If you're anything like me, you have about a million apps on your phone you rarely use. However, there's still room to download some really awesome apps for budgeting, especially if you're just getting started on the whole personal finance thing. For most of us, thinking about our budgets is one of the least exciting and most stress inducing topics we can come up with — but there's no doubt that your budget is important: Even if you're lucky enough to have minimal expenses and rake in a sizable salary now, circumstances can change literally overnight, and it's important to have savings lined up. For those of us who, like me, are not independently wealthy, monthly planning and budgeting makes a big impact on paying bills on time, making rent, cobbling enough together for food delivery at 2 a.m., and so on.
If you aren't already on the budget train, now is as good a time as ever to start. There's still time to save up for a summer vacation or road trip, for example. It's also tax season, and while doing your taxes can initially feel 100 percent overwhelming, it's actually not too hard to do your taxes yourself online (or call an accountant). If you foresee any major life changes coming up, like if you've been wanting to move into a new apartment or adopt a pet, it's definitely a good move to start budgeting and saving now so you're not in a tight spot later. But regardless as to your reasons for budgeting, I think it's a great skill to have nonetheless, and one which will only continue to benefit you in the future. Here are my five picks for the best budgeting apps:
Mint is probably one of the better known apps out there in terms of finances, and I see why: It allows you to connect your bank account directly with the app, so all of your deposits and spending automatically update. It also allows you to pay bills (including things like student loans) directly from the app. Hypothetically, this should help you avoid things like late fees or overdraft charges because things are organized all in the same place. It's available for free for both iOS and Android.
Like Mint, PocketGuard lets you connect your bank account directly with the app. PocketGuard also has an awesome "in your pocket feature," which basically tells you in simple terms how much is left for you to spend, taking into account your recurring payments, pending charges, etc. In my opinion, one of the trickiest things when it comes to budgeting is looking at your bank account and not feeling a false sense of reassurance when you see you've just been paid or gotten a birthday check from your grandma. The reality is that false reassurance has the potential to lead to a lot of extra spending, and an app like PocketGuard provides a nice reminder of how much you actually have to spend without putting yourself in the hole. This app is free for both iOS and Android
This one is slightly different from Mint and PocketGuard, but it's still really cool, especially if you're a competitive or goal-based person. Basically, the app challenges you to save a certain amount of money per week, with the amount of money you need to save going up exponentially as the year goes on. If you follow the challenge exactly, it should help you save over $1,000 in a year's time by doing little else than tapping your phone and moving around funds once a week. And yes, it's free for both iOS and Android.
If you're working to pay off debt, budgeting is a very helpful habit to pick up (if you're not already doing it). Budgeting to keep track of living expenses, bills, and payments can be stressful as it is, but if you're trying to pay off old debts, it can feel like a crushing burden each time you look at your bank account. The Debts Monitor app is simple and straightforward, offering some relief to what's otherwise an anxiety-inducing experience. With Debts Monitor, you literally list your debts and the app tracks when your payments are due, what your balance is, etc. This app costs $0.99 and is available on iOS and Android.
YNAB has a nice visual presentation and is pretty much foolproof. After connecting to your bank account, it breaks down your expenses by category (so yes, you will see exactly how much you spend on cheese at Trader Joe's) so you can see right where your spending is, up to the minute. It also has you insert what goals you're working towards. Need to save an extra month's rent because you're moving soon, for example? YNAB lets you make a listing and add the amount you need to save, so it's a visual reminder of exactly what you're working towards. And yes, it's free on both iOS and Android!
So, there you have it! There are tons of great budgeting apps out there, and I think it all depends on what you value: For some people, a simple and minimalistic aesthetic is important, while for others, it's all about getting into the nitty-gritty of customizing their exact spending habits. And hey, if you want to keep your budget on paper, you absolutely can.
The advantage to using an app like the ones above is that you can bring it with you literally everywhere, so you may be less likely to forget about a purchase or spending increase. Most apps also let you log into your account from a computer, as well. Regardless to how you go about it, keeping a budget and tracking your finances is an important life skill, and one that generally goes hand-in-hand with adulthood. If you think about budgeting as literally saving for your future, it might not seem so bad.
Images: Pexels; iTunes App Store (5)