By: Julia Bellotti
Ever checked your back account only to find that you didn’t have as much money as you thought you had? We’ve all been there. It’s understandable with the amount of bills, life expenses, and especially subscriptions that exist nowadays. Not only do many of us partake in the new monthly subscription box fad (razors, wine, clothes, snacks, dinners, you name it, you can probably get it sent to your house monthly) but TV and internet bills are also more complicated (subscriptions to services such as Netflix, Hulu, HBO, etc. come to mind). With everything you can sign up for these days, it’s easy to lose track of where your money is going.
Fortunately, there are numerous apps that can easily replace your Excel spreadsheets and receipt hoarding. We break down some of the best money tracking apps to help you get a handle of your finances, or at least become more cognizant of your spending. All of these apps have pros and cons, so you should figure out which is best for your style.
Google Play Rating: 4.3 (128,514 votes)
Apple App Store Rating: 4.7 (244,610 reviews)
In my research, Mint came up time and time again as one of the most preferred apps for managing your money. It provides a comprehensive hands-off approach for your entire financial portfolio: savings, bills, 401k, investments, and budgeting. Need alerts for when bills are due? Want to know when you’re about to exceed your Transportation budget? Want to see what your investments and retirement funds look like? Mint can do that.
You will have to connect all of your accounts, including credit cards, to the app in order for it to analyze your financial habits. The one criticism of Mint is that its approach is primarily hands off. You won’t be notified how each of your purchases is being categorized (although you can manually re-categorize a purchase if needed), and if you prefer to know exactly where every single penny is going, this app won’t provide as much granular details as some other apps offer. Mint also works best if all (or most) of your purchases are done digitally.
That being said, Mint is a fantastic app that many people like. From the company that made taxes easier with TurboTax (Intuit), it’s no surprise their financial health app makes money managing more convenient and simplified.
You Need a Budget (YNAB)
Google Play Rating: 4.4 (10,245 votes)
Apple App Store Rating: 4.2 (537 reviews)
Cost: $6.99/month, billed annually at $83.99 (free for students)
Investopedia touted You Need a Budget as the “best app for getting out of debt.” This app forces you to pay attention to every dollar that you spend. While Mint provides a bird’s eye view, YNAB does the exact opposite. It really helps you set financial goals and reach them. You will still have to link your accounts/credit cards to the app, but you will have a much closer relationship with every purchase.
YNAB does not offer insight to your investments or retirement funds, so Lifehacker recommends pairing this app with Betterment. “Betterment allows you to integrate your accounts to see your net worth just like Mint, but without the budget tracking. The two compliment each other without overlapping too much.” YNAB and Betterment combined could be a better choice for you if you really want to get on top of your spending and meet savings goals.
Google Play Rating: 3.3 (2,034 votes)
Apple App Store Rating: 3.8 (112 votes)
Wally is vastly different from Mint or YNAB. It has two very specific use cases, and this may be the best option for you based on your current spending habits. This is best for you if a) you primarily pay in cash, or b) want to track exactly what you’re buying.
You must input all of your expenses with Wally, which is why it’s very different from previous apps’ auto tracking features. While other apps may categorize everything you bought at Target under department stores, Wally would let you specify that the eggs, bread, and chips you bought in Target’s grocery section should count towards your grocery budget.
While you can input each purchase manually, Wally also lets you scan your receipts, which is intended to speed along the manual process. You can also take a picture of the entire receipt and save it for your records. This is great if you have previously been tracking expenses via spreadsheet and want something a little slicker, or if most of your purchases are in cash and therefore not logged in your online accounts.
Google Play Rating: 4.3 (40,776 votes)
Apple App Store Rating: 4.7 (182,310 reviews)
I absolutely love Acorns. This is personally my favorite app for mindless saving. What it does is round up each purchase that you make to the nearest dollar and take out the difference. So if you buy a coffee for $3.45, Acorns will take out $0.55. This may not seem like a lot, but it adds up more quickly than you realize. You can also set it so it takes out double the amount, letting you save more quickly. If you want, you can set up recurring withdrawals as well, such as $5 every Monday.
The interesting thing about Acorns is that it takes those withdrawals and invests them. You can set how aggressive you want your portfolio to be, and there is some risk involved. You can make money from your savings, but you could also potentially lose money. In the 1+ years that I’ve had the app, I’ve probably made about $5, so I personally don’t think the investment piece makes too much of a difference, but I also understand that the gains from investing are much greater the longer you keep your money in. Acorns lets you withdraw your money as often as you’d like, so there is no commitment.
Trim isn’t exactly an app because it functions primarily through text, but we’re including it here anyway because it can be SUPER useful. It identifies everything you’re subscribed to, and gives you the option to remove yourself from those services. How does that work exactly?
You sign up for an account on their website, and link your bank accounts and credit cards. It then looks for patterns in your last three months of spending. If there are recurring charges of similar amounts, it identifies them as a bill or subscription. You’ll receive a text with the full list and you simply reply with “Remove X” and Trim will submit a request to remove that subscription for you you. The most common recurring charge that most people don’t realize is for Experian Credit Services. If you’ve lost track of what you’re subscribed to, or want to make sure you’re accounting for everything, Trim is very helpful.
Unfortunately, there are a couple services that don’t allow Trim to unsubscribe for you, but Trim will let you know which those are and how you can unsubscribe.
The Bottom Line
There are numerous apps out there to help you gain control of your finances. Mint, YNAB, Wally, Acorns, and Trim are a handful that can help you discover, save, learn, and be proactive with your financial health. Have a favorite app that’s not listed here? Let us know in the comments!