Every consumer knows that building and adhering to a budget, paying down debt, and avoiding overspending are crucial components to saving towards future financial goals. But managing finances on paper can be time-consuming at best and an impossible endeavor at worst.
Luckily, advances in mobile phone capabilities and laptop CPUs have made personal accounting easier and more convