Best budgeting apps in Canada
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Whether we like to admit it or not, money has a powerful influence on our lives. Our bank accounts affect whether we can pursue higher education, become homeowners, and retire with financial security. Our financial health depends more on how we manage our money than how much we make.
It would be great if we could all afford personal financial managers. But, budgeting is something most of us must do on our own—at least in the early stages of growing our savings or getting ourselves out of debt. Luckily, thanks to the popularity of smartphones and an ever-growing array of finance apps, we can now have our own mobile money managers in the palms of our hands.
Note: Due to changes in bank feeds in Canada, users have reported that their automatic connections are unreliable and will frequently disconnect. This isn’t an issue with any particular app but due to a security measure Canadian banks have put in place over the past few years.
Here are 10 budgeting apps you should consider to help you manage your money
Top 10 budgeting apps in Canada
PocketSmith stands out from other budgeting apps due to its impressive forecasting abilities. It can collate all your financial info (chequing balance, savings, investments, loans, etc.) and create accurate forecasts of your financial status up to 30 years into the future, based on the budgets you create. Different ‘what if’ scenarios can also be tested, in which you can adjust projected expenses, income levels, investment performance, and debts to get a glimpse of various financial outcomes for your future.
While most budgeting apps only connect to bank accounts in Canada and the United States, PocketSmith offers a rare level of integration with overseas accounts and foreign currencies. You can see the individual balances of your domestic and foreign accounts in their native currencies. You can also see the combined value of all your global assets and liabilities, tallied up and converted to the base currency of your choice.
Though PocketSmith does offer a free version, its functionality is far more limited than what you’ll get for a paid subscription. The free version supports a maximum of two financial accounts. It can only create financial projections up to six months into the future. It relies on you manually uploading your transactions and account balances rather than automatically syncing with your financial institutions. A paid version is available for as little as $7.50 USD per month, which is a worthwhile expense for two types of users:
Those who are serious about budgeting accurately to realize a major life event down the road, like a wedding, property purchase, or paying for college tuition.
Expats, digital nomads, dual citizens, and frequent traveller-types who make a lot of foreign purchases and/or have bank accounts in multiple countries.
You can also learn more by reading our complete PocketSmith review.
In October 2023, Intuit announced it is shutting down the Mint budgeting app. To make a switch, read our comprehensive Mint alternatives article for more information.
The financial app by which all other financial apps are judged, Mint is an all-encompassing, FREE money manager. Designed by the respected financial software company Intuit, Mint links to all your financial accounts—bank accounts, credit cards, loans, and investments. That provides an incredibly accurate and detailed picture of where your money is going.
Because of its sync capabilities, it automatically updates your financial status every single time you log in. That way, you always have the most accurate and up-to-date picture of your finances. It then presents your economic status in visually appealing, cleanly designed graphics and charts that are easy to understand.
The financial app by which all other financial apps are judged, Mint is an all-encompassing, FREE money manager. Designed by the respected financial software company Intuit, Mint links to all your financial accounts—bank accounts, credit cards, loans, and investments. That provides an incredibly accurate and detailed picture of where your money is going. Because of its sync capabilities, it automatically updates your financial status every single time you log in. That way, you always have the most accurate and up-to-date picture of your finances. It then presents your economic status in visually appealing, cleanly designed graphics and charts that are easy to understand.
Mint categorizes your spending and will even create a budget for you (though you can also make your own), so there’s very little organizing required on your part. It regularly checks your credit score, reminds you what bill payments are due, and will notify you if it detects any strange activity in your accounts. It’s also available as a web app, so you can access it in whatever way is most convenient.
While its automation capabilities lead many to consider Mint the best budget app out there, it does have its flaws:
- Mint might not be able to link up with some of Canada’s smaller banks and credit unions.
- As a free app, its customer service can leave a bit to be desired.
- It’s not a good fit for those who are uncomfortable giving an app unfettered access to all their vital banking information.
Given these shortcomings, if you’re in the market for a new budgeting app, you should probably consider some of the alternatives to Mint that are now available in Canada.
YNAB (You Need a Budget)
YNAB gets into the minutia of your money and connects to all your financial accounts. It also offers debt tracking, budgeting and goal-saving features. The app’s methodology is centred around four main rules:
Give every dollar a job – actively decide how you want to spend your money rather than buying things haphazardly without a goal.
Embrace your true expenses – pay bills as soon as possible.
Roll with the punches – stuff happens, so know when you need to adjust your budget and do so responsibly.
Age your money – save money so you’ll no longer have to live paycheque-to-paycheque.
