The start of a new year is when many of us take a fresh look at our household budgets and try to wrangle them into a more organized system. In the past, you may have tried tracking expenses in a paper notebook, or saving all of your receipts to eventually enter in a spreadsheet kept somewhere on your laptop.
But receipts tend to get misplaced or lost. You don’t always have your expense notebook with you to record a purchase. And computer files can be wiped out by a hardware failure. This year, it’s time to bring your personal finances into the mobile age, and start using an app on your smartphone to manage your money matters.
There are dozens of personal finance apps available for iPhones and Android phones. Using your phone to manage your budget works remarkably well, since you almost always have your phone with you when you make a purchase. Your phone’s camera offers a great way to capture paper receipts and add them to your digital bookkeeping.
Best of all, most personal finance apps store their data in the cloud, so you can retrieve your information from anywhere you have an internet connection, and your data won’t be permanently lost if your mobile device breaks down.
Let’s take a look at where you can find personal finance apps, and which of these apps are among the most popular today.
Where can you find personal finance apps?
One of the best places to start looking for a personal finance app is your current bank. Many major banks offer free budgeting apps to their customers that often coordinate with your physical and online banking transactions.
The quality of a bank’s mobile app will vary based on how much time and attention has been put into the app’s creation. If your bank doesn’t offer an app, or if it is overly complicated or doesn’t do everything you want it to, there are plenty of alternatives available from the Apple and Google app stores.
Some of the personal finance apps from the Apple and Google stores are free to download and use, but expect to see advertisements while you’re using them. Or you may be reminded from time to time the vendor has a “premium” version of the app that requires a one-time purchase to add more features.
Some premium home finance apps come with a monthly subscription fee. Depending on how complex your household finances are and the value you get from using the software, these “first-class” apps may (or may not) be worth the monthly expense.
What are the top personal finance apps?
With every mobile app category, whether you’re looking at games, music, or household budgeting, there are hundreds of options available and a short list of the top selections. Here is our list of the top five personal finance apps for 2017.
Mint (Free; iPhone and Android)
Mint is the grandfather of online financial management products—the original Mint.com website was launched back in 2006 and then purchased in 2009 by Intuit, the makers of TurboTax and Quicken. Mint has definitely benefited from Intuit’s development resources and support since its purchase.
You can use Mint in a browser on your PC as well as on your smartphone. If you have an iPhone, there is even a Mint companion app that runs on the Apple Watch that gives you notifications about your spending.
GoodBudget (Free and paid subscriptions; iPhone and Android)
If you’re a fan of the envelope budgeting method, where you put cash in different envelopes for each expense in order to keep track of your monthly spending, you’ll like GoodBudget.
GoodBudget is a virtual envelope budget system that removes the hassle of physical envelopes and maintaining a cash-on-hand household. Users can opt for a premium subscription that adds functionality with unlimited envelopes and extra years of history tracking.
Wally (Free; iPhone and Android)
The personal finance app Wally has made excellent progress since its launch in 2013. The iPhone version can now identify expense types based on your location. Wally can also give smart notifications for important budget events and milestones, and lets you enter receipts by taking a photo of them. Impressively, the app supports three languages: English, Spanish, and Arabic.
PocketGuard (Free; iPhone and Android)
“Money simplified” is PocketGuard‘s tagline, and the app lives up to its slogan. PocketGuard connects to your bank account to provide real-time balances and transaction records. The app also analyzes your spending so it can automatically plan various payments and save you cashflow issues. The heavy lifting takes place in the background—the app uses 128-bit SSL encryption to protect your personal information when it’s transferred online.
The iPhone version of PocketGuard also supports an Apple Watch app that makes it even easier to keep track of your current finances.
You Need a Budget – YNAB (Free trial, $5/month or $50/year; iPhone and Android)
YNAB is a bit like a personal trainer for your household budget. The app’s four-rule method is designed to keep your spending controlled but still reasonable, which enables you to pay off debt while avoiding new debt traps. YNAB offers great goal tracking and progress reports to help encourage users to hit their financial targets.
Start 2017 with a new personal finance app
The smartphone has become our constant companion. A growing number of people are using their phones to pay for purchases with Apple Pay, Google Wallet, and other payment systems. It makes perfect sense to use your phone to manage your budget at the same time as you’re shopping.
Whether your monthly budget is simple or complex, there is a personal finance app that will make your life easier, and help you take control of your expenses in 2017.