In the UK, the average debt per household is £64,970, with credit card debt making up £2,229 of that figure. It’s no wonder that many of us are concerned about our personal finances and are looking for ways to budget better.
Budgeting apps can help you to do this. They help you keep track of your spending habits so you can work out where you need to cut back, while also encouraging you to save money. And because they can be connected to bank accounts and credit cards, they can provide valuable insights into your financial situation by organising your spending history to identify trends and encourage changes.
Some of the benefits of budgeting apps are that they’re generally easy to use, they save you the time that would normally be spent inputting data into spreadsheets and they help you to stay on track with your spending. This is because you can access them at any time on your mobile device and automated reminders and updates can encourage you to stick to your goals.
Different budgeting apps have different features, though, so to help you decide which budgeting app is right for you we’ve written this article. In it, we’ll reveal our top picks of the best savings apps available for download, explain how these types of apps work and give some top tips on how to budget better.
What are the best apps for sticking to a budget?
Five of the best apps for helping you manage your personal finances better are You Need A Budget (YNAB), Plum, Mint, Emma and PocketGuard.
Some other great budgeting apps include Honeydue, Good Budget, Personal Capital and Spending Tracker.
Continue reading to find out more about these apps, how budgeting apps work and how you can budget better.
How do budgeting apps work?
As already mentioned, different budgeting apps work differently, but once downloaded to a mobile device, tablet or computer, most will track your income, expenses, savings and investments and debt payments so you can see where your money is going and make changes to improve your financial situation.
While the basic apps simply compare your income with your expenditure so you can understand what you’re spending your money on, the more sophisticated ones monitor your expenditure so that your financial situation is always kept up to date, automate your savings, send alerts regarding your bills and goals and give you access to your credit score.
Some of the features that budgeting apps commonly share include:
- Automatic savings — So you can start or optimise the amount you’re saving by rounding up payments and putting the difference into a savings or investment account
- Notifications and reminders — To encourage you to spend less, pay off debt and other bills and save more
- Open banking — You can sync the app to your bank accounts and credit cards so you can view your financial situation in its entirety and without having to manually input your transactions
- Tracking — To give an overview of your income and expenditure
- Transaction grouping — So you can identify spending trends in different areas, such as food and transport, and have a clearer understanding of where your money is going
Nine of the best apps for budgeting
Here’s our pick of the nine best budgeting apps that are currently available for download on iOS and Android devices:
1. You Need A Budget (YNAB)
Unlike many other budgeting apps that simply track what you’ve already spent, YNAB aims to give your finances a complete overhaul.
Admittedly it does take longer to get set up and wrap your head around it all, but that’s only because there are so many great features. Plus, there’s a video, guide and workshop to help you learn the basics.
Users are encouraged to take a proactive approach to budgeting and become debt-free by allocating every penny to something, for example, savings, investments, rent or bills (you can also customise your own spending categories).
The overall goal is to get one month ahead with your finances, but you can set smaller goals too, and the app also offers educational resources like budgeting advice and workshops.
You can choose to either enter your transactions manually or import data from a file, or you can link to your bank accounts and credit cards with the assurance that YNAB makes privacy and security a top priority. Users also report unrivalled customer service.
The Plum app focuses on savings and investments with an automatic savings feature that rounds up your purchases to the nearest pound and puts the difference into an “Interest Pocket”. Depending on which subscription you have, you’ll then get between 0.5 per cent and 1.01 per cent interest on these savings.
There’s a range of savings options available, from investing in stocks and funds to paying into a pension to saving tax-free in an ISA.
Again, you can link to your bank accounts and credit cards so that you have a true picture of your spending and can transfer funds between your account and the app. And, if you opt for the Ultra subscription, you’ll get a debit card and can spend abroad without incurring foreign transaction fees. Some of Plum’s other great features include cashback and upcoming bill alerts.
With 25 million users, Mint is one of the most popular budgeting apps available. One of the reasons for this is that it’s free to use, however, this does mean you have to put up with targeted advertising.
The app allows users to categorise their expenses, track their investments, create savings goals, access their credit scores and sync to their bank accounts and credit cards. You’ll also get bill payment reminders and alerts for things like spending over your budget, ATM fees and large transactions.
What’s more, there’s a blog covering topics on personal finance and educational tools like a loan repayment calculator and a home affordability calculator.
Security features include multi-factor authentication, Verisign scanning and Touch ID mobile access.
As well as being able to link to your bank accounts, Emma allows you to sync to compatible crypto accounts, and you can use the app to invest in traditional stocks and shares too.
With the free basic version, you can categorise your outgoings, identify which areas you can make improvements in and create a budget. The Pro and Ultimate versions provide additional features, such as bill reminders and cashback offers on more than 500 retail partners.
