Best Budgeting Apps

Best Budgeting App

I have written a few posts about this before, but I am a firm believer in budgeting.  I believe it helps one gain a firm grasp on how much money they have, how many obligations (bills, debts, etc) they have, and what to expect to have left, after the bills are paid.

There are varying degrees of budgeting.  I personally have a spreadsheet where I track all of my income and expenses.  After calculating how much of my income needs to be used to satisfy my obligations, I decide what to do with anything that is left over. At the current moment, I am trying to pay off my debt, so everything extra goes to debt payments.  

My husband’s method of budgeting is all in his head.  He knows he has a certain amount of money in the bank, he knows what his paychecks should be, and he knows what bills need to be paid with each paycheck. After he pays his bill, he allocates himself some “fun money” and transfers any remaining money to his saving’s account. 

While I prefer more detail, which I feel is helpful for forecasting and future planning, it just isn’t my husband’s cup of tea.  And that is fine. Whatever works for you, more detail or less, is what you should do.  

But I will say this: I think EVERYONE should have a budget of some form.  Whether you make $10 a week, or $1,000,000 a week, you need to have some concept of how much money you’re bringing in, what obligations you have, and what will be leftover.  

I know a lot of dual-parent households have one parent who works, and another who stays at home.  Whether you are the breadwinner or not, whether you are the person who manages the finances or not, you need to be aware of what is going on with your money.  Even if your spouse makes all of the money, and pays all of the bills, you need to have a weekly or monthly meeting about what is going on in your finances, what your financial goals are, and you need to have access to view those accounts.  

My husband and I both work outside our home, and we bring in roughly the same amount of money.  We have our own separate bank accounts, and we split our bills down the center.   While it may not be conventional, it generally works well for us.  But that doesn’t mean I don’t know what is going on in his finances, and he doesn’t know what is going on in mine.  We have agreed to be transparent with our finances, because although we are separate, I am legally responsible for any of his debts acquired during the marriage, and vice versa.  If something paramount happens in either one of our financial lives, it will directly impact the other, so it is logical that we are aware of what is going on, even though we choose to manage our money separately. 

Okay, there is my budgeting speech.  Have a budget.  Be aware of what is going on in your spouses or significant other’s budget, if it is separate from yours.  If you don’t manage the budget, at least make sure you’re aware of what’s going on. 

You can budget on a piece of paper, a spreadsheet or even crunch numbers in your head, if that works for you.  If you need something a little more sophisticated, I recommend downloading a budgeting app to your phone, tablet or computer, and checking in once a month.  

I have personally tried many personal finance apps, and the one I found to be the most universal and useful is Mint.com. 

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Mint was one of the first personal money management software systems I was introduced to (which must have been 6 years ago).  There are things I love about it, and a few things that I think could be improved, but overall, it is one of the best financial apps out there. 

Here are the pros and cons:

Pros: 

  • Easy to use
  • Large selection of financial institutions that participate with Mint 
  • Free
  • Receive email alerts for low balances on accounts and upcoming bills 
  • Their budgeting integration is pretty slick.  It lets you budget your income, select from a variety of expenses (or create your own), and then it will automatically calculate what is leftover. When transactions hit your bank account, it will automatically update your income or spending, and adjust your balance. 
  • There is a “Trends” feature, that shows how you are spending your money, to give you insight into your spending patterns. 
  • There is a “Goals” feature that lets you track saving for an Emergency Fund, a family vacation, or your child’s college. 

Cons:

  • If you get paid every two weeks (versus on the 1st and 15th, for instance), it can be challenging to setup a monthly budget, and there doesn’t appear to be a budget structure well suited for that. 
  • If you carry and spend cash frequently, it would require you to keep track of your cash receipts and input them into your account to get an accurate picture of your spending patterns. (Personally, I believe an envelope budgeting system would probably be much easier). 
  • Sometimes it drops connections to your accounts, and you have to log back in.  It is not a huge issue, but it is annoying. 

Mint does much more than just budgeting.  It is a hub for most of your personal financial needs.  If you’ve been wanting to budget, get financially organized, or set some financial goals for your family, I highly recommend you check it out. 

I bank at a local credit union, so many of the other personal financial management programs I have tried are not setup to link information with my bank account.  If you bank at Wells Fargo, or US Bank, you’re unlikely to encounter this issue, but it is something you will run into if you bank at a smaller financial institution.  However, there are some competitors to Mint.com that you may prefer for your finances.  Here are a few of the best budgeting apps :

 Have you ever used Mint.com or one of these other best budgeting apps?  How was your experience?



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