So, here you are on the blog of a personal budgeting app, searching for personal budgeting apps, wondering if we’re really going to talk about other personal budgeting apps or just promote our own. Well, you’re in luck.
We’re not only going to talk about some of the most popular personal budgeting apps of 2019, we’ll also be talking through some of our personal experiences / pros and cons of each.
But, if you’re still skeptical of a budgeting app company reviewing other budgeting apps (completely fair, we get it), then here is a great article put together by the folks over at The Penny Hoarder. Ours (Change) isn’t even on there, because, well, it didn’t exist when they wrote the article. But we like to think that it would have made the cut.
Let’s be honest, Mint used to be the cool kid on the block — that was before it was absorbed into the financial behemoth, Intuit, and became an ad machine. But hey, it’s free, so we can’t complain, right?
Great Financial Tool
Mint’s real strength comes from it’s ability to aggregate your entire financial footprint in one place. It can pull together your various checking accounts, savings accounts, credit cards, auto loans, mortgage balance, bills and more. Making it a great tool for understanding the big picture — but budgeting? Well, that’s an afterthought with Mint.
Budgeting Is An Afterthought
While Mint really did pave the way for personal finance apps back in 2006, budgeting was never really their strong suit. In fact, the whole budgeting experience remains a bit lackluster to this day.
It should be known, I’m not a bells and whistles kind of guy — so my opinion about their shortfall isn’t a lack of features. It is the lack of thought put into building out a tool that takes user experience to heart. As a result, budgets are cluttered, information is difficult to digest and updating data is, shall we say, less than intuitive.
Does Mint work well for some people? Sure. Did it work for me, personally? That’s a big old negatory and I’ve been a mint user for over 10 years.
Strengths: Mint looks pretty, pulls your entire financial picture into one tool and allows you to search your transactions. Mint also syncs your bank account transactions into your budget making tracking easier.
Weaknesses: Budgeting, budgeting, budgeting. Oh, and tons of ads.
You Need A Budget (YNAB)
If you’ve spent some time Googling personal budgeting apps, it’s pretty much a slam dunk that you’ve come across the folks over at YNAB. These guys started out in 2003 pretty much making them veterans in the personal budgeting space.
Though I have not used YNAB personally, I have ton of respect for YNAB. It was a hobby project created by a newlywed couple out of pure genius / necessity and has grown to become one of the leading personal finance tools on the market.
Like Change, YNAB has chosen to adopt the envelop system / zero-based budgeting method in which every dollar is given a task / purpose before it is ever spent.
That said, YNAB budgets with money-in-hand vs forecasted income meaning you only budget money that you have received vs planning out & budgeting your entire month in advance based on your expected income. They call it “spending 30-day old money.”
Money-in-hand budgeting can be seen as an advantage, to some, since you are only allocating dollars received — which makes sense. You should never spend money you do not have (aka debt). However, part of the importance of budgeting is to not only managing your existing funds but also planning your future funds.
Their platform has undergone quite a few changes over the years and is currently a hybrid desktop / mobile application. With desktop management as the focus — mostly because you need the desktop application to manage all of the detail.
But attempting to be one of the most robust budgeting tools can lead to information overload. Setup can be confusing (as explained by Nick over at mappedoutmoney.com — who happens to love YNAB, btw) , tracking can be tedious, and design, well, you’re essentially working with a glorified spreadsheet. All of which is great if you’re a finance nerd but a tad bit overwhelming if you’re like me and simply want budgeting to be integrated with your life. Because, let’s be real, ain’t nobody got time for that.
Seriously though, one of the key principles of budgeting is keeping up with it. And, in contrast, of the most difficult things to do in budgeting is keeping up with it. So ease of use, convenience and comprehend-ability is incredibly important to me.
Strengths: YNAB focuses solely on budgeting and they do it well. They adopt the zero-based budgeting method. Their pricing is affordable at $6.99/month. They also allow for syncing of bank accounts for easy tracking.
Weaknesses: The platform can be overwhelming. The interface is a glorified spreadsheet. YNAB budgets only with money-in-hand vs forecasted income.
EveryDollar (Dave Ramsey)
If you’re considering budgeting,
tidying up konmari-ing your finances, or paying off debt — chances are you’ve heard of Dave Ramsey.
Dave Ramsey is the famed financial guru, talk show personality and founder of Ramsey Solutions — which also happens to be the company behind EveryDollar.
It’s no secret (to those who know me) that I’m a fan of Dave Ramsey. In fact, in 2017 they even offered me the position of Associate Creative Director — a flattering opportunity that I waveringly turned down.
But that didn’t stop my wife and I from personally using the principles behind the “Baby Steps” paired with the EveryDollar budgeting app to pay off our mortgage. An amazing experience that lead me to the first-hand realization that EveryDollar almost gets it right.
A Step In The Right Direction
EveryDollar is beautifully designed, minimal in nature and (generally speaking) avoids unnecessary complications. Making it a great tool for somebody looking to get a deep dive on their budget — without a finance degree.
Like YNAB and Change, EveryDollar adopts the zero-based budgeting method.
However, unlike YNAB, EverDollar also encourages you to budget your income upfront (a concept that we’re fans of). That doesn’t mean you spend money you don’t have but it does mean that you allocate money that you will have — giving every dollar a purpose before it is recklessly spent elsewhere.
There is no doubt that EveryDollar is a step in the right direction for financial apps. But where we noticed some significant shortfalls were:
When setting a zero-based budget, you give every dollar a job. That means that if you have $5,000 coming in this month, you budget all $5,000 even if some of that is going to savings, debt, etc.
