Everyone wants to save and budget better, and the tech world has taken notice, releasing a steady stream of budget 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.
Best overall saving and budgeting apps: Mint and Acorns
Mint and Acorns are hands-off tools to help users save more and spend less.
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, track 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.
Mint automatically updates and categorizes transactions, creating a picture of spending in real time.
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; others pay $1, $2 or $3 per month depending on which level they choose.
Best budgeting app for hands-on users: YNAB
You Need a Budget is robust software for the die-hard budgeter.
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 helps put a lid on spending by allocating the exact amount of income available.
Best simplified budgeting app: PocketGuard
PocketGuard delivers for users who want a bare-bones budgeting system.
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 farther can track certain categories of spending — like groceries, clothing or eating out.
Best app for paying and tracking bills: Prism
Prism takes the pain out of bill paying.
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 service to do the work for you: Albert
Albert is for users who want a personal assistant for their money.
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.
Best tool to evaluate investment accounts: Personal Capital
Personal Capital gives users an investment checkup.
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.
More budgeting resources from NerdWallet
If you want to work on your budget but aren’t sure an app is the right way to go, there are other options you can try, such as: