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10 Best Budgeting Apps for Beginners

The past decade or so has been an excellent time for the personal finance space. That’s largely thanks to the spread of powerful apps and software tools to simplify managing one’s money. If you’re looking for the best budget apps for beginners in particular, you’ve come to the right place!

There are plenty of powerful budgeting apps to choose from, with many of them being ideal for beginners. Popular examples include Mint, YNAB, PocketGuard, and many more that help with budgeting, tracking, and goal-setting features. Each one is designed differently, so finding one that suits your preferences and style won’t be a problem.

This guide will walk you through the 10 of the best budgeting apps for beginners. You’ll learn what each app does and discover their strengths and weaknesses. Read until the end to find the one you’ll like the most!

Key Takeaways

  • Beginners have a wide range of powerful budgeting apps to choose from, such as Mint, YNAB, and PocketGuard, each offering unique features to suit different preferences and styles.
  • Budgeting apps help users track spending, plan budgets, set financial goals, get payment reminders, and gain insights into their financial habits, making it easier to manage personal finances effectively.
  • Finding the best budgeting app and mastering budgeting practices takes time and involves learning from mistakes, emphasizing the importance of persistence and continuous improvement in personal finance management.

Benefits of Budgeting Apps

There’s been a lot of hype lately about budgeting apps and how they can help your personal finances. That’s likely one reason why you’re searching for the best one to start with.

While the hype is good, it’s also important to understand how these apps could potentially help you.

The best ones have multiple features that make it convenient for you to:

  • Track spending. Apps make it easy for you to record every dollar you spend. Some do it automatically by syncing with your bank or card accounts, though you can key in purchases manually.
  • Budget. These apps also help you give every dollar you earn a clear job to do, i.e. plan your budget.
  • Set goals. You can also use them to set short-term financial goals like saving targets and long-term ones like affording a home.
  • Get reminders. Some apps can also remind you to make important payments, like your monthly credit card installments.
  • Gain insight. With all the information above, apps can also generate reports to provide you insight into your financial habits. Insights help you learn and improve how you manage your money.

Finding the best budgeting app for you can take time and involves lots of trial and error. That’s also true for budgeting in general, as everyone makes mistakes along the way.

Remember: Even the most experienced people sometimes make mistakes with their budgets. So learn from your budgeting errors and don’t give up.

Budgeting apps

Top 10 Best Budgeting Apps for Beginners

There are plenty of budgeting apps available nowadays, so choosing the right one can be quite challenging.

Don’t worry, though. Here is a collection of the 10 best budgeting apps for beginners, with a close look at the benefits and drawbacks of each one:

App Key Features Pros Cons
Mint/Credit Karma Comprehensive financial view, account linking, spending tracking, budget creation, notifications Easy to use, intuitive design, text/email notifications Intrusive advertisements; Not quite fully rolled out since changing to Credit Karma
YNAB Zero-based budgeting, syncs with 10,000+ banks, multi-device syncing Ease of use, seamless integration Lacks bill-paying features, no bill tracking or reminders
PocketGuard Spending tracking, budget optimization, “In My Pocket” feature, categorizes expenses Helps prevent overspending, provides spending warnings Occasional syncing issues, limited investment tracking
Goodbudget Envelope budgeting system, spending reports Simple, generates spending reports Limited features for advanced users
Empower/Personal Capital Investment management, retirement planning tools, simple budgeting features Excellent for investment tracking, useful for long-term planning High management fees for robo-advisory feature
EveryDollar Zero-based budgeting, comprehensive budgeting tools, insurance and mortgage management Comprehensive features, reliable for long-term personal finance management Annual fee for full features, no monthly payment option
Wally Account tracking, spending reports, receipt scanning Collaborative features, useful for joint accounts and splitting payments Small fonts, challenging for visually impaired users
Simple Budget Online banking and budgeting tools Very straightforward, minimal learning curve May lack features for more sophisticated budgeting needs
TrueBill/RocketMoney Budget creation, savings goals, subscription tracking, bill negotiation Focuses on subscription management, helps negotiate some bills Limited bill negotiation capabilities
PocketSmith Customized expenses, multiple budgets, forecasting tools, budgeting calendar Financial forecasting visualizes goals, helps pay bills on time Limited investment tracking features

1. Credit Karma/Mint

Kicking off this list is a well-known budgeting app called Mint. The app was recently discontinued but some of the best features are now available on Credit Karma.

Originally, Mint was developed by Intuit, which is also known for other widely used financial apps like Quickbooks and TurboTax, which means they know what they’re doing when it comes to building apps.

The app has been around since 2006 and offers users a comprehensive view of their finances in one easy-to-use application.

