The best personal finance software can help you get your financial life in order. Since around 80% of us are in debt, most of us don't know our worth, and many have trouble controlling spending, we need all the help we can get when it comes to controlling our finances.
Ease of use is one feature I looked at when researching the best budgeting software out there. I also looked at the overall cost of the product, how secure it was and if customer support was available. My top personal finance software picks include Personal Capital, Mint, and You Need a Budget.
In This Guide
The Best Personal Finance Software: Our Top Picks
Personal Capital Review
- Looks at the big picture
- Focus is on your net worth and investments
- Free to use
- Military-grade, bank level encryption to keep your information secure
- Registered Investment Adviser with the SEC
- Focus is less on budgeting than on overall financial status
One of the most comprehensive personal finance software programs out there, Personal Capital really focuses on the big picture when it comes to your finances. In addition to allowing you to link your bank and other financial accounts and tracking your spending, the program allows you to track your investments and your net worth.
In fact, Personal Capital's focus on overall net worth is what sets it apart from the other top budgeting software programs. You won't get a lecture, warning or a bright red number to reprimand you if you overspend in any categories during the month.
Since the program looks at the big picture, it is more concerned about whether your net worth is going up over time, rather than whether you're committing to spending below a certain amount in some categories.
Of course, if you really need a budgeting program to get your finances into gear and to stop spending too much, Personal Capital might not be the best option for you. But for more advanced users who are looking for a software program to oversee all of their financial decisions, I find Personal Capital to be among the most useful programs out there.
- User-friendly, easy to navigate
- Creates a multitude of reports, in various formats
- Fast and secure signup
- You see all your accounts in one place
- Helpful graphs to analyze your information
- Ad supported
Mint.com has a fantastic design, is user-friendly, and gives you the tools to figure out what's going on with your cash, not only online but also via mobile devices operating on Google's Android or Apple's iOS. It also works on Apple Watch, putting your financial details literally right at your fingertips.
Signing up for Mint is free, but you do have to look at ads or get recommendations for credit cards or bank accounts to make up for the free price.
Adding an account is simple and easy with Mint and there are helpful graphs and reports that help you manage them. You don't have to look around or search to find what you need. Everything is right at your fingertips, on the program's dashboard.
I've always found Mint.com to be one of the top budgeting software programs out there. As it continues to add features and to make itself even more user-friendly, it continues to be one of the best budgeting programs out there.
- Reliable software with practical and valuable budgeting features
- Excellent reporting tools to help with budgeting
- High level of customer service
- Appealing graphs and charts
- Range of applications
- No specific features relating to taxes or personal investing
- Cost is quite high compared to many competitors
- No BBB accreditation
YNAB (You Need a Budget) takes a different approach to budgeting and money management. The software focuses on giving every single dollar you earn a "job." You aren't left with leftover money at the end of the month and you can't go over budget. If you're over or under in some categories,you have to adjust the budgeted amounts in those categories to make up the difference.
YNAB uses zero based budgeting, which is one of the ways it sets itself apart from its competitors. You can't live paycheck to paycheck with YNAB. Instead, you start with a set amount of money that you actually have on hand for the month, then allocate it out to your various expenses, debts and savings accounts. You're not able to budget for money that's not in your account yet.
The program focuses strictly on your budget. It doesn't let you track your net worth or follow your investments. It's probably most useful for people who need a real kick in the pants when it comes to budgeting, although it can be difficult to make the switch from a traditional budget method to a zero based budget, at least initially.
Another feature that sets YNAB apart from the rest is its price. It does offer a limited time free trial. After that, you need to pay an annual fee to continue to use the program.
While the price of this software is considerably higher than many of its competitors, it is reliable, educational and packed with features. You can enjoy everything from online tutorials and free classes through to money saving solutions, colorful graphs and charges, and organizational tools. There is even a feature that enables you to attach virtual sticky notes to give yourself reminders.
While there is no feature dedicated to taxes or personal investing, the software does offer excellent customer service and reporting tools, which makes it a great choice for those who want to more efficiently manage their budgets.
Despite the lack of personal investing and tax features, the YNAB software is a good choice, particularly if you want to benefit from the wide range of educational features that it offers or if you need help actually sticking to a monthly budget.
Key Considerations of Personal Finance Software
Choosing the best personal finance software is an important part of gaining greater control over your money situation. It's important to look at what each software program offers, so that you have a sense of how you'll use it (and if you use it). A few features to pay attention to include:
1. How Easy the Software is to Install and Use
Some personal finance programs have both a web version and a downloadable version. Essentially, the easier it is for you to get to the program, the more likely you are to actually use it to create a budget and track your finances. Some programs also offer a mobile app, which is particularly helpful for tracking your spending on the go.
2. The Features and Capabilities of the Software
Although letting you create and track your budget is great, that shouldn't be the only thing the best personal finance software programs do. A few useful features include tracking your savings and investment accounts, monitoring your net worth and tracking your credit.
3. The Cost of the Product
Some of my best personal finance software picks are completely free. Others do charge a yearly, monthly or one-time fee. How much you end up spending on your home budget software is really up to you. You might not think that one product is worth the cost and might decide to stick with free personal finance software programs instead.
4. The Security of the Software
Usually, you need to connect best personal budget software to your various banking, credit and investment accounts for the program to work. Connecting your accounts to the software allows it to automatically pull your transactions and track your income, savings and spending.
But that does raise the issue of security for many people. You might not be comfortable giving out your personal account information and passwords. The best personal finance software programs have encryption and security features that keep your personal data under lock and key.
