Did getting in shape make it on to your shortlist of New Year’s resolutions? Most likely it did. But beyond the gym promos and fad diets associated with the “new year, new me” syndrome we often overlook how to get in shape in other areas of our life, especially when it comes to $$$. After gorging on sweets and spending on gifts, now is the perfect time to create a plan for 2017 to be your best year yet, both physically and fiscally.

Raise your hand if you use a budget? Anyone… Bueller… Bueller? Nope? Slowly lowers own hand. So many people feel chained when using a budget, as if the chore of categorizing your income and spending makes it more difficult to justify that new pair of shoes, or expensive brunch (who doesn’t love french toast?). For me, a budget gives me financial freedom.

I know what you’re thinking, what a freaking nerd. And yes, I do have an unhealthy obsession with Excel, but I also crave the ability to know when, and where, the money I work so hard for goes each month.

I realize that not everyone is as excited about a budget as I am, but as millennials who have student loans, car loans, credit card payments, rent, bar tabs and hopefully mortgage payments in the near future, we NEED to know where our money goes if we want to meet our financial goals.

Lucky for us, born into the age of technology, there are so many ways to easily keep track of our expenses, without the old pen and paper or checkbook balancing act. Enter, the app store.

So save a tree, and your time, and check out some of the best (freemium) money trackers out there. Your wallet will thank me.

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DollarBird best for the security cautious

  • Pros
    Very specific categorization
    Visual representations of balance
    No connection to your bank or credit accounts
    Can schedule payment reminders (only available on iOS)
  • Cons
    𝗫 Not good for a “set it and forget it” user – here you have to enter in each purchase since it’s not connected to any of your accounts
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Fudget best for bare bones tracking

  • Pros
    Super simple interface with a high level overview of income and balance
    Can add multiple budgets
    Safely backup data to Dropbox
  • Cons
    𝗫 Limited analysis of spend by category
    𝗫 Can’t view data in chart or other graphical forms
    𝗫 Banner ads on the bottom of the app are slightly distracting/annoying
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Level Money best for all the bells and whistles

  • Pros
    Breaks down income into personalized “spendable” amount for non-essential items by taking your income, removing recurring expenses such as rent or utilities and factoring in your budget goals
    Easy to visualize spending and saving ratio
    Can view credit card and bank accounts all in one place
    Predicts future balances using average spending and income patterns
    Tracks spending using a variety of categories
  • Cons
    𝗫 Have to connect your accounts to the app
    𝗫 Requires email and password to set up
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Mint best for a full view of your financial situation with helpful hints

  • Pros
    Calculate spend by category (automatically detects which category each transaction falls into)
    Great visual representation of cash flows
    Set budgets for individual categories
    Receive alerts on unusual charges
    Free credit score check
    Provides tips on budgeting and saving
  • Cons
    𝗫 Have to connect your accounts to the app
    𝗫 Requires email and password to set up
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Wally best for decluttering that mound of receipts and getting specific on your spending

  • Pros
    Take pictures of receipts with every expense you log – finally get rid of all that paper!
    Added security by not linking to your accounts
    Simple but lively user interface
    Track under categories (such as house, food & drinks, transport etc.) as well as by reason (personal, social, work, family) to get a better sense of where your dollars are going
  • Cons
    𝗫 Manual input
    𝗫 Requires email and password to set up
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Penny best for feeling like you have a personal finance advisor on standby

  • Pros
    Chat based interface – almost like you’re texting your personal finance advisor
    Shares insights on how much you spend on particular categories
    Warns you when the bank charges a fee, or if you have a payment coming up
    Estimates how much you’ll save and spend each month
  • Cons
    𝗫 Requires email and password to set up
    𝗫  Pulls data from credit card and banking statements
    𝗫 The format is definitely different from most apps (almost like texting Siri on your finances), I found it less intuitive than the other apps
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For the record, I have downloaded and played around with most of the above apps. I wasn’t too happy about having to input my bank info into LevelMoney, Mint or Penny right away and abandoned the app. However, a self-proclaimed Excel ninja, I choose to have the personal functionality (and added security) of managing my budget across multiple spreadsheets. Not only is this a timely process (which I oddly enjoy), but I realize that it’s just not feasible for everyone. Feel free to try the apps above and provide any feedback in the comments below. Looking forward to what you have to say, after all this is just my two cents.

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5 thoughts on “New Year’s Resolution: Get in Shape Physically & Fiscally”

  1. Great article! I like your piece on how you see your budget as a tool for freedom versus shackles. And I couldn’t agree more. A budget is nothing more than you telling your future self what your priorities are. 👌

  2. This is a great list of apps, several of which I’ve never even heard of! I’m also an Excel nerd but love using Mint to track net worth. I’m definitely going to check out some of these other tools. Look forward to following you – and the blog name: ❤️

    1. Glad you found the article helpful – and definitely check out the apps to see which one works best for you. Thanks for the comment!

  3. I love that you use excel! I’m far too reliant on Mint – yes, there’s a lot of upfront categorization and organization that has to be done, but the tool learns your behavior and after a while, it’s very automated. But, when it comes to figuring our my future and different options, nothing beats sitting down with an excel sheet and calculating out all the different options.
    Great read!

    1. Thanks for your comment! I agree, Mint and other automated solutions can be super helpful to help with the basics (especially when we’re first starting out) but to truly customize your budget to fit your lifestyle I think excel is the way to go!

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