The phone you carry in your pocket can be a potent tool for financial management; it’s always with you, and can easily be used to check your spending, categorize your expenses, and plan your savings. All you need is the right budgeting app and the discipline to stick to your goals. Of these two factors, the latter is the most important. No budgeting app can substitute for your commitment to abide by the terms of your budget — that means keeping your spending within the limits for each budget category, consistently checking your budget before making major spending decisions, and setting aside money for your savings goals.
Let’s assume you’re ready for the discipline of creating a budget and sticking to it. What budgeting app will work best for you? The answer depends on your habits, circumstances, and goals. Are you in a relationship in which you pool your resources with a partner? We’ll have a specific recommendation for couples. Are you interested primarily in retrospective budgeting, or forward-looking budgeting (do you prefer to analyze where your money went, or allocate funds ahead of time)? How about cost — does this app need to be free or can you invest a bit? Depending on your choices, there’s a budgeting app out there that can be your best fit.
While no app is perfect for everyone, we can evaluate budgeting apps based on the features that matter to most people. Among the many worthy contenders in 2023, there are three standout budgeting apps: Mint, PocketGuard, and Honeydue.
Mint: Free and Capable
Mint was one of the first financial apps to arrive on smartphones that made categorizing and tracking expenses easy. Mint’s simple graphical interface, ease of use, and accessible price (free!) have made it a perennial top choice for novice budgeters. Expense categorization is automatic on Mint, which takes some of the burdens off of maintaining a budget. But this can be a mixed blessing, as some people like to label their expenses as a way to stay conscious of their budget.
Mint has a monthly bill payment feature that allows you to look at pending bills, see when they are due, and see whether you have enough funds to cover them. Another useful feature is the daily budget planner that looks at your spending patterns and recommends budget goals to you (these goals are fully adjustable).
Mint also incorporates several related financial tools, such as a credit monitoring service and a loan payment calculator. Overall, Mint is a popular choice for budgeting that covers the bases well. The main downside to it being free is that you’ll be forced to watch mobile ads, which can be an obnoxious interruption.
PocketGuard: Clear Spending Recommendations
PocketGuard makes our list for its focus on the key question budgeters are trying to answer: how much can I safely spend this month? That’s exactly what the cornerstone feature called “In My Pocket” answers. IMP (for short) is essentially an equation that takes your income and subtracts money — based on your bills, savings goals, and spending patterns — to arrive at a simple number that approximates how much free cash you have available. With this number in hand, you can make sound financial decisions about optional purchases.
Advantages of PocketGuard include its quick setup process to connect to most major banks, its adjustable budgets based on your goals and spending categories, and its simplicity in use. Disadvantages apply primarily to the free version of the app — customization of spending categories and the splitting of expenses across multiple categories require the paid version of the app, PocketGuard Plus. But Plus is still a good deal at $7.99 per month, $79.99 per year, or (the best option for serious budgeters) $99.99 for a lifetime membership.
Honeydue: The Couple’s Budget
Honeydue has a major financial insight for people in a relationship: it’s easier to budget effectively when you can see and track shared expenses. Whether it’s rent, utility bills, or child-care expenses, couples often share their financial burdens, so it makes sense to have a budgeting app that recognizes that reality. In Honeydue, each person gets an individual budget, and then a shared “Us” budget that appears the same for both people. Users can choose what to include in the Us budget and what to keep personal.
While Honeydue is uniquely suited to couples, it’s also just a solid all-around budgeting app. It has the expense categorization and savings goals features you’d expect, and some less-common perks, such as the ability to set up a joint banking app with your partner (with no account minimums or monthly fees). It also allows you to set up automatic alerts when new spending occurs, as a method to combat fraud. Another cool feature is a built-in chat with your partner to discuss spending and budgeting decisions. If you’ve reached the stage of sharing expenses in your relationship, consider Honeydue.
Budgeting App Wrap Up
We’ve surveyed the top three apps for budgeting in 2023. Which should you pick? That’s for you to decide, based on your circumstances and preferences. Since all these apps are either free or have a free option (like PocketGuard), consider downloading them all to test out. Then you’ll be able to evaluate how well the conventions of a particular program match your budgeting style.
When it comes to budgeting from your phone, it’s hard to go wrong with any of these apps. Finally, with so much of your life passing through your mobile phone — including sensitive financial information — it pays to protect your mobile from viruses and malware with a dedicated safety app.
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