The best financial-planning apps for 2015

By Lucy Maher, special to CNBC.com

Staying on top of money management

Trying to get your finances under control? Now you can, with just a few clicks. A host of mobile money-management apps promise to handle everything, from setting and helping you maintain a budget to putting aside funds for your 401(k) and paying your bills on time. Each app contains feature-sophisticated technology and a user-friendly interface, making it easy to see where your money is going, keep track of your bank balances and monitor family expenses—without the help of a costly financial planner. 

That's a good thing. According to a 2013 Bankrate.com survey of 1,000 adults, nearly 75 percent of Americans live paycheck to paycheck and have little to no emergency savings. What's more, just 50 percent have less than three month's savings, and 27 percent have no savings at all.

Whatever your goal, the following apps should get you there.

—By Lucy Maher, special to CNBC.com
Posted 27 January 2015

Acorns (free)

The goal: Invest more

Link your credit and debit card(s) to this app and it will round up each charge to the next dollar (for example, $15.49 to $16.00), combining the differences into a lump sum and investing it into a professionally managed portfolio. Six options; choose your risk level. 

Fee: Once you invest, $1 per month, plus a management fee from .25 percent to .5 percent per year of total assets in your account. 

Home Budget ($4.99)

 The goal: Stay on top of household spending

Sync multiple credit and debit accounts and track spending in one place with Home Budget, which also exports data to a desktop for easy analysis and syncs devices so all family members can work off the same budget.

Mint Bills (free)

Intuit

The goal: Banish late-payment fees

Say good-bye to stamps and snail mail. After a one-time setup, Mint Bills sends bill-pay reminders (email or push notifications) and lets you know when bank balances are running low, so you also avoid overdraft fees. Bill pay by bank account is free; paying with your credit or debit card results in a transaction fee.

Expensify (free)

The goal: Manage your expense account

Photograph, categorize and tag your receipts, or input manually and add to any number of expense reports. Expensify also allows you to track time spent and mileage and offers currency conversions, offline mode and IRS-approved eReceipts under $75.

Bill Guard (free)

BillGuard

The goal: Avoid fraud

Bill Guard keeps track of all purchases and monitors hidden fees (such as that $45 annual renewal fee your gym charges each January) and allows users to report and dispute a fraudulent charge by contacting the merchant from inside the app.

This app also keeps track of month-to-month spending by category so you can see where your money is going on a regular basis. In addition, it will flag suspicious purchases and send a push notification when it does.

Level Money (free)

Level Money

The goal: Live within your means

The idea here is simple: Level Money pulls in your income, then deducts recurring bills and the amount you wish to save each month, then divides your available funds into daily, weekly and monthly allowances. Each purchase is deducted, allowing you to tap into your dashboard to see how much you have left by day, week and month.  

Square Cash (free)

Square Cash app
Source: Square

The goal: Make sure Junior has enough spending money

Can't wait a few days for that check to arrive? Download Square Cash, link it to your debit card account, then draft an email, copying cash@square.com with the dollar amount in the subject line. The recipient will then get a link that lets him deposit the amount in his bank account. 

Weekly limit: $250, unless you provide a mobile phone link; or provide your name, Social Security number and date of birth to access $2,500 in funds.

Saved Plus (free)

SavedPlus

The goal: Increase your monthly savings

Can't seem to set aside a lump sum each month for savings? Saved Plus lets you choose a percentage figure, then takes that percentage from each purchase you make and kicks it over to your savings account. 

Wish to set aside 10 percent? Buy a $12 salad, and Saved Plus will squirrel away $1.20. You can set a ceiling, so that $15,000 trip to Italy doesn't deplete your checking account. 

Blooom (fee varies)

Blooom

The goal: Keep on top of your 401(k)

Link your 401(k), and Blooom will analyze your allocations, recommend the correct one, then enlist an advisor to build a balanced portfolio, revisiting it every 90 days. Balances less than $20,000 are charged $1 per month; those more than $20,000 pay $15 per month.