6 Best Budgeting Apps for New Grads

best budgeting apps

If you’re not sure where to start when it comes to managing your money for the first time, there’s an app for that. The question is, which one should you choose?

If you Google the best-rated budgeting apps, it turns up countless options that nobody feels like wading through. That’s where I come in. I’ve done the work for you, sifting through more than a dozen articles on the best budgeting apps of 2016 – from PC Magazine and Forbes, to Tom’s Guide and Penny Pincher.

What you’ll find here are the best apps for budgeting that I’ve seen recommended most often. Considering the tight budgets of most new grads, I tried to include only free (or free with upgrade options) on this list. However, one paid option is so well-rated that it made the cut.

6 Best Budgeting Apps

Budgeting is one of 10 money principles you should master by the time you’re 30. If you’re ready to jump in now with both feet, I recommend one of these three options.

Most comprehensive budgeting apps

Mint is easily the highest-rated of any budgeting app out there, but LearnVest and YNAB are a close second and third. (Note, I only list YNAB third because it does come at a price.)

mint.png Mint
(web, iPhone, Android, Kindle)

Pros

  • Free
  • Easy to set up
  • Helpful tutorials
  • Connects to your financial accounts
  • Allows manual input
  • Categorizes transactions into categories
  • Learns from categorization mistakes
  • Alerts you to unusual charges
  • Calculates your net worth
  • Includes your credit score
  • Provides bill reminders
  • Offers bill pay component
  • Incorporates 401(k) balances and investments
  • Syncs across multiple devices

Cons

  • Doesn’t let you roll over unspent allotment from one month to the next
  • Doesn’t allow you to set percentage-based savings goals
  • Reports of connection reliability issues
  • Reports of customer service issues

learnvest.png LearnVest
(iPhone)

Pros

  • Free (with upgrade option)
  • Easy to set up
  • Connects to your financial accounts
  • Allows manual input
  • Shows spending trends over time
  • Offers tools for analyzing credit card repayment
  • Calculates your net worth
  • Categorizes transactions into categories
  • Allows you to split one transaction into multiple categories
  • Provides more of a financial education than Mint does

Cons

  • Doesn’t learn from categorization mistakes
  • Doesn’t let you roll over unspent allotment from one month to the next

Upgrade option: Your own financial planner: $299 set-up and $19/month; includes membership-only access to articles, classes, and online events

ynab.png YNAB – You Need A Budget
(web, iPhone, iPad, Android)

Pros

  • 34-day free trial
  • Teaches basic budgeting principles:
    • Give every dollar a job
    • Save for a rainy day
    • Roll with the punches
    • Live on last month’s income
  • Gives you access to a library of helpful video tutorials
  • Connects to your financial accounts
  • Allows manual input
  • Rolls over unspent allotment from one month to the next
  • Provides more of a financial education than Mint does
  • Syncs across multiple devices

Cons

  • Cost: $5/month or $50/year

Best budgeting apps that keep it simple

If you’d prefer to ease yourself into the whole budgeting thing, start with one of these two budgeting apps first. Keep in mind that both Wally and Dollarbird require manual entry (i.e., time and effort).

wally.png Wally
(iPhone, Android)

Pros

  • Free
  • Sets and keeps track of spending targets
  • Uses social and location tools for tracking where you spend, and with whom
  • Allows you to upload and save receipts

Cons

  • Manual entry only (doesn’t connect to financial accounts)

dollarbird.png Dollarbird
(iPhone, Android)

Pros

  • Free
  • Easy to set up
  • Calendar-view approach keeps track of how much you can spend by day and category

Cons

  • Manual entry only (doesn’t connect to your financial accounts)

Best budgeting apps with emphasis on investing

If you’re comfortable with the basics of budgeting but need help getting into the groove of investing, this app could do the trick.

personal capital.png Personal Capital
(iPhone, Android)

Pros

  • Free (with upgrade option)
  • Connects to your financial accounts
  • Easily categorizes transactions
  • Calculates your net worth
  • Helps you plan for retirement and other savings goals
  • Tracks your investments

Cons

  • Doesn’t allow customization of categories
  • Allows for only the simplest of budgeting options

Upgrade option: Investment advice for those with $25,000 or more to invest; charges percentage of assets managed

Still not sure?

Experiment.

Remember, these are some of the best financial apps out there and you can try all of them for free. Mint, Wally, and Dollarbird are free across the board. LearnVest and Personal Capital only cost money if you upgrade. And YNAB offers a 34-day free trial period.

So if you try one of these best budgeting apps and don’t like it, try another one. (You’ll be glad you did when your first student loan payment comes due.)

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