The Ten Best Free Budgeting Apps to Download in 2019

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Do you overspend each month? Do you find yourself living in your overdraft or failing to reach your savings goals? If the answer’s yes, you need a budgeting app in your life!

We’d all like to take better control of our finances and, luckily, there are now some fantastic free apps to help consumers to budget. Using mobile apps to organise and visualise your income and outgoings is much easier and more effective than using complicated spreadsheets. All you need to do is open the app and you’re away. What’s more, many of the apps can also be accessed on online platforms and on your tablet as well as your phone.

Many of the new apps on the market take advantage of recent UK legislative changes that allow for Open Banking.

What is Open Banking?

Open Banking means that banks have to supply your information to third parties if you make the request. The changes have been brought in to try to make banking more competitive and transparent and, fundamentally, more consumer-friendly. It has led to a rise in alternative and ‘challenger banks’ dedicated to changing the way people view banking for good.

The changes to the law mean your bank is no longer the only organisation that can use your financial data. You can now share it with exciting new budgeting apps that help you boost your financial health.

Here’s our unmissable guide to the ten very best free budgeting apps suitable for UK users. We think you will find the right type of app for your requirements in our list. Some do require you to share your account information with the app, while others just need you to perform some simple data entry. All of them help you to formulate a plan that helps you make the most of your income and reach your savings goals.

1. Emma

Described by its founders as a ‘fitness tracker for money’, this app uses Open Banking to allow you to view all your accounts in one place. This budgeting app has won fans among the 25-35 age group and offers great insights into your spending across all of your accounts.

You are able to set budgets for a range of spending categories through the Emma app. It also clearly shows you your available budget for the month and your debt level, to ensure these figures are always at the forefront of your mind, which can be helpful when trying to regain control.

We think one of the best features of the Emma app is its ability to ‘ignore’ transfers of cash between your accounts. These can sometimes confuse this type of app as they appear to represent fresh money coming into your account, whereas it’s simply existing money transferred from elsewhere.

The good points:

  • Collates information from all your accounts
  • Doesn’t require quite so much data input as some other free budgeting apps
  • Tracks all the payments you make through the month
  • Supports most UK banks

The not-so-good points:

  • Signing up and signing in can be a bit convoluted due to the extra security requirements
  • Some users find the appearance of the app a little unsophisticated

2. Money Dashboard

This UK-based budgeting app was founded back in 2010 and is pretty well-established as a go-to budgeting tool for a lot of people. The founders of the app claim it helps consumers to regain control of their financial health by “empowering them to make the right financial decisions in life.”

It won the Best Personal Finance App award at the British Bank Awards in 2017 and 2018, which speaks volumes. The tool categorises your outgoings by group and by individual tag to help you see where your money goes each month.

Like some of the other apps in our list, Money Dashboard works by giving you easy access to all your financial information from your various accounts in one place. It uses tables and graphs to illustrate your spending, which can be a real eye-opener.

The good points:

  • You can access your account online as well as through the app
  • It’s tried and tested with half a million users
  • Very simple interface
  • Addition of personalised tags in recent edition is welcome

The not-so-good points:

  • There are reports of lags between transactions taking place and them showing up on the app
  • It is known to sell data to third parties

3. Monefy

Monefy is a US-based budgeting app that helps you to track your spending by recording everything you spend quickly and easily. It then allows users to visualise their spending using nicely designed charts and graphs.

Monefy is a simple tracking and budgeting tool that relies on the user to input data. Although Monefy is initially set in USD, you can easily change the currency to GBP (or any other currency for that matter) through ‘settings’.

There is a ‘pro’ version of this app available at a £2.99/month fee, which adds several additional functions, such as a multi-currency tool, passcode protection and extra synchronisation functions. This does mean that the free version can seem a little basic compared with some other free budgeting apps on the list.

The good points:

  • It’s quick to add purchases, however small, so you don’t miss them out
  • You are ready to start tracking as soon as you’ve downloaded the app
  • It’s great to look at
  • You can use the app across several devices

The not-so-good points:

  • Doesn’t link to your accounts
  • Although simple, the interface can be a little tricky to learn at first

4. Wally

This is another tracker-style budgeting app that allows you to record your daily purchases and monthly costs, quickly and easily, to check you are not living beyond your means. It’s another US-made app that enables you to change to GBP if you are a UK user.

Wally has a vast range of category choices for each transaction, but this does of course mean that, unlike the free apps that link to your own accounts, you need to dedicate some serious time and effort to get the most from the app.

The good points:

  • Good colourful design and clear interface
  • You an photograph your receipts to help you record the details of your spends
  • Now available on Android devices as well as iPhone

The not-so-good points:

  • Some critics would like to see more scope for personalisation
  • Slightly labour-intensive

5. Spendee

Spendee is a truly international budgeting app that allows you to track spending and keep one eye on your bank accounts at the same time. The app is used by millions of consumers around the world and its offering is pretty comprehensive, although not all the functions on offer are included in the free basic package.

