Even food trucks and bodegas take credit cards now. You can't remember the last time you got stuck behind someone writing a check at the grocery store. And we all pay back friends instantly (thanks, and !). With all that digital currency moving around in so many channels, it's harder than ever to track your spending.
You need a budget app that works digitally, too. Here are our favorites.
For Fully Appraising Your Financial Health:
(iOS & Android; free)
Mint is one of the oldest budgeting apps, and is the establishment player. From Intuit, the financial software giants that makes TurboTax, Mint allows you to sync all of your accounts and monitor them in one place. That includes savings, checking, and credit cards, but also investment accounts and even assets, like car or home value.
Budgeting-wise, Mint automatically categorizes your expenses (with your help, of course) and lets you set up goals for every category—then gives you an easy visual meter that shows you how close you are to going over budget in any of those categories.
For Serious Attempts at Achieving Budgeting Goals:
(iOS and Android; $6.99/month after trial period)
Unlike Mint, which includes budgeting features but has a larger aim of showing you your entire financial situation, You Need a Budget is all budgeting, all the time. And it’s really good at it, because there’s a key insight underlying YNAB: If you only budget for bills, food, gas, etc., and use the leftovers for whatever you feel like in the moment, you’ll inevitably overspend.
What the app does is help you give every dollar you earn a “job,” even if the job is “be used to go to the movies.” That way, you don’t overspend on leisure because you forgot that you need to be stashing money away for the tune up your car is going to need in six months. It’s great, but there’s one catch: Unlike the other apps here, it’s not free. After a one-month trial, YNAB is $6.99 per month.
For at-a-Glance Spending Tracking:
(iOS & Android, free)
Wally is a simple app—in the best way. Every time you spend money, you input the expense. (Unlike some other apps, Wally doesn’t sync with your bank.) You can scan receipts or add notes to help you keep track of what each expense is.
Wally also helps you categorize those expenses. Then it tracks everything on a daily basis, and assists you in setting spending targets. The feature set isn’t as rich as some other apps, but budgeting is stressful, so when you’re first getting started it pays (get it?) to keep it simple.
For When Overdrafting is Your Deepest Fear:
(iOS & Android; free)
Simple is a little different from the other apps on this list. It’s not just a budgeting app—it’s also a bank.
To use Simple, you actually open a bank account with Simple. Then you use the Simple app to budget. By being the source of the money that goes toward your expenses, Simple is able to make sense of how you spend. You set your own goals, sure, but by learning about your regular cycles of bills and other expenditures, the app is able to tell you whether or not the money you’re thinking about throwing at, say, a leather motorcycle jacket is safe to spend. Or “Safe-to-Spend,” as Simple renders it, because they’ve got a registered trademark on the phrase—it’s a good idea (and a good app), worth protecting.