Like many of the apps you’ll see on this list, it enables you to link various accounts to the app for easy monitoring. That includes your savings accounts, credit cards, loans, and other financial accounts.

As you’d expect, you can use Mint to track your spending and create your budget, among many other useful features.

What we like about it: There’s lots to like about the Credit Karma app. Beginners will surely appreciate how easy it is to use. The app design is intuitive, which means it won’t take long for you to get the hang of using it. In addition, the app can also send you text or email notifications when your account balances are low, bill deadlines are approaching, or suspicious activity is detected on your accounts.

What could be better: Sadly, it does have a couple of drawbacks. The most notable one is how the app relies on advertisements to keep it free for users. Those ads can be quite intrusive, making the user experience not as good as it could be.

2. YNAB (You Need a Budget)

Another excellent beginner-friendly budgeting app is YNAB, short for ‘You Need A Budget’. One of the biggest things that sets this app apart is how it’s designed for zero-based budgeting.

In a nutshell, zero-based budgeting means building a new budget every month and justifying each expense. Meanwhile, other approaches tend to use a previous budget as a baseline, with a few adjustments made along the way.

Still, this app is packed with features and easy to use, making it a good option for newbies.

What we like about it: The best things about this app are its ease of use and seamless integration.

For one thing, it syncs with over 10,000 banks. That means you can connect it to your bank account and have it gather up-to-date information from it all the time.

Meanwhile, the app also syncs across multiple devices. As a result, you can manage your budget from your phone, tablet, and any other device you use.

What could be better: Unfortunately, YNAB isn’t as helpful as other apps when it comes to your bills. Not only does it lack bill-paying features, but it also doesn’t help keep track of your bills or provide reminders.

3. PocketGuard

PocketGuard earns its place on this list thanks to its incredibly intuitive and user-friendly design. The app appeals to a wide range of users by being welcoming to newbies while being feature-packed enough to keep veteran budgeters happy.

Overall, the app helps you track your spending and optimize your budget. In addition to syncing with bank accounts, the app also enables users to categorize expenses and even offers helpful suggestions.

What we like about it: PocketGuard is a great all-around budgeting app, but what makes it stand out is its ability to help with overspending.

Firstly, PocketGuard’s “In My Pocket” feature tells you how much money you have available before you make a purchasing decision. As such, it can help you prevent overspending.

PocketGuard can also warn you if you accidentally overspend. In the long run, this app is great for building better financial habits to prevent overspending and other unhealthy practices.

What could be better: PocketGuard is known for having the occasional issue with syncing user bank accounts. However, that’s something that could be fixed any day now.

Besides that, the app doesn’t provide many features for tracking investments when compared to other apps. That might not necessarily be an issue for new users, but it could be a challenge in the future.

4. Goodbudget

One thing you’ll learn from this guide as a beginner is how there are many different approaches to budgeting. As such, some apps cater to one budgeting approach over the others.

Goodbudget is another example, as it’s based on the envelope system. Simply put, that means dividing your budget into different spending categories (or ‘envelopes’) and putting money into each one.

That way, your spending in each category is limited by whatever funds you have in the envelope.

Some people used to take that approach by filling physical envelopes with cash. These days, you have handy apps like Goodbudget to help you with that.

What we like about it: The envelope method has always been popular for its simplicity, and the best thing about the Goodbudget app is how it provides the same. If you’re looking for a no-frills budgeting app, this is the one for you.

Still, the app isn’t just about setting money aside in different categories. You can also use it to generate spending reports to gain insight into how you manage your money.

What could be better: Goodbudget’s simplicity might also be what holds it back, at least for some users. While it’s excellent for newbies, you might find it lacks enough features as you become more sophisticated with your budgeting.

5. Empower/Personal Capital

So far, we’ve examined apps that are primarily designed for budgeting. As a result, their investment features are minimal, if any.

Personal Capital is the complete opposite. It’s designed primarily as an investment managing app that helps you track investments and retirement accounts while providing personalized financial advice, which is why it was recently acquired by Empower, one of the nation's largest retirement advisors. 

Still, Personal Capital offers simple budgeting and savings tools that are great for beginners who want to take control of their personal finances.

What we like about it: Undoubtedly, the best thing about Personal Capital is how it can help you plan your finances until retirement. As you read above, it’s geared mainly towards investments with features like a retirement calculator and an investment checkup tool.

As a beginner budgeter, that’s good news because it means this app’s budgeting features are easy enough to master quickly. Better yet, Personal Capital can continue to be useful to you even as you grow and become more sophisticated with your finances.

