Money. The best way to hold on to as much of it as possible is through smart budgeting. However, managing your personal finances isn’t always simple to do all by yourself. That’s where personal budgeting software can come in handy.
Finding the right budgeting tools can be a time-consuming endeavor. There are plenty of options to choose from as some programs offer more functionality than others with respect to certain useful features. All of them provide useful methods for tracking how much money you currently have in your accounts compared to how much money you owe for bills. They even analyze your spending and saving habits to help you build and adhere to sound strategies for getting out of debt.
The purpose of budgeting software is to offer a platform in which everything you need to know and understand about your money is easily viewed and accessible in one place. The way a software program presents all of that information can be the key difference between using something that will actually prove beneficial and a tool that doesn’t offer all of the necessary components that you need. These include features such as the ability to categorize expenditures and transactions, importing account data, and most important, complete compatibility with all of your accounts.
Since we’re dealing with your finances, security is a paramount concern. That means any good budgeting software should come with password protection and socket layer encryption capabilities. All of these factors combined are designed to securely provide you with the most up to date and thorough accounting of your financial situation by allowing you to track the status of your accounts along one easy to navigate interface.
Connective compatibility with your accounts should be convenient in the way your banking and credit card accounts are integrated into the service itself. This means immediate syncing availability with your bank and spreadsheet programs like Excel so you can easily track your transactions in spreadsheet form offline. Software tools and online services should also offer an app so that you can work with your budgeting program on your Android or iOS powered mobile device.
Mobility is important for active lifestyles and it seems there is a mobile app available for just about everything these days. Your financial management apparatus should be no different. Having the ability to view, track, and enter information in real time is a definite plus that all of the best budgeting software programs offer to consumers.
Finally, some consumers want a software program that can handle more than just checking and savings accounts. For these folks, the ability to include retirement and investment accounts is just as important for actively tracking the performance of your investment portfolio. Budgeting software with these capabilities usually includes tools for setting investment goals, up to the minute stock information, and analysis of your assets to determine whether you’ve allocated your financial resources for the maximum benefits of return.
However, if you’re just looking for a standard budget building solution, you can also find options that don’t just let you sync your checking and savings accounts but also credit card accounts. This integration will allow you to obtain the most in-depth and comprehensive monitoring of your financial situation.
Some budgeting software programs bring a range of additional features that aren’t limited to just financial information. These options can also allow you to make payments directly from the software itself, collect electronic statements and bills from any type of vendor or provider and schedule automatic payments whenever you need items paid, be it monthly or weekly. The software can then store all of your payment transactions in a digital filing cabinet of sorts.
Only you know what you really need to manage and track your budget. Our list of the ten best personal budgeting tools incorporates the simplest of software options to the more complex and feature-rich services available. Assess your situation, decide on what tools you really need for monitoring and tracking your income and expenditures, and then compare that against which financial management choices we like the best.
1. Mint.com by Intuit
You may recognize the name Intuit if you use QuickBooks or TurboTax financial tools. Both are innovative, convenient and industry-leading software solutions that are used by millions of consumers. It’s no surprise that their Mint.com personal finance management system makes the list of best budgeting tools.
Mint is one of the most complete software options for budgeting your finances because it does virtually everything you could ask in a single service paired with an incredibly user-friendly interface. With Mint, you can track every financial transaction you make along all of your accounts so you can get a complete picture of your economic situation.
This budgeting software not only tracks your spending habits but also gives you the most accurate, up to date analysis of your routines from the minute you join up with the service. It does this by looking over the financial history of your accounts once you input each of them into the software.
Instead of picking up from the date you start working with their tools, the Mint.com service goes back a few months for every bank and credit card account you input into the system to provide you with a picture of your spending routines almost immediately. Mint.com uses that data to give you a full calculation of your net worth by comprising all of your financial accounts and it can even track your credit score. It will even update you on alternative options to some of your current accounts where better interest rates are available.
Signing up is free as Mint.com is ad-supported and setup is a total cinch.
Check out their website: https://www.mint.com/
LearnVest is another great online budgeting and financial assessment tool that tracks your spending routines, assists you with reaching your monetary goals, and even helps to educate users on fiscal responsibility and management. It’s also free to use; there’s no fee for joining.
This service is very similar to Mint.com in that it can analyze all of the banking and credit card accounts you enter into the system for an immediate calculation of your net worth along with ongoing, up to the minute assessment of your spending trends. Budgeting and tracking tools let you see your account balances, what you owe and what you have coming in, and all of it can be allocated over as many categories as you wish to set up in your LearnVest account.
