Best Budgeting Apps: Which is the Pick of the Bunch?

Updated: March 29, 2024 Author:

Quick Answer: The best budgeting app depends on the functionality you need and what you want the app to do. Some apps are free but offer more limited features, so whether you want to pay and how much you want to spend is also relevant. 

    What are Budgeting Apps?

    Budgeting Apps are just like any other app you can add to your device. They work by allowing you to track where your money is going from your phone. 

    In 2018, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) introduced the Open Banking system allowing third parties access to people’s financial data with the opportunity to create an interface via a Budgeting App. Only the customer can instigate this, and the system is entirely secure.

    Why Use a Budgeting App?

    Many people use budgeting apps to help control spending, but they are also useful if you are saving for something or struggling to manage persistent debt. 

    Tracking where your money is going makes it easier to do all these things and a budgeting app is a good option to consider before a debt management plan.

    Budgeting apps help you manage your money in a Smart way, whatever your financial situation. 

    They are great for people who are busy or disorganised and forget to make payments on time, which can affect your credit score. However, even the financially savvy will be surprised at how much difference the right budgeting app can make.

    Because budgeting apps can synch all your financial data, you can manage your financial accounts strategically and holistically, even with different providers and institutions. This might help increase your credit score, too, especially if you are on a plateau.

    What Features Do Budgeting Apps Offer?

    Not all Apps are made equal! Many Apps offer the same core features, but there are variations with attributes that are essential for some people but not for others. 

    A lot of people have finance apps provided by their bank. These may not offer the features you want, and they certainly won’t give a bird’s eye view of all your accounts with different institutions. A lot of them don’t have a budgeting capability either.

    But before you start looking at third-party banking apps, here are some key points to consider.

    • Some apps can link to multiple accounts and sync all your financial data
    • Basic versions are often cost-free, but there will be subscription charges for enhanced or upgraded services.
    • Some apps track income and payments into accounts
    • Budgeting apps can group transactions into different types
    • Issue reminders for things like nearing a spending limit or when a bill is due
    • Help you to save with features like rounding up payments to the nearest pound and banking the difference to your investment account.
    • Do you want a free or paid service?
    • Some of the most expensive apps offer some quite specialist features – make sure you intend to use these; otherwise, you are actually wasting your money!
    • If you are trying to increase your credit score, you could consider a credit score monitoring app alongside a budgeting app, a two-pronged approach to building healthy financial habits.

    The Three Best Budgeting Apps

    Emma

    Emma has four different cost layers, but even the most expensive is under £15 per month. The standard most basic access is free but still allows you to add two bank accounts, create monthly budgets, and make payments.

    You can sync all your accounts with Emma, and the app analyses the information, suggesting ways to cut costs and save money.

    The higher subscription levels offer more accounts, cashback offers, and fraud detection alerts. A very handy true balance feature also accurately forecasts precisely what you have left to spend money on after bills and regular outgoings.

    Hyperjar

    It’s easy to see where the name for this app came from! Before online banking, when life was really just cash, people literally budgeted by putting income into different jars.

    Fast forward to the 21st century, and Hyperjar deploys this concept via a prepaid card, which can be digital or physical. The money goes onto the card and is then allocated to different digital jars, which you can choose to categorise according to need and spending habits.

    Shopping apps like supermarkets can link to a jar of the same name and automatically deduct any payments from the correct jar. Jars can also be shared with others, so this is an excellent app for communal households like student rentals.

    Plum

    Plum has four plan choices, and their standard version is free. The most expensive, Plum Premium, is a very competitive £9.99 a month.

    Plum uses AI to calculate when you put money aside to save, and spending is divided up into categories and monitored so you can see, for each classification, how much money is left until you next get paid.

    Plum also offers a Visa debit card and a ‘lost money’ facility. This is where it flags money that has left your account as a potential overpayment and which could have been saved if you swapped to another company or provider.

    The app also offers savings, but you will need one of the paid-for subscriptions to access the best interest rates. 

    Top Tips

    • Read reviews on your prospective app on reliable websites like Trustpilot – there is nothing like other people’s experiences to guide your choice.
    • When you search for the name of the app you want, make sure it matches the information you have exactly before you download it – there are many pale imitations, and you could be putting your financial data at risk.
    • After downloading the app, you’ll need your login information for each account you want to link to.
    • Before making a final choice of app, check if it is recognised by the Financial Conduct Authority or approved by openbanking.org.uk.
    • Make sure your money is protected by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme.