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Review: The best budgeting apps and services in 2021

Looking to save money, and balance your budget? These mobile apps can help.

So you resolved to budget better in 2021. Great. That’s a solid goal. But with so many budgeting and financial apps out there (and more popping up each day), it can be hard to decide which money app is the best for you.

Should you choose a free app that helps you set up a basic budget? Or pay for an app that offers a few extra features? What about those financial apps that automatically transfer money into a savings account? Are those safe to use, or do you run the risk of not having enough cash on hand when the bills are due?

We’ve put together the details, including the pros and cons, of ten of the best financial apps out there to help you decide. No matter your long-term financial goals, there’s a financial app that will probably work for you.

In this article:

Acorns® — Best for investing small sums

Among the top mobile budgeting apps is Acorns. Acorns is an app that can take the intimidation factor out of investing. The concept is simple — the app rounds up your purchases and invests the difference in one of Acorn’s smart portfolios.

For example, the app could round up the $22.39 sushi takeout you get on Fridays to $23 and automatically invest $0.61. You can also choose to transfer a specific dollar amount daily, weekly, and/ or monthly to your Acorns account.

Acorns also offers a feature called Found Money that partners with companies like Walmart, Under Armour, and UberEats. If you shop with partners in the app, the partner will give you a bonus deposit into your Acorns account.

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Honeydue — Best for splitting bills with a partner

Every couple goes through the awkward stage of figuring out how to manage money together and track spending. Should you split bills down the middle? Should you pay bills from one account?

Honeydue is an app that can help couples get on the same financial page. The Honeydue app is a budgeting platform that lets you both connect financial accounts, so you can manage bills and keep track of account balances in one place.

If you’re worried about maintaining some privacy, don’t worry —  this budget tool lets you decide what bank accounts your partner can and cannot see. Honeydue has a calendar where you can both add bill due dates, and there’s a chatbox where you can message back and forth.

Clarity Money™ — Best for mobile expense tracking

Clarity Money from Marcus by Goldman Sachs® is an AI-powered financial app that uses machine learning to track your spending habits and help you make financial decisions that will bring you closer to long-term goals.

The budgeting app includes dynamic in-app visuals to illustrate your budget and account balances. There’s also a feature with this budgeting tool that can help you monitor and cancel recurring subscriptions. You can even set up savings transfers to a High-Yield Marcus Online Savings Account.

Digit™ — Best for effortless saving

The Digit algorithm analyzes your checking account and spending activity then automatically makes savings transfers each day based on what you can afford.

The idea behind this budget app is that you won’t miss money you don’t see and that automating your savings is easier than manually saving. In the app, you can also set up different savings goals with deadlines.

Funds in Digit accounts are FDIC-insured by bank partners; this means up to $250,000 of your savings is guaranteed if the bank goes under.

The Digit budgeting tool lets you withdraw from the account whenever you need it — though keeping it in there could help you meet financial goals.

Qapital™ — Best for freelancers saving for quarterly taxes

Qapital is another savings automation tool, but it automates using different rules. If you’re an independent contractor who’s gotten a surprise tax bill at the end of the year, you’ll appreciate the “Freelancer Rule.” This rule automatically sets aside a percentage of your income into a separate account so you can save for quarterly or annual tax payments.

There are other rules as well: The “Round Up Rule” rounds up purchases and saves the difference. The “52 Week Rule” automatically saves $1 the first week, $2 the second week, $3 the third week, and so on for an entire year.

Depending on the Qapital membership tier you sign up for, you might be able to invest money saved in low-cost ETFs. Portfolios vary in risk levels ranging from very conservative to very aggressive. Qapital savings accounts are FDIC-insured.

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Goodbudget™ — Best for lovers of the envelope system

Goodbudget uses the tried-and-true envelope budgeting system to help you allocate, manage, and spend your money. Basically, you allocate your income to certain money buckets, and that serves as your spending limit for the month.

