5 Top Tools to Automate Your Budget
A budget is a plan for tracking your income and expenses. But rather than manually budgeting each month with pen and paper, simplify the process with an automated budget.
With an automated budget, your income and expenses are categorized automatically and ready to review in one place. Your spending shows up as real-time information. Some tools also offer auto notifications if you go over budget.
Here are our top five recommendations for automated budgeting tools, based on different types of spenders.
Related: 3 Steps to Create a Spending Plan
Best for: beginner budgeters
Mint is a free budgeting app that is offered by Intuit (the company behind TurboTax). The app syncs and tracks information from multiple financial accounts such as your
- Deposit accounts
- Credit accounts
- Retirement accounts
Another cool feature is that Mint integrates with other Intuit apps, which helps you keep financial things like taxes in one place.
Mint helps you set your overall budget for the month, check if you’re going over budget, and see how much you’ve spent per spending category. It even helps you find savings you might have missed. Set custom goals such as saving for a home, and track your progress.
The cons of this app are the ad pop-ups (Mint generates money from ads since the app is free). However, the app is a great tool for beginner budgeters to easily view their financial information.
Best for: helping you lower your expenses
Truebill is a simple app that helps you
- Control your subscriptions
- Track your month–to-month spending
- Automatically build your savings
When you open the app, you immediately see “This month’s spend,” and how this amount compares to the previous month.
Syncing with your different financial accounts, it also shows you how much cash you have in your bank account, your savings, investments, etc.
If you struggle with paying for subscriptions you don’t even use, Truebill can help you get rid of what you don’t need. It finds and tracks your subscriptions. The service will also cancel your unwanted subscriptions for you.
You can also enter your target budget, as well as create goal trackers for important categories. Truebill tracks your spending and sends alerts if you are nearing your desired spending goals.
Truebill is free to download, but you’ll have to pay for the premium service to directly cancel subscriptions from the app. It costs between $3 to $12 a month. Truebill also charges 40% of whatever amount you save from bill negotiation.
3. Personal Capital
Best for: wealth management
Free to use, Personal Capital isn’t your traditional budgeting app. Instead, it primarily helps you track your net worth and investments.
The app syncs with different financial accounts such as your checking account. Within the app, you can organize your spending and savings automatically by date, category, or merchant. Set a monthly spending target and track to see if you’re hitting this amount.
But the app offers many more advanced features, specifically related to wealth management. Look at the Personal Capital dashboard to
- Get an accurate view of your net worth.
- View how well your investments are performing.
- Track your savings and retirement goals with the Savings and Retirement Planner.
Although this option works for beginners, it’s an excellent choice if you’ve had some experience budgeting, and are now looking for ways to monitor your investments.
Hint: Sign up for the Personal Finance Masterclass – Easy Guide to Better Finances course on Udemy for a complete dive into budgeting.
Best for: zero-based budgeting
YNAB is a popular option for budgeters who are working hard to get out of debt. The app follows a four-rule budgeting method:
- Give Every Dollar a Job
- Embrace Your True Expenses
- Roll With The Punches
- Age Your Money
See all your finances in one place with the YNAB dashboard. You can also view reports about your spending habits. According to YNAB, new budgeters save an average of $600 in their first two months and more than $6,000 their first year.
Cons of YNAB is that there is a learning curve to the app. You have to place every dollar into a budget category before you can spend it. You also can’t pay bills within the app. YNAB offers a free trial for 34 days. It then costs $14.99/month or $98.99/year.
Best for: controlling overspending
PocketGuard helps you always know how much spendable money you have in your pocket after setting aside enough for bills, goals and necessities.
Through a helpful pie chart, you can also see if your expenses are eating up too much of your income. Customize your spending reports with categories and #hashtags.
Easily see all your accounts in one place – from credit cards to loans and investments. Two other helpful features are the ability to track, lower your bills, and grow your savings automatically with Autosave.
PocketGuard offers a basic version of the app for free, but some features such as Autosave are only available if you upgrade to PocketGuard Plus. PocketGuard Plus costs $3.99/month or $34.99 per year.
Bonus Tool: Google Sheets Spending Tracker
Best for: manual budgeting
Though not exactly automatic, a Google Sheets spending tracker is an excellent way to budget if you don’t mind manually updating the information per month.
We recommend creating a spreadsheet when you first start budgeting anyway so you have a clear picture of your income and expenses. Create columns and rows for all your spending categories. We recommend breaking down your expenses into four categories:
- Fixed expenses
- Fluctuating expenses
- Discretionary expenses
- Savings and retirement
Write down each expense and the target amount you want to spend (create different tabs for different months). At the end of each month, check your accounts. Record in your spreadsheet what you actually spent and compare to what you budgeted.
Did your expenses exceed your income? If so, it’s time to revisit your budget and look for areas to cut back.
This process does take a lot of work, but it’s a helpful exercise if you’re struggling to understand what you’re spending vs. what you’re making.
Simplify the Budgeting Process
Don’t make budgeting harder than it has to be. Take advantage of financial tools that organize your finances in one place and automate the process. Check your budgeting app/tool weekly and monthly to monitor your progress (and ensure you stick with your plan!).
Want to learn more about budgeting? Take the Personal Finance Masterclass – Easy Guide to Better Finances course on Udemy. In addition to other best personal finance practices, this course teaches you how to create a complete budget and stick to it. Check out the course here.