What could be better: One potential downside to this app is its high management fees for its robo-advisory feature. As a newbie budgeter exploring finance apps and their features, you’ll likely find lower fees using different apps.

6. EveryDollar

Dave Ramsey is a personal finance expert best known for his debt-free principles. However, many people don’t know that he’s also an advocate of the zero-based budgeting approach.

One way that his organization promotes that approach to managing personal finance is through the EveryDollar app, which earns its place on this list as one of the best budgeting apps around for beginners and experienced users alike.

What we like about it: EveryDollar is a well-thought-out and well-designed app with loads of value. One of the best things about it is its comprehensive list of features.

Not only does it offer the most essential budgeting tools to help you plan and track your money, but it also helps you manage more complex financial products like your insurance and mortgage payments.

In other words, this is an app that you can rely on as you go through your personal finance journey and grow from a beginner to an experienced budgeter.

What could be better: There’s no question that EveryDollar has plenty of features. Unfortunately, the paid version, which unlocks the full list of features, charges an annual fee with no monthly option. 

Having a monthly payment option would be much better for newbies who are still deciding whether the app is for them.

7. Wally

Next on this list is another straightforward budgeting app called Wally. This one helps you keep an eye on your accounts and track your purchases to avoid overspending.

More importantly, it also provides reports so you can gain insight into your spending habits and identify areas for improvement.

One helpful feature that makes this app stand out is its ability to scan and upload physical receipts for purchases. As you can imagine, this can be incredibly helpful in situations that require proof of purchase, like dealing with warranties or tax matters.

What we like about it: Some of the best features of the Wally budgeting app are those that enable collaboration. 

For example, you can use this app to create groups and manage joint accounts. That adds transparency, as you can keep an eye on the balance with other account holders.

Similarly, the app also helps you split payments with friends and keep track of who owes money to whom.

What could be better: One thing that would make this app better is its user interface. The app looks pretty slick in general, but the fonts are often small and difficult to read. That might make using it challenging for senior citizens or the visually impaired.

8. Simple Budget

Everything you need to know is all in the name when it comes to this budgeting app. It’s straightforward, and it bundles online banking and budgeting tools together in one app.

Simple is a perfect example of a no-frills budgeting app that helps you get started immediately with little or no learning curve involved.

You can use it to plan your spending and track everything, too. That means you’ll know pretty quickly if you’re going off track and need to make adjustments.

What we like about it: As you might expect, the thing that makes this app a winner is its simplicity. Personal finance and budgeting beginners won’t have to worry about feeling intimidated or overwhelmed when using this app to start their journey towards better financial health.

What could be better: Again, an app’s simplicity is a double-edged sword. While this app keeps things simple for newbies, there’s a risk that beginners will outgrow it quickly and seek other apps with more sophisticated budgeting features.

9. TrueBill/RocketMoney

Recently acquired and now called RocketMoney, TrueBill is quite a unique app when it comes to budgeting and saving money. Sure, it has features that’ll help you create a budget while syncing to your bank and credit card accounts.

On top of that, it also helps you set savings goals and automate your payments towards them.

However, TrueBill stands out by helping you track your subscriptions and, in some cases, can even help negotiate your bills so you’ll pay less overall.

What we like about it: TrueBill's best feature is that it focuses on your subscriptions by helping you find and track them. This can be quite helpful if subscription payments are a significant portion of your expenses.

What could be better: As great as TrueBill is, it does have some limitations regarding the kinds of bills it can negotiate on your behalf. For example, the app can’t help you with electric, internet, or landline phone bills. 

10. PocketSmith

Last but certainly not least is PocketSmith, another powerful budgeting app that remains a favorite among its users.

You can sync bank accounts to this app, even if they’re in different countries, all while creating customized expenses and multiple budgets.

Better yet, you’ll also have access to forecasting tools to help you plan more effectively for future expenses and savings goals.

What we like about it: Two things stand out about PocketSmith. The first was mentioned earlier: you can use the app to forecast your finances into the future. 

Not only does that enable more accurate planning, but it also helps you visualize your goals more vividly.

The app also has a budgeting calendar that helps you pay your bills on time. Avoiding late bills is excellent for your budget because it prevents late fees and other penalties.

What could be better: PocketSmith packs a lot of capabilities into one convenient app. Unfortunately, it lacks features that help users with their investing. 

Being focused on budgeting is fine for beginners, though it can be a limitation in the long run.

Use Technology to Optimize Your Budgeting

Gone are the days when budgeting was done with pen and paper or plain spreadsheets on a computer. These days, users are spoilt for choice, with so many of the best budget apps for beginners to start with.

Play around with different apps to find the one that suits you the best. In the meantime, remember that budgeting mistakes happen to everyone.

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