Using the app to allocate money to debt and savings can help you tackle your debt balances and save for big expenses. Plus, you can sync and share the budget with a partner. This way, everyone knows exactly how much cash is available to spend.

Mint® — Best for managing money and building credit

Mint is an extraordinarily popular free budgeting app that is frequently named as a “go-to” across financial articles and blogs. Mint is owned by Intuit, the company behind TurboTax, and it’s designed to present a clear picture of your finances on a single dashboard.

After you link your bank accounts, investment accounts, and loan balances, Mint will automatically track and categorize transactions, sending notifications whenever you go over the budget you’ve set for yourself.

Mint can also send an email or SMS alert when bills are due, flag suspicious transactions, and notify you when bank funds are getting low. Plus, you can get regular credit score updates that include a summary of factors impacting your score.

Personal Capital® — Best for long-term financial planning

Personal Capital is essentially a financial planner in your pocket. The service offers two different platforms — a free personal finance app and a paid wealth management platform.

The personal finance app lets you view your assets and liabilities in one place so you can calculate your net worth. You can also set spending targets and visually analyze where your money is going.

Aside from the budgeting features, you can use Personal Capital’s retirement calculator to see if you’re saving enough for the golden years. Personal Capital even has a fee analyzer that tells you how much you’re paying in fees for investment accounts.

Simple — Best for handling banking and budgeting

If you’re looking for the convenience of managing your cash and budgeting in one app, Simple might be up your alley. Simple offers a bank account that comes with budgeting features galore.

After depositing money into the checking account, Simple can automatically set aside money for the expenses you list in your budget. You can also distribute money to different digital envelopes for various financial goals, such as buying a car or new furniture.

To put a cherry on top, Simple will tell you how much money in your account is Safe-to-Spend® considering your future bills and goals. Funds in a Simple account are held by BBVA USA, which is another FDIC-insured financial institution.

You Need a Budget (YNAB®) — Best for budgeting with resources and support

You Need a Budget, often abbreviated to YNAB, is a comprehensive budgeting software program based around the idea of “giving every dollar a job.”

You set up a budget that includes your day-to-day expenses and sinking funds for expenses like car repairs, health insurance deductibles, and holiday travel. Then YNAB asks you to allocate every dollar in your bank account to one of those upcoming expenditures.

Aside from the budgeting software, YNBA offers many educational videos, guides, and podcast episodes that discuss how to get out of debt and break the paycheck-to-paycheck cycle. If you have budget-related questions, there’s a support forum and one-on-one tech support available.

Choosing the best app for your goals

Selecting the best budgeting app comes down to what you hope to get out of the program.

Are you looking for a quick overview of your finances and your credit score? Mint might be a good choice. Want to make a spending plan that helps you meet near-term and long-term goals? YNAB might be right for you. If you’re simply looking to set aside a little extra cash every month, Acorns and Digit might get the job done.

Ask yourself why you want to sign up for a budgeting app, what you hope the app can offer, and whether you can afford to pay a monthly subscription fee. Then choose the best app that meets your needs. With a little planning, and a little assistance from modern technology, 2021 could be your — or at least your wallet’s — best year yet.

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About Taylor Medine

Taylor Medine is a personal finance writer who's covered all things money for the last six years. Her work has appeared on Business InsiderCredit KarmaMSNUSA Today, and much more.

Read more by Taylor Medine

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Haven Life is a customer-centric life insurance agency that’s backed and wholly owned by Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual). We believe navigating decisions about life insurance, your personal finances and overall wellness can be refreshingly simple.

Our editorial policy

Haven Life is a customer centric life insurance agency that’s backed and wholly owned by Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual). We believe navigating decisions about life insurance, your personal finances and overall wellness can be refreshingly simple.

Our content is created for educational purposes only. Haven Life does not endorse the companies, products, services or strategies discussed here, but we hope they can make your life a little less hard if they are a fit for your situation.

Haven Life is not authorized to give tax, legal or investment advice. This material is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for tax, legal, or investment advice. Individuals are encouraged to seed advice from their own tax or legal counsel.

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