Free Budgeting Apps Without Bank Account

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After another round of testing, Simplifi bi Quicken is still our top pick. We still recommend You Need a Budget (INAB) for those who keep track of every penny using the Zero Budget method.

Free Budgeting Apps Without Bank Account

For some people, budgeting is less exciting than starting a diet (and sometimes unproductive). For others, making a spending plan gives them a nice dopamine boost. Wherever you fall in this range, a budgeting app can be a great tool to help you reach your financial goals. After another round of testing nearly a dozen apps, we continue to recommend Simplify by Quicken as the easiest and most comprehensive way to see where your money is going and plan for future expenses.

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For those responsible for a budget that forces them to account for absolutely every dollar in their bank account, we recommend the Need for Budget (INAB). It’s not as easy to set up and use as Simplifi, but if you’re the type who diets by keeping track of every calorie, INAB’s zero-based approach to budgeting might work for you.

Simplifi combines an elegant and intuitive interface with powerful tools for tracking your spending and planning for future expenses. It also had the least problems connecting to the bank of apps we tested.

Most budgeting apps are either easy to set up but ultimately ineffective when it comes to money management, or so complex and tedious that they kick anyone out without an extra week to research their finances. Simplify needle threading. It allows you to seamlessly sync your bank accounts and offers a range of useful tools and an easy-to-use design that encourages you to stay within your means. Our favorite feature is the Personal Spending Plan, which gives you an updated dollar number of how much you have left to spend by the end of the month after factoring in your bills and savings goals. Simplify isn’t free, but it’s cheaper than competitors with similar features. In addition, having some appearance in the game can make you stick to it.

INAB has some sync issues and a steep learning curve, but it remains a great option for tight budgets.

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For a more rigorous approach to money management, a zero-based budgeting system—where you allocate every dollar in your bank account to a spending category or savings goal at the beginning of each month—may be for you. You Need a Budget (INAB) is the best app we’ve found that supports this budgeting method or philosophy. The intricacies of getting the allocation right can take a while to really understand, but for those comfortable with this approach, the payoff can be huge: your brain is trained to spend less. However, in addition to the steep learning curve, in our tests INAB had more trouble syncing with some banks. It also lacks some of Simplifi’s features, such as cash flow forecasts, desktop notifications, and live customer support.

Wirecutter senior writer Melanie Pinola researches and writes about home office products and technologies, including our guide to the best online tax filing software. For more than five years prior to joining Wirecutter, I wrote extensively about personal finance for sites like Lifehacker, SmartAsset, and MyBankTracker.

Author Taylor Tepper has covered personal finance for nearly a decade, and his work has appeared in the New York Times, Fortune, Time, Money Magazine, Bloomberg, NPR, and more. He won the 2017 Loeb Prize for his work on the financial costs of mental illness.

If you want to live within your means and make your money grow, the cardinal rule of personal finance is this: spend less than you earn and save the rest. (Or, in other words, earn more than you spend and save the difference.) This is harder than it sounds, especially if you don’t keep track of your income and expenses.

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The budget app is for anyone who wants to better manage their finances without having to manually add numbers in a spreadsheet every month. When connected to your bank and credit card accounts, the budget app can automatically display all of your transactions in one place—usually categorizing them for you and creating useful reports that give you a comprehensive view of your spending. We know that many people are concerned about the security and privacy of these apps; More on that shortly.

Does everyone need a budget app? no. Using a detailed, category-oriented balancing system like the one we chose isn’t for everyone—and these apps have their detractors.

Personal finance writer Helen Olin at Slate outlines why this subtle, nuanced approach to personal budgeting might be wrong. The crux of her argument is that most people’s income and expenses vary enough from month to month to make budgeting unfeasible.

We sympathize with Olen’s argument and don’t think everyone needs an itemized budget. After all, what does it matter if you spend $100 or $200 on wine this month, as long as you end up spending less than what you earned?

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The budget app is for anyone who wants to better manage their finances without having to manually add numbers in a spreadsheet every month.

There are two basic types of budgeting apps: trackers (a la Mint) and zero balancers. Tracking apps offer a 30,000-foot view of your funds, display your transactions in real time, and require very little effort to set up. By contrast, zero-balance apps encourage a more hands-on approach, forcing you to account for every dollar you put in (X amount for savings, I amount for rent, etc.), but they tend to be private and expensive. We recommend Simplify to most people because it’s a happy medium between the two. It tracks spending, revolving accounts, savings goals, and earnings history to estimate how much you have left to spend in any given month in any category you want. Spreadsheet-based budgets (and some other budgeting tools) encourage you to create endless categories and allocate a dollar amount to each, which is not only confusing, but potentially fail-safe. (Have you ever run into a big bill, like a car repair or a dental emergency? Things like that can blow your budget.)

This mixture of styles traces how well Americans actually behave. Only one in three households in the United States has a detailed written budget, according to a 2013 Gallup survey, while about two-thirds of Americans have a budget in some way, according to Debt.com. (However, both surveys are from before the pandemic.)

The key is choosing an approach that you feel comfortable with and that actually fits your lifestyle. Each of our picks offers a free trial, so you should experiment before settling on one. And if you don’t want to use an app, we’ve got tips on how to budget for free.

Best Budgeting Apps Of 2022

Trust us, linking our bank accounts and trusted apps to our financial data made us nervous, too. As part of our research, in addition to reading these apps’ privacy and security policies, we reached out to the companies behind our choices and asked them to answer a series of questions related to what we consider important privacy and security issues. which includes:

Most budgeting apps use a third party service to aggregate data from your bank into the app; Budget apps simply give you the means to read that data in one place. Third-party services include Plaid and Envestnet | Yodley. These services have their own security policies and procedures, which makes it very difficult to evaluate everything. But companies well known in the industry and the financial institutions themselves use them to present customer transactions in an easy-to-read manner. They all claim not to sell or share personal information – in the same way that your bank also promises to protect your privacy.

What if something goes wrong and someone gains access to your account using one of these budgeting apps?

The good news is that while the person may be able to see a list of your transactions, they won’t be able to transfer money or log directly into your bank account site. Your banking credentials are not stored anywhere in the budget app where they can be read.

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However, you probably don’t care about your financial transactions being leaked even if this information is anonymous. That’s why we highly recommend that you properly secure any app you use – budget apps and especially financial apps – by:

Keep in mind – especially with free apps – that the more services, features, and “partner interactions” an app provides, the more vulnerable it is to data leakage. An app may claim that its data collection is anonymous or impossible to trace back to you, but that’s not entirely true, especially without industry oversight of these apps. This is one of the reasons why we don’t recommend Mint if you’re concerned about privacy.

Below are our candidates’ top answers to our security questions and links to their security and privacy policies if you’d like to explore more.

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