When it comes to personal finance management and budgeting, a lot of people have good intentions. They may plan to implement some sort of financial control system, but never quite get to it. It’s hardly an uncommon situation.
But the solution to that procrastination can often be found in finding the best personal finance and budget software. These will provide a built-in program to help you get better control of your finances and your budget.
And though the concept may seem simple, it’s that critical first step toward reaching financial independence. After all, once you get control over your day-to-day finances, you’ll be in a better position to begin saving money. And once you begin saving money, you’ll be able to begin investing.
And once you become a regular investor, good things start to happen in life.
So, let’s take a look at what we believe to be the best personal finance and budget software.
Our Top Pick for Best Personal Finance and Budget Software: Personal Capital
As personal finance and budget software go, Personal Capital tops our list, and it isn’t even close. That’s because they provide both budgeting and financial management, but also offer substantial investment assistance.
You can sign up for their free Financial Dashboard, which aggregates all your financial accounts on the platform. There you can maintain a constant overview of your finances. But you can also take advantage of investment tools that will help you plan for retirement, analyze your 401(k) plan, recommend investment allocations, and even calculate your net worth.
That’s a lot of personal finance capabilities packed in one platform--and at no cost. But if you have a large amount of money to invest, and you’re looking for professional investment management, Personal Capital can help you with that as well, through their Wealth Management plan.
In short, Personal Capital can help you get better control over your entire financial life, and provide the tools you need to help build your investments. And once your investment portfolio is large enough, they can also be available to provide direct professional management.
Our Runner Up for Best Personal Finance and Budget Software: YNAB
YNAB is a pure budgeting software, and a very comprehensive one at that. You’ll link all your accounts on the platform, giving you a high-altitude view of your financial big picture, with the ability to make adjustments as necessary.
YNAB gives you specific tools to help you get complete control over your money. One of the primary goals is to get you in a position where you are living this month on last month’s income. This prevents the all-too-common budget dilemma of your paycheck running out before your expenses do.
The general idea is to put you ahead of your finances. Once you reach that point, you can begin setting and achieving goals, like getting out of debt or building savings. YNAB will help you to do that better than any other personal finance and budgeting software.
|Best Personal Finance and Budget Software||Best For|
|Personal Capital||Personal finance and budget software with investment advice|
|YNAB||Most comprehensive budgeting software|
|DIgit||Stress-free way to build short-term savings|
|Pocketsmith||Long-term budget projections|
|Mint||Free personal finance and budget software|
|Acorns||Building savings and investments from the ground up|
Best Personal Finance and Budget Software Providers
1. Personal Capital
Best For: Personal finance and budget software with investment advice.
Personal Capital offers its free Financial Dashboard. It’s a personal finance aggregator, which means you can link all your many financial accounts on the platform, to give you the complete picture overview of your finances at any given time. That includes checking and savings accounts, loan accounts, credit cards, and even investment and retirement accounts.
A lot of personal finance and budget software providers offer something similar. But where Personal Capital separates itself from the pack is that it also offers investment management tools. For example, their 401(k) Analyzer will analyze your retirement account to determine investment fees, including those that are hidden. They’ll then make recommendations to switch to lower-cost investment alternatives available within your plan.
Then there’s the Investment Checkup feature, which will analyze all your investment accounts, then recommend adjusting your portfolio mix to improve your overall investment performance.
Those are just some of the services Personal Capital offers on its free version. But if you have at least $100,000 that you want professionally managed, Personal Capital can do that as well.
Personal Capitals Wealth Management is a premium plan that will provide complete investment management of your portfolio. It sits somewhere between a robo-advisor and traditional human investment advisors, in that you’ll have access to financial advisors, but your portfolio management will be completely automated.
Best For: Most comprehensive budgeting software
Personal Capital may be the best personal finance and budgeting software with investing advice, when it comes to complete budgeting, YNAB is the gold standard. It provides a budgeting package allowing you to take control of every remote corner of your finances.
The app connects with more than 12,000 banks and other financial institutions and imports your information onto the platform. In that way, you can completely manage all aspects of your finances through the platform. It even reconciles individual transactions.
But the real strength of YNAB is with its Rules for your money. There are four:
- Give Every Dollar a Job: Each dollar in your budget is assigned a spending category to easily see where your money is going.
- Embrace Your True Expenses: Anticipate and prepare for large expenses, like vacations, holidays, or expected auto repairs. This avoids the disruptions large expenses can cause.
