Track Your Spending on the Go with the Best Budget Apps in Canada 2018
Whether we like to admit it or not, money has a powerful influence on our lives. Your bank account balance affects whether you can pursue higher education, own a home and have a secure retirement. Having a good income is nice, but the health of your finances can often depend on how you manage the money you make, rather than on how much you make.
I decided to get serious about budgeting when my car broke down and I realized that I didn’t have any kind of an emergency fund to cover unexpected expenses. I wanted to figure out what I was spending monthly so I could make an informed decision about how much to put toward an always-be-prepared savings account. Thanks to some serious budgeting, I now know what my average monthly spending is on things like groceries, gas and entertainment. Better yet, I have the start of a nice little nest egg.
While it would be great if we could all afford to have our own personal financial manager, budgeting is something most of us must do on our own. Luckily, thanks to the popularity of smartphones and an ever-growing array of finance apps, it’s possible to have your own mobile money manager in the palm of your hand.
How Budgeting Apps Work
We all know we should be more cautious and deliberate with our spending and savings strategies, but we often give up because it can seem overwhelming, especially if you’re not comfortable with numbers. The best budgeting apps work by making it as easy and automatic as possible to see where your money goes. Many apps link directly to your financial accounts and instantly tabulate your savings and expenses. Others highlight key areas of concern like debt repayment or can show you where you’re overspending.
What’s the Added Value of Budget Apps vs Traditional Reports?
Budgeting apps excel where traditional spreadsheet methods of tracking money fail because apps do all the calculating and much of the inputting of information for you. The onus is generally on the app rather than on the user to figure out what’s going on in your financial accounts and then display it in a user-friendly way.
Most of us lack a facility with numbers or enthusiasm for budgeting so our efforts soon fall to the wayside. With mobile apps—especially those that are linked to your bank and investment accounts—everything is done for you. Many budgeting apps also have attractive layout features to make them simple to understand and digest.
What Budgeting Apps Can Help You Achieve
Whether you hope to get out of debt, save for a specific goal, or just want to feel in control of your finances, there’s a budgeting app to help you succeed. The best ones can do a variety of tasks, including:
- Help you budget for household expenses. Apps like Mint tap into all your accounts to map out your entire financial universe and then, based on how much money you have and your past spending behaviors, help you design personalized budgets.
- Prevent overspending. These apps hone in on what money you have and then show you precisely what you’re spending it on, so you never have to ask yourself “where did all my cash go?”
- Get out of debt. These apps carefully monitor how much you owe and suggest manageable repayment plans based on your income, spending and savings needs.
- Grow savings. These apps work silently in the background by putting tiny, affordable amounts of money into a saving or investment account. The gradual accumulation helps build up a nest egg without noticeably disrupting your lifestyle.
Best Canadian Budgeting Apps to Download in 2018
When it comes to financial apps, the saying “you get what you pay for” doesn’t always hold up. There’s an incredible array of free budgeting apps that offer comprehensive money management features without a fee. Though some are freemium apps (offering a free basic product with the option to pay for additional services or features), what you get for free is often enough without requiring an upgrade to be useful.
Free Budgeting Apps
The financial app by which all other financial apps are judged, Mint is an all-encompassing money manager. Designed by the respected financial software company Intuit, Mint links to all your financial accounts—bank accounts, credit cards, loans and investments—and thus provides an incredibly accurate and detailed picture of where your money is going. Because of its sync capabilities, it automatically updates your financial status every single time you log in, so you always have the most accurate and up-to-date picture of your finances. It then presents your economic status in visually appealing, cleanly designed graphics and charts that are easy to understand.
Mint categorizes your spending and will even create a budget for you (though you can also make your own) so there’s very little organizing required on your part. It regularly checks your credit score, reminds you what bill payments are due and will notify you if it detects any strange activity in your accounts. It’s available as a web app as well so you can access it in whatever way is most convenient.
While Mint is one of the most comprehensive financial apps on the market, it’s not for those who are uncomfortable letting an app have unfettered access to all their most vital banking information. Nonetheless, its connectivity and automation lead many to consider it the best budget app out there, and it’s available in both iOS and Android.
If you want to get a handle on your spending but don’t want an app to access your financial accounts, the no-frills Spending Tracker provides an excellent first step. It’s a pared-down app that focuses on keeping track of your spending. You simply enter your income and then manually enter the amount you spend whenever you make a purchase or pay a bill. You can also set up a “Budget Mode” where you put in a maximum spending limit and as you enter your expenses you can see how close you are to reaching your spending cap.
Its streamlined, no-nonsense design makes it much more approachable for someone who is new to the world of finance apps and who doesn’t want to be overwhelmed by lots of numbers and details. While it may not look like much to fans of a super-automated system like Mint, money experts agree that consciously monitoring where your money is going is an essential first step in smart financial management. Of course, because it’s not synched to your bank accounts, it relies on your discipline to input your spending to provide an accurate overview of your finances. Those who don’t mind some regular data input will find Spending Tracker to be one of the best budget apps free of charge for both iOS and Android.
This user-friendly app will appeal to those who like to set boundaries on what they can spend every month, and who favour saving methods that are easy to visualize. Unlike many other financial apps, Goodbudget focuses more on planning and limiting your spending rather than mapping your entire financial universe. It’s based on the ‘envelope method’ of saving money that was popular back when cash was king before credit cards. While cash is becoming an antiquated method of commerce, the principles of envelope budgeting are still sound.
Each month Goodbudget lets you put a maximum amount of “cash” into virtual envelopes that are each allocated to things like groceries, gas and entertainment. During the month you only spend what you have in each envelope; if there’s any left over you can put it into savings. It’s an excellent way to eliminate careless spending, but to work it depends on your dedication to update envelopes and not go over allocated amounts. Like Spending Tracker, it doesn’t have access to your real-world financial records, which can be a pro or a con depending on your concerns with cybersecurity. The basic app is free for both Android and iOS. For US$6 monthly or US$50 annually you have perks like synching envelopes across multiple devices.
Best Budgeting Apps for iPhone
YNAB (You Need A Budget)
Like Mint, YNAB gets into the minutia of your money and connects to all your financial accounts. It also offers debt tracking, budgeting and goal-saving features. The app’s methodology is centered around four main rules:
- Give every dollar a job – actively decide how you want to spend your money rather than buying things haphazardly without a goal.
- Embrace your true expenses – pay bills as soon as possible.
- Roll with the punches – stuff happens, so know when you need to adjust your budget and do so responsibly.
- Age your money – save money so you’ll no longer have to live paycheque-to-paycheque.
These principles have helped a lot of users get a firm hold on their personal economies and have won the app legions of loyal fans.
Where YNAB really differs from Mint (aside from the fact that it’s not free) is in its educational approach, which emphasizes teaching users better financial skills and developing good spending habits that go beyond just mindlessly using the app. The company even offers free (for members) courses on things like managing debt and how to create a budget. YNAB is one of the best budget apps for iPhone and is also available for Android. Both iOS and Android users can try the app for a 34-day free trial period; afterward it’s US$6.99 a month billed annually.
Canadian financial technology company Mylo just launched their self-named app in July of 2017 and it’s already causing a stir. This innovative app functions in the background, quietly putting your spare change into an investment account that grows little by little without any effort on your part.
The app works by rounding up everything you spend to the nearest dollar and then depositing that money into a Mylo investment account. For example, if you spend $50.25 on a debit or credit card at the grocery store, Mylo will round that up to $51 and put the extra .75 into your account. The money in your Mylo account is invested by an experienced portfolio manager (Mylo uses Tactex Asset Management) into a low-cost ETF (Exchange-Traded Fund). It’s like putting your investing on autopilot. The app is available for both iOS and Android and there is a monthly fee of just CAD $1.
