If you’re a regular reader of M$M, then you have seen me dedicate a lot of space these past few months to what I’m calling some of the best budgeting apps and personal finance tools on the market right now. My goal is to lay out all of the tools in front of you so you can discover one which works best for you.
There are so many freaking options on the market right now, which is really cool. It shows how responsive the tech world is to seeing a need and filling it. That need is this: An increasing number of people have decided to prioritize their finances, and many of these people are millennials, who are more than comfortable utilizing technology… actually, some of us prefer it.
Technology aside, I want to give you some statistics that explain why these budgeting apps and personal finance tools are so important:
- Only one in five Americans have something set aside for emergency expenses.
- Only 44% of Americans have enough saved to cover a $400 out-of-pocket expense.
- More than one in four workers does not set aside a portion of their paycheck in savings each month.
- Living paycheck to paycheck isn’t just for those under the poverty line. It is estimated that one in ten American workers, who are making $100,000 a year or more, are living paycheck to paycheck.
- Americans have $1,023,000,000,000 in credit card debt.
- Americans have $2,842,400,000,000 in loans.
- 28% of Americans with student loan debt default on those loans.
Those stats are shocking, aren’t they? Without a doubt, they express some serious financial issues that could really be helped, even just a small amount, if more people made a conscious effort to look at their finances.
As I said before, it’s easier to do that now than ever before. If you’re overwhelmed with the options, let me condense everything down for you and tell you about some of the best budgeting apps and personal finance tools on the market right now.
You really can’t do a round-up of the best budgeting apps without including Mint on your list. With over 10 million active users, it’s one of the most popular and widely used personal finance tools out there.
But why is Mint so popular?
It’s safe to assume that so many people sign up for Mint because it’s free, and free is usually a good thing. The reason users stick around is due to the fact that Mint offers a quality product. And, Mint’s strength is in its premise, or principle, that to really see where you stand financially, you need to see everything in one place.
When you sign up with Mint, you’ll link your checking, savings, credit cards, mortgage, car payments, student loans, investments, retirement accounts, etc. Mint will display everything on one screen, listing all of your information on the sidebar, and then condensing information into your net worth. In addition, Mint also features:
- Updated free credit score
- Bill tracking
- Goal setting
- Broad overview of your investments
That’s a ton of stuff for free software, which is available on desktop and mobile devices. I do have one complaint: there is an inordinate number of ads. I get that they need to make money, but these ads are often deceptively presented as “ways to save.” Know that going in, and you’ll be fine.
Final word: Mint is the best budgeting app for a total overview of your finances.
Let me just get this out in the open: Personal Capital is my jam. I sometimes feel like Personal Capital got in my brain when they designed it. It’s just that good… okay, for me at least.
Personal Capital’s main goal is to track your net worth and keep you on track for retirement, which is honestly what I want out of my personal finance apps. You can link everything like Mint does, but the broad view isn’t really their goal.
To focus in on retirement planning, Personal Capital has a few key features you should know about:
- Retirement planner which projects how much money you’ll need to invest to hit your retirement age goals.
- Asset allocation tool that keeps you diverse and tuned into your level of risk tolerance and aversion.
- Analysis tool that shows you where you’re leaving money on the table with your investments.
With all of those functions, you’re probably wondering about the cost, but here’s the thing – Personal Capital is free. FREE. They make their money by providing investment and wealth management tools for high net worth individuals. While you’re working towards that, you can still take advantage of what they have to offer.
Final word: Personal Capital is the best financial tool for retirement planning.
It was my readers who introduced me to YNAB (or You Need a Budget). Seriously, so many of you were telling me that YNAB was one of the best budgeting apps and personal finance tools out there. YNAB’s following is cult-like, and anything with that kind of popularity deserves some attention.
Before I go on, I want to tell you about two MAJOR differences between this app and the others covered thus far. First, YNAB costs $6.99 per month or $83.99 per year, but you get a 34-day free trial. Second, YNAB is strictly for budgeting.
Those two things might be off-putting, but YNAB does budgeting really freaking well. I was actually a little skeptical when I signed up, but after hearing my readers describe YNAB as life-changing, I knew I had to give it a shot.
Since you’re paying for software, you should expect excellent customer services, and YNAB delivers.
After you sign up with YNAB, you are taken to a screen with a completely blank budget, ready for you to fill in. From there, you complete your budget, following YNAB’s four rules to help you “gain total control of your money”:
- Rule 1: Give every dollar a job. You take the amount of money coming into your accounts, which you will link after signing up, and allocate every dollar until you’re back down to $0… this is zero-based budgeting.
