If you kicked off the new year with a resolution to establish better budgetary habits in the months to come, you’re not alone. In a recent survey conducted by Fidelity Investments, 48 percent of respondents said they were hoping to save more in 2019, 29 percent said they were hoping to pay down debt, and 19 percent were hoping to spend less, overall. But turning over a new leaf and practicing more productive money habits can often feel overwhelming. That’s where having the right tools, like these free budgeting apps, comes in.
So whether you’re looking to curb your spending, save, or invest, below are seven easy-to-use free budgeting apps to help you become a budgeting superstar.
Why Money Matters to Your Happiness
Before we get started, we want to remind you why it’s so important to have a budget in the first place. It’s not just about saving for retirement or kicking your credit card debt, though those are important too. It’s also about having the financial freedom to do the things you love, like travel, get new rock-climbing gear, or see your favorite band. And we know now that spending money in the right ways, like on experiences, can contribute to your overall happiness.
So crunch numbers like your happiness depends on it. Because, well, it kind of does.
The Best Free Budgeting Apps to Hit Your Goals This Year
Here are the best free budgeting apps for hitting your financial goals and tracking your personal expenses like a pro.
Consider your financial goals met.
Mint is like the Yoda of free budgeting apps, offering an insightful, comprehensive look at your finances while pointing out the areas that need more work. By analyzing your spending habits against your income, Mint allows you to create a customizable, unique-to-you budget featuring a list of suggested monthly caps in different spending categories. (Think: “groceries” or “movies”.)
And there’s no need to worry about overspending. If you’re ever nearing your monthly limit in a given category, Mint will send a push notification straight to your phone as a warning. What’s more? This personal expense tracker app also offers the ability to set and budget for long-term financial goals, like buying a home. And if you’re hoping to keep tabs on your credit score or calculate your net worth, Mint has you covered there, too.
Maintaining healthy credit is a must — particularly today when good credit affects so many aspects of our daily lives. Remember, many businesses—from landlords to mortgage lenders, utility providers, and even employers— use your credit score to determine how financially responsible you are. (And a bad score could mean you’re denied their goods or services.) With Credit Karma, you have the opportunity to improve or maintain your credit score by tracking it. For free!
First, you have to create an account and provide personal information like your Social Security Number to verify your identity and pull your credit. But there are no hidden fees down the line. The app also reveals how outside factors, like your payment history, has impacted your score. When your score improves, the app highlights what you’ve done right so you can continue down the path to credit redemption.
After a purchase, the app will ask you to rate your purchase as making you feel “happy” or “sad.” It sounds wacky, but in gathering this intel, Joy is able to provide feedback as to whether items you’ve purchased bring you any value. So you can avoid low value (or “sad”) purchases and lean into high value (or “happy”) purchases. Joy also offers the opportunity to open a free FDIC-insured savings account within the app, where you can build savings with its intel. Users can make withdrawals or close the account at any time.
Android coming soon
For those who want a simple, barebones approach to their finances, PocketGuard is a perfect match. The app makes budgeting easy through its no-frills system.
After pulling info from your finances (including bank accounts, loans, savings, and investments), it will calculate how much money you can spend each month after your bills, spending, and savings goals have been met. And it sends personalized push notifications to make sure you never, ever miss a payment. (There’s even a “Lower Your Bills” feature that finds services you could potentially be paying less for.)
The app may be low maintenance, but it certainly packs a big punch.
Albert is essentially a butler for your personal finances. Albert’s goal is not just to help you budget, but to help you understand your spending and savings habits so that you can better your financial health, overall.
The app works to create an automatic, personalized financial plan for you based on your spending history, bills, and income, and then offers digestible ways to bolster your accounts. The basic version of the app is free, but pay a small monthly fee in the amount of your choice for the Genius feature. With this add-on, users can text human experts and get an even more personalized take on investing, paying down debt, or saving for a goal.
Next on our list of free budgeting apps is Prism. Prism is unique in that it works primarily as a bill-management app, allowing users to pay their bills and manage their account balances altogether on one platform.
When you toggle over to the bill pay screen, you’re shown what’s required of you monetarily each month. From there, the app allows you to pay either the full or minimum amount immediately, or schedule payment for a later date.
Prism will also send you impending due dates and payment confirmation notifications to keep you on track financially. And by inputting your paydays, you can keep tabs on when those deposits will hit your account and whether that money can cover some of your financial responsibilities.
Okay, you got us: this one isn’t free. But it’s such a good budgeting app, that we just couldn’t help but throw it on there. You Need a Budget (YNAB) is perfect for people who want to get serious about managing their spending.
The app’s secret sauce lies in its requirement that users assign a “job” to each and every one of his/her dollars, with the ultimate goal of “budgeting down to zero.” And while the process can be a bit tedious (even a night out needs its own budget category), the app’s micro-managing approach forces you to get a handle on your spending, and even allows you to budget for larger non-recurring expenses down the road. (Think: Christmas or braces).
This app can be extra beneficial for anyone who lives paycheck-to-paycheck, allowing them to learn where, exactly, their money goes each month.
Price: Free 30-day trial; $6.99 per month with an annual subscription or $83.99 per year
To sum it all up…
While keeping a handle on your finances can seem overwhelming at first, practicing regular budgeting habits is a truly worthwhile way to bolster your overall fiscal health. Granted, habit tracking on a mobile device isn’t for everyone. Some people simply prefer to track their healthy habits on paper (and for those who do, try a Panda Planner).
But if you are willing to give one of these helpful free budgeting apps a try, you may just find that they take budgeting from intimidating to—dare we say it—fun.
Your turn: What free budgeting apps have you tried? Tell us more in the comments.
Author: Jennifer Lance
Jennifer Lance is a writer living in New York City. A former editor at Glamour, she’s written about everything from the Oscars to Marie Kondo-ing her love life. Her pastimes include watching The Bachelor, filing her taxes at the 11th hour, long walks on the beach and also short walks to her neighborhood Dunkin’.