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Best Budgeting Apps - which app to use and why?

Written by: Rory

Published Apr 24, 2020

The management of our personal finances has always felt like a herculean task. The sheer thought of it evokes images of cash-receipt mountains, archaic calculators and an inevitable sense of frustration. But, not anymore. With the technological advancement of personal finance apps, downloaded straight to your mobile, budgeting is now a much easier, daily process.

As of 2018, global downloads of finance apps have reached 3.4 billion. These personal budgeting tools offer users everything from warnings when you are over-spending to shrewd tactics in how to streamline your spending. We looked at two of the most popular free-to-download personal budgeting apps on the market right now; Emma and Yolt.

Emma

I had high expectations when downloading Emma after it scored a remarkable 4.5 out of 5 on the Google PlayStore. Straight out of the gate, it is an easy-to-use app. The set-up is simplistic, while the colour scheme is warm and reassuring – an under-valued component of other financial platforms. Once you have searched for your bank/credit/investment account details within the app, entered the appropriate security details and granted Emma access, you are ready to go.

Of course, due to the recent regulatory changes in 'Open Banking', this is a more secure process than ever before. In simple terms, it allows third parties, like Emma, to retrieve data about your account, without sharing your personal banking username or password.

User Experience

On the 'Feed', or home page, of the app, you can see your financial behaviours at a glance. With a simple scroll you can see how much is in your account, view your recent expenditures and track your paid subscriptions. A vital instrument in the age of Netflix! In the 'analytics' section lies the real budgeting tools. Here you can set up specific allowances for each spending category, ranging from 'bills' to 'entertainment' to 'transport'.

You can budget in two ways, from pay check to pay check, or month to month. This allows you to create a set time period in which you set a 'total budget', for example £400. Within this, each spending category can be adjusted as you see fit by clicking on the plus or minus buttons. How you manipulate these, then impacts your total budget.

From this budget, you will receive notifications if you are on track – or not! Overall, the app offers some helpful features in tracking your spending, from week to week, or longer in the form of a histogram. But, many customisation features, such as naming spending categories, are hidden behind a paywall.

Yolt

Yolt, as expected by any reputable budgeting app, requires a simple set up and approval of access to your relevant financial account. Once granted, the app opens with a weekly snapshot of your financial behaviour. In contrast to the Emma app, which simply displayed your current balance, this contextualised your current balance in relation to recent account totals. In the Emma app, this can only be found after several clicks in the 'Analytics' section.

User Experience

Although Yolt's interface may appear colder than Emma's, it offers largely the same updates on its 'Dashboard', to Emma's 'Feed'. Personally, I enjoyed Yolt's presentation of an expenditure histogram on its home page. This timeline, upon clicking, offered a breakdown of my most recent spending. In fact, the app prompted me to 'split' a bill. This function highlighted a recent grocery expenditure of mine, asked how many people I wanted to split it with and then offered me the chance to share this bill with whomever I chose amongst my contacts. For the first time using the app, this bode well for future tailoring to my personal spending habits.

Similarly, to Emma, Yolt allows the user to create budgets. These timeframes again can be both month to month or payday to payday and include push notifications when the user is not 'on track'. However, the budgeting windows, for both apps, can only be set to 4-week intervals – not ideal for those on irregular pay schedules.

The breadth of the Yolt app is far superior to that of Emma. Although, this is hardly suprising when we factor in Yolt's owner; global financial institution ING. Yolt offers the user walkthroughs on how to maximise their use of the app, ranging from simple guides such as 'getting started' to 'master your monthly spend'. Additionally, Yolt has a greater range of spending categories to tailor your budget to. This allows you set individual, standalone budgets for a category such as 'Petrol', such as £50 over 4-weeks, rather than set an overall budget and then account for petrol's place within it. However, this preference will certainly vary from person to person.

Conclusion

As always, these apps will perform better the more you use them. The greater data they have on your spending, the more they can help adjust it. For those new into the budgeting world, I would suggest Emma with its more welcoming, less intimidatingly analytical appearance. Whilst those looking for a clinical approach to their finances, I would suggest Yolt.