Budgeting Apps Reviewed
By Mike Narouei, Content Producer at Boring Money
14 May, 2021
Saving/Budgeting App Review
We cast out eyes over some of the top saving & budgeting apps available right now, comparing and differentiating their key features and pricing tiers.
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Strong algorithm and AI capabilities
Cool features that encourage extra savings
Option to invest as well as save
Plum: Free / AI auto saving is free.
Plum Plus: £1 per month / 0.4% interest, investments.
Plum Pro: £2.99 per month / Rainy Days and 52-week challenge, cashback, goals, diagnostic reports.
Plum Ultra: £4.99 per month / Money Maximiser.
Plum is an amazing savings app for those who need help putting money aside. The algorithm is impressive, effectively managing to squirrel away a lot more than you’d expect, without you even noticing! This comes with the added bonus of being absolutely free.
Plum is primarily a saving app that uses a “magic” algorithm to calculate the perfect amount of money to save, without the user feeling the money’s absence. Users can choose the aggressiveness of Plum’s algorithm from multiple options and have the freedom to change this at their own discretion. Plum takes the money from your bank account and puts it into a “pocket” on the app, which effectively operates as a savings pot that earns interest.
The free version of plum also comes with a round-up feature, which (as the name suggests) rounds up all your transactions to the nearest pound and collects this surplus money once a week, to deposit into your Plum pocket as extra savings.
Plum Plus provides users with the option to invest for a £1 per month platform fee. Users have access to 12 different funds, which are named based on the individual fund’s overarching theme. The number of chilies next to the fund denote its risk level.
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Plum Pro has a wider range of cool features to enhance savings, such as the 52-week challenge or the aptly named “Rainy Days”. Rainy Days saves extra money every day that it rains, which for all UK users can amount to quite a nice pot on the side. The 52-week challenge saves £1 in the first week of the year, £2 in the second and so forth until it reaches £52 in the final week of the year; allowing you to accumulate a healthy £1,378 of extra savings across the year. Pro subscribers also receive diagnostic reports that contextualise spending by categorising and benchmarking it against other Plum users and higher interest rates on their savings.
The Ultra tier includes Plum’s ‘Money Maximiser’ feature, which is a comprehensive budgeting tool that looks at your salary, bank balance, and bills and calculates how much money can spend every month. It breaks this down into weekly allowances and daily suggestions; moving the weekly allowances into Plum’s maximum interest-earning account before transferring it back to you a couple of days before that week starts.
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A holistic view of finances, inc investments, and credit cards
Good budgeting features
Many useful features available on the free version
Emma Pro: £4.99 per month / Double cashback opportunities, the ability to manually add assets for more accurate net worth figures, exporting data, and a new rolling budgets feature.
Emma is more a budgeting app than a savings app, providing you with insights and analysis into your spending habits, and helping you allocate realistic monthly amounts to different spending categories. The linking of credit cards, bank accounts and investments really helps to provide an accurate overall picture of your finances. Having the free version is a no-brainer; but the £60 annual fee for Emma Pro feels steep, compounded by the fact that you can only pay it as a lump sum.
Emma’s key strengths lie in its spending analysis and overall ‘net worth’ presentation, with the app incorporating current accounts, savings, credit cards, and investments (inc Crypto!). Linking Emma to other apps is a smooth process, whilst having a holistic view of your finances, transactions, and incomings clearly displayed is a very useful feature. The budgeting capabilities of the app stand out when compared to other saving apps - this is an area where it can provide a lot of value.
Emma also recognises monthly subscriptions, showing upcoming committed expenditures separately, which gives you the chance to review them. For many users it may also highlight subscriptions to multiple similar services, such as Spotify and Apple Music, and suggest cancelling one to help you save some more money.
The app instantly analyses and categorises your spending, however, is very open to being customised and having its assumptions altered. This is a vital feature as users can exclude certain transactions from being included within Emma’s analysis, re-categorise expenditure and re-classify subscriptions, creating a more accurate and personalised outcome.
The user interface is intuitive and navigating through the app is straightforward. The design is slick and it definitely gives off strong new-age fintech vibes.
Notable additional features on Emma Pro are double cashback opportunities, the ability to manually add assets or bank/investment accounts that the app doesn’t currently link to, as well as export data and benefit from a new rolling budgets feature. While these are definitely nice-to-haves, for most people they won’t justify the £60 Emma Pro annual fee (reduced to £30 if you subscribe within 24h of opening your account). Emma Pro is promoted quite aggressively on the app, which is slightly annoying albeit completely understandable considering how much you’re getting for free.
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Best savings rate in the market
AI saving costs £1.50 per month
In the process of launching investment plan
ChipLite: Free / No autosaves and 1.25% interest on £2k worth of savings.
ChipAI: £1.50 per month / Auto saving features and 1.25% interest rate on up to £10k worth of savings.
ChipX: £3 per month / Investment plans and a Stocks & Shares ISA
Chip is a good option, its clean and easy to use. The free version has pretty limited functionality - it is very similar to what you get from Monzo, other than the amazing 1.25% interest rate on offer! This alone makes it worth downloading. The £1.50 per month AI plan is good value for money and brings Chip's USPs to light. For those that take advantage of the interest rate and the increased savings allowance that comes with the AI plan, the app more than pays for itself.
Chip is a savings app moving from strength to strength and currently offers market-leading 1.25% interest rate! There are host of different plan options and feature updates, with Chip in the process of launching investment plans in partnership with BlackRock.
Chip’s free ‘ChipLite’ plan connects to your bank and allows you to manually save money into instant/easy access savings accounts that pay a range of interest rates. The Chip+1 1.25% interest rate is only available to those who either refer a friend to Chip or are themselves referred to Chip and non-paying users can gain the interest rate on up to £2k worth of savings. Users can create pots for their different saving goals, which work effectively identically to Monzo’s and other fintech banks.
The ChipAI plan is where things get more tantalising, with the 1.25% interest rate extended to cover up to £10k worth of savings. As the plan name suggests, users can then benefit from Chip’s AI features, which uses a fancy algorithm to autosave money and help boost your savings without you even realising.
The ‘Chip X’ plan offers the added bonus of investment plans and a Stocks & Shares ISA, allowing users to invest their surplus money instead of leaving it in cash savings. This is priced at £3 per month and offers a convenient, affordable route for Chip users into the market.