does it all” for you? Short answer: no – but there are some good ones that can help you along the way.
Key takeaway: no program will (yet) 100% correctly sync and categorize your spending for you: you’ll always need to add to and correct the data. But digital tools ultimately help you understand your use of money, which means YOU learn a lot of valuable information!
Below I share a few digital tools for:
- Budgeting – to answer the questions: what money is going in and out? Is it the money I’m trying to have go in and out? What might I change about my everyday spending to be more intentional or hit my goals?
- Net Wealth tracking – to answer the questions: how much money do I actually have? Am I increasing or decreasing my debt or savings overall? Where are my investments and what’s happening with them?
Budgeting software tends to be high-touch, that is to say it requires a fair amount of your participation. However what you get from it is a LOT of insight and ways to plan around your income, goals, and expenses.
It’s for managing your day to day spending by allocating every dollar of your money. It’s available as a software in your browser and an app on your phone. The two sync.
– You need to be willing to, well, budget – to update your spending plan as you go digitally. This is highly-detailed work that forces you to be accountable to yourself.
+ A lot of tracking features so you can see what your money goes to.
+ It’s currently $80, which is like $7/month to get your s#*t together. Not bad!
+ those who use it LOVE it, but if you can’t commit to managing entries in it you might get overwhelmed by the numbers and volume of content
MVelopes ($50/yr) is a software for household spending tracking.
It’s in your computer’s browser and syncs with your bank account and a spending tracking app on your phone.
- will let you sync multiple accounts (bank accounts, credit cards)
- You set up a spending plan that you can track in real time using an “envelopes” approach to allocate money that you then track coming “out of your envelope”
- Households can use it more easily than other software because it’s more flexible
- The interface can be a little confusing and since it’s so customizable, and the concept of “envelope” spending takes some getting used to
Mint is a free online software and app you can connect to your bank and credit account(s):
+ Use and view on your computer OR phone
+ it has you create budgets, and helps track your spending by importing your bank account activity for you, no need to enter every dang purchase yourself.
– lately it’s app reviews aren’t so good.
Mint sometimes confuses people in particular with how it categorizes things: what I think is actually happening is you’re learning/realizing a lot about your spending and how cash flow works and are projecting the confusion onto the technology. Takeaway: stick with it, it’ll get less confusing!
An app uses AI and computerization, to both automagically import (and try to categorize) your instances of spending from those accounts AND help you learn from that data. But: you’ll need to train your app to categorize correctly – expect some confusion at the start.
Budgeting apps tend to be free — and therefore they are data mining your spending habits in exchange for their helpfulness. However many people find them worthwhile because of the convenience and information.
An app that tracks your spend for you can keep you informed and accountable to what’s happening – WORTH IT.
Clarity Money (free) is a spending tracking app for your iPhone or Android which also has a desktop interface. It syncs with your accounts and uses AI to try to suggest where you can save money.
- + it has a great, easy to use interface
- – it will suggest products to you and that you use their savings account product (you don’t have to)
- + it will show you a snapshot of recurrent bills to help you figure out if you want to cancel some (very valuable to cancel recurring charges!) If you need prompting, this gives a medium touch.
Empower (free) https://empower.me/ – (free) is a spending tracking app for your iPhone or Android. It syncs with your accounts and uses AI to try to suggest where you can save money.
- Also, has a decent high-interest savings account (2.15%+) and an AI “assistant” to suggest bills to cut, when to save money, etc. If you need prompting, this gives a light touch.
Wally (free) is an app for your iPhone or Android that you enter your spending into to track it.
— You can set it to sync OR automatically collect all your spending info for you,
+ As you manually or automagically track spending, it shows you what you’ve spent on the daily and what’s left in your budget [that you set up].
+ You can take photos of receipts (this is v useful).
— You can’t put a version on your computer.
— It says it “leverages social information” …which perhaps means it connects with your Facebook to remind you where you were, spending money? Again this means, to me, it’s collecting a baller data set on your spending habits but — hey — if you don’t care [and if you’re using Facebook to talk about your spending…you don’t] then perhaps it’s worth it.
– It’s reviews lately are crap soooo maybe not a great pick. But we used to like it a lot 🙁
NET WEALTH DASHBOARDS
A dashboard pulls together data from several places to give you a holistic snapshot of your money: usually combining real-time reports on your checking, savings, and more investments so you can keep the big picture in mind and drill down into the weeds as needed.
Personal Capital (free, this is my pick) is an app and cloud-based dashboard which lets you:
- Sync checking, savings, credit card, investments, retirement, and mortgage accounts to track ALL your money. Plus you can add manual accounts easily
- Model retirement savings outcomes, based on exactly what you’re doing today
- Intuitive dashboard and spending tracker > less about creating a budget than knowing where your money is, or has gone.
- Free! but they will call you to try to get you to use their advisors (you don’t have to). Also their “cash savings account” is an investment account and therefore not savings or FDIC insured – don’t make it your only savings account!
In closing, on budgeting:
No software or app is a replacement for your commitment to making a plan and checking in on that plan, whether you do it digitally or on paper is up to you. Either way: you deserve that commitment — and it’s the best way to ensure you know what your money is up to!