The UK’s best budgeting apps of 2020

Discover the best budgeting apps to manage your spending and get better insights. Plus, how they differ from banking apps.

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Budgeting isn’t going to be the most fun task on your to-do list, but it’s a pretty essential one if you want to be able to manage your money well and have a bit left over at the end of the month to put towards a specific goal.

The good news is that there’s quite a few apps now which are designed to take some of the pain out of budgeting. No more poring over spreadsheets, adding up receipts or working out your spare cash on the back of an envelope – we round up some of the digital tools that will do it for you.

Good for budgeting: Yolt

Yolt


Track and budget

Savings targets

Secure app
Yolt is one of the most comprehensive free budgeting apps in the UK. It uses Open Banking to pull in read-only information from current, savings and credit card accounts that you choose to add to the app. Yolt then analyses this data on your spending habits to produce charts and spending reports, to give you an overview and track where you’re spending the most. Yolt also offers budgeting tips, plus deals on credit and banking products. It makes a commission if you sign up to any of these.
  • See all your spending in one place.
  • Get your spending in order with budgets that are easy to track.
  • Very secure.
  • It looks good. All your data is shown in colourful charts and graphs (these almost make banking fun!).
  • It categorises the money in your account, showing what’s needed for bills and what you can still spend.
  • It will analyse how you spend and show you the best banking products for you.
  • Plus and minus balances are shown with just a minus sign. A colour difference could make it easier to check balances at a glance.
  • Only accessible via smartphone. It doesn’t have a web interface.

Good for connected accounts: Emma

Emma


Cancel wasteful subscriptions

Multiple account integration

Budgeting
The basic version of the Emma app is free and works in the same way as its peers, by pooling your account data. But it focuses on categorising transactions and suggesting where you’re overspending, including which one of your bank accounts is charging you the most in fees. Emma flags subscriptions you could cancel and tells you if you go over budget on any of the category spending limits you set. But it has less in the way of visuals and month-by-month comparisons than some of its rivals. One advantage to Emma is that it can integrate with your pension and investment and cryptocurrency holdings, if your provider is compatible with Emma.
  • Grouping all your accounts in one easy app will make budgeting easier
  • Stylish app with a number of budgeting features
  • Monthly savings prompt could help you save an affordable amount each month
  • Can integrate with all the big banks and a couple of the rising digital banks like Monzo and Starling
  • Track your cryptocurrency balances alongside your more conventional bank accounts
  • No week-by-week or month-by-month comparison feature. Makes it harder to track changes to spending habits
  • Like most budgeting app, it’s read only – so you can’t move money between accounts or make payments yet

Good for growing your savings: Money Dashboard

Money Dashboard


40+ banks and providers

Transfer money

Create offline accounts
As the name suggests, this free budgeting app shows you all your finances in one dashboard, giving you an overview of your everyday spending via graphs and tables. You can use it to forecast your spending and set savings goals, too. To create the overview, you add feeds from all your accounts (such as current, savings and credit cards) to your dashboard in the app. This works through Open Banking. You can see all your data, but you can’t make changes to your accounts through the app. Money Dashboard’s revenue comes from selling anonymised spending insights to market research firms.
  • All your finances in one place without having to jump between banking apps or website – great for those who use multiple building societies.
  • Intelligent insights into your budget and spending.
  • Bank-level security.
  • Can help in setting and achieving goals.
  • Supports 59 providers, including major high street banks.
  • There can be a 4-5 day buffer between making a transaction and seeing it on Money Dashboard.
  • Some may not be comfortable with sharing their online banking credentials.
  • Money Dashboard uses your data to provide insight to companies on market research. While it does not share your personally identifiable data, some users may not me comfortable with this.

Good for setting goals: Wally

Wally


Bank level security

Stay organised

Reach goals faster
Wally is old school - you’ll need to manually input what you’ve spent (although you can take a picture of your receipts, or ask Wally to remember regular payments such as your rent). While this isn’t the fastest way to a monthly budget, you don’t have to connect the app to any of your accounts, which will appeal to the privacy-conscious. The app uses the data you enter to help you set a budget, then tells you how much of it you’ve got left, and how much you’ve spent in each of the categories you’ve specified. The basic version is free but there’s a paid-for Wally Gold option, with extra features such as a currency converter and custom budget tools.
  • You have total control over what you put in and how you organise it
  • Good range of budgeting features
  • Safe and sound – doesn’t go anywhere close to your bank account
  • The app is slick and looks good
  • You have to manually insert all the data, which can be really time-consuming
  • Some features that allow further flexibility are to be paid for

Good for understanding your money: Moneyhub

moneyhub


Understand your money

Get advice

Market leading tools
Moneyhub is a more personalised service - as well as offering tech tools to help you budget, it gives you the option to speak with an adviser. However, the human touch has a cost and Moneyhub is a subscription service. If you subscribe through Moneyhub directly, it’s 99p per month or £9.99 per year. For that, you get the usual breakdown of where you’re spending your money by category, your spending forecast and the ability to set savings goals. You can also review accounts such as your mortgage, pensions and investments. And you can connect with a financial adviser via the app.
  • Intelligent budgeting tools and spending insights.
  • You can share financial data and speak with an adviser.
  • Doesn’t share information with third parties.
  • Monthly or annual fee to use.
  • Some may not be comfortable giving Moneyhub access to their online banking.