Like most budgeting apps, Wallet gives you an informative overview of your financial activity. Though the free version doesn’t automatically synch to your bank accounts, it does let you upload data from your bank and other finance apps. You can also make budgets and manage your debts and payments. It will even take pictures of your receipts, so you can archive them. Wallet has handy added features like managing all your loyalty and reward cards, so you don’t have to carry them with you. It also has an extremely easy-to-use interface with nice graphics that are simple to follow.
What makes Wallet stand out from other finance apps is how well it works for goal-oriented individuals. It shows you how to set specific goals (like buying a car) and then helps you actively stay on track by carefully monitoring your finances and then letting you know if your spending and savings habits are going to make your dream a reality. The basic app is free for iOS and Android. For an additional fee of US$4.99 monthly or US$28.99 annually you get premium features that include linking your bank accounts and adding family members to your account.
Best Budgeting Apps for Android
Debt Payoff Planner
For some of us it can be difficult thinking about financial goals like savings until after we get out of debt. For those who need to get a handle on their debts before they take on more holistic financial planning, Debt Payoff Planner is one of the best budget apps for Android (also available for iOS).
Debt Payoff Planner helps organize, monitor and pay off all your debts quickly and responsibly. It gives you the option of paying down your debt using the ‘snowball method’, which is when you pay the smallest debt off first and gives debtors momentum to continue following a repayment program. Or you can choose the ‘avalanche method’, which involves paying off debts with the highest amount of interest first so you can potentially save more money. The app also provides payment alerts and charts to help you see (and celebrate!) how your amount owing is steadily decreasing.
The basic version of the app is free. If you go to the Pro version—which offers features like downloadable charts, more detailed interest accrual information and faster customer service— there’s a variety of payment options, including a 2-year subscription charged at US$1 a month.
Expenses have never looked so beautiful. Spendee is a graphic designer’s dream with bold, bright colors and a lush design aesthetic that makes you want to tune in and see where you’re spending your money. But it’s not just a pretty face. You can also set budget goals and manage bill payments, and it will also track your crypto wallet and E-Wallet. Similar to more advanced apps like Mint, YNAB and others, the paid version will also link to your bank accounts and provide a thorough overall view of your financial activity.
Above all else, Spendee’s prime directive is giving you a picture-perfect representation of your spending habits using beautiful charts, diagrams and colorful columns. It’s intuitively laid out and even lets you upload photos to go with budget items you’re trying to save up for. It wants to make the user experience as enjoyable and accessible as possible so even the most financially challenged among us will understand our financial status. Spendee is also available for iOS and offers a free basic version. Paid versions cost either US$14.99 or US$22.99 annually and include extras like the capacity to link bank accounts.
If you want the accuracy of an app that links to all your bank accounts, but you feel like Mint and YNAB might be too complicated and require too much interaction on your part, then PocketGuard is a worthwhile pick. Though it links to your bank and credit card accounts and gives you up-to-the-minute overviews of your financial situation, its overarching raison d’etre is simple: PocketGuard lets you how much money you can safely spend without going into the red.
The app “guards your pocket” by making sure you only spend what you can afford to once you’ve taken care of the essentials like paid bills and some regular savings. After you’ve paid bills and put aside some savings, the app gives you a clear overall picture of what you have left to spend. You also don’t have to worry about setting up a budget because PocketGuard makes one for you automatically based on your income, the bills you must pay and your personal saving goals. PocketGuard basic is free and is also available for iOS. PocketGuard Plus helps you track cash spending, as well as bank accounts and investments and goes for US$3.99 monthly or US$34.99 annually.
What to Bear in Mind with Budgeting Apps
Just remember, all the budgeting apps in the world aren’t going to make you better at balancing your bank accounts if you don’t use them properly. After all, it’s not the app itself that saves your money and curbs spending: it’s you.
Some budgeting apps rely on users to have the discipline to methodically enter their spending and payments. Even apps that are connected to your financial accounts can’t force you to dig yourself out of debt or stop you from overspending. In the end, no matter what budgeting apps you use, you must be an active participant in their usage and have the willpower and genuine desire to change the way you manage your money.