Rounding it up
Budgeting apps help you create, track and (hopefully) maintain a budget via your phone, tablet or computer. Depending on the app, you’ll find everything from the basics of tracking income, expenses and savings to goal-setting, insights and educational tools.
The right budgeting app for you depends on how you want to use it, the design and type of features you’re looking for, and the cost.
With KOHO, you don’t need another budgeting app. KOHO is a spending and savings account with a prepaid reloadable Mastercard® that includes built-in tools to create a budget and track your spending, all in one app.
At some point in life, you’re going to need to make a budget. No matter what stage of life you’re currently in, knowing the flow of your income and expenses and building a budget around that is the most basic way to feel in control of your spending and build financial stability.
How you track your budget is ultimately about what works best for you – whether it’s using pen and paper, an Excel spreadsheet, or downloading a budgeting app on your mobile phone, tablet or computer. If you’re new to budgeting or looking for a way to organize, track and automate your finances, budgeting apps are designed so you can easily see where your money is going and get insights on your spending habits.
Read on to learn more about the best budgeting apps.
What are budgeting apps?
Budgeting apps are a digital tool to keep track of your money. A basic budgeting app can be used to track how much income you earn, how much you save, how much you spend, and what you spend it on. A budgeting app won’t change your financial circumstances or magically reform your spending habits (only you can do that), but it can help visualize where your money is going and offer insights and educational content.
Every budgeting app is different. Some have mobile apps, desktop apps, or both. Some are free, while others charge a monthly or yearly fee. Some give you the option to link up the app to your financial accounts, while others rely on you to manually input income and expenses.
How do I choose the best budgeting app?
Just like individual budgets, budgeting apps aren’t one-size-fits-all. To choose the best budgeting app for you, here are a few things to consider and a few questions to ask yourself.
Fees: Does the cost of a budgeting app fit into your budget? For some people, free vs. paid might be the biggest consideration. But if you find a budgeting app that you think is worth paying for, you can commit to trying it out for a month or two and cancel if you don’t like it. Just make sure to check the app’s cancellation and refund policies before signing up.
Features: Do you want a budgeting app that can connect to your bank account, or do you prefer to manually enter transactions to keep a closer eye on your budget? Think about how much effort you want to put in vs. how much you want to automate, and how much access to your personal accounts you’re willing to give.
Design: Think about how the app looks and feels – is it intuitive and easy to use? A good app should be engaging, easy to navigate, visually pleasing, and should suit your needs. If the features don’t work for you, you probably won’t feel motivated to use it on a regular basis.
Purpose: What do you need this budgeting app for? There are budgeting apps for every scenario, including ones to increase your savings, pay down debt, track your net worth, help parents teach their kids money management skills, and even ones that help roommates, couples and friends split expenses.
The best 4 budgeting apps
We can’t list every single budgeting app out there (there are a lot of them!), but here are a few highly rated budgeting apps to check out.
How it works: Mint consistently ranks as one of the most popular budgeting apps out there. The app lets you sync up your bank accounts, credit cards, loans, investments, and monthly bills and subscriptions all in one place. Set and track your monthly budget, categorize purchases and create savings goals. Not all features work for Canadians – you can’t check your credit score or use the bill negotiation feature.
You Need a Budget (YNAB)
How it works: Another popular and established budgeting app, YNAB requires a more disciplined approach – the app’s philosophy is to account for every dollar, and it requires you to actively set goals and be diligent about adding expenses to stay on top of your budget. You can automatically link your accounts, or add information manually.
Cost: Free 34-day trial (no credit card required). After that, the app costs $18.49 per month or an annual subscription of $124.99 per year.
How it works: Clean, colourful, and well designed, Buddy starts by asking what you’re interested in (making a budget, tracking expenses, saving for a goal, paying off debt, sharing with a partner and syncing between devices) so it can customize your experience. Along with an overview of your income, spending and savings, you can also create and share a budget with other people and use the app to split expenses.
Cost: Free 7-day trial, then $61.99 per year (billed annually).
How it works: Splitwise is handy for dividing things like bills, expenses, or travel costs among multiple people. However, it does require everyone in your group to join the app. The app can record different currencies and uses Venmo (which isn’t available in Canada) or PayPal to transfer money, or you can settle up in cash. Cost: Free, but you can also sign up for Splitwise Pro for $3.99 per month or $39.99 per year.
Why do I need a budgeting app?
That’s the beauty of it, you don’t. Personal finance is personal; if a pen and paper or a good old fashioned spreadsheet work for you, stick with what works. But if you’re the type of person who is glued to your smartphone anyway, or if you’re looking for a new way to organize your finances, you might want to consider giving budgeting apps a try. Overall, trying out a budgeting app is pretty low stakes. And if it doesn’t work out, you can always treat it like an unflattering selfie and delete it.
Budgeting with KOHO
If you’re wondering where the heck your money goes every month, KOHO has built-in tools to help track your spending by giving you real-time insights into your habits. With KOHO, there’s no need to switch between budgeting and banking apps – your account, card info, and budget are all in one app.
KOHO isn’t a bank or a credit card, but a free spending and savings account equipped with a prepaid reloadable Mastercard. It’s like a regular spending account, but with the perks of a credit card. The prepaid card draws from your money – so you only spend what you have – but you can use it to make purchases just like you would with any debit or credit card.
KOHO allows you to build a budget and track your spending right in the app. You’ll get balance updates after each purchase on your Mastercard, and can use spending insights to stay on track – meaning if your fast-food habit is starting to spiral or you went overboard on your clothing budget, you’ll know it right away.
Budgeting and basic money management are important life skills everybody should learn. Everyone’s individual budget is different, but budgeting apps can help untangle the basics of organizing your finances and hopefully encourage healthy financial habits. With your budget handled and your basic needs covered, you can focus on reaching for bigger financial goals like saving up for your next vacation, a home, or retirement.
Jane Switzer is a writer and editor with more than a decade of experience producing content for major Canadian newspapers, magazines, fintech companies and banks. Jane got her start working in journalism as a reporter and copy editor before transitioning to content writing, editing and SEO.