Compare budgeting apps

Data indicated here is updated regularly
Name Product Ratings Cost Cancel subscriptions Spending categorisation
Cleo
We say
★★★★★
Free (paid-for 'plus' version available)
Emma
We say
★★★★★
Free (paid-for 'pro' version available)
Yolt
We say
★★★★★
Free

You can tag and categorise your subscriptions but not cancel them
Money Dashboard
We say
★★★★★
Free

Will identify them but can't cancel them
moneyhub
We say
★★★★★
99p/mth or £9.99/yr In App Store: £1.49/mth or £14.99/yr
Wally
We say
★★★★★
Free (paid-for 'gold' version available)
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Compare up to 4 providers

Why should I use a budgeting app?

You don’t have to. You could whip up a financial modelling spreadsheet instead to track your incomings and outgoings each month using an array of formulae…! You could even update your spreadsheet every day and keep hold of receipts and track your expenses.

Or if you’re a bit lazier, you could download a budgeting app today and it could take care of all of that for you.

The real benefit of these apps over manual budgeting and traditional banks is simplicity and ease of use. And most of them are free (such as Money Dashboard and Yolt).

But it’s worth remembering that lots of digital banking apps are free, too (such as Revolut, Monzo, Starling, and Monese). So if you have a current account with one of these, you can also visualise your spending on-the-go and in real time.

Picture not described: digitalbanking-1.png Image: Getty

If they’re free, how do budgeting apps make money?

Some of these apps are drawing in customers with free services, and will then offer add-ons or a premium version, or other services that will generate revenue. A couple of ways the free apps generate money right now are: selling anonymised spending insights to market research companies (Money Dashboard) or offering potentially better deals, and then making a commission if you sign up to any of them (Yolt).

What about free banking apps?

The challenger banking brands that started offering a basic account have started to diversify into other banking products (such as savings accounts, loans and kids’ cards). These products provide revenue sources. They’ve also launched premium versions, which generate revenue through a monthly fee.

Some apps are partnering with other fintech startups, to cross-sell each others’ services. Head to our news section for the latest developments in digital banking.

What about regular savings accounts?

If you’re looking for interest on your savings, then a regular current or savings account from a challenger bank (and indeed from many traditional banks) might not be for you. Interest rates have been low for years, and that doesn’t look likely to change.

While a few do offer interest (see below), most don’t.

The way budgeting and banking apps help you is by acting as pocket accountants, automatically categorising transactions so you can budget better. If you think you’re spending too much on eating out, then take a look at the cold hard numbers. Many apps provide graphs and charts to ram home the message.

In terms of helping you save up, apps like Revolut and Cleo use algorithms to work out how much you can afford to squirrel away. If you choose, they’ll also automatically transfer the money to a savings pot.

Which of these apps can I earn interest from?

Longer-term savers may be looking to earn interest from accounts with a better rate. However, there are some options for saving and investing from among the challenger apps.

Tandem offers a fixed savings account. Check out our Tandem review to find out more.

Starling offers (a small amount of) interest, so it’s worth considering.

So does Monzo, but you need to be able to put aside at least £1,000 to open a Savings Pot.

Moneybox is an easy and simple investment app which works by rounding up your transaction to the nearest pound and investing the spare change in a share portfolio.

Nutmeg or Plum also offer investment options.

How to choose the best budgeting app

Here is a list of factors to consider when deciding which budgeting app is the best for your needs.

  • The cost. Some budgeting apps are free, but the more complex apps will charge a one-off fee or a paid subscription.
  • Do you want to connect with your bank accounts? Is it important for you to see your balance(s) in real time? Only some budgeting apps allow this.
  • Desktop or mobile? Do you want to be able to use your budgeting app on desktop, mobile or both?
  • Do you want to monitor your investments? Some apps offer investment monitoring services, but others don’t.
  • Do you want to automate your savings? Some apps will automatically move funds into a savings account for you. Is this a desire of yours?
  • Do you want help reaching a savings goal? Some apps are designed to help you save more money. Others simply work as an accounting tool.

The bottom line

Most Brits would like to be more organised with their money and budgeting apps provide the perfect tool to make this a reality. These apps are either free or very affordable and can help you make smarter financial decisions.

Frequently asked questions about budgeting apps

The offers compared on this page are chosen from a range of products we can track; we don't cover every product on the market...yet. Unless we've indicated otherwise, products are shown in no particular order or ranking. The terms "best", "top", "cheap" (and variations), aren't product ratings, although we always explain what's great about a product when we highlight it; this is subject to our terms of use. When making a big financial decision, it's wise to consider getting independent financial advice, and always consider your own financial circumstances when comparing products so you get what's right for you.

We show offers we can track - that's not every product on the market...yet. Unless we've said otherwise, products are in no particular order. The terms "best", "top", "cheap" (and variations of these) aren't ratings, though we always explain what's great about a product when we highlight it. This is subject to our terms of use. When you make major financial decisions, consider getting independent financial advice. Always consider your own circumstances when you compare products so you get what's right for you.

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