Payments via the app are made with QR codes and unique payment links, meaning you don’t have to disclose your bank details.
Thanks to its algorithm that tracks your income, outgoings and savings goals to create spending limits, PocketGuard can help stop you from overspending.
Like many other budgeting apps, you can categorise your expenses, link to your bank accounts and credit cards, track your investments and choose between a free basic version and a paid-for subscription with extra features. Premium features include data exporting, managing ATM withdrawals and deposits and creating your own categories. It’s also got bill reminders but goes a step further by suggesting where you may be able to negotiate a lower price.
PocketGuard is easy to use and your details are kept secure through major bank-level encryption, a four-digit PIN and biometrics such as Face ID and Touch ID.
Honeydue is another free budgeting app, but what makes it stand out from the others is that it allows couples to manage their finances together. Both people can track their spending, sync their bank accounts and credit cards and view their loans and investments — plus bills can be coordinated.
Users can categorise their expenses and set up spending limits for each category, with both people receiving notifications if they’re reaching their limit.
Honeydue also offers a joint bank account; partners can chat and send emojis to each other through the app.
7. Good Budget
This budgeting app is extremely easy to use — both on a computer and on your mobile device.
As its name suggests, the focus is on budgeting, with users splitting their income into different envelopes for each of their expenses and only using money from the relevant envelope to make purchases. Some examples of these expenses could include utility bills, groceries and debt, as well as long-term savings goals.
To motivate you to spend better, you can track how much of your debt you’re paying off, and you’ll also receive reports on your budgeting progress.
The basic subscription is free, but you can upgrade to the Plus version for unlimited envelopes and accounts, sync up to five devices and access your transaction history as far back as seven years.
8. Personal Capital
While the budgeting features of the Personal Capital app aren’t as comprehensive as some of the others, it’s ideal for those who are looking to make money from investing.
As well as being able to link your bank accounts and credit cards, it allows you to sync your pensions, mortgages and loans, so you can track your net worth over time, check your portfolio fees and plan for your retirement.
Personal Capital is free to use, but you can add investment management services for 0.89 per cent of your money if you wish.
Additionally, the app’s blog gives financial planning tips to help you understand your finances better.
9. Spending Tracker
Another easy-to-use budgeting app, the free version of Spending Tracker shows your spending history, allows you to set budgeting goals and tracks your spending through in-app reports and interactive charts.
So you can see exactly where your money is going and identify the areas that need improving, you can manually enter your transactions and group them however you choose.
If you upgrade to the Pro version, you’ll also be able to repeat transactions for different time periods and you have the option to export your data to a CSV file.
Top budgeting tips
In addition to downloading a budgeting app, you might find the following tips useful for getting a better grip on your personal finances:
- Check your outgoings — Go through your old bank statements and cancel any regular payments for things you’re no longer using. This could include gym memberships, music subscriptions and TV streaming services.
- Don’t make impulse purchases — If you see something you want, rather than buying it straight away, sleep on it and see whether you still want to buy it the next day. You’ll be surprised at how often you don’t.
- Freeze your spending — Challenge yourself to spend nothing on non-essentials. How long you decide to do this is up to you, but the longer you go the more you will save, and the more likely it will be that you stick to your new habits.
- Link your spending to your work — To help you fully understand the value of something you want to buy, you might find it helpful to calculate how many hours you would have had to work to pay for it. This can help you to view money in a different way and help you decide whether it’s worth making a purchase.
- Lower your credit card limit — If you can, reduce your credit card and overdraft limits. Doing so will make it easier to control your spending as there’s less temptation to spend money you don’t have.
- Make a meal plan — Before you buy groceries, decide what meals you want to eat each day and make a list of the ingredients you need to make those dishes. This will ensure you don’t waste money on food that will go off because you don’t have time to eat it. Writing a list can also prevent you from making impulse purchases (especially if you’re shopping on an empty stomach when this is more likely to happen).
- Only spend what you can afford — This does take some discipline, but rather than buying something on credit, try to get into the habit of saving up for the things you want.
- Shop around — Everyone loves a bargain, so take time to shop around and choose alternatives to the more expensive brands you’d normally go for. After a couple of shopping trips, you’ll see the savings start adding up to more substantial amounts.
Many of us are concerned about our personal finances and are looking for ways in which we can budget better. Budgeting apps can help you to do this. They help you keep track of your spending habits so you can work out where you need to cut back, while also encouraging you to save money.
Most free budgeting apps allow you to track your spending and will send you notifications for things like bill payments, with the option to upgrade to a premium version, where you’ll get additional features, such as cashback and more personalised transaction grouping.
Some of the best budgeting apps are You Need A Budget (YNAB), Plum, Mint, Emma, PocketGuard, Honeydue, Good Budget, Personal Capital and Spending Tracker.