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Best Budget Apps and Personal Finance Tools for 2018

Sept. 25, 2018
Managing Money, Personal Finance
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We adhere to strict standards of editorial integrity. Some of the products we feature are from our partners. Here’s how we make money.

Everyone wants to save and budget better, and the tech world has taken notice, releasing a steady stream of apps and tools to lend a hand. We sifted through these budgeting and saving services, selecting the most helpful in a variety of categories.

Whether you need something that actually pays your bills for you or simply lets you know when your bank account is running dry, the solution is on this list. Bonus: Many of these tools are free. (And if cost is your primary concern, we’ve rounded up some additional resources for how to get free financial advice.)

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Our recommendations

Best overall saving and budgeting apps

Mint and Acorns are hands-off tools to help users save more and spend less.

Mint logo
  • The market leader in budgeting management syncs with user accounts to track spending
  • Free
  • iOS, Android
Get started
Acorns logo
  • Acorns automatically rounds up purchases and invests the change
  • Free* (*Investment management fees apply)
  • iOS, Android
Get started

Mint has been the gold standard for budgeting apps for some time, and the company takes the top spot here for a few reasons: The app automatically updates and categorizes transactions, creating a picture of spending in real time. Users can add their own categories, pay bills, split ATM transactions into the purchases made with that cash, and set budgets that alert you when they start to top out. The service also comes with a free credit score.

Acorns isn’t a budgeting app, but a savings tool. It helps users save more money by automatically harvesting the change each time they swipe a linked card. So, for instance, if a transaction adds up to $1.50, Acorns rounds it up to $2 and sends that 50 cents into an investment portfolio diversified with exchange-traded funds. It’s a mindless way to invest, with reasonable fees: Students with a valid .edu email address qualify for free management for up to four years from the registration date; others pay $1 a month on account balances below $5,000 and 0.25% per year on balances of $5,000 or more.

Best budgeting app for hands-on users

You Need a Budget is robust software for the die-hard budgeter.

  • This budgeting app helps users learn to live on last month’s income
  • $83.99 a year or $6.99 a month (34-day free trial), free for students for 12 months
  • Browser-based; apps for iOS, Android and Amazon Alexa devices
Get started

YNAB is for the committed user, no doubt. It requires a financial investment: a hefty price tag of $83.99 a year or $6.99 a month, after a 34-day free trial. Students who provide proof of enrollment get an additional 12 months free. The software’s latest iteration directly imports transactions from bank accounts, but they still need to be manually categorized by the user. Users willing to put in the work will benefit from the tool’s envelope-based system, which allocates the exact amount of income available, putting a lid on spending.

Best simplified budgeting app

PocketGuard delivers for users who want a bare-bones budgeting system.

  • PocketGuard gives users a snapshot of how much they can spend at any given moment
  • Free
  • iOS, Android
Get started

PocketGuard boils budgeting down to the only thing many users want to know: how much they have for spending. It crunches the numbers to show how much money is available after accounting for bills, spending and savings goal contributions. All users can view how much money is left “in their pocket” for the day, week or month. Those who want to dial down further can track certain categories of spending — like groceries, clothing or eating out — and lower their bills.

Best app for paying and tracking bills

Prism takes the pain out of bill paying.

  • This app is an easy way to organize and pay bills
  • Free
  • iOS, Android, Windows Phone, Windows 8, Kindle
Get started

Prism allows users to see their account balances and bills on one platform. Bills can be paid directly from the app or scheduled for payment later. The service sends impending due date and payment confirmation notifications.

Best tool to evaluate investment accounts

Personal Capital gives users an investment checkup.

Personal Capital logo
  • Personal Capital’s tools help users optimize their investment strategy
  • Free
  • Browser based; apps for iOS and Android devices
Get started

Personal Capital is an investment management service that combines the algorithms used by robo-advisors with human financial advisors. Clients who invest assets with the company have to pay a fee, but a selection of financial tools is available for free. An investment checkup tool looks at the asset allocation in a user’s investment accounts and recommends a target allocation. Personal Capital also offers a 401(k) fee analyzer and a retirement planner.

Best service to do the work for you

Albert is for users who want a personal assistant for their money.

  • Albert takes care of it all, from budgeting to saving to debt reduction
  • Free
  • iOS
Get started

Albert keeps track of all of your accounts and provides actionable, easy-to-understand recommendations for improving your financial health. The app automatically creates a budget based on your spending habits, bills and income, and sets aside a portion of your funds in a savings account. Users who pay a small monthly fee in the amount of their choice can use the Albert Genius feature to text human experts and get personalized advice on topics like investing, paying down debt or saving for a goal.

NerdWallet also has a free budget worksheet, and can point to other online budget templates, to help with a quick check of your finances. You can also read up on how to make a budget.

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