The best budgeting App of September 2021.

Best budgeting apps 4x3
Mint; Zeta; Trim; Charlie; Alyssa Powell/Insider

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Budgeting looks different for each person.

Maybe you want to track your spending habits, or find ways to spend less and save more, or budget effectively as a couple — or you might have multiple budgeting goals.

Regardless of what you’re hoping to accomplish, finding the right app can make the process easier and more effective.

In our search for the best budgeting apps, we considered what might be important to different people when sticking to a budget. Budgeting can already feel difficult, so above all else, we made sure our top picks are easy to use. The easier the process, the likelier you are to keep engaging with your money. 

Check out our picks for best budgeting apps, and scroll to the bottom to read more about how we chose the winners.

The best budgeting apps of September 2021

Mint: Best budgeting app overall

Why it stands out: The Mint app is owned by Intuit, the financial software company that also owns TurboTax and Quickbooks. Link your bank accounts to Mint for the app to create a budget based on your past spending habits. The app splits your expenses into categories such as shopping, bills, and transportation. If you think Mint allotted too much or too little money for one category, you can easily change the settings yourself or create a new category — so Mint does all the hard work for you, but you still have some control. 

Mint makes it easy to save for multiple goals. Create a goal, including your estimated costs and timeline, and Mint factors the plan into your budget.

Mint is easy to use and helpful for understanding your finances on a large scale. In addition to showing your income, expenses, and savings goals, it also displays factors like your credit score, investments, and net worth.

Pricing: Free

Look out for: Categorization mistakes. Occasionally, Mint will place a transaction in one category (like transportation) when it should actually be in a different category (like bills). You do have the ability to reassign the transaction to another category within the app or create your own category.

Zeta: Best for couples hi

Why it stands out: Zeta is a budgeting app designed specifically for couples. Zeta displays all your individual and shared finances in one place, and it gives you the option to hide certain financial information from your partner. It’s a good option for couples who have combined their finances or for those who prefer to bank separately.

With Zeta, you can set personal and combined financial goals. The app sends you monthly reminders to set “money dates,” making it a good tool for learning to communicate about your finances.

Pricing: Free

Look out for: The website. The Zeta mobile app has an easy-to-use interface, but its website is outdated and difficult to navigate.

Trim: Best for automatically reducing bill payments

Why it stands out: Trim analyzes your bills and spending habits and reveals where in your budget you can save money. Trim’s most unique feature is Bill Negotiation — the app analyzes your internet, phone, cable, and wireless bills and determines whether you can get the same service with the company for a lower price. This feature could potentially save you hundreds of dollars in a year, which you can then put toward other expenses, save, or invest.

Pricing: It’s free to sign up for Trim. If you agree to Trim’s proposed bill negotiations, you’ll pay 33% of what Trim saves you in a year in one lump sum.

You may choose to pay $99 per year for Trim Premium, which includes features such as medical bill negotiation, credit card rate negotiation, and unlimited access to a financial coach via email. Bill Negotiation is included in a Trim Premium membership, so you won’t have to pay 33% on top of the annual membership fee.

Look out for: How long you plan to pay a bill. When Trim negotiates a bill, you pay 33% of whatever it will save you for the year in one lump sum. If you plan to change your internet, cable, phone, or wireless provider in the next year, you could actually end up losing money.

Also, note that Trim is not downloadable as an app on the Apple or Google Play store. Instead, it’s available through Facebook Messenger, or you can sign up via email.

Charlie: Best for learning more about money

Why it stands out: Charlie is a budgeting app with an intuitive design, easy-to-use interface, and friendly penguin mascot (aka Charlie). It’s a good app for beginners who want to learn more about how to budget because it provides information in an unintimidating way.

Charlie the penguin is a chatbot, so you can text it questions about your finances. The app also sends you push notifications every day about ways to budget and save, which provide regular opportunities to learn about money. Setting up a budget with the app is easy, and Charlie’s approachability can help you build the habit of thinking about and engaging with your money.

The app also lets you set a debt-free date, then creates a plan for you to pay off debt, complete with visuals.

Pricing: $5 per month

Look out for: Push notifications and ads. While the push notifications can be helpful, they’re also persistent, which may become annoying. Some of these push notifications are ads for other financial products and services, which you may or may not find useful. Note that you can choose to disable the push notifications.

