There is no shortage of apps that will help you budget. In fact, a quick search in either of the app stores will bring up what seems like a never-ending list of contenders. But because of all these choices, you can find an app that caters to your specific needs. Each personal finance app has a core thesis it works off of (for example, Personal Capital is focused on investments and Zeta is designed for couples. The key is finding the right app for you and your partner to create and crush your budget goals with ease.
To save you precious time, we’ve stacked a group of the most popular budgeting apps against each other so you can see what features are and are not included. Included in our round up are YNAB, Mint, Personal Capital, EveryDollar, and Zeta.
*Manual Account Register refers to the ability to forgo linking your accounts and still be able to use the app.
*Custom Budget Categories refers to being able to sort and prioritize your budgets into specific categories.
*Privacy Controls refers to having the flexibility to show or hide specific items with other app users.
Anyone who actively budgets or keeps tabs on their finances with an app knows about Mint; their popularity is pretty undeniable.
Mint acts like a one-stop shop for all your finances; meaning you can see your account balances, upcoming bills, credit score, and net worth - all in one place. When it comes to budgeting, they suggest goals for you based on your spending, but you can create and adjust those goals as you go. Mint also includes ads on different financial products that they think are suited for your (checking and savings accounts, credit cards, CDs, etc.).
Mint essentially has one goal - to help you visualize all your finances in a single place so you can manage them effectively and provide suggestions for improvement. It seems as though Mint gets their feet wet in a little bit of everything - budgeting, bill tracking, investing, credit scores - but they don’t hone in on or take a deep dive into any particular category of your finances. They give you basic functionality across the board, which could be enough for anyone just looking to keep an eye on all their finances.
YNAB, also known as You Need A Budget, helps you budget like a pro - and that comes with a price. You can try YNAB free for the first 34 days but then you have to pay around $84/year or $7 a month. While YNAB is a comparable Mint alternative, bringing all your accounts together, they focus solely on zero-based budgeting (which is a fancy way of saying that they account for every dollar in your budget). With YNAB, you can create multiple kinds of budgets and easily track and manage those budgets.
YNAB is big on not only providing a place for you to create and manage your budget, but providing guidance on budgeting effectively. They do this through their “proven 4-step system”:
Give Every Dollar a Job: As soon as you have money come in, designate what that money will be used for based on what is most important to you (i.e rent, food, utilities)
Embrace Your True Expenses: Break up the infrequent, more expensive bills into small monthly increments to avoid having that one large bill hit you all at once.
Roll With The Punches: If you overspend in one category, it’s okay, just adjust your budget and use money from another category.
Age Your Money: The goal should be to spend money that is at least 30 days old rather than living paycheck-to-paycheck
With YNAB, it’s abundantly clear that they’ll support you every step of the way through your budget journey. When you stack up YNAB vs Mint, they are really designed for a different kind of user. YNAB is better for someone willing to invest time and energy into detailed budgeting, while Mint is more high-level and hands-off.
Personal Capital is an investment app that is still a viable Mint alternative. Personal Capital has many of the same features as Mint and YNAB - like linking all of your accounts and setting budgets and spending goals, but they do have a few features that the others don’t - like net worth analysis and a deep dive into your investments. While Personal Capital is free for their basic financial tools, they offer things like financial advising, investment services, and wealth management services for additional fees. The one downside of Personal Capital is you will get called incessantly by their advisors once you surpass more than $100,000 of assets.
Personal Capital is all about helping you build wealth for your future. We’re talking long-term goals like investing and retirement. While they give you the basic features to keep tabs on your immediate finances, their pride and joy is their Retirement Planner and Investment Checkup.
Their Retirement Planner tool is dedicated to building, managing, and forecasting your retirement all in one place. You can see how prepared you are for retirement based on your ideal target retirement date and even add anticipated big expenses to see their impact on your retirement plan.
Their Investment Checkup tool allows you to see how well your investments are performing and how they could be improved. You’re able to get a customized financial plan based on your current holdings and goals, assess your risk, compare your portfolio to the target, get a target allocation, and analyze past performance.
When comparing Personal Capital vs Mint, we’d argue they’re really meant for different purposes. In fact, some people even choose to use both tools - Personal Capital for investment management and Mint for more of day-to-day management.
EveryDollar is a budgeting app that does just that, let’s you create and manage budgets. Similar to YNAB, they are all about zero-based budgeting - where you divvy up your income across all of your spending categories until it’s all gone. While EveryDollar can be a great Mint alternative for budgeting purposes, you can’t link your accounts, find your credit score, or access any of your investment information with the free version of the app. It’s strictly for budgeting and designed for folks who are willing to enter each transaction. If you want to link your accounts and access other perks, you have to purchase their paid version, EveryDollar Plus, for $130/year.
EveryDollar’s requirement that you have to manually input all of your financial information in the free version, such as monthly income, expenses, and your budget, means you’re responsible for keeping everything up-to-date. This hands-on approach is definitely what makes them unique and in turn makes you hyper-aware of how your budget is going.
The big difference between EveryDollar vs Mint is that EveryDollar is just for budgeting. You won’t find any of the other bells and whistles that Mint has, unless you pay for their free version. When you look at EveryDollar vs YNAB, there are similarities only within the paid version (EveryDollar Plus) - building and tracking a killer budget. The biggest differentiator between the two is that Everydollar offers a free version of their services for budgeting beginners.