- Rule 2: Embrace your true expenses. This is setting goals to help you with large upcoming expenses, like holiday spending, an emergency fund, etc. You set the amount that you want to reach and put a certain amount of money in each category.
- Rule 3: Roll with the punches. This means flexibility and being able to move money around if you overspend in an area. Spend less on groceries than you thought? Then, move that over to savings.
- Rule 4: Age your money. The idea here is that you aren’t spending everything the minute it goes into your account. Ideally, YNAB would like you to get to the point where you are spending what you earned last month to get you out of the paycheck-to-paycheck lifestyle.
YNAB teaches zero-based budgeting, which trains you to manage your money. It might take a month or two to get used to this, especially if you’re the type who waits until the end of the month to see if there is any extra for debt repayment, retirement, etc.
Final word: YNAB is one of the best budgeting apps and personal finance tools if you want to focus on your budget.
Everydollar is very similar to YNAB in that it’s strictly budgeting, but Everydollar also closely follows the “Baby Steps” that you’ll be familiar with if you’re a fan of Dave Ramsey. I’ll talk about those Baby Steps in a second.
Just like YNAB, Everydollar is focused on zero-based budgeting, taking each dollar that is linked in your account and putting it somewhere. Need $1,000 for your mortgage, $350 for groceries, and $200 for gas? Simply enter each amount in the appropriate category or you can add more personalized ones too.
There are two versions of Everydollar – a free and a paid version that runs $129 for the year and now includes access to Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University. You will be responsible for manually linking all of your transactions in the free version, but the paid version does it for you.
And, both versions help you along the way, showing your progress along Dave’s famous Baby Steps. Well, you can only track your progress through Step 3, but the app shows the others to keep you motivated. If you’re unfamiliar with Baby Steps, here they are:
- $1,000 emergency fund.
- Pay off all debt using the debt snowball.
- Save 3-6 months worth of expenses.
- Save 15% for retirement.
- College fund for the kids.
- Pay off your house.
- Build wealth and give.
Final word: Everydollar is probably one of the best budgeting apps and personal finance tools for Dave Ramsey fans.
You can read more about Everydollar, including what I left out about their ads, at Mint vs. Everydollar.
Up until very recently, I thought of Quicken as something only used by those at least a generation or two above me. I mean, my Mom uses Quicken. I went in thinking it was going to be a dinosaur, but I came to realize that offers some of the most robust options out of all the best budgeting apps and personal finance tools I’ve reviewed. And, their most recent update has made it even more millennial-friendly.
The newest version finally lets you access a companion web version, which is basically a necessity now. They also have a companion mobile platform. The desktop versions, for both Mac and PC, are really where you’ll get the most – bill tracking (manual or linked), cool investor tools, basic and power budgeting tools, free online bill pay (with the Premier version only) and more.
One of the best features, which is currently only on the PC desktop version, is a debt reduction plan. It pulls all of your debts into one place, then letting you play with how much money you put towards your debt each month then projecting the impact.
The only downside is the cost, from $29.99 to $44.99 per year depending on the plan you choose. Those are the current sale prices for new users, increasing to $35.99 to $74.99 per year.
Final word: Quicken is my top pick out of the paid options of the best budgeting apps and personal finance tools.
To learn more about Quicken, read my Mint vs. Quicken comparison.
For those of you who appreciate a more old school approach to personal finance tools, spreadsheets are about as basic as it gets. There’s nothing wrong with basic here either – Excel spreadsheets cut the crap and let you get down to business.
But, I’m always surprised when I hear my millennial readers go on and on about how much they love using spreadsheets… I assumed you all loved technology in the same way I do, but I’ve been wrong before.
Excel spreadsheets force you to be hands-on and active in your money management. Want some help with that? I’ve got you covered with some of the best free Excel budget templates and spreadsheets. They are all reader submitted favorites.
Final, final word on the best budgeting apps and personal finance tools for 2020:
Personal finance is, well, personal. We have different goals, expectations, etc. I mean, I love rap, but you might love country… we can still be friends. Sorry, that’s a little off topic, but I’m trying to say that you can still appreciate music (or personal finance tools) while having different interests.
Ahem… okay… REAL POINT – find something (or a couple) that helps you reach your financial goals and stick with it. All of these personal finance tools give you something. All you need to do is find what will actually help you work towards the goals you have, whether it be debt payoff, FIRE, a new house, or the like