You Need a Budget ($84 a year or $11.99 a month)
For serious budgeters, You Need a Budget is a cut above. It is the antithesis of the increasingly plentiful “set it and forget it” budgeting apps that take the manual labor out of budgeting and more or less tell you what you can spend at any given moment. Once you wrap your head around its capabilities, you’ll be far better at budgeting after six months with You Need a Budget than six years with a hands-off app picked at random.
If you prefer not to pay for budgeting help, look to Mint instead. It’s one of the original digital budgeting apps, and thanks to big-money backing from corporate parent Intuit, it holds up really well. It’ll take you less than 10 minutes to link all your bank and investment accounts to the app. Once that’s done, a comprehensive picture of your personal finances awaits. There are some clutch value-adds too, like unlimited free credit scores and a variety of alerts about bill payments, including low-balance warnings that prevent overdrafts due to auto-debited payments.
If you simply don’t have time for an immersive app, or you’re looking for a budgeting tool that allows you to access your liquid assets directly, you can’t go wrong with Simple. It’s a lightweight, online bank that pairs an easy-to-use checking account with one of the country’s top high-yield savings accounts. When you set recurring expenses and savings goals in the app, Simple automatically divvies up your deposits and shows what you can safely spend on day-to-day purchases, ensuring you don’t raid your down-payment fund to pay for a night on the town.
PocketGuard ($34.99 a year or $3.99 a month)
No need for a budgeting and banking app in one? PocketGuard replicates many of Simple’s features, including a running “safe to spend” tally, without actually holding on to your money. Two PocketGuard features really stand out: automatic transaction categorization that shows you at a glance where your money goes each month, and personalized savings recommendations, like tips to lower your bills or increase your savings account yields.
—Andrew Schrage, founder of MoneyCrashers.com
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