Stay on Track: The Best Budgeting Apps for 2020

Renee Layberry
May 4, 2021

Keeping your finances on track requires effort. You want to balance your monthly income with your expenses to ensure you always have enough money to get by – and perhaps even save a little at the end of the month.    However, you might not have the time or even the interest to sit down and balance your budget month after month. Even more, you might not know where to start. A budgeting app just might be what you need to live within your means.   If you’re new to creating a budget and sticking to it, there are plenty of resources available to help you on your money-saving journey. And even if you’re experienced, you can use these apps to automate some tasks and reminders.   In today’s digital age, you can skip the pencil and paper or even a complicated spreadsheet and instead opt for a budgeting app. A variety of these apps are available, allowing you to track your spending with a swipe or a click. Budgeting apps are more hands-off than other alternatives, which makes them perfect for busy college students who are always on the go.   Learn more about how to use these budgeting apps and explore different options to find the right fit for your finances.  

Budgeting app basics

Budgeting apps are a digital way to keep tabs on your finances. Some apps link to your bank account to monitor your spending. They provide important insights into where your money is going.    These apps can categorize your purchases, which makes it easy to see where you’re overspending. In doing so, you can make more thoughtful purchases to cut down on expenses. Your app can also alert you when your balance is low, so you don’t get hit with any overdraft fees.   Chances are your smartphone is never out of reach, which makes an app especially appealing to tech-focused college students. You can check your finances on the go. This in turn can encourage more responsible spending. Plus, these apps are serious time savers because they do much of the budgeting work for you.   Keep in mind, there are a lot of hidden expenses in college that could catch up to you soon. Textbooks and materials for classes ultimately come out of the students' pockets and aren't incorporated into tuition prices.    Photo by Sharon McCutcheon

The best budgeting apps

There isn’t a one-size-fits-all app for everyone. Just as everyone’s finances vary, so do their budgeting concerns. As a result, the right app depends on your financial situation and goals.   Perhaps you’re overspending and need to reduce expenses. Maybe you just want an idea of what you’re spending money on every month. Or, maybe you’re getting ready for graduation and want to spend that full-time-job paycheck responsibly. Whatever your reason for budgeting, you want to choose an app with your unique financial goals in mind.   Check out these popular budgeting apps for 2020, which can help you take control of your finances.  


For years, Mint has set the standard for simple budgeting. While you can manage your finances on the website, you can also use a smartphone or tablet app that pairs with your account for easy budgeting, no matter where you are.   Mint links all of your accounts so that you can review your entire financial picture from the app. You input your bank account information both checking and savings as well as any investment accounts. Set up the app to receive alerts when your balance is low so you can avoid overdraft fees.   You can even integrate your bills so that you can see your expenses right alongside the accounts to ensure you always have enough money to cover your bills. You’ll receive reminders when bills are due so that you never make a late payment.   Mint helps you create a budget too. You identify how much you want to spend on different categories like food, gas, personal care, and household items. Then, Mint automatically tracks your spending in each of these categories so that you can stay on target. If you’ve hit your clothing budget on the 15th of the month, for example, you’ll know to rein in your spending until payday.   Pros:
  • Daily budget tracker helps you see where you stand every day.
  • Free credit report summary provided.
  • Free to use. The premium version is $16.99 per month.
  • Automatic categories might not always match your preferences.
  • Recommended products and services are essentially advertisements that help keep Mint free.
  • Users report occasional technical glitches.
  Photo by Yura Fresh


If you’re looking for a simpler option for basic budgeting, try Wally. This app lets you sync all of your accounts. That means if you have bank accounts and credit cards with different banks, you can bring all of them together. Note that you have to enter them manually rather than having them link automatically.   You can build your budget by category on Wally, which lets you customize your financial goals. For example, you can add categories for clothing, entertainment, food, and so on. Then, you can track your spending in each category throughout the month so that you can stick to your budget.    You can also view your spending by the day, which might indicate trends that you can avoid if you’re overspending. You can also receive real-time updates on your finances, which, again, provides valuable financial advice on the go.   Wally gives you plenty of control over how you budget. For example, while many adults stick to a monthly budget because they’re paid once or twice a month, you might be operating on a different schedule, especially if you’re enrolled in school full time and only working occasionally.    Maybe your budgeting focus is on saving for a semester abroad or for graduate school. Flexible budget schedules allow you to set financial goals beyond the current month. You can also set long-term savings goals.   Pros:
  • Solid basics for budgeters just getting started.
  • Free to download and use, with an advanced version available at $1.99 monthly.
  • Manual account input can be time-consuming.
  • iOS only.
  Photo by


Goodbudget follows the popular envelope method of budgeting with a modern twist. The original method had envelopes of cash from which you paid for all your expenses for the month. At the start of every month, you’d withdraw all of the cash you’d need for the month and parcel it out into different envelopes for different categories. Goodbudget does this minus the cash.   Instead, you’ll use digital envelopes to categorize your money for each month. Rather than spending your money without a plan, you’re encouraged to do the opposite. Plan your spending by categorizing it at the beginning of the month. Then, you can see how much money you’ve spent in each category to keep yourself on track.   You can use this method to plan for savings, setting a certain amount of money aside monthly. Whether you have a specific savings goal or simply want to build an emergency fund for unexpected expenses, Goodbudget can help.   Pros:
  • The app encourages you to plan your purchases for more conscious spending.
  • The design allows you to focus on savings or tackling debt.
  • It’s a good teaching tool for beginners.
  • The budgeting method might seem overwhelming at first to novice budgeters.
  • Because it doesn’t automatically sync with your accounts, you have to manually enter your transactions. That’s a lot of work.
  • You need to upgrade to add accounts or have more than 10 envelopes.
  Photo by Campaign Creators

Simplifi by Quicken

Simplifi by Quicken is another budgeting app to consider. Because it links all of your accounts, you can get a consolidated view in one place. So, you can view your investments together with checking and savings account balances, as well as any debt like credit card payments or car payments.   Simplifi also automatically categorizes your transactions so you can quickly see where your money is going and make changes to your spending habits. If you identify a category that’s causing you trouble, you can add it to a watch list to keep an eye on it or even set a limit by category so that you can stay on track.   Pros:
  • Easy to sync with your banks and other financial institutions.
  • Real-time tracking of finances.
  • Easy categorization of expenses.
  • It’s not free. After a free trial, subscription costs $3.99 per month.
  • No data importing capabilities yet.
  Learning how to budget is an important life skill to develop. And it’s never been easier than now, with all the budgeting apps available to track your spending and saving. Find one that best suits your needs, lifestyle, and financial goals, and make the most of every dollar.