But resisting the urge to overspend on others is the best gift you can give yourself. Here are some budgeting apps to keep your spending in check.

By Joni Sweet
May 02, 2019
Hero Images/Getty Images
Hero Images/Getty Images

We get it: It's tempting to go all out when gifting your friends and family. You love them, and want to show them that during the holidays. But here's the thing: You don't need to overspend to show your loved ones that you care. In fact, you can stick to a budget and still give everyone on your holiday list a meaningful gift. You just need a clever app or two to help you along the way. Keep reading for the five best budgeting apps that will help you manage your holiday spending and stay out of debt.

1
Mint

When you’re in the giving mood, it’s all too easy to splurge on presents that might actually be out of your budget. Mint, a free budgeting app, can help you keep tabs on all your spending in one convenient hub. Once you sync the app with all your credit and debit accounts, it’ll look at your last few months of transactions to automatically create a budget with guidelines on how much you should spend on each major category (such as restaurants, clothing, and groceries) each month. You can also add your own categories (like “gifts for my besties”) to the budget—every time you pick up a present, just put that transaction into the right category and Mint will deduct the expense from the amount you designated to spend. As for next year, play with Mint’s goal-setting tool to strategize how you’ll build your holiday slush fund, sans the stress.

Perfect for: People who want tons of functionality from free budgeting software.

2
YNAB (You Need a Budget)

Building a budget you can stick to is about more than just dollars and cents—it’s about re-framing the way you think about your money before you spend it. And that’s the approach YNAB (You Need a Budget) has taken to build a cult following of users who say the app has helped them achieve their financial goals. Think of it like money therapy. YNAB is founded on four basic rules about money management: Give each dollar a job (in other words, be intentional about your money), embrace your true expenses (including your upcoming holiday spending), roll with the punches (tweaking your budget is totally fine!), and age your money (to stop living paycheck-to-paycheck). The app relies on those principles to help you create a budget that empowers you to take control of your money. And while the annual $83.99 fee seems steep, it becomes a no-brainer when you consider the fact that YNAB users save an average of $6,000 in the first year of using the app. Now that’s a balance you can use to buy everyone (including yourself!) something amazing for the holidays.

Perfect for: People who want to change the way they think about their money.

3
Mvelopes

Ever heard of the envelope system of budgeting? The generations-old strategy involves stashing away a predetermined amount of money into envelopes labeled for regular expenses (like transportation or groceries) each month, and only using the money for what it’s intended. While cash has gone the way of the dinosaur, the tried-and-true method of the envelope system has been brought into the 21st century by Mvelopes. The app, which starts at $4 per month, helps you designate a certain amount for every upcoming expense (like a new outfit for your office holiday party!). It then automatically syncs up with all your accounts to let you know how much you have left in your digital envelopes, depending on what you’ve already bought so far. With Mvelopes, you can say goodbye to the stress of guessing and overspending this season.

Perfect for: People who miss the simplicity of using cash all the time.

4
Wally

What do you do if you want a digital budget, but you’re not totally cool with giving third-party apps the log-in credentials to your bank accounts? You download Wally. With the free budgeting app, you update your account balances, expenses, and transactions manually. This isn’t a glorified notepad, though—the app uses your phone’s GPS to predict where you’re shopping and the type of item you’re buying when you add a transaction to help keep your spending organized by category. Wally’s handy in-app calendar also tallies your spending on a daily basis and keeps track of upcoming bills (because no one needs a late payment fee to dampen their holiday cheer). And if you’re sharing the cost of a big-ticket item (say, splitting a new TV for your dad with your siblings), you can use the app to keep track of who owes what—and make sure you get paid back.

Perfect for: People who want to manage their money without compromising their privacy.

5
EveryDollar

Between decking the halls, wrapping presents, and celebrating with the people you love most, you probably don’t have hours to devote to budgeting this time of year. The good news is that you just need 10 minutes to create a budget with EveryDollar. Created by financial expert Dave Ramsey, the app relies on the zero-based budgeting method to give every dollar in your account a purpose, whether that’s for rent, a charitable donation, groceries, or a pair of earrings your mom will love. The app also allows you to create “funds” (such as a holiday travel fund) that you can contribute to in your savings account throughout the year. While the free version of the app requires a lot of hands-on data entry, EveryDollar Plus can connect to all your bank accounts and credit cards to track your spending for you for $99 each year. No matter which version you go with, you’ll be able to set a realistic plan to buy all the holiday essentials without racking up excess debt.

Perfect for: Those who need a little instant gratification when they’re dealing with numbers.

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