Our overview of the seven best iPhone budget apps includes HomeBudget, Spendbook, Money Monitor, Pocket Expense, Spending Tracker, You Need a Budget, and GoodBudget.
All the apps on our list let users set spending limits for different categories and measure actual spending against spending goals. Some, like HomeBudget with Sync, offer full iPhone budget app functionality that’s sharable across lots of different platforms like iPhones, Android devices, tablets, desktops and laptops, all for a reasonable price. Others like YNAB and GoodBudget are a little pricey but still great apps. HomeBudget, YNAB and GoodBudget let users import downloaded bank transaction histories to make it easier to track spending. Other apps like Spendbook, Money Monitor and Pocket Expense require users to input each spending transaction manually.
Only one in three Americans has a budget. By the time they reach retirement, the typical American has only saved $20,000. Any of our top seven iPhone budget apps can help keep a consumer from becoming another bad personal finance statistic.
5 Stars, $4.99
The HomeBudget With Sync app does everything an iPhone budget app should do, fairly intuitively and for a decent price. That’s why it’s our #1 pick for budget apps for iPhone.
The app can be synced across multiple devices, from iPhone to Mac to a spouse’s non-iPhone smartphone, so the family can keep and track a single budget no matter what device everyone uses.
The app allows users to set a budget by using pre-installed spending categories like Food/Groceries, Entertainment, Insurance/Medical and so on. It also allows users to create their own new categories and sub-categories, for instance Coffee, Computer Supplies or Baby Stuff. One neat feature about creating custom categories in this app is that users can select from a screen full of included icons. For example, a couple that creates a “Baby Stuff” category can look through the icons and find a little picture of a smiling baby in diapers, then choose that image to represent the category from then on.
The home screen displays the handiest “at a glance” home finance overview out of any of the budget apps on our list. On one screen, users can see a top-level view of their expenses, income, budget, accounts and current bills, as well as a three-color graph showing the relationship between their budget, expenses and income for the past six months.
Clicking through to the “Reports” screen shows how much is budgeted per day and how much is actually spent per day. It’s easy to see breakdowns of the past week, month and year as well as forecasts of income and expenses for the next 12 months.
Transactions can be entered manually or imported directly from downloaded bank statements, so there’s no need to link the app directly to bank or checking accounts. The app is password protectable and fully customizable.
All in all, HomeBudget with Sync is the best iPhone budget app out there, a fact borne out by the rave reviews it gets in the app store and the total lack of critical reviews. The worst thing anyone says about it is that there’s a bit of a learning curve, but that’s due largely to how feature-rich the app is.
The most helpful review in the app store says, “This is the only app to which I have ever given five stars.” The most critical review calls it “Almost perfect,” except for the inability to auto populate categories after selecting a payee and the necessity to manually enter transaction dates.
4.5 Stars, $1.99
The Spendbook budget app comes in a close second on our list of the best iPhone budget apps. The app is beautifully designed and very easy to use. Fast and flexible, it makes it easy to track expenses and set a budget.
Users can create a budget by using the pre-set spending category names or creating their own. The app is easy and actually fun to use, with a high-level view of expenses vs income vs budget on the home screen. Users can set recurring transactions and view their spending by date in a handy calendar screen.
The process of manually entering transaction info like a trip to the supermarket is quick and easy, which helps to keep it simple to update expenses on a regular basis. Beautiful interactive charts make it easy and quick for users to see where their finances stand.
There are a few downsides to this iPhone budget app. The first two are that there’s no option for password protection and there’s no option to batch-import transactions from downloaded bank records. These aren’t deal-breakers. Since most iPhone users password or bio-lock their home screens a second password for the budgeting app might be a little redundant. Since entering transactions manually on this app is so quick and smooth, the lack of bank record import capability isn’t too much off an inconvenience. The biggest negative mark against the Spendbook iPhone budget app is its inability to sync a budget between devices. That means a budget created on a user’s iPhone stays on that user’s iPhone. There’s no option to share the budget with a spouse’s iPhone or Android phone or work on a budget on a home Mac. Still, all in all it’s a great app.
