Looking for the best FREE budgeting app to manage your money? In this Emma budgeting app review, you will find out if Emma is the best Free budgeting tool for you.
When it comes to budgeting, for me, it’s one of those monthly activities that I don’t enjoy but needs to be done. So a good tool to make the process as painless as possible is a win in my book.
For our family finances, it’s relatively straight forward, therefore, I also don’t see the need to pay for a tool when it comes to budgeting.
Out of all the top FREE budgeting tools out there, Emma budgeting app has been an underdog accelerating in its popularity over the past 12 months. With a 4.2 / 5 star rating by Trustpilot, I decided to give it a try.
Plus, who doesn’t like an underdog?
Disclosure: As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.
What is Emma Budgeting App?
Emma is a personal finance app that helps you to track your spending habits and set your budget goals all in one place.
As the global pandemic accelerates us to a cashless society, it also makes spending much easier and quicker. Having a tool to make all the spending and charges visible all in one place, is a key to help you maintain control of your finances.
Launched in 2018 in the UK, Emma app was co-founded by 2 Italian students Edoardo Moreni and Antonio Marino from University of Manchester. The name “Emma” represents their initials.
A few months after its initial launch, the company raised an incredible £500,000 in its first round of funding. In 2019, Emma became the first UK personal finance app launched in both US and Canada.
Who is the Emma Budgeting App For?
Emma is for anybody with a smartphone who needs to get the finance organized in one place.
With its vibrant color and stylish design, Emma attracts a large population between 18-35.
But don’t let that put you off.
Being older than the targeted audience, I found the app is easy to use, and the features meet my budgeting needs (more on that) despite the slightly childish initial brand impression with the gummy bear like logo.
In fact, the Emma app is perfect for those of us who are short in time and do not necessarily enjoy budgeting but need something easy and painless to manage spending.
How Does the Emma App Work?
Emma connects all your bank accounts, credit cards and organizes the transactions into different categories. Once the data is pulled into the app, you instantly get access to:
- A bird’s eye view of overall money in vs. out
- Tracking transactions in real-time
- Bucketing transactions into 19 preset categories
- Automatically identifies subscriptions
- Analyze your spending habits
- Provide easy budgeting tool and track
- Give saving advice
- Has cryptocurrency integration
More details on the Key Features section.
Is Emma App Safe?
When it comes to giving your bank details to an app, there’s always reservations about it being secure…
Emma has the same level security measures as the major banks. It uses 256-bit encryption, and connects to banks via the government backed API called Open Banking. It is FCA (Financial Conduct Authority) and ICO (Information Commissioner’s Office) registered. The FCA regulates UK financial services and markets so that they remain honest, balanced and effective.
While pulling data from your bank and credit card, Emma has read-only access, meaning it does not actually touch the money. It also doesn’t store any banking credentials, which means even if their servers get hacked, your data is safe.
How Much Does Emma App Cost?
Basic plan is FREE. However there is a paid version -Emma pro. It’s £4.99 a month (or £41.88 a year), which you can customize categories, and rename your transactions.
As I mentioned earlier, I personally don’t see the need for a paid version especially if your finances are pretty straight forward. Eve for complicated matters, why not give the free version a try first before you decide the value of a paid version.
Setting up Emma Budgeting App
Setting up Emma was surprisingly easy.
After downloading the app, it linked seamlessly with the bank app on my phone, only asking me to confirm the connection and then select the accounts I wanted it to pull data from. So here you can select current, savings and credit accounts. This process took less than 2min. to link my bank with a debit and credit card. So if you have multiple bank accounts, it may take a bit longer.
After a few minutes my data had been imported and I could start using the app for real.
However, I found upselling was slightly annoying during the signup process. Upon registering, it instantly asked me to sign-up to the Pro version for £59.99 a year. After I hit the big ‘X’ in the top left of the screen, it immediately offered a 50% discount with a 24hr countdown.
📊 Account Summary
On top of the “Feed” tab (which is basically the home screen) is the high level summary.
It shows the current amount, savings, debt and then my net worth.
So whenever you open the app, a summary of all your accounts is the first thing you see.
📲 View Transactions
After the account summary, skipping a couple of optional boxes, you will find the “Recent transaction” ribbon. While it only shows the most recent transaction on the home screen, by clicking through “See all”, it brings up all the transactions by date.
This is one of the most standout features in Emma app.
I instantly notice this is way better than looking at my bank statement. Instead of a plain list of names, the list has the merchants logo, so I quickly see and recognise the transactions. I really like this feature.
Because Emma pulls data from multiple accounts, it is also great to view all transactions in 1 list rather than multiple bank statements.
✅ Edit Spending Categories
There are 19 preset spending categories.
The app is smart enough to bucket each transaction into spending categories such as groceries, bills, shopping etc. For the recurring transactions, it automatically recognises them as a subscription.
I spent a few minutes going through the recent transactions and changing to different preset categories.
Once they are changed, the future transactions will be put in the changed categories. This step will help me in my budgeting process (more on this later).
For the paid version, you can add more customizable categories. But to be honest, I don’t see much value for it.
⚔️ Setup Budgets
You can set up your monthly budget from the “Analytics” tab. The app has the flexibility to set your budgeting period in 2 ways:
- Payday to payday – a budget based on when you get paid
- Monthly – a budget that rolls over monthly
After choosing one of the 2 options, it asks you to put a budget on each spending category with a suggestive average amount based on your last 3 months spending.
Once this is all set up, you can start tracking your spending against your budget goals under the “Analytics” tab.
Not only it shows you how many days you have left for this budgeting period and the overall spending, it also shows by category how you are doing against the budget.
You can also change your budget amount at any time by accessing the “budgets” on top right of the screen.
🤑 Check Subscriptions
This is one of the initial reasons that I was interested in the Emma app – I wanted to have a tool to easily show me all my subscriptions that I have accumulated over the years.
Within a few minutes of pulling data from my bank account and credit card, all my subscriptions are summarised at my fingertips.
You can find the “Subscriptions” within the home screen if you keep scrolling down further. By clicking “See all”, it will show ALL recurring charges as subscriptions.
Going through the list, I immediately identified a few items that I can save money by canceling.
💡 Save on Your Bills
This is one of the option boxes – “Bill overpayment” that popped up below the account summary on the home screen. As this is an infrequently used item, I have hit the “X” button so it would no longer show on my home screen. However, you can find this option back under the “Save money” tab.
This feature basically checks your gas and electricity tariff. Unfortunately it didn’t find my tariff so it used generic rates or then asked me to input my energy rates and usage. Meaning I then had to dig out my utility bills to get this information. Breaking the promise of ‘Fix in 2 mins’.
A better solution would be to connect to the energy provider app on my phone and pull the data from there, just the way it does with the bank data
💷 Fee Tracking
This is another feature that sparked some immediate savings for me. Under the “More” tab, there is an icon called “Bank Fees”.
This feature pulls all your bank fees that incurred during the transaction, including both cash withdrawal and foreign transactions.
||A foreign transaction fee is a charge, usually 3% , that many credit card issuers and payment networks add for each transaction made aboard||
In my case, I have paid a total of £191.52 on foreign transactions. Although this is an accumulated total over the years, it just shows that those little costs add up. I have now switched to my no fee on the overseas spending credit card to shop on stores like Aliexpress (LINK), which will avoid the unnecessary charge in the future.
Here are a list of pros from the Emma budgeting app:
- Free and easy to use
- Very quick and easy to set-up
- Very visible list of transactions from multiple banks and accounts
- Tracking transactions in real time
- Merchant logo for each transaction makes viewing the transaction list very simple and easy to see
- Analyzes your spending habits
- Lets you set up budgets by spending category and helps you by providing a 3 month average by category
- Works on Android and Apple
- Lists all your subscriptions so you can quickly see the ones to cancel
- It’s very safe, regulated by the FCA and ICO
Nothing is perfect, here are a few things Emma can improve in the future:
- Instant upsell before you have even tried the app is a little annoying
- Utility savings tool was not able to provide savings in ‘2 mins’ as our tariff was not listed. The manual process was tedious. It would be good if it can automatically connect to the utility app just like it does with the bank app.
- Some of the report comments were not helpful… “Like £3,255 that was 3081 loaves of bread” and we made “7 trips to Aldi last month”
- The report does not provide hints or guidance on things for you to look in to or improve
- Prefer a report scrolling format rather than a side swipe, if I miss one, i have to start from the beginning again
Emma Budgeting App Alternatives
There are a few alternative FREE budgeting apps available such as Yolt and Money Dashboard. They all offer very similar capabilities with easy user interfaces. There are smaller features that differentiate one from another.
For example, Yolt has a facebook group if you enjoy a community feel, interacting and sharing ideas with all Yolt users.
Money Dashboard offers webapp access in addition to the app, for those who prefer to manage money with a computer.
Which of these budgeting apps is the best for you is simply down to your own preferences. For me, when it comes to budgeting, I want something that is easy to use, simple enough to provide my spending habits at a glance and set up but budget targets, and Emma app does all that – for FREE. So why waste time to shop around?
Final Thought on Emma Budgeting App Review
Overall, I’m pretty happy with the Emma budgeting app.
It’s quick to set up before it pulls all your spending into one place. The budgeting tool is super easy to navigate which makes the not-so-enjoyable monthly activities pain-free. With the analytics feature, it quickly helped me to identify savings opportunities.
If you are someone who struggles to keep up with monthly spending and don’t enjoy budgeting, why not give the Emma budgeting app a try?
The best of all, you can get this handy money assistant, all for FREE.