These principles have helped many users get a firm hold on their personal economies and won the app legions of loyal fans.
YNAB really differs from other budgeting apps in its educational approach, which emphasizes teaching users better financial skills and developing good spending habits that go beyond just mindlessly using the app. The company even offers free (for members) courses on things like managing debt and how to create a budget. YNAB is one of the best budget apps for iPhone and is also available for Android. Both iOS and Android users can try the app for a 34-day free trial period; afterward, it’s US$14.99 a month or $99 paid annually.
Get the YNAB app.
Instead of having one app for budgeting, another for savings, and a third for earning rewards, KOHO bundles all of these financial musts into a single app that doubles as a prepaid payment card.
KOHO’s budgeting features allow you to easily reference which categories you spend most of your money in. Savings can be kick-started with RoundUp.
If, for example, you spend $3.25 on coffee, KOHO can round up that payment to $4.00 and move the $0.75 difference toward a savings goal that you’ve set. And KOHO’s prepaid card earns different levels of cash back, depending on whether you go for the card’s Easy, Essential, or Extra versions.
The combination of a financial app and a prepaid card is rare, but it’s not entirely unique because KOHO has a close competitor called Stack. KOHO and Stack offer similar budgeting functionality, but they do have other significant differences in their fee structure and rewards rates that may make one of the apps/cards a better fit for you than the other.
Like most budgeting apps, Wallet gives you an informative overview of your financial activity. Though the free version doesn’t automatically synch to your bank accounts, it does let you upload data from your bank and other finance apps. You can also make budgets and manage your debts and payments. It will even take pictures of your receipts, so you can archive them.
Wallet has handy added features like managing all your loyalty and reward cards, so you don’t have to carry them with you. It also has an extremely easy-to-use interface with nice graphics that are simple to follow.
What makes Wallet stand out from other finance apps is how well it works for goal-oriented individuals. It shows you how to set specific goals (like buying a car) and then helps you actively stay on track by carefully monitoring your finances and then letting you know if your spending and savings habits will make your dream a reality. The basic app is free for iOS and Android. For an additional fee of US$4.99 monthly or US$28.99 annually, you get premium features that include linking your bank accounts and adding family members to your account.
Get the Wallet app
If you want the accuracy of an app that links to all your bank accounts, but you’re concerned that an app like YNAB might be too complicated and require too much interaction on your part, then PocketGuard is a worthwhile pick. Though it links to your bank and credit card accounts and gives you up-to-the-minute overviews of your financial situation, its overarching raison d’etre is simple: PocketGuard lets you know how much money you can safely spend without going into the red.
The app “guards your pocket” by making sure you only spend what you can afford once you’ve taken care of the essentials like paid bills and some regular savings. After you’ve paid bills and put aside some savings, the app gives you a clear overall picture of what you have left to spend. You also don’t have to worry about setting up a budget because PocketGuard makes one for you automatically based on your income, the bills you must pay, and your personal saving goals. PocketGuard basic is free and is also available for iOS. PocketGuard Plus helps you track cash spending, as well as bank accounts and investments, and goes for US$3.99 monthly or US$34.99 annually.
Get the PocketGuard app.
Expenses have never looked so beautiful. Spendee is a graphic designer’s dream with bold, bright colors and a lush design aesthetic that makes you want to tune in and see where you’re spending your money. But it’s not just a pretty face.
You can also set budget goals and manage bill payments, and it will also track your crypto wallet and E-Wallet. Similar to more advanced apps like YNAB, the paid version will also link to your bank accounts and provide a thorough overview of your financial activity.
Above all else, Spendee’s prime directive gives you a picture-perfect representation of your spending habits using beautiful charts, diagrams, and colorful columns. It’s intuitively laid out and even lets you upload photos to go with budget items you’re trying to save up for. It wants to make the user experience as enjoyable and accessible as possible so even the most financially challenged among us will understand our financial status. Spendee is also available for iOS and offers a free basic version. Paid versions cost either US$14.99 or US$22.99 annually and include extras like the capacity to link bank accounts.
Get the Spendee app.
If you want to get a handle on your spending but don’t want an app to access your financial accounts, the no-frills Spending Tracker provides an excellent first step. It’s a pared-down app that focuses on keeping track of your spending. You simply enter your income and then manually enter the amount you spend whenever you make a purchase or pay a bill.
You can also set up a “Budget Mode” where you put in a maximum spending limit, and as you enter your expenses, you can see how close you are to reaching your spending cap.