Zeta is newer on the budgeting app scene, but it’s designed specifically for modern-day couples. With Zeta, the goal is to help you and your partner staying on top of your finances as a team. You each have the ability to connect any of your financial accounts and even control how much detail is shared with your partner (don’t share your account, show just account balances or show both account balances and transactions).
Zeta, like some of the apps above, includes all the day-to-day money management features like budgets, custom categories, bill management and net worth. But what makes Zeta different is that each partner in a relationship gets their own login which allows them to create personal AND shared budgets, comment on specific transactions, and generally manage money as two adults. If you live with your S/O, you can easily split transactions to manage paying each other back and even receive bill reminders. Zeta caters to couples irrespective of how they combine their finances - customizing the app to work for your specific setup.
Managing money as a couple is hard and Zeta’s on a mission to make that easier. What makes Zeta unique is the focus on couples. Zeta promotes and encourages open communication about finances in relationships (including monthly money dates), because it’s the foundation of a healthy relationship! Zeta let’s you do fun stuff like send emojis for specific transactions or split expenses between each other. Gone are the days of Venmo’ing each other daily or getting a surprise bill for your shared credit card.
When comparing the other apps to Zeta, there are a few similarities - like having your linked accounts accessible in one place and creating/managing budgets. But Zeta one-ups the others by allowing your bae to jump on board and coordinate more easily around money management. Zeta’s also got a smart tagging system that only gets better as you use the app. Every time you tag something, you can teach the app to remember where things should go.
Now that you’ve got the high level lowdown on some of the more popular budgeting apps out there, let’s break things down to the feature level so you can zone in on the features you care about most. You can take our budgeting app quiz to find your perfect app or read through the specific features below.
Every person who budgets knows that there are specific categories to budget for, usually on a weekly or monthly basis. This can be anything from groceries and toiletries to traveling and eating out. When using a budgeting app, it’s nice to be able to customize those categories to whatever you want them to be.
For anyone out there that wants to share a budget with someone else (like a significant other), a standard budgeting app is probably not the way to go - unless all your financial accounts are already merged. Mint, EveryDollar, and Personal Capital do not offer any budget sharing capabilities. YNAB has a hack you can work around but you’ll still need to share your login credentials with the person that you’d like to budget with. The only app that allows you to share a budget with someone and also gives you the flexibility to choose what you do or don’t want to show them is Zeta.
Often times, you’ll find yourself splitting expenses with other people. That can be anything from rent with your significant other or even Sunday brunch with your squad. Whether you’re the one that pays the whole bill and sends the Venmo request, or vice versa, notating that as a split expense in your budgeting app can be immensely helpful to accurately staying on track. The apps that allow you to manage splitting expenses between multiple people are Zeta and YNAB.
Sometimes it’s helpful to have additional context around your expenses, for example what that large expense in April was or who you Venmo’d $300 to. Since most of us won’t remember why we spent $X or for whom, memos come in handy to help you keep track. When looking at Mint and all the Mint alternatives we’ve discussed, all of these apps have the ability to enter in memos for your expenses.
Let’s face it, we’re forgetful sometimes - which can be especially painful when it comes to bills (ugh, late fees). The last thing you want is forgetting about a bill and not having the funds in your account to pay for it. Having the ability to track your bills and get reminders ahead of time can be really helpful! This is especially true for less regular bills like property taxes, childcare expenses or quarterly tax payments. The apps that will send you reminders about an upcoming bill are Mint, YNAB, and Zeta.
For budgeting categories that aren’t definitive or are more flexible than others, chances are you may go a little (or a lot) over your budget. Assuming you’re accurately categorizing your purchases into their respective budgeting categories, it’s helpful to see how close you are to your budget cap and how much you have left to spend. Many times, these types of categories are more on the discretionary spending side, like shopping and eating out. The apps that will track your budgeting caps are Mint, YNAB, EveryDollar and Zeta.
If you’ve invested your hard-earned income, you might want to see how those investments are doing. For high-level investment tracking, Zeta, Mint and YNAB will allow you to track investment balances by connecting your investment accounts and see if they’re increasing or decreasing. But if you want to go further and actually be able to analyze, assess, and diversify your portfolio, that’s where Personal Capital really shines.
Personal Capital offers their Investment Checkup (where you can track your investments like the other apps) for free. But, they also offer investment and wealth management services for additional fees. Purchasing these services allows their Financial Advisory Team to dive deep into your investment accounts and provide helpful guidance.
Of course, when you’re looking for a budgeting app to help you manage your finances, it makes total sense that you would consider the price. When we look at Mint and all the Mint alternatives we’ve discussed, this is what the price breakdown looks like:
YNAB: 34-day free trial period, then $84/year ($7/month)
Zeta: Free, but can pay for premium features like Zeta Concierge
EveryDollar: Free, but can pay for EveryDollar Plus for more features
Personal Capital: Free, but can pay for paid versions with more features
Managing your finances and your budget on your own is tough. Which means that adding another person in the mix can make that twice as hard. For that very reason, communication is key! Being completely transparent when sharing a budget or managing finances with your partner is crucial.
As we mentioned before, there are really only 2 apps that we’ve looked at that allow for shared budgeting, Zeta and YNAB. But when it comes to spurring open communication between you and your partner about finances, Zeta takes the cake. Apps like Mint, Personal Capital, YNAB, and EveryDollar won’t spur such communication unless you both have the apps downloaded on both of your phones, sit next to each other, and compare (aka the work-around or clunky way).
Okay, Budget Bachelor or Bachelorette, it’s time for the final rose. Deciding which budgeting app is best might require some trial and error but hopefully this article is a good starting point to understand your options.
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