Are Budgeting Apps Safe to Use?
With all of the data breach scandals and financial fraud scams that you have probably heard about, it makes sense to be wary of sharing sensitive information with a third-party app. Open Banking regulations mean that banks must make your financial data available to share with third parties when you give permission. These third parties need to be approved by the Financial Conduct Authority and also join the Open Banking Directory. There are already about 100 regulated providers, a number which is likely to increase as this technology gains popularity. As long as you do not have to hand over your actual banking login details, your accounts and money will be safe when using the app.
What to Look for in a Budgeting App
Always check the privacy statement and the security level of an app before you trust it with your information. Even if you are confident that the app is safe, only use it with a private Wifi connection on a password-protected device. The things that you need to consider when selecting a budgeting app depends on the features that you are looking for. This could include the ability to set a budget, set savings goals, track expenses, make financial predictions, or even link your bank accounts. You should also check whether the app is accessible via mobile or desktop, and how much it costs. Some apps are free, while some require paid subscriptions to access some of the premium features.
10 of the Best Mobile Budgeting Apps
Another extremely popular budgeting app is Yolt, which is also free for iOS or Android users. Yolt, much like Money Dashboard, allows you to view your current account, savings, and any credit cards all in one place. You can manage your regular bills and subscriptions and even use a comparison service to help you find better deals. Yolt will send you notifications when you reach spending limits that you can set for your budget. It can break down your spending in a three-month chart to identify excesses more easily. You can utilise specific categories to identify your spending areas, and even add notes to individual purchases. Though the Yolt app is easy to use, it is only available for mobile devices. This is not ideal if you prefer to organise your finances on a bigger screen with more functionality options.
You Need a Budget
A popular North American app which looks at budgeting slightly differently is YNAB, which stands for You Need A Budget. It only lets you create budgets using money that you already have, which makes it harder for you to spend more than you should. You can set up weekly or monthly budgets, or individual project budgets, and YNAB will keep you accountable. YNAB categorises expenses as ‘Immediate Obligations’ (e.g. rent), ‘True Expenses’ (e.g. medical bills), or ‘Just For Fun’ (e.g. dining out). The ‘Age of Money’ feature allows you to see how long your current balance will cover you for. YNAB is available through the web, iOS, or Android, but after the 34-day free trial, you have to pay to use it. You will also have to enter data manually unless you can link a bank account based in the US or Canada.
If you are more concerned about mapping your long-term finances, Moneyhub is a subscription service app which offers this. It collects all your accounts into one place and compares your spending month by month, like the other budgeting apps. What is unique about it is that it includes the option to speak to a financial adviser for professional advice. It also allows you to add assets such as pensions or investment funds, or debts like mortgages, which can establish your net worth. There are also calculators for taxes and pensions. The app offers a 30-day free trial, but after that, you will be charged for continued access to Moneyhub. The fee is 99p per month, or you can choose to pay annually (£9.99 for Android or £14.99 for iOS). Moneyhub also uses screen-scraping, which is not as secure.
Formerly the Easy Envelope Budget Aid, the Goodbudget app is one of the best budgeting apps for couples and families. It transfers the traditional envelope budgeting method to the digital landscape. The app allows you to assign a budget for an individual expense to each envelope so that you cannot spend more than the allocated amount. You can sync everything across multiple mobile devices – but only if you pay for the premium version. Their free version only allows one account and up to 10 envelopes. For £4.70 a month, you can create unlimited envelopes and share with up to 5 users. Goodbudget does not sync with your bank accounts, so you do have to input the information yourself. It may be worth it if you are trying to keep on top of a shared budget with others.
Is your best friend named Emma? She is now. Emma is a free budgeting app which will give you friendly reminders about where and when you are wasting your money. It analyses your data to categorise your spending habits with a weekly breakdown. The app establishes changes that you could make by identifying unnecessary subscription fees or alerting you to banking charges. Emma has an edge over other similar apps because it can integrate with most banks, including digital banking services like PayPal or cryptocurrencies. It is very easy to navigate and tracks your real-time balances, with daily updates. Unfortunately, the Emma app does not allow you to compare week to week or month to month. And if you want to add categories or export data, you must pay £4.99 a month for Emma Pro.
Like a squirrel storing nuts away for the winter, the Squirrel budgeting app stores your funds securely so that your bills get paid first and foremost. It is available on iOS, Android, and the web to help you stretch your money between paydays. This app is great for people who struggle to stick to a budget, because it divides your monthly income up and reserves portions for your bills and savings. Then you get a weekly allowance out of what is left over. It stops you from spending all of your money at once and allows you to set up a personalised savings pot. You set it up so that your salary is paid into a separate bank account (with Barclays) and it releases the funds to you gradually. Your money will not earn interest in this account. Squirrel offers an 8-week free trial, after which it costs £3.99 a month.
Unlike apps which show you your spending to help you budget, Chip is an automatic savings app. You connect your bank account within the app and Chip will monitor your incomings and outcomings to work out how much you can afford to save. Then it will automatically transfer this amount into a Barclays savings account for you. It allows you to amend the savings amount or manually top up your savings if you wish. This is a great way to build up a pot of savings while putting in very little effort. Reducing your disposable income also encourages you to budget better. According to the FCA, your money would be safe even if Barclays went into administration. One of the drawbacks is that this savings account only accrues interest if you refer a friend to Chip (1% per friend, up to 5% for 12 months).
If you don’t like the idea of Open Banking and would rather keep your bank accounts to yourself, you can still use a budgeting app to keep on top of your finances. It just means entering the information into the app yourself every day. Wally is a popular app for this purpose because you do not have to share your bank details but you can easily log expenses by taking photos of receipts. This reduces typing errors and streamlines the service. You can turn on your device location services to allow Wally to autofill these details, so you just have to enter the amount that you spent. The app is free and available for both iOS and Android, and it accepts most currencies. This means that you can use it even if you’re not in America. Manual control means that there is more to manage, which can be difficult.
Even more so than Emma, the chatbot assistant Cleo is a friend in your pocket reminding you of your finances and making suggestions. You give Cleo read-only access to your bank account and the bot analyses your spending and saving. Cleo can provide charts and graphs and answer questions about your money and budgeting. Download the Cleo app or use Facebook Messenger, texts, Alexa, or Google Assistant to communicate with Cleo. This is a great way to check your budget on the go and get insight into your financial habits. There is less hands-on control than personal finance apps, but the AI is very convenient. Cleo does require full access to your online banking account, but it does not actually hold any of your cash. It does offer an auto-saving feature, like Chip, to make saving easy.