- Roll With The Punches: Move money out of expense categories where you’re overfunded, into those where you’re under-funded. The purpose is to provide budget flexibility.
- Age Your Money: The strategy is to move toward accumulating enough funds so the money you spend today is money you earned a month ago. Put another way, it puts you ahead of your budget, rather than behind it.
By following those rules, you’ll be able to set goals, including paying off debt or saving for specific purposes.
YNAB is a paid service, but when you consider all the tools it offers to help you get control over your finances, it’s well worth the price.
Best For: Long-term budget projections.
PocketSmith comes in three different versions, so you can choose the level of budgeting you want for your financial situation. PocketSmith has two standout features: 1) it projects the results of your budgeting efforts as many as 30 years ahead, and 2) it offers multi-currency capability.
PocketSmith provides the usual budgeting tools you would expect, including basic budgeting, scheduling of upcoming bills, customized income and expense statements, as well as regular tracking of your net worth.
But the ability to project how your budget will pay off in the future is an incredibly valuable tool. We often think of budgeting as simply getting through the current month. But the ultimate goal should always be to improve your long-term financial situation. Depending on the plan level you select, you’ll be able to project budget results out to 10 years or 30 years. That should give you incentive to create the most effective budget and stick to it each month.
But the multicurrency capability is an unexpected bonus. If you do a significant amount of international transactions, such as when you have family or friends in foreign countries, PocketSmith is up to the task. It provides automatic currency conversions based on daily exchange rates. so you can easily fold your foreign currency transactions into your regular budget.
PocketSmith offers three different plans. The Basic version is free, comes with 12 budgets, two accounts, budget projections to six months, and requires manual imports of financial information. The Premium version provides automatic and manual transaction importing, as well as automatic bank feeds. You can set up unlimited budgets, with up to 10 accounts. It provides budget projections for up to 10 years. Finally, the Super version offers everything provided by the Premium plan, but allows unlimited accounts and budget projections out to 30 years.
Best For: Stress-free way to build short-term savings.
Digit is like Acorns for short-term savings goals. The app is based on the same principle - siphoning amounts you won’t notice into savings. But Digit saves, instead of investing. And rather than rounding up, it uses intelligent algorithms to analyze your spending and calculate amounts you can afford to put away.
Users save an average of $10-$30 two to three times a week, which won’t fund your retirement but could add up to a holiday pretty quickly. And because the algorithm operates dynamically - easing off if you’re having an expensive month, ramping up if you’re spending goes down - you don’t have to change your lifestyle to achieve your short-term savings goals.
You can set up as many savings pots as you like. You get a 0.1% savings bonus every three months. You set a minimum amount to keep in checking, and if Digit does accidentally make you overdrawn, they’ll refund the fees. Plus, you can withdraw from your savings at any time.
All in, it’s a stress-free way to save without putting in any effort - or even noticing you’re doing it.
Best For: Building savings and investments from the ground up.
Acorns may seem like the odd man out on this list because it doesn’t offer budgeting capabilities. But it does provide one service that’s critical in budgeting--in fact, it should be the ultimate goal--and that’s helping you to save money for investing. A lot of people never invest because they never get started--because they never have the money to do it. Acorns is the solution to that problem.
Acorns uses a strategy called Round Ups.” The Acorns app is connected to your checking account, specifically your spending activity. For example, if you make a purchase for $6.22, it’s rounded up to an even $7, with the remaining $0.78 held for investing. Once you’ve accumulated at least $5 in round ups, the money is transferred to your Acorns investment account.
The investment account is a robo-advisor that creates a fully diversified portfolio for you--again, with as little as $5--then manages it for you going forward. As you continue with your ordinary spending activity, your investment account grows. The money can be held either in a taxable account, a retirement account, or both. Either way, Acorns is the perfect, passive way for you to become a saver and investor, even if youve never been in the past.
Best For: Free personal finance and budget software.
Mint isn’t the most comprehensive personal finance and budget software, nor do they offer investment assistance the way Personal Capital does. But if you’re looking for software to help you get better control of your finances, and you don’t want to pay for it, then Mint is absolutely the plan for you. They offer solid personal finance and budgeting capabilities at no cost to you. Even if you don’t have a strong interest in budgeting, Mint is well worth giving a try.
Much like the other apps on this list, Mint aggregates all your financial accounts on the platform. You’ll link your accounts to Mint, and each time you visit the site, the information is automatically updated. One of the strengths of the software is that it provides graphs and charts giving you a picture of your finances.