These tools provide you with the option to split up your expenditures over multiple categories when you make a large purchase at a grocery store, for example. Dividing the bill is easy to do when you’ve bought items from multiple categories in one shopping trip. Creating a budget is easy through a user interface that is just about as simple to navigate as the menus you’ll find at Mint.com.
The big difference between the two is the educational aspect that LearnVest offers. The site started out as an educational resource for women who wanted to learn more about personal finance but has since evolved into a true competitor to Mint.com.
There’s also one other feature that LearnVest offers that Mint.com does not: you can hire a financial planning service directly through the platform at a cost of $299 to start and a $19 monthly fee. These fees get you a financial planner who will help you strategize the most effective way for saving your money to reach your personal financial goals. LearnVest planners do not manage your assets, offer any specific investment advice or execute trades on your behalf. The service is merely meant to perform in an advisory capacity to help you grow your money.
Check out their website: https://www.learnvest.com/
The folks at Moneydance have packed their software with a myriad of useful budgeting tools for syncing up your banking and credit cards as well as any loan accounts you may have, including peer to peer sources. The service can assist you in creating thorough budgets with easy to manage categories and you can choose to include categories that have previous balances or open entirely new ones at your discretion.
Tracking your spending is visually engaging through color-coding that allows you to see how close you are to meeting or exceeding your budget in any category by using green, yellow, and red shading. Green means you’re well under budget, yellow alerts you that you’re nearing or about to reach your budget limits, and red will tell you when you’ve exceeded your limit. Individual edits and adjustments can be made in every category even if you’re budgeting in accounts that aren’t synced up with your Moneydance account.
The service can also build budget, cash flow data, income, and expense reports. You can save these reports and print a hard copy or store them digitally if you prefer. Moneydance also offers mobile app compatibility so you can check your accounts and reports on the move. If you’re an investor with an active portfolio, you can use the service to track your investment performance and sync the software up with your brokerage account to monitor trades, stock prices, and your current balance.
Check out their website: http://moneydance.com/
Doxo works as an organizational tool for all of your digital documents including invoices, account statements, medical records, and other electronic paperwork. It also offers useful household budget and management features that let you track your spending and categorize all of your monthly utility bills.
Feel free to create folders for all of those important documents so they’re easy to access with just a simple search. Don’t worry, the designers at Doxo made sure that the program was properly secured behind a password protected protocol that utilizes a username, password, and security question and image to protect your sensitive financial information.
This measure of protection is important not only for safeguarding your critical documents, but also because Doxo gives you the ability to use the software to pay your bills. Although this feature is convenient and easy to use, setting it up takes a little longer than you might expect. It requires connecting with the recipient of these online payments to confirm compatibility with Doxo’s network. If they’re in network, you’ll need a verification confirmation from the recipient entity which could take up to 48 hours. However, once the initial steps are complete, paying bills directly is much easier to accomplish and managing all of those bills each month is a cinch.
Check out their website: https://www.doxo.com/
Buxfer is a budgeting software solution that lets you connect any and all of your accounts including your bank, credit cards, loans, and investments and they are automatically categorized for immediate, easy reference. If you don’t like the way Buxfer delineates your accounts, you can edit them as you see fit.
Once you set up all of your accounts, you can track your incoming and outgoing financial activity and set a budget for any or all of them. The software will alert you if you are nearing your assigned budget limits with color-coded green, orange, and red shading of every account for a quick overview in each category. You can generate easy to read reports for income, expenditures, and net worth using pie and graph charts.
However, you can’t set any future savings goals with Buxfer. It lacks the capability for long-term planning and tracking your future financial outlook. The user interface couldn’t be simpler to operate, however, making every function easy to understand and clearly marked in each menu.
Though you are able to sync up all of your accounts including your investment portfolio, the software doesn’t provide much more functionality beyond your portfolio balance, income, transfers and other basic information. There is no interactive feature that allows you to connect to any services for stock prices nor any real time research tools. You can, however, add your latest portfolio transactions manually.
Check out their website: https://www.buxfer.com/
Your credit score is a critical component of good budgeting. Most of us damage our scores because we don’t budget our money very well and end up overspending. This poor planning then results in being unable to pay bills and other debts by the time they are due. Missing payment due dates just one of the many ways your credit score can get drop.
