The return of the air’s familiar crispness and threats of winter vortexes can mean only one thing: holiday season is back! Yes, that time where the world inevitable skips over Thanksgiving’s personable nature in favor of fully-stocked store shelves and discounts so deep they’ll drive people to make the nightly news for the most absurd reasons.
Sure, there’s some hyperbole packed into the corporate push to up holiday spending, but there is plenty of good that can come from the season for sharing. It can also throw budgets out of whack in a flash. Sound financial management tools are valuable beyond the holidays, but that sprint to the end of the year is a perfect time to start exploring the best and most helpful apps available.
CountAbout, like so many other personal finance apps, positions itself as an alternative to heavy hitters like Mint (more on that later). The app allows users to import data from their Mint account with ease, making sure that monitoring your accounts doesn’t suffer any delay. CountAbout’s invoice creator should be attractive to small business owners as well. It isn’t without its shortcomings though. While users can monitor investments, the app doesn’t provide any investment planning tools. And user account syncing requires a premium subscription ($39.99/year). That’s a hefty increase over CountAbout’s $9.99/year basic subscription.
The envelope system of saving might seem antiquated in the digital age, but the theory behind our grandparents’ tradition still rings true. Goodbudget carries on that tradition, placing rudimentary budgeting practices into the palm of your hand. The app allows users to monitor an account across up to 20 “envelopes” across two devices for free, but a $50/year subscription removes those limitations. Goodbudget’s mission isn’t fully realized yet, however, as the app doesn’t allow users to link their bank accounts to the app. Make sure you have your bank statements handy for upload.
Much like Goodbudget, Wally’s best use updates a tried and true pen-and-paper financial practice: tracking expenses. The app easily allows users to track expenses by synchronizing users’ bank accounts and letting them enter purchases simply by taking a picture of a receipt. Can’t get much easier than that. Where Wally can lose people is it’s polarizing subscription model. The app breaks individual features out from a blanket subscription, allowing users to customize their toolset at smaller costs. But there are few tools that most users would want to leave out, totaling out at nearly $60/year. It doesn’t help that bank account synchronization is also kept behind a paywall.
Anyone with a passing interest in personal finance knows the name Dave Ramsey. The financial guru has been doling out tips and tricks for decades. So, it makes too much sense that Ramsey would commission his own app. Enter EveryDollar, an app that focuses on basic budgeting and nothing else. Users can build budgets and track expenses while consulting Ramsey’s famed “Baby Steps” brand of financial planning. The app’s lack of importing tools means that most information must be entered manually. Like anything with name-branding, EveryDollar main detriment is it bloated subscription price, which you’ll have to pay if you want to sync a bank account. At $99/year, EveryDollar isn’t a sound investment unless you specifically prescribe to Ramsey’s brand of guidance.
MoneyDance is another app that targets Mint and Quicken users, pledging to offer better functionality with comparable tools. Users can import their Mint and Quicken data to the app, though the ease of that transition has been called into question by a number of users. The app itself packs every expected financial tool into an affordable one-time $49.99 purchase, though users’ first 100 transactions are free. MoneyDance also offers something no other app on this list does: personally developed add-ons. Users with knowledge of coding can build their own extensions for use in the app via its extension developer’s kit, making it potentially the most customizable option on the app marketplace.
Budgeting and account monitoring aren’t the only valuable personal finance tools. Investing for the future is another key part of preserving one’s financial health. Many view market investments as unattainable, obtuse or simply intimidating. But Acorns’ singular mission is to alleviate those hurdles. It does so by investing the spare change from everyday purchases into low-risk exchange-traded funds. Simply link your account, spend your money and Acorns does the rest starting at $1/month. It’s the perfect tool to babyface investing for all.
This one goes out to all the spreadsheet nerds out there. Tiller’s focus is squarely on providing easily digestible information about any of your financial accounts. All of its output is Google Sheets compatible and automatically updating, making it easy to access and analyze reports on the go. Users can even create their own custom spreadsheet templates, making it a great option for small businesses and individuals alike. Tiller’s lack of investment tools is noticeable, but the good far outweighs the bad, especially if segmented and well-organized information is your thing. Especially at $4.92/month.
Intuit’s financial management suite stands as the standard bearer simply because of its market presence. It packs all of the expected tools alongside simplified credit monitoring at no cost to the user. That’s especially attractive when many other apps gate account synchronization behind a paywall. The app isn’t terribly flexible beyond that. Users will need additional software (Quicken specifically) to tackle issues facing small businesses. Being under the Intuit umbrella is a solid quality-of-life option for users of the company’s other services, but that association is double-edged. Especially after losing some customer faith after its most recent TurboTax controversy.
One of the major reasons why anyone takes the time to organize their finances is long-term stability. After all, what good is monitoring your money if you aren’t setting yourself up for the future? Personal Capital provides all the tools you’ll need to strengthen your financial standing for both the short and long. And it gets the savings started by offering most of those tools for free. Users only pay for access to the app’s financial advisory suite.
Its pleasingly direct name aside, You Need A Budget has built a reputation for providing quality budget management tools while trying to make its users more conscious of where their money is going. That only improved by integrating bank synchronization and more flexible input options for users’ financial information. The app also provides articles and resources that educate users on strategies that further develop their financial management skill set. YNAB doesn’t just want to manage your funds—it wants to turn you into an overall better money manager. And it’s quite the bargain at $6.99/month.
Brian Bell is a queer freelance writer covering tech, pro wrestling, esports, games, comics and TV. Co-host of the Mr. Videogames Super Show podcast. Find and follow him on Twitter @WonderboyOTM.