Mint also tracks your regular expenses, like your rent and debt payments, utilities, and even less frequent expenses. It will provide both the due dates and the payment amounts, then provide bill reminders. However, it does not offer bill pay directly from the platform.
The software does have very limited investment tracking, including comparing the performance of your investments against popular benchmarks. They also provide a fee analyzer service that will show you the investment expenses you’re paying with each account. In addition, they’ll also provide your credit score from TransUnion.
Related: Best Alternative to Mint
What is Personal Finance and Budget Software?
Personal finance and budget software is a loose term for virtually any kind of program or app that will help you better manage your personal finances. In fact, as you can see from the software options listed in this guide, there’s a wide range in the services provided by the various software.
Some focus primarily on budgeting, mainly helping you to manage your income and expenses. These types of software have a strong orientation toward timely bill payment, as well as creating extra space in your budget.
But others emphasize other financial services, such as investing. Though they may provide budgeting capabilities, the ultimate goal is to help you better invest your money.
What Personal Finance and Budget Software Offers
Once again, the specific features offered vary from one platform to another. But common features include:
Financial account tracking: The software will sync your various financial accounts--bank accounts, loans, mortgages, credit cards, and investment accounts--and allow you to manage them all from the platform.
Big picture financial view: A personal financial situation can often be somewhat disjointed. Personal finance and budget software address that confusion by giving you a picture of your complete financial situation. They may do this with charts, graphs, or lists.
Expense management: Most software will carefully track your expenses, including providing you with reminders when payments are due.
Creating financial goals: The most advanced software will assist you in establishing and financing goals, like paying off debt or saving for specific events or purposes.
Investment advice: This is a less common feature, offered only by certain platforms, like Personal Capital or Acorns. It may be limited to portfolio analysis and recommendations for you to make, or it may provide direct portfolio management.
Related: Best Finance Apps for Every Budget
Who Most Needs Personal Finance and Budget Software?
As a point of fact, everyone needs to get control of their finances. But personal finance and budget software will mostly benefit those who have no budgeting or financial control system in place. Just the implementation of the software can help to organize your finances, provide a path forward, and give you the incentive you need to take full control of your finances.
Pros and Cons of Personal Finance and Budget Software
Everyone needs to have control over their finances, and if you’ve been unable to do so up to this point, personal finance and budget software may be just the catalyst you’ve been waiting for.
Managing personal finances can be confusing, and a good software plan will provide you with a framework and plan you need to be successful.
The software can help you to avoid missing loan and expense payments, reducing the number of times you pay late fees.
If properly executed, any of these plans will help you to begin saving and investing money.
There are many different personal finance and budget software plans available, which can get confusing.
You may end up choosing software that isn’t well-suited to your financial style.
If your finances are fundamentally broken–as in your basic expenses exceed your income–software may not be the solution to your problem.
The better personal finance and budgeting software plans do come with a cost, which will add a line item to what may be an already tightly stretched budget.
Which is better: free or paid software?
There’s no hard and fast answer to that question. Mostly, you have to look at the features and benefits provided by each software and decide which will work best for you. If you only need a little bit of help managing your finances, a free service may be all you need. But if your situation is a bit more complicated, or you want software that is more goal oriented, the premium versions will be the better choice.
Should I choose software that has a strong emphasis on investments even though my real issue is not having control over my finances?
It really depends on your personal financial goals. Initially, everyone wants better control over their finances. That may be well served by basic budgeting software, including help in managing your expenses. But once you master that part of your finances, it’s likely you’ll become more interested in saving and investing money. That being the case, software with an investment orientation will be the better choice on a long-term basis.
Would I be better off using personal finance and budget software for basic financial management, then invest my money through a robo-advisor, rather than working with a program that does both?
If you’re comfortable with segregated functions, software to help you better manage your finances, and an unrelated robo-advisor to manage your investments, that will be the better choice. But many people like the all-in-one concept of software that both helps them manage their day-to-day finances and also provides investment services. It eliminates the need to juggle two different programs.
If you’ve been struggling to get control over your personal finances, it’s time to get help. Personal finance and budget software will provide that help. It’s much less expensive than hiring a personal finance manager or finance coach, and it’s available for use on a day-to-day basis.
If you’re struggling to determine which software will work best for you, start by listing your financial goals. As you do, look closely at the individual features and tools provided by the software offered. Choose the one that most closely matches your personal goals. Even if that’s a paid program, it will more than pay for itself in helping you to achieve those goals.