If you want to avoid spending upwards of £30/year on a premium subscription to Spendee you will have to make do with a reasonably simple tracking app, albeit one with a great budgeting tool and a detailed overview of where and how you spend your money. This, in itself, may be all you need to regain control of your personal finances and start making the most of your cash.

The good points:

  • Effectively tracks spending, showing you where your money is going
  • If you do want to upgrade, you can link the app to any of 20,000 bank accounts around the world
  • Includes information from your crypto-wallets and e-wallets

The not-so-good points:

  • Not yet available as an online platform, just as an app
  • The most comprehensive tools are not free

6. Mint

The team behind Mint’s popular budgeting app promote their product based on the fact that it allows you to view your cash and your bills in one place. This is intended to help you avoid missing payments, which can lead to charges or fees.

The Mint app is a great for people who sometimes have financial difficulties as it can help to remind you when regular and one-off payments are due. You can organise your finances more easily and create budgets to help ensure you don’t spend more than you earn. In fact, it even uses a traffic-light colour scheme to indicate whether you’re within budget (green), approaching limits (yellow) or overspending (red).

Mint is a US-based app that prides itself of security and all information is heavily encrypted for protection. Perhaps the best selling-point for Mint is that it records and tracks almost your entire financial life, including bank accounts, credit cards, loans, mortgages, savings and investments.

The good points:

  • Includes a free credit score
  • Offers some personalised functions
  • Helps alert you when bills are due
  • Available on multiple devices

The not-so-good points:

  • It used to have a bill-pay feature, which has been discontinued
  • Budgeting is related to projected income instead of money physically in your accounts

7. Loot

Loot differs from the other budgeting apps on our list in that it’s actually an online current account that offers comprehensive money tracking and budgeting tools through its app. When you open a Loot account, you get a Mastercard and access to the app.

Loot is squarely targeting at younger users who may want a reasonably simple current account and who also want to set realistic budgeting and savings goals. The app lets them keep a very close eye on their outgoings and also allows them to shift unspent cash into their ‘goals’ categories.

The good points:

  • Simple account and app that helps younger consumers save for holidays, cars etc.
  • Offers many of the tools millennials are seeking from their personal finance apps and accounts
  • Users can actually take action through the app as it also gives them access to their account

The not-to-good points:

  • Not appropriate for those who do not want to the Loot bank account
  • Although the account doesn’t charge a monthly fee, some transaction do carry a fee, so check the smallprint carefully

8. Cleo

Cleo is a messenger-based tool that works almost like your own personal financial advisor on your phone. Cleo isn’t your standard budgeting app, oh no, she’s an ‘AI helper’ who is linked to your bank account.

Cleo has read-only access to the bank account you wish to manage, much like other budgeting apps, such as Money Dashboard and Emma. However, instead of accessing the tools through a self-contained app, users seek the information they need by communicating with Cleo via Facebook Messenger, Google Assist, Amazon Alexa or good old-fashioned text messaging.

As well as getting instant feedback on your financial ponderings, you can set up a Cleo Wallet through the app, where you can transfer unspent cash, helping you to reach your savings goals. Interestingly, chatbot apps, such as Cleo, are attracting plenty of attention as the possible future of personal financial planning.

The good points:

  • Great if you need someone in your ear telling you not to buy that expensive coffee
  • Fun to use
  • Quick to access
  • Uses humour
  • Instant answers to your questions
  • Includes online dashboard for visual representation

Not-so-good points:

  • Might not suit all users who prefer traditional app-based tools
  • Makes cash by suggesting third-party providers

9. Tandem

Tandem is a new tracking and budgeting app that aims to simplify your personal finances. Tandem, which also offers some limited banking services, is an attractive ‘alternative’ prospect for younger, cooler users who want to try to take control of their finances rather than being a slave to the big high street banks.

Transparency is the key to Tandem’s offering and it even alerts you to unusual outgoings or deposits into your account to help you keep an eye on things. For those wanting help with saving, Tandem also offers saving accounts.

The good points:

  • Offers alternative banking facilities alongside app
  • Users can put spare cash into a Tandem savings account, allowing them to take direct action through the app
  • App offers round-ups and other auto-savings features

The not-so-good points:

  • Promotes its own services and makes cash from third-party recommendations
  • Some banking users complain of customer service problems

10. Yolt

The team behind Yolt promote themselves as ‘leaders in Open Banking’. The budgeting app allows you to view all your bank accounts, credit cards, investments, pensions, savings and loans in a single place, helping you to effectively manage your money and make the right financial choices.

Yolt celebrates its community of users and prides itself on helping consumer take back control over their financial data. It gives users the insight they need to help them manage their finances easily and without the use of several different banking apps.

The good points:

  • Makes great use of Open Banking to put everything in one place
  • Helps you set goals and stick to them
  • You can keep an eye on things like subscriptions
  • Offers bank-level security

The not-so-good points

  • Takes a little time to set up
  • No web platform as yet

We hope that you’ve spotted an app in our list that will help you to reach your personal financial targets. With a little dedication, most consumers can now use personal finance apps to change the way they spend and save. Afterall, why should banks have all the power? It’s high time we all learnt how to use our financial data to help us create budgets that actually work so we can enjoy our cash to the full.

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