WalletHub is one of the best ways to monitor that credit score to make sure it doesn’t dip below a level that will prove extremely tough to come back from. In fact, this app’s best and more prominent feature is the credit monitoring function which takes data from two reporting agencies, TransUnion and VantageScore, to provide your updated score.
This functionality is similar to other budgeting software tools on our list, including Mint. However, while that service shows you your score update every quarter, WalletHub updates your score every day. That daily accuracy is a far better choice for those of us trying to stay on top of our finances and are actively working to improve our credit scores.
Best of all, perhaps, is that the software is entirely free to sign up and, yes, you can access your credit score and information anytime.
Check out their website: https://wallethub.com/
Not to be confused with Moneydance is MoneyLine, a software app that can sync up with all of your accounts and provide you with intuitive and easy to use navigation to create budgets with ease. Unlike many of the software options on our list, you will need to pay to use this one at a price of $49.99.
However, much like the other choices we’ve identified here, it offers some of the simplest to use yet fully comprehensive budgeting tools you’re likely to find on any personal finance software app. You can establish categories for all of your accounts, including bank accounts, investment accounts, credit card and even credit union accounts, and set budgeting limits for each one. You can also elect to get alerts when you’re spending trends begin to approach and even surpass those limits.
MoneyLine also offers reminder alerts for upcoming payments that are due. If you would like to create expense, income, or net worth reports those are all available as well.
There is one major drawback here though. Unfortunately, MoneyLine doesn’t have any mobile app capability. You can only use it on a laptop or desktop computer and it’s not accessible on the go.
Check out their website: http://www.nchsoftware.com/personalfinance/index.html?ref=cj
8. You Need a Budget (YNAB)
This software app will keep track of your spending routines, your account balances, and assist you with financial planning. It provides all of the similar budgeting tools as many of our other software choices using your account information from your bank, credit cards, and investment accounts to give you updated and accurate analysis of your overall net worth.
With respect to budgeting capabilities, the YNAB app keeps things simple and basic with a straightforward user interface that doesn’t require a lot of complex navigation over endless menus. Categorizing is easy and the app can perform auto-save functions for moving the same budget from month to month. Manual entry of transactions is also easy to accomplish.
What it offers in convenience for budgeting and account compatibility it lacks in reporting tools and investment tracking capacity. This option is slightly less comprehensive than some brands on the list so if you need more complexity in your personal finance budgeting tools you may want to consider another option.
Check out their website: https://www.youneedabudget.com/
Mvelopes offers a free, basic version but the subscription version offers a few extra additional features that many users will find desirable. The name sounds like the word “envelopes” which is entirely intentional as it incorporates the idea of allocating money into envelopes in order to properly budget for certain items.
This is the digital version of that concept as you set up virtual envelopes (up to 25 of them) over four possible bank accounts. If you upgrade, you get a wider range of functions and compatibility. You have two options there. The first is Premium which drops those limits on accounts and envelopes and even offers some educational tools for better financial management. Alternatively, you can select the Money4Life option which is the bigger, better, and fully loaded version of the app.
The Premium account will cost you $95 a year but the Money4Life version does not have an easily discernible price tag. For some reason the company refuses to be up front about what that version of the software will cost – that lack of transparency is troubling.
Check out their website: https://www.mvelopes.com/
AceMoney is another option that provides solid, dependable budgeting and financial management tools but does it with a more basic approach than some of the other choices on our list. This option doesn’t offer any mobile app capability so you can’t access it on your smartphone or tablet. Rather, you can only use it on your laptop or desktop computer.
As far as functionality goes, AceMoney lets you sync up your banking institution and brokerage accounts and provides simple budgeting functions. These tools are good but overshadowed by the greater depth of tracking and reporting of transactions and expenditures.
Organization is the app’s best strength, providing you with the tools to manage all of your balances effectively and easily. AceMoney also comes with excellent security measures that most banks rely on when it comes to transferring documents from your bank to the app.
Check out their website: http://purchmarketplace.com/
Our Final Thoughts
Choosing the right personal budgeting tools for your finances can be a necessary burden. There are plenty of free apps out there, some with advertisements, some without, and there are alternatives that require subscription fees to provide you with additional levels of service. Do your diligence wisely with respect to budgeting and reporting and mobility and then decide what services you really need and which ones are superfluous.
We all can use some budgeting when it comes to our money, and these software apps are a great way to get started.