Top 5 budgeting apps to explore

A woman holding a credit card and phone, sitting at a desk.

It’s the time of year when we’ve probably forgotten all about our New Year’s resolutions and have returned to our old ways. But no one ever said you can’t start a new habit on the other 364 days of the year.

When it comes to staying on top of your finances, you can start anytime, so why not now? Maybe you’re overwhelmed by holiday debt and are afraid to look at your credit card statements. Or maybe it’s time to throw caution to the wind and plan that extravagant vacation.

Whatever the case, a solid budget can help you meet your financial goals. That’s why we’ve rounded up five of the best online budgeting programs and apps to help you save and plan for any financial opportunities (a great word for both good and not-so-good situations; a positive spin, if you will) that may make an appearance in the future.

1. YNAB (You Need a Budget)

The You Need a Budget (YNAB) app uses a zero-based budgeting method, which means every dollar gets allocated to a specific destination. This system encourages users to account for every dollar and plan for future expenses instead of only tracking past transactions.

Users can easily—and securely—link bank accounts to YNAB to import transactions automatically. It also allows users to set financial goals to track their individual progress. In addition, they offer free workshops and educational guides for their users. And if that isn’t enough, YNAB is also available on multiple platforms, including web and mobile apps, and updates automatically across all devices.

Cost: $8.25/month (paid $99 annually) or $14.99/month

Free trial: 34 days

2. EveryDollar

Like YNAB, EveryDollar uses the zero-based budgeting approach. Users are encouraged to allocate every dollar of income to a specific category (think: savings, utilities, debt) to ensure no unassigned money is left on the table each month. Users can also create custom categories and adjust their budget as needed.

EveryDollar allows both manual entry of transactions and automation of bank transactions. It also offers access via the web and mobile versions. Users receive a monthly newsletter with budgeting articles, tips and tricks; however, only Premium subscribers have access to financial coaching.

Cost: EveryDollar is free. EveryDollar Premium is $17.99/month or $79.99/year after the free 14-day trial.

3. Goodbudget

The Goodbudget app is a modern twist to the traditional envelope budgeting method. Monthly income is allocated into separate “envelopes” for various spending categories. Once an envelope is empty, the spending stops in that category. Users can save for big expenses and track their debt payoff progress.

Expenses and transactions must be entered manually, but household budgets can be shared across family members, so each member is kept updated on finances in real time. Like YNAB, Goodbudget offers budgeting courses for free and is available across multiple platforms for ease of use.

Cost: Goodbudget is free; Goodbudget Plus is $8/month or $70/year.

4. Quicken Simplifi

Quicken Simplifi allows users to customize their budgets based on past spending habits. It also securely connects to bank and investment accounts, credit cards and more to simplify expense and transaction tracking. This allows Simplifi to create a personalized spending plan based on your transactions and also accommodates whichever budgeting method you prefer (e.g., zero-based, envelope).

Simplifi’s reporting feature gives users detailed insight into their financial picture. Users can also share their accounts with partners or financial advisors, so everyone is on the same page regarding finances. Plus, Simplifi provides alerts about unusual or unexpected transactions, upcoming bills and subscriptions, and even when spending limits are close to being reached.

Cost: $3.99/month billed annually

5. PocketGuard

PocketGuard syncs with financial accounts like bank accounts, credit cards, investments and more to track spending and provide a simplified financial view of a user’s net worth. It also calculates how much disposable income is available once monthly bills, goals and savings are satisfied.

PocketGuard allows users to create budgets for various spending categories and track progress toward goals. It also provides tools to create and manage a debt payoff plan, along with a bill negotiation service that may be able to help reduce recurring bills. Note: PocketGuard is only available via mobile app.

Cost: PocketGuard is free. PocketGuard Plus is $7.99/month, $79.99/year or a lifetime subscription is available for $99.99.

Summing it up

Each budgeting app has its strengths and price points. The best app for you may not be the best app for a friend or neighbor—it all depends on your financial goals, the budgeting style you prefer and how much control you want over your finances. Whichever you choose, your finances will love you (if you put in the effort, of course). Happy budgeting!