Managing money, sticking to a budget, and even handling investment decisions are easier than ever before. This is especially true now, given the plethora of personal finance apps available out there. But not every mobile money management tool is worth downloading. You can take some of the guesswork out of digitizing your finances with this list of the top personal finance apps. Each of the five listed is designated the best for a particular purpose, although several fulfill more than one aim.
Best Money Management App: Mint
The free Mint app from Intuit (INTU)—the company behind QuickBooks and TurboTax—is an effective hands-down, all-in-one resource for creating a budget, tracking your spending, and getting smart about your money. You can connect all your bank and credit card accounts, as well as all your monthly bills so all your finances are in one convenient place.1
Mint lets you know when bills are due, what you owe, and what you can afford to pay based on the funds you have available.2 The app can also send you payment reminders or warn you if you’re approaching budget limits.3 Based on your habits, Mint even gives you specific advice to gain more control over your spending. The free credit score is a nice bonus, too.4
The app is free and allows you to connect to almost any financial institution in the U.S.1 It also provides tips on how to save—from checking and savings accounts, credit cards, certificates of deposit (CDs), and brokerage accounts to individual retirement account (IRA) rollover offers.5
Special features: Shows your real-time credit score.
This app is for you if: You want to know how much money you have at any given time across multiple accounts and cards.
Best Debt App: You Need a Budget
You Need a Budget (YNAB) is unlike any other budgeting app you’ve used before. YNAB helps you stop living paycheck to paycheck, pay down debt, and “roll with the punches” if something unexpected comes up. It’s built around a fairly simple principle: Every dollar has a job in your personal budget, be it for investing, for debt repayment, or to cover living expenses.
You Need a Budget doesn’t let you create budgets around money you don’t have. Instead, it forces you to live within your actual income. If you get off track (and who doesn’t occasionally?), YNAB helps you see what you need to do differently to balance your budget. The built-in accountability partner keeps you on your toes.6 Although users pay a monthly or annual fee for YNAB, many feel the service and support are worth it.7 Online classes with a live instructor for Q&A to help you learn budgeting basics are included.8 In fact, YNAB is so effective that the average user saves $600 their first two months.7 If nothing else, the financial commitment encourages you to use the app.
You can try the app free for 34 days, and sign up for one of two options including the monthly plan at $11.99 per month or the annual plan which costs $84 for the year.7 You can use the service on an iPhone, Android device, or on your desktop.9
Special features: Not only can you set up weekly/monthly budgets (all personal finance apps do that), but you can also set up budgets for individual projects, like Christmas gifts.
This app is for you if: Every other attempt you’ve made to get your budget in check has left you frustrated and hopeless.
Best Tracking Expenses App: Wally
If you’re the sort of person who wants to be as organized with tracking your personal expenses as you are with filing your professional expense reports, you’ll love the totally free Wally app. Instead of manually logging your expenses at the end of the day or week or month, Wally lets you take a photo of your receipts. And if you use geo-location on your device, it even fills in that info, saving you several steps.10
Wally is a clean, streamlined app that’s extremely convenient and easy to use. Again, it’s totally free so you won’t have to shell out any money in fees. And the best part—the app promises no ads. It’s a great choice if you like more insight into where your money is going.
Special features: You can take a photo of your receipts instead of manually entering numbers. Less typing equals fewer, fat-fingered errors.
This app is for you if: Your previous attempts to track expenses were abandoned within a month because you hated entering them.
Mint is currently only available in the U.S. and Canada, while Emma is an alternative app available in the U.K.
Best App for Easy Saving: Acorns
Want to harness the benefits of automating good financial behavior? If that sounds complicated, the Acorns app decidedly isn’t. Basically, every time you make a purchase with a card, you’ve connected to the app, Acorns rounds it up to the next highest dollar and automatically invests the difference in a portfolio of low-cost exchange-traded funds (ETFs) that you select based on your risk preference.11
Acorns put your pocket change to work in an utterly painless way. Users say they never notice the difference. Wouldn’t you love to find an extra $300 or $500 or even $1,500 in your investment account each year?
According to the app, there are more than seven million users (as of Feb. 2020).12 The company says it takes about five minutes to sign up and start saving.11 There are three different options available:
Invest: This option costs $1 per month and gives you the option to put their spare change to good use. Plus, you can earn bonus investments from the app’s partners.
Invest+Later: Priced at $2 per month, this option earns tax advantages and helps investors save for retirement. The account is updated regularly in order to match your preset goals.
Invest+Later+Spend: This is the most expensive option at $3 each month and comes with its own Visa debit card. There are no account fees and all automated teller machine (ATM) fees are reimbursed. Plus, you can continue to invest through both retirement and built-in investment accounts, and you can earn up to 10% in bonus investments.13
Special features: You can set up your Acorns app to automatically invest your savings without knowing about it.
This app is for you if: You have never owned a share of stock because you thought you didn’t have enough money to invest.
Best App for Freelancers: Tycoon
Tycoon was founded by supermodel Jess Perez, whose portfolio includes posing for Victoria’s Secret and Sports Illustrated’s swimsuit edition. Perez noticed that models, like many freelancers, were often paid very late for their work, sometimes months or even years after the contractually required payment period. And it’s hard for freelancers to keep track of multiple projects, especially since they’re usually in the middle of one when another comes in.
Though popular with those in the fashion industry—photographers, stylists, etc.—Tycoon can be valuable for anyone who is self-employed. It lets you standardize the details of a gig, put in a timetable for it, and keep track of payments that have come in, are scheduled to come in, or that are past due—your own little balance sheet, so to speak. It also makes it easy to see, at a glance, which clients have not paid you yet.
Special features: Tycoon App is catered to a freelancer’s special needs, such as calculating take-home pay (minus taxes and agent commission) so you can decide whether or not to even accept a gig.
This app is for you if: You want to decide whether it’s worth it for you to take a certain job. Time, after all, is money.
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