One of the most stressful parts of being in a relationship has to do with money and how we manage it. A study conducted to understand how couples handled money found that the number one cause for tensions in any relationship was – you guessed it – MONEY! And not surprisingly, the survey also found that talking and sharing thoughts about money caused couples to say they had a “great” relationship.
While relationship-building has to do with more than just money management, it’s clear that making money decisions alone, without consulting one’s spouse or partner, can have a deleterious impact on the union. Working together as a team to meet your financial goals can act as relationship-strengthening therapy.
And here’s more good news: By facilitating joint money-management, budget apps can help you hit your money goals. However, that’s only possible if you pick the best app that fits your specific needs. And that’s exactly what we aim to help you to do today!
Quicklook – Best Budget Apps For Couples
What is a Budget App?
So, what exactly is a budget app? Well, it’s a piece of software that allows you to create a budget, categorize your income and expenses, and then enter and track your transactions against your budget. The app then helps you see how you spend money against the budget by providing you useful reports and analysis.
Typically, the budget app runs on smartphones, but you’ll also find versions supported on desktops and other mobile devices.
What Couples Should Look for in a Budget App
So, what should the best shared budget app offer couples? Unlike general purpose accounting or finance software, couples should look for some specific “shared” features in the app they choose to help them co-manage their finances. Key amongst those features is the ability to sync budgeting data between devices owned by spouses. This allows both partners to know exactly what’s going on – ideally in real-time – with their finances.
The need for multi-device support is also a good feature to have. That way, if both partners don’t own the same type of device (iPhone or Android), you’ll still be able to use the budgeting app effectively. Desktop support is also a nice to have, especially if you like sitting at a desk and analyzing your transactions at leisure on a large screen.
Look for an app that allows you to customize your income and expense categories. Many couples would like the app to link to their external bank accounts and automatically download transactions. But if you aren’t comfortable with that, the app should at a very minimum allow you to enter account, payee and institution details while capturing transactions and use that data to track account balances.
It’s always nice to see your budget and spending patterns illustrated graphically – either in pie-chart or bar chart form. Additionally, if your app doesn’t store your data in the cloud (some couples might prefer local storage of data on their laptop/smartphone), then look for convenient features that make it easy to backup/restore your data.
Best overall pick: HomeBudget
The best way to save money is to manage it carefully. With HomeBudget, you’ll not only be able to manage your individual budget and track personal expenses, but you can do so for your household too. If you’re looking for a highly flexible and versatile money management app for budgeting and expense monitoring, and you would also like to share that responsibility with your significant other-half, then HomeBudget fits the bill perfectly.
You can categorize Expenses (cash flowing out) and Bills (future expenses) under personalized headings, and monitor and track them separately. Using the Family Sync feature is a neat way to have your spouse/partner share the responsibility for also tracking and entering transactions against the household budget.
One neat feature, which not many family budgeting apps have, is the ability to handle Recurring Expenses with automatic payment. The app automatically prorates such expenses (e.g. a 6-month prepaid Home Insurance expense) into multiple months to allow for more meaningful actual-vs-budgeted comparisons. It can also handle Recurring Bills (distinct from expenses) with reminder prompts.
The app also supports recurring Income and recurring Transfers (from one institution to another), so you can set-it-and-forget it. Sometimes though, your recurring amount might not be the same as the actual expense – e.g. the family’s estimated monthly data usage charge. If the value of a recurring transaction changes, you can quickly update the amount once the app records the transaction. Flexible Bill tracking features also help you stay on top of payments coming due in the future.
HomeBudget is also great at tracking cash (ATM) withdrawals and cash expenses not incurred through a related bank/credit card account. For couples saving for a long-term goal, like a child’s college fund, the app allows you to use “paired transactions” – an “income” linked to a corresponding “expense” rather than just recording it as a recurring transfer.
If you and your partner love visual representations of your money, you’ll love how HomeBudget shows you different views of where your money is coming from/going. You can also attach images of receipts and invoices to your database for subsequent viewing/auditing purposes. And the app even provides built-in support for backing up and restoring your data from one device to another (iPhone to desktop) using WiFi connectivity.
The one feature that really makes HomeBudget stand out from its peers is the comprehensive documentation it provides its users. On their website, you’ll find loads of helpful PDF documents – from User Guides and FAQs to guides for specific operating systems and devices. You’ll even find well-illustrated documents for using the apps’ wide-ranging features, like Family Sync and Data Import.
The app is available for Windows, iPhone/iPad, Android, Mac OS, and Kindle environments. HomeBudget is not free, but the relatively low cost for mobile devices ($4.99-$5.99 one-time) and desktop versions ($14.99-$19.99 per month) are worth it for this feature-packed app.
Pick 2: Honeydue
Honeydue is a neat budgeting app that couples can use to co-share the family’s money- management responsibility. It allows you to connect all your accounts – Bank, Credit Card, Loans – to the app. You can tag each of these accounts as either individual or joint – so you and your partner/spouse know at a glance where you stand with “ownership”. Categorize your transactions and even create custom classes for your expenses.
You can annotate transactions with notes that both you and your partner can view. This is a great feature that not only serves as a reminder for future recollection but also fosters relationship-building by communicating about your money.
If you are just starting out in a committed relationship, but haven’t yet taken the final step of merging your finances, this app provides you the ability to split expenses and keep tabs on who owes what to whom.
All relationships harbor “secrets”, and Honeydue allows you to keep some accounts secret by hiding select accounts from your significant half – if that’s something that (both of) you want to do.
You can also set alerts and reminders that notify you and your partner so that you never miss out on a bill that’s due, or forget an upcoming expense. If you share responsibility for bill payment, you can also tag bills and invoices as paid, so you both know who has paid which bill and when.
Pick 3: BetterHaves
BetterHaves is a budgeting app that’s specifically designed for couples, but it also supports individuals in budgeting and tracking their money. The app works using one of the oldest (before apps came around!) and most effective budgeting system: The envelope system.
Couples can use virtual envelopes to distribute their income and expenses into separate categories. This allows you to budget for specific events, such as entertainment, utilities, mortgage, dentist’s bills, and groceries. When you spend the money against each expense, the app withdraws the amount from its respective envelope, allowing you visibility into what’s left. You can visually track where the money from each envelope is going.
This system reinforces good budgeting behavior because you’re forced to stop spending on specific discretionary items – like dining out or shopping – as soon as that envelope is empty. You can also use the app to tweak your budget to divert more money into the “savings envelope”.
Couples have visibility into their finances using separate individual or joint budget and expenditure dashboards. Warning alerts and reminders help you stay on track with your budget while ensuring that you always deal with scheduled expenses in a timely manner.
While BetterHaves is a free app, the current version only works on and syncs between iPhones.
Pick 4: GoodBudget
GoodBudget, formerly known as EEBA (Easy Envelope Budget Aid) is another envelope-based budgeting app designed to help couples stay on track with their finances. If you and your partner are skeptical about the envelope budgeting approach, you should know that noted personal finance gurus like Dave Ramsey swear by the envelope system – so it really does works!
The app revolves around the concept of digital envelopes that you create for various categories of expenses – Entertainment, Groceries etc. You can personalize your envelopes according to your lifestyle, and tie them to your credit or debit card. Each time you incur an expense, you record it against that envelope. The app then updates your income, expenses, and balances and shares them in real-time.
You create and manage all your envelopes in the cloud – on GoodBudget’s secure website. You (and your partner) can then sync your envelopes to your smartphone. When you are out spending – say, for groceries – you record it in the app and that expenses will automatically sync to your partner’s smartphone so he/she instantly knows how much money is now available in the “grocery envelope”.
The app is available for desktops and mobile devices. You can download the app for free for either Android or iOS devices. However, there are other premium features that only come with a paid version.
Pick 5: HoneyFi
For couples that aren’t too familiar with the budgeting process or those that just want a flying start on managing their finances, HoneyFi is probably for you. It automatically syncs household and individual bank accounts, credit cards, loan, and investment accounts to the app, saving you tones of time and effort from manually doing that.
The app syncs transactions between your bank and your device 3 to 4 times daily, or at minimum nightly. The best part of this app is the widespread network of financial institutions it supports – currently 10,000+ and growing!
Here’s the cool part. The app looks at your spending habits and based on what and how you’ve spent previously, it automatically recommends a household budget. You can then edit the budget and start tracking your spending immediately.
You can view and search your transactions across all linked accounts. And since communicating with your partner is the cornerstone of joint budgeting, the app allows you to do just that! Quickly add notes, comments or tips and insights to a transaction and share it with your better half.
The app provides alerts and notifications on new transaction activity, as well as flags upcoming bill payments and other expenses. And if you are comfortable doing so, you may choose to only share specific transactions with each other – or hide some of them. This may be a desirable feature for couples in a trial relationship, or those who aren’t ready to share all their financial lives with each other – just yet!
Pick 6: Zeta
Zeta is another free tool that helps you and your partner share the responsibility for money management. Built for couples, Zeta also allows you to determine whether you wish to manage a personal (non-shared) or household (joint) budget. It then manages and tracks both separately.
You can link multiple accounts to the app, and designate whether you wish to share the account or keep it as an individual account. The app then securely (using bank-grade security) syncs transactions from your financial institution and those accounts several times a day. It also syncs transactions from joint-designated accounts with your partner, while those designated as individual accounts stay hidden.
The app allows couples to set up custom categories, split and track transactions, set-up shared and individual budgeting goals and manage them, and communicate with each other through memos and notes. It also comes with Bill Reminders so you’ll never miss bill payments or pay late fees for missed payments.
Ideally, one partner would sign-up and then invite the other to join, allowing the app to link and share transactions from designated accounts. However, the app is flexible enough for individual sign-ups as well. You can then manage your accounts individually, and only share specific transactions with your partner.
If you have bank accounts and credit cards linked to any financial institution in the U.S. or Canada, then chances are that Zeta will work for you. The app currently has established relationships with 10,000 plus institutions, including heavyweights like American Express, Bank of America, Chase and PayPal.
The Final Word
The apps reviewed here make co-managing money with others a breeze. By linking your checking and savings account you can take the stress out of budgeting and tracking your expenses manually. With the help of these apps, you’ll not only be able to collaborate better, but you’ll make more effective money management decisions – like agreeing on a cost-effective vacation or deferring the purchase of a new car – based on more financial transparency.