Best budgeting apps of 2018

Illustration of app user

YNAB: You Need a Budget Review

If you're ready to account for where every cent of your money goes, You Need a Budget could work for you. The app is based on the premise of "giving every dollar a job," meaning you budget for every expense -- fixed, discretionary or otherwise. Want to buy a new purse or pair of shoes? If your monthly clothing budget is $100, then you may not be able to afford it this month. Friends want to double date at that trendy new Italian restaurant? It may not be in your $200 dining out budget.
You Need a Budget Logo
The app makes budgeting straightforward, allowing you to see how much over or under you are for a particular line item. But it's best for people who want to get serious about how much they actual spend and where they may need to make sacrifices to achieve a larger goal.

What I Liked

Zero-based budgeting is tough, but I can see its value. You have to account for every dollar coming in, either using it to cover monthly household expenses, pay off debt, for dining out and for what YNAB calls "quality of life" expenses like vacation. During this process, I realized that I'm not as good a budgeter as I thought. I do a good job of tracking our spending after the fact, but I could improve when it comes to setting aside money for specific purposes -- basically being more financially proactive. For example, before using this app, I had no idea how much my husband and I spent each month dining out and we never really set aside a specific amount for this purpose. It was more like "we'll eat out no more than two times a week." I also had no gauge of my own discretionary spending, since this money comes out of my personal account. Using the tool allowed me to see that we spend less than $200 a month eating out, but that I need to keep a better eye on my discretionary spending for things like beauty and hair products and anything from Amazon.com (Amazon Prime admittedly has turned me into a shopping junkie). We plan to buy a house within a few years, so YNAB allowed me to see that these are two areas where we (or I) could curb spending and put that additional money toward a down payment. Actually seeing the budget also showed me that we could be saving more. We have more cushion than we need in our account for household expenses, so it might be better to put more of that money toward retirement or paying down my student loans.

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Ultimate Guide to Mastering Your Money in College

College students laying out on a nice day -- likely not thinking about money problems

With more than 20 million students enrolled in colleges and universities and with the average cost of a four-year degree at nearly $10,000 per year (triple that number for a private institution), scores of Americans will realize now or later that higher education comes with serious financial implications -- for them and their parents.

Many students will finance their education with student loans. The average 2016 college graduate has more than $37,000 in loan debt, but there are ways to lessen that financial burden. From leveraging student discounts, saving on textbooks and cost-effective social activities to working while in school or being prudent about credit card debt, students can navigate the serious financial responsibilities of college life and come out ahead. Of course, it helps sometimes to have...help. We developed this guide to be a comprehensive roadmap, something to keep you fiscally fit from your first days on campus to the very last year of your studies. Continue reading...

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The Newlyweds’ Guide to Money

Illustration of a married couple for article about marriage and money

Talking about money is just as uncomfortable as any discussion about religion or politics. We're raised to think it's not a topic for polite conversation. Unfortunately, some of us hold onto that belief even when the person on the other end of the conversation is someone we should trust -- our future spouse.

Millions of Americans will tie the knot this year, but how many will have "the talk" -- the one about marriage and money? According to a National Foundation for Credit Counseling survey, 68 percent of engaged couples don't like to talk about money. Five percent even said the discussion would cause them to call off the wedding.

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