The most helpful review says, “I never write reviews but I love this app.” The most critical complains that it is almost perfect except for the lack of password protection and the app’s inability to change its black background.
4.5 Stars, $1.99
The Money Monitor iPhone budget app is for people who want to track their income and changes in their net worth first and create and use budgets second.
The app’s home screen lets users switch between bills, stats and assets. The app gives users a view of their finances by breaking money down into assets and liabilities, income and expenses. Users add in the balances of their various accounts like checking, savings and credit card accounts. They then enter bill amounts and simple “money in / money out” transactions. Users can also choose from preexisting budget categories like social life, food and transportation.
This iPhone budget app creates an easy way for users to view their earnings and spending over time, as well as changes to their overall net worth. The app makes it easy to see why net worth goes up or down as the months go by to get a clear picture of where a user’s money comes from and where it goes.
The Money Monitor iPhone app includes features to set reminders to pay bills on time and track and organize expenses. Users can sync the data in the app across multiple devices, which is a nice feature.
The app’s budgeting features are there, but they’re not as robust as the budgeting power of the first two apps on our list. Spending categories are pre-set by the app and there’s no way to create new ones. There’s also no way to import downloaded bank transaction histories, so all transactions have to be entered manually. The process of entering transactions manually isn’t as fast or as intuitive as it could be.
The graphs and charts in this app don’t seem quite as helpful as the ones in the other apps on our list. Expenses can be viewed in a pie chart by category, and income likewise, but there’s no way to see them charted against each other. Someone with one job will see a single pie chart of their salary amount in one solid color – basically a red ball labeled “salary.”
While this iPhone budget app could have stronger budgeting features, for someone who simply wants a view of money in vs money out and the ability to set budget amounts for a few top level categories, this app is pretty straightforward and helpful.
The most helpful review calls it the perfect budget and checkbook all in one. The most critical says, “Anything I can do on this app, I can do on my calendar app.”
4. Pocket Expense Personal Finance
4.5 Stars, $4.99
Pocket Expense Personal Finance is a nice iPhone budget app, and its $4.99 price tag makes it affordable. However, the need to enter each transaction manually may be a bit tedious for some users and it has a few other drawbacks.
The home screen shows users their net worth and a list of recent transactions. It’s easy to see expenses and budgeted items for any day of the month. The app lets users set up accounts, schedule bill payments and view reports.
Users of this iPhone budget app make budgets by choosing from pre-set spending categories like gas, food or groceries and then assigning spending limits to each category. The total of all the category amounts makes up the total monthly budget amount. The app can also be synced through the cloud (pro version) so users can share their budgets with spouses and others.
Since the budget spending categories are pre-set, users have to choose their categories from a list. There’s no option to make new categories. Someone who spends $6 a day at Starbucks will have to file that under “Eating Out.” There’s no way to create a new “Starbucks” category.
The app’s interface isn’t bad, but it’s not as smooth as the other apps on our list.
Users have to enter transactions manually, so those who’d rather import files of transaction histories downloaded from their banks will find entering transactions a little frustrating.
The most helpful review of this iPhone budget app says, “I like it, but I just wish splitting receipts was easier.” The most critical is just a frowny face.
4.5 Stars, $2.99
The Spending Tracker iPhone budget app is a great app for tracking personal finances. It’s great at tracking money in vs money out in a clear and visual way. If the app’s budgeting features were a little more in-depth it would have wound up higher on our list.
Spending Tracker’s home screen shows an easy to understand colored bar with money in shown in green and money out in red. Dollar amounts for income and expenses are displayed there too. It’s easy to add transactions and make up spending categories like fuel, food and home repairs. Users can add accounts and edit them easily.
The Spending Tracker iPhone budget app is simple and customizable. It boasts a very easy user interface. It can be passcode protected and synced to the cloud for sharing across multiple devices. Users can generate reports to get a picture of their spending. They can also view charts like a pie chart that breaks spending down by category or a line graph that shows changes in income and spending over time.
There doesn’t appear to be a way to import downloaded bank transaction histories into this app, so users will have to enter each expense manually.
The app is geared mostly toward tracking spending but it does have a budget mode. However, there’s no option to view side-by-side status of income vs budgeted spending vs actual spending. Users have to choose either income vs expenses or income vs budget. Otherwise Spending Tracker is a very handy app.
The most helpful review of this iPhone budget app says, “I love how the default view is just totals of each category with what’s left still to spend that month (or week or day, you can pick) which is all I need.” The most critical said the app stopped working.
6. You Need a Budget (YNAB)
4.5 stars, $59
YNAB is a fantastic iPhone budget app that lets users create and track budgets across iPhones, Android phones and desktops. We would have put it a lot higher on the list if users could access more of the app’s features straight from their iPhones instead of having to rely on a desktop or laptop to get the full functionality of the app.
The You Need a Budget app costs more than most of the other apps on our list, but by and large it’s worth the money.
As with the other apps we reviewed, users create spending categories like, rent, food and gas, then add targeted spending amounts to each category. Users can also make “rainy day” categories, such as an annual homeowner’s insurance payment.
This iPhone budget app can also track current spending. As with some of the other apps on our list, users can download bank and credit card account transaction histories from bank websites in the form of OFX or CSV files, then import those files into YNAB once or twice a month. The app doesn’t force users to input bank passwords or other private info to access this feature, so it’s a fairly secure process. Once a transaction history is imported into the app, YNAB breaks down expenses by category and displays a useful pie chart to show where a user’s money is going.
The app shows spending by day, by week, or by month or year. All data is cloud sharable, so users only need to buy the app once to let anyone else in the household access it with a single license key.
The most helpful app store review says it’s a great iPhone budget app, but requires
starting the budget from scratch every time a user gets paid. The most critical complains of having to sync data from a desktop computer before getting started.
4.5 stars, $4.99/month
GoodBudget is a great iPhone budget app that has all but priced itself out of the market. Ironically, at an inflated $4.99 per month, this app may just be too pricey for most users on a budget.
***Update: the people at GoodBudget got in touch with us with a correction: the app offers a “free forever” version. The version is only limited in the number of spending categories users can create (20). Many households find this more than suits their needs. Also, the app can be synched to the GoodBudget website for sharing with laptops and PCs.
GoodBudget lets users make budgets by setting up categories for expenses like bills, gas and food. Users then pick the maximum amount they want to spend per month in each category. The app adds up all the individual amounts to get the total monthly budget amount. The app is more or less a digital system of the well known “envelope” budget system of using paper envelopes full of money to limit spending across different categories.
The GoodBudget iPhone budget app allows users to import transactions from downloaded bank records or input them manually. The app makes it easy to look at spending goals vs actual spending to help users see how well they’re sticking to the budget. Tables, charts and graphs make the information easy to assimilate at a glance.
GoodBudget has a simple, calculator type interface that makes entering transactions and creating budgets easy. The app can be cloud-synced, so users and their spouses can collaborate on budgets on iPhones, Android phones, tablets, laptops and PCs.
GoodBudget is a handy iPhone budget app. The most helpful app store review says it’s a great app but overpriced. The most critical says it stopped working after a time.
iPhone Budget Apps to Avoid
Mint is one of the most popular iPhone budget apps on the market, and with good reason. It’s a feature-rich, cloud-syncable budget app with a simple, intuitive interface. However, it has one big pitfall: It requires users to give it passwords to bank and credit card accounts.
Mint calls itself “triple secure,” but in our opinion handing out sensitive passwords is never a good idea. That’s especially true when the passwords access online banking systems. While Mint itself is trustworthy, there’s no guarantee it won’t get hacked.
Several other iPhone budget apps require users to input private passwords. We don’t recommend any of them.
- One in Three Americans Prepare a Detailed Household Budget – Gallup.com
- Middle Class Retirement Savings – WellsFargo.com
- Images taken from Apple App Store