There are a lot of budgeting apps out there.
For a few years, they were coveted by investors looking for the latest in financial technology (fintech). Nowadays, robo-advisors have taken that mantle and one by one the budgeting apps have fallen out of favor and been shuttered.
Level Money was the latest casualty. Acquired in early 2015 by Capital One, Level Money was officially shut down on September 1st, 2017 and the website was taken down earlier this year. You can't even go to the website anymore.
If you're looking for something to replace Level Money, I have good news and bad news. The bad news is that there isn't an app that's a perfect replacement for Level Money. The good news is that there are a lot of good alternative budgeting apps that are powerful, free, and can stand in for Level Money.
Level Money's strengths was in linking into your bank account and credit cards to give you a sense of how much “Spendable” cash you have. It recalculated this on a daily+ basis so you always had a good sense of where you were. If you overspent today, it'll adjust tomorrow so you get back on track. It was super simple. That was its main strength and what we tried to find in an alternative but there are very few.
So instead, we looked at alternatives that will “level up” your budgeting skills. Level Money was a good starter app for budgeting but you need more. You need a better way to budget without all the work – so we tried to find you the best Level Money replacements that don't require you to do hours of work each month.
Clarity Money is one of severals apps that fall into the category of budgeting tool plus money savings. They look at your spending and can recommend ways to lower your bills, either by canceling, negotiating, or simply price shopping your expenses. This is on top of the budgeting features.
Here's a short video:
Mint will give you the ability to budget your money but it's going to require a little more work. Rather than automatically telling you how much “Spendable” money you have, it'll tell you how much you're saving and spending. You have to do the rest.
Mint's strength is in putting together that budget, something you may not have wanted when you started using Level Money. Level Money was simple and Mint requires a little bit more work, though not much more and the other tools (like bill pay) are quite useful.
You Need a Budget
If you really want to graduate from Level Money and get next level with your budget, You Need a Budget (YNAB for short) is a powerful budgeting tool that will not only track your spending but help you adjust it too. They work off the idea of “Every dollar has a job,” meaning you set each dollar you earn into a category — including savings.
The idea of “Spendable” cash doesn't even exist – you have to explicitly tell YNAB where you want it to go. If you make $3,000 a month, you have to set each dollar to a category every single month. It's not a ton of work, and you can adjust things as needed, but this gives you a very strong handle on your budget.
Personal Capital has budgeting tools to help you track your spending but it's strength is in managing your investments and looking towards the future (like far future retirement). It's a powerful investment planning tool, to help you understand how much you need to save to retire comfortably, but the budgeting features are just there to round the whole thing out.
I am a big fan of Personal Capital because I like seeing my investments in the same tool but it's not a good alternative if you're looking to replicate the features of Level Money.
Tiller is not an app, it's a powerful tool that integrates with your own Google Sheets. Budgeting spreadsheets have been around for a while (and most are free). They're popular because you can customize them to exactly what you need. No app will get your financial situation right because they're catering to the masses. When you customize your spreadsheet, it's YOURS.
One of the biggest knocks on them was how manual they were. You had to enter in your spending charge by charge. No one has time for that. (though if you do, it gets you super close to your spending)
If you're ready to upgrade to a spreadsheet, you'll want to check out Tiller because they added the missing automation piece. You use Tiller to link up your accounts to your spreadsheets so you don't have to enter things manually.
GoodBudget (formerly EEBA, the Easy Envelope Budget Aid) is a simple envelope budgeting tool that shares a lot of similarities to Level Money. Envelope budgeting is the practice of putting money into actual envelopes, labeled with categories, and using the envelopes to manage your spending.
It's a lot like You Need a Budget's “Give every dollar a job,” since every dollar will go into a specific envelope. You spend from the envelopes, never going into debt, and if you run out in a month then you need to borrow from another envelope. GoodBudget follows those principles but in app form, so you can save your envelopes for letters you never mail anyway. 🙂
Mvelopes, owned by Finicity, is another envelope budgeting tool.
If you've found a solid replacement for Level Money that's not on this list, let me know!