But what happens when you come in under budget at the end of the month? It would be great to see your remaining funds at a glance empowering you to re-allocate those funds toward various goals — such as paying off the mortgage.
Up until recently, EveryDollar didn’t give you a total of remaining funds. So, for example if you budgeted all $5,000 but your actual expenses for the month came in at $3,900, you now have $1,100 of once-allocated-but-not-spent funds to throw into some other bucket (debt, mortgage, etc). They have since added this (but not very prominently).
While I believe that EveryDollar is one of the most well designed personal budgeting apps available (until Change, of course) it has its shortcomings.
The fact that your primary budgeting screen (where all the magic happens) is simply spreadsheet-like line items, leaves you endlessly scrolling with little surface-level detail / information.
And don’t even get me started on splitting transactions or reverting accidental categorizations as the amount of steps is laughable.
With all of that said, EveryDollar has been my go-to for several years now. It has done the job (and done it well enough). I have and continue to recommend it to people starting out on their budgeting journey. But it is also what drove me to create a more delightful, human-centric, no-mba-required, personal finance tool — Change.
Strengths: EveryDollar focuses on Baby-Step budgeting. They offer a free version (which doesn’t connect to your bank account) and a premium version $99/year. Design is good. Usability is nice.
Weaknesses: At a glance information is lacking. Reports are only broken out into percentages. Lots of clicking and trying to remember what your summaries were. And, until recently, there was no “total remaining” summary.
Here at Change, we believe that personal budgeting apps should be warm, welcoming, friendly, simple, clean, minimal and — most importantly — designed for real people.
There’s no secret, we’re not changing time-tested methodologies or mathematically-proven equations (none of the tools we’ve discussed here are). What we’re changing is the way we think about, visualize and interact with our budgets. And yes, we’re biased but we think that’s pretty cool.
Like EveryDollar and YNAB, we combine the envelope system and zero-based budgeting method into a convenient, easy-to-mange tool that is easy on the eyes, easy on the wallet and, well, just really easy.
We’ve broken down the budgeting process into three main categories: Budgeting, Reconciling and Reporting.
The process of setting up your budget might look familiar. Like other systems, you’ll enter your total expected income and give every dollar a job across all of your budget buckets.
But once you’re done planning your budget you confirm it and get back to the important part of monitoring your budget.
Monitoring your budget happens from the Budget Summary screen. This allows you to easily view and track your Buckets and Expenses in one place.
At the top of the screen, you’ll see your total planned monthly income, how much you’ve spent and how much you have remaining to spend.
The rest of the summary is dedicated to your Budget Buckets. Each bucket, at a glance, provides you with the total percentage spent as well as the dollar amount remaining in that bucket (ie – envelopes). Tap on the bucket itself to take a peak inside. Here you’ll see more detailed information including all transactions that have been reconciled (aka tracked) to that bucket item.
Reconciling is simply the process of taking a transaction and approving where that transaction should go. With Change, there are two ways to reconcile your transactions: Quick Log & Reconcile
Quick Log is pretty much exactly what it sounds like. It’s a quick and easy way for you to log your transactions directly from the Budget Summary screen. Simply hit the plus-sign in the main menu and your transactions will show up. Drag and drop as needed. This is great when we’re talking about logging 10-15 transactions (and if you keep on top of things, that’s all you’ll need to do). But if you have more than that, we’ve created an easy solution.
Reconcile is a dedicated screen that provides you with a list of transactions, their detail and the Budget Buckets that you can associate with those transactions. Functionally, this is doing the exact same thing as the Quick Log (and vice versa). If the transactions look good, simply tap the grayed out check-marks to confirm. This will automatically log the transaction inside the respective Budget Bucket.
As we’ve mentioned, keeping a budget is incredibly important to managing and building wealth. As is keeping up with your budget (which is why we’ve focused so heavily on your user experience). But what about understanding your budget, reflecting on your budget and planning for the future?
In business, we call this a P&L or a Profit and Loss statement. But for some reason, we don’t really track this kind of information in our persona lives — however valuable it might be.
With Change, we’re not simply providing category percentages, we’re providing reports that give your real insight.
For example, your salary might be $100k a year but do you know how much of that $100k you’re actually bringing home in a given 12 months? I can assure you that it isn’t $100k (the government likes to take their cut and, in most cases, so does your state) but what is it?
Rough numbers might make guesstimates at $70k but what if you knew that it was exactly, $67,249.69 — couldn’t this information help you better prepare and plan for next year?
Beyond income, what if you then knew that (while keeping pretty good on your budget) you spent $6,151.27 on food & groceries. Is it too much too little? What if you could see your donations by line item as well? It would make tax season so much…
simpler less hard.
The best part is that we not only provide an annual version of this report but also a quarterly and monthly version of the same report making it insightful to see your progress throughout the year.
Strengths: Change is a budgeting tool designed for humans. Change focuses on user experience and comprehension. Change syncs your bank account making logging incredibly easy. Change provides clear, concise and detailed personal profit and loss (P&L) reports. Change is only $89/year.
Weaknesses: We hate spreadsheets, so your financial analyst uncle might hate us. But we’ve got a cool solution (not made by us): For Your Uncle.
At the end of the day budgeting should be something that we all enjoy doing. All of us, not just the finance geeks. Our goal was to design a budgeting tool that was built for you — a human being. A person with a career, a life, a family, hobbies, vacations and so much more.
So let’s forget about complex systems, archaic spreadsheets and financial jargon and let’s move into an era where budgeting just makes