How our list compares to other publications

Research is an important part of choosing a budgeting app that fits your needs, and Business Insider isn’t the only website looking for the best apps. To help you make a decision, we’ve compared our top budgeting app picks with lists from other publications.

Keep in mind that websites categorize their budget app lists in different ways. Each publication has different categories and methodologies for identifying the “best” budgeting apps. We included a checkmark under each publication name if it recommended an app in its roundup.

The Personal Finance team tested nearly a dozen apps for over two weeks, and we ultimately decided on our top picks based on factors like pricing and easy-to-use interfaces, and we examined whether each app accomplished everything it advertised.

Others we considered and why they didn’t make the cut

  • You Need a Budget: This app is designed to help you get out of debt and stop living paycheck-to-paycheck — but it takes a long time to set up, has an elaborate interface, and costs $11.99 per month.
  • Wally: Wally helps you track your spending by taking pictures of receipts, but it isn’t available in the Google Play store.
  • PocketGuard: It’s easy to visualize your spending with this app, but the charts and graphs aren’t always accurate if PocketGuard doesn’t categorize your transactions correctly.
  • MVelopes: When you link your bank account to MVelopes, it provides a digital version of the “envelope method” in which you track your spending by keeping money in separate envelopes based on the category — but you’ll spend at least $6 per month for the most basic version.
  • GoodBudget: GoodBudget offers a free version of the “envelope method,” but it doesn’t link to your bank account, so you have to be disciplined enough to enter every transaction manually.
  • Personal Capital: Personal Capital includes spending and net-worth tracking features, but it’s primarily an investment tool.
  • EveryDollar: EveryDollar’s free version helps you track expenses and set goals, but it doesn’t monitor your net worth or credit score like Mint does.
  • Albert: This free app tracks your spending and alerts you if you’re at risk of overdrafting, but it isn’t as strong as our top picks.
  • CountAbout: One feature of CountAbout is that you can import data from Mint — but considering Mint is free and CountAbout’s most basic plan costs $9.99 per year, you’re better off just downloading Mint.
  • PocketSmith: You may like PocketSmith if you want a forecast of your net worth. But its interface isn’t quite as intuitive as those of our top picks.
  • Wismo: Wismo is a hybrid social media platform and budgeting app, so you won’t get the full experience unless your friends and family also use the app.

Are these apps trustworthy?

Normally, we compare companies’ Better Business Bureau trustworthiness grades. But two of our favorite budgeting apps haven’t been graded by the BBB, so we aren’t factoring scores into our trustworthiness review.

Trim, Zeta, and Charlie do not have any recent scandals.

Mint’s parent company, Intuit, does have some public issues surrounding its tax-filing software, TurboTax. The city of Los Angeles sued Intuit in 2019, claiming it made free tax filing hard to access for people who qualified. This scandal pertains to Intuit’s TurboTax, not Mint. But if it makes you nervous, you may decide to go with one of our other favorite budgeting apps instead.

Frequently asked questions

Why trust our recommendations?

Personal Finance Insider’s mission is to help smart people make the best decisions with their money. We understand that “best” is often subjective, so in addition to highlighting the clear benefits of a financial product, we outline the limitations, too. We spent hours testing budgeting apps, and we compared and contrasted the features of various apps so you don’t have to.

How did we choose the best budgeting apps?

If you care about tracking your expenses, you probably don’t want to pay a lot of money to create a budget. For this reason, cost was a huge factor in determining our list. 

We compared over a dozen budgeting apps, honing in on their features, ease of use, and availability for multiple devices. Our editorial team tested and evaluated our potential top choices.

Finally, we cross-referenced our research against popular comparison sites like Investopedia, The Balance, and NerdWallet to make sure we didn’t miss a thing. 

What is the best budgeting app for beginners?

In most cases, the best budgeting app for beginners will be one that makes budgeting easy — this means it has an easy-to-use interface and links to your accounts so you don’t have to enter every transaction manually. It can also be good to have an app that teaches you about money. For these reasons, the best budgeting apps for beginners right now are Mint and Charlie.

What is the best free budgeting app?

Mint is completely free to download and use, and there are no paid membership options. Mint links to your bank account and monitors multiple aspects of your finances, including your income, spending, investments, credit score, and net worth.

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