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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.
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.
Although 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. Once you begin saving money, you’ll be able to begin investing.
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.
|Personal Finance Software
|Investment Advice & FREE to use
|Build Short-Term Savings
|Long-Term Budget Projections
|Long-Term Savings Strategy
|Multiple Plan Options
Best Personal Finance Software
The former Personal Capital, Empower has revamped its entire product offering with the name change. In addition to its free Financial Dashboard, Empower also offers self-directed investing, a high-interest cash account, and reduced fees on its Wealth Management plans.
The Empower Investment Account offers self-directed investing with investment advice. The first 1,000 trades are commission-free for both stocks and exchange-traded funds. They also offer Managed Portfolios, at a fee of 0.50% on the first $100,000, dropping down to 0.20% when you have at least $400,000 under management.
Empower Premier offers professional-grade investment advice and management of both taxable accounts and IRAs. The fee is 0.50% on the first $100,000 under management, stair-stepping down to 0.20% when your assets under management are greater than $400,000. There are no account minimums.
- Best For: Personal finance and budget software with investment advice.
- Features Offered: Budgeting tools, aggregating accounts on the dashboard, a high-altitude view of your entire financial life, a high-interest cash account, do-it-yourself investing, and professional investment management.
- Price: Free financial dashboard; investment management fee is based on assets under management, and works with a sliding scale ranging from 0.20% to 0.50% per year.
Empower may be the best personal finance and budgeting software with investing advice, but 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.
The real strength of YNAB is 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: Most comprehensive budgeting software.
- Features Offered: Connect all your financial accounts on the platform, set goals, assign dollars to those goals, as well as expenses, import transactions, and four simple rules (described below).
- Price: $14.99 per month, or $99 per year (equivalent to $8.25 per month), starting with a 34-day free trial.
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 60 years ahead, and 2) it offers multi-currency capability.
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. 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 60 years. That should give you an incentive to create the most effective budget and stick to it each month.
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 four different plans. The Free version comes with 12 budgets, two accounts, and budget projections to six months, and requires manual imports of financial information. The Foundation version provides automatic 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. The
Finally, the Fortune version of everything in the Flourish version provides 60 years of financial projections
- Best For: Long-term budget projections.
- Features Offered: Basic budgeting, scheduling of upcoming bills, customized income and expense statements, multi-year projections, multi-currency transactions, and regular tracking of your net worth.
- Price: Free version; Foundation, $14.95 per month, or $119.88 billed annually; Flourish, $24.95 per month, or $192.92 per year; Fortune, $39.95 per month, or $319.92 per year.
4. Oportun (formerly Digit)
Oportun 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 Oportun saves, instead of investing. 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. Because the algorithm operates dynamically – easing off if you’re having an expensive month, ramping up if your 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 Oportun does accidentally make you overdrawn, they’ll refund the fees. Plus, you can withdraw from your savings at any time.
All in all, it’s a stress-free way to save without putting in any effort – or even noticing you’re doing it.
Oportun offers personal loans, ranging from $300 to as much as $10,000. The money can be used for any purpose, including paying bills, making repairs, and even major purchases. Oportun also offers credit cards designed to help you build credit.
- Best For: Stress-free way to build short-term savings.
- Features Offered: Savings app, personal loans, credit card for credit building.
- Price: The app is free to use; Personal loans, 8% administration fee + APR up to 34.95%; Credit cards, APR 24.90% to 29.90%.
Acorns may seem like the odd man out on this list because it doesn’t offer budgeting capabilities. 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 roundups, 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 you’ve never been in the past.
Acorns has also added savings options, including checking that currently pays 3.00% APY, and a savings option paying 5.00% APY.
- Best For: Building savings and investments from the ground up.
- Features Offered: Spending round-ups to save money, high-interest checking and savings, automated investing, debit card.
- Price: Personal plan (investment account only) $3 per month; Personal Plus (includes IRA), Premium (family plan), $9 per month.
Quicken is one of the most popular names in the personal finance space, and there are plenty of good reasons. They offer two different plans, both of which are easy on the budget. The software is available in both web and mobile versions and for both Windows and Mac desktops.
The Simplifi plan, at just $2.99 per month, provides custom savings goals, budgeting based on your income and bills, an automatically generated spending plan, tracking and paying bills, managing debt (including payoffs plans), investment performance tracking, tracking of tax-related transactions, and more. It also includes free phone and live chat for customer service.
The Classic plan includes everything in the Simplifi plan but adds spending reports, a debt reduction tool, investment optimization, built-in tax reports, and premium phone and live chat for customer service. Classic also includes a lifetime planner, including the ability to run “what if” scenarios.
- Best For: Multiple plan options.
- Features Offered: Budgeting, cash flow & net worth tracking, savings goals, retirement planning, portfolio analysis, and built-in tax reports.
- Price: Simplifi, $2.99 per month; Classic, $3.50 per month – both billed annually with a 30-day money-back guarantee.
What is Personal Finance 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 of 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.
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 Does Personal Finance Software Offer?
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 addresses 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 Empower 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 Software?
As a point of fact, everyone needs to get control of their finances. However 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 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 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.
In coming up with this list of the best personal finance software, we consider the following criteria:
- What each app is best for – what it does better than the competition.
- The features each app provides.
- Pricing, including that of the various plans each may offer.
Overall, our primary consideration was what we believe to be the degree to which each app fills various personal financial needs and the degree to which it does.
That led us to include a variety of apps, some of which focus on budgeting, while others concentrate primarily on savings, investing, retirement planning, and other financial services.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
What is the best software for personal finance?
Overall, we believe it is Empower. It offers free software for budgeting and other financial activities, but also a comprehensive investment service. However, the best personal finance software will be the one that works best for you. Evaluate the software included in this guide, and choose the one you feel will be the best fit for your financial situation.
What is the best bookkeeping software for personal use?
We can’t say for certain if it’s the best, but QuickBooks is one of the most popular, which is a ringing endorsement by the masses! What’s more, QuickBooks is widely used by both individuals and businesses in managing their finances, which means it’s also a very flexible system.
Is Quicken or Mint better?
Given that Mint will be closing down as of January 1, 2024, the answer to this question no longer matters. That said, Quicken does offer a solid financial management program that will not only help you optimize your budget but will also help you to optimize your savings goals and better prepare for your retirement.
Is there a better financial program than Quicken?
For some, Quicken will be the best, and that’s why we’ve included it on this list of the best personal finance software. While we can give an opinion as to what is the best software overall, it really is a matter of personal preference. You need to choose the software that will work best for you, based on your own financial needs and future goals.
Our Bottom Line
If you’ve been struggling to get control over your 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.