5. The Level of Customer Service and Support Available
What if you lock yourself out of your account or need help figuring out how a particular component of the software works? The best budgeting software programs have some level of customer service and support available when you need it.
Budgeting Software Helps You Track Your Spending
If you've ever gotten to the end of the month, looked at the very low balance in your checking account or the very high balance on your credit card statement and wondered where your money went, a budgeting software program can help you find out.
Since the best budgeting software programs track and categorize every purchase you make (using a debit or credit card at least), it's easy to see where you're spending and where you could cut back to reach your goals.
For example, you might be dropping $100 on coffee from a cafe every month and not even realize you're spending that much until the software uncovers this. Once you see what you're actually spending, you can adjust your budget so that it actually lines up with how you spend your money. You can also decide to cut back on certain purchases once you realize just how much of your cash is actually going towards them.
The best budget software is going to give you the truth about your overspending, in plain black and red. It will show you where you are blowing your budget each month and encourage you to get on track. Some programs don't allow overages. That means if you budgeted $50 in one category, but end up spending $100, you'll have to take that extra $50 out of another category to make up the difference.
Having a software program scold you with red text and the warning that you've gone over budget isn't the most fun thing in the world. It can be enough to get you to pay closer attention to where you're overspending and to rein in your spending each month.
Personal Finance Software Tells You When Payments Are Due
If you regularly forget to pay bills on time or find yourself scrambling to make timely payments, the bill reminder feature offered by some of the best personal finance software programs can be particularly helpful. You can set the alerts or reminders to email you a certain number of days before the due date, so you never miss a payment again.
Personal Budget Software Lets You Set and Track Goals
Tracking your expenses and knowing your income are two important parts of getting your budget and your financial life in order. But they aren't the only things you should be doing. The best personal budget software will also allow you to set goals and to keep track of your goal progress.
For example, you want to save $1,000 over the next six months. The top budget software will let you set that as a goal and will then let you know how much you need to set aside each month to reach the goal. When you log into the software program, it will give you an idea of whether you're on track or not.
You can also set goals for paying off debt with some of the best personal finance software programs. Tell the program how much debt you have and when you want to pay it off and it will tell you what you need to pay each month to reach that goal.
Determine Your Net Worth
Do you know how much you're really worth? If you're like 95% of people, the answer is probably no. According to the National Longitudinal Study, 70% of people thought their net worth was less than it really was, while 25% of people thought they were worth more than they really were.
For some reason, the average person believes that he or she has 62 cents for every dollar he or she really has, according to Forbes. Figuring out your net worth isn't too difficult. It involves subtracting your debt from your assets. Using personal finance software makes it even easier to figure out your net worth, since it will automatically subtract your debts from your assets and give you an up-to-date figure.
The average net worth varies based on age. For example, according to statistics from the US Census Bureau, the average net worth for people under age 35 was around $6,632. The average net worth for people between the ages of 35 and 44 was considerably higher, around $35,000. Knowing your net worth lets you see if you're on track to reach goals, such as paying off debts and saving for retirement.
Safety & Security
It seems like there is news of a new data breach pretty much every day. That's pretty much the case. Between 2005 and October of 2016, there were nearly 7,000 reported data breaches, according to the identity theft research center.
Obviously, you don't want to put your personal information or financial details at risk when you're trying to get your financial life in order. The best personal finance software programs have a number of features in place, from encryption to password protection, to keep your data secure. There are also things you can do to further protect your details.
1. Use Caution When Using Apps
The beauty of some of the best budget software programs is that you can use them on the go. But be extra cautious when logging into the app version of your program. Only do it on a secure WiFi connection or using data. Try to avoid using it in a public place, where someone can look over your shoulder and get your information.
Password protect your phone so that thieves can't easily get to you all your bank or other person finance details if they steal your phone.
2. Pay Attention When Using the Web Version of the Software
How do you know the website of your personal finance software is secure? It should have a closed padlock on the toolbar of the browser, next to the web address. That padlock image means the site is encrypted.
Read over the site's terms and conditions before you create an account with the software program. The terms and conditions will detail what your rights and responsibilities are if there is a data breach and what you can do to protect yourself.
Never log onto the personal finance program's website when you're on an unsecured WiFi connection. You don't know who else is on the connection or if they are tracking your actions. It's also best not to click any links from emails, as they might be phishing attempts to steal your information.
3. Think Twice About Installing Software
Although some of the best personal finance software programs offer actual software that you can download onto your computer, ask yourself if installing that software is really necessary. You lose a lot of the encryption and protection that comes with using a web-version of the software only once you install on your computer.
If someone steals your laptop or gets access to your desktop, he or she can easily open the program and get all the juicy details about your finances.
Since so many things are cloud-based these days, it just makes more sense and is much more secure to keep your personal finance software in the cloud.
From juggling a budget to keeping track of retirement accounts, savings and debt repayment, managing personal finances can be a challenge for the best of us these days. Luckily, the best personal finance software is designed to streamline our finances, making it easier than ever to reach your goals or keep track of your financial health.
Putting together a budget and getting on top of your finances is an essential part of getting out of debt and getting your financial house in order. But those aren't the only things you need to do if you've struggled with or are currently struggling with debt. I encourage you to check our reviews of the best credit counseling services if you need help finding a way out of debt. Our review of the best debt consolidation services is also a must-read if you are struggling to make payments on your debts each month and need some help.
Once you're able to manage your budget and finances more efficiently, you can enjoy greater peace of mind and financial stability. The best personal finance software will help you conquer your money fears once and for all and will put you on the path towards financial success.