Its streamlined, no-nonsense design makes it much more approachable for someone new to the world of finance apps and who doesn’t want to be overwhelmed by lots of numbers and details. While it may not look like much to fans of super-automated budgeting systems, money experts agree that consciously monitoring where your money is going is an essential first step in smart financial management. Of course, because it’s not synced to your bank accounts, it relies on your discipline to input your spending to provide an accurate overview of your finances. Those who don’t mind some regular data input will find Spending Tracker to be one of the best budget apps free of charge for both iOS and Android.
Get the Spending Tracker app.
This user-friendly app will appeal to those who like to set boundaries on what they can spend every month and who favour saving methods that are easy to visualize. Unlike many other financial apps, Goodbudget focuses more on planning and limiting your spending rather than mapping your entire financial universe. It’s based on the ‘envelope method’ of saving money that was popular back when cash was king before credit cards. While cash is becoming an antiquated method of commerce, the principles of envelope budgeting are still sound.
It’s based on the ‘envelope method’ of saving money that was popular back when cash was king before credit cards. While cash is becoming an antiquated method of commerce, the principles of envelope budgeting are still sound.
Each month Goodbudget lets you put a maximum amount of “cash” into virtual envelopes that are each allocated to things like groceries, gas, and entertainment. During the month, you only spend what you have in each envelope; if there’s any left over, you can put it into savings. It’s an excellent way to eliminate careless spending, but to work, it depends on your dedication to update envelopes and not go over allocated amounts. Like Spending Tracker, it doesn’t have access to your real-world financial records, which can be a pro or a con depending on your cybersecurity concerns. The basic app is free for both Android and iOS. For US$6 monthly or US$50 annually, you have perks like synching envelopes across multiple devices.
Get the GoodBudget app.
This innovative app functions in the background, quietly putting your spare change into an investment account that grows little by little without any effort on your part. The app works by rounding up everything you spend to the nearest dollar and depositing that money into a Moka investment account.
For example, if you spend $50.25 on a debit or credit card at the grocery store, Moka will round that up to $51 and put the extra .75 into your account. The money in your Moka account is invested by an experienced portfolio manager (Mylo uses Tactex Asset Management) into a low-cost ETF (Exchange-Traded Fund). It’s like putting your investing on autopilot. The app is available for iOS and Android, and there’s a monthly fee of just CAD $1.
Get the Moka app.
How budgeting apps work
We all know we should be more cautious and deliberate with our spending and savings strategies. Still, we often give up because it can seem overwhelming, especially if we’re not comfortable with numbers. The best budgeting apps make it as easy and automatic as possible to see where your money goes. Many apps link directly to your financial accounts and instantly tabulate your savings and expenses. Others highlight key areas of concern like debt repayment or can show you where you’re overspending. If you’re trying to reformat or reassess your budget post-COVID, then using some new apps is a good way to shake things up and create a stronger budget.
What’s the added value of budget apps vs. traditional reports?
Budgeting apps excel where traditional spreadsheet methods of tracking money fail because apps do all the calculating and much of the input of information for you. The onus is generally on the app rather than on the user to figure out what’s going on in your financial accounts and then display it in a user-friendly way.
Most of us lack a facility with numbers or enthusiasm for budgeting, so our efforts soon fall to the wayside. With mobile apps—especially those linked to your bank and investment accounts—everything is done for you. Many budgeting apps also have attractive layout features to make them simple to understand and digest.
What budgeting apps can help you achieve
Whether you hope to get out of debt, save for a specific goal, or just want to feel in control of your finances, there’s a budgeting app to help you succeed. The best ones can do a variety of tasks, including:
- Help you budget for household expenses. Some apps can tap into all your accounts to map out your entire financial universe and then, based on how much money you have and your past spending behaviors, help you design personalized budgets.
- Prevent overspending. These apps hone in on what money you have and then show you precisely what you’re spending it on, so you never have to ask yourself, “Where did all my cash go?”
- Get out of debt. These apps carefully monitor how much you owe and suggest manageable repayment plans based on your income, spending, and savings needs.
- Grow savings. These apps work silently in the background by putting tiny, affordable amounts of money into a saving or investment account. The gradual accumulation helps build up a nest egg without noticeably disrupting your lifestyle.
What to bear in mind with budgeting apps
Just remember, all the budgeting apps in the world aren’t going to make you better at balancing your bank accounts if you don’t use them properly. After all, it’s not the app that saves your money and curbs spending – it’s you.
Some budgeting apps rely on users to have the discipline to methodically enter their spending and payments. Even apps connected to your financial accounts can’t force you to dig yourself out of debt or stop you from overspending. In the end, no matter what budgeting apps you use, you must be an active participant in their usage and have the willpower and genuine desire to change how you manage your money.