See the best budget apps to get your finances into shape.

By Kate Rockwood
August 06, 2020
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If learning how to budget were easy, everyone would do it—really. While budgeting is one of the most reliable ways to practice financial responsibility and build wealth or pay down debt, it’s also incredibly challenging, and something the majority of people struggle with. (Even good budgeters sometimes chafe at the restrictions of budgeting.)

Fortunately, budgeting successfully doesn’t have to be entirely reliant on your own self-control. Because it’s 2020, figuring out how to stick to a budget and how to save money more effectively is a whole lot smarter than it used to be. There’s a budget app for everyone out there—and the best budget apps do more than just help you rein in your spending.

As part of the Real Simple Smart Money Awards, we’re highlighting the best budget apps of 2020. Whether you’re trying to cut out your many subscriptions or you want to perfect splitting the bills with your partner, there’s a budget app out there for you. Read on for the best budget apps of 2020, or click here to see the other 2020 Real Simple Smart Money Award winners.

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1

Best for: spotting bad habits

What it is: “How much did I spend on takeout last week?” “Can I afford a new pair of shoes?” Connect your bank accounts to Cleo and it will scan your transactions to help answer questions like these, as well as identify trouble areas and—most helpfully—assist with planning and sticking to a budget.

Why we love it: Cleo’s ability to point out where people spend heavily makes it a winner, says Gideon Drucker, CFP, author of How to Avoid H.E.N.R.Y. Syndrome: Financial Strategies to Own Your Future and a Smart Money Awards judge. “The more transparency you have with your financial behavior, the better,” he says.

marcus.com

2

Best for: managing subscriptions

What it is: This budget app shows you which companies receive most of your money (looking at you, Amazon!), and it lets you set up alerts for when your paycheck posts or your account balance is low.

Why we love it: Clarity Money shines when it comes to subscriptions. It spots possibly forgotten recurring charges, then supplies the merchant’s phone number to make canceling easier. Goldman Sachs’ online bank Marcus acquired the app in 2018, so you can also swiftly funnel any saved money into a high-yield savings account.

askzeta.com

3

Best for: couples who want to save and spent together

What it is: Zeta tracks joint bills, creates budgets, and gets you working toward shared goals—even if you don’t share bank accounts. Its IOU system simplifies splitting bills and tallying expenses.

Why we love it: Zeta puts both of you on the same financial page, whether you’re paying routine bills or saving for something major (like an anniversary trip or a down payment on a new home). “This one gets top marks because it helps couples reach joint money goals while maintaining financial autonomy if they have separate accounts,” says Smart Money Awards judge Cathy Derus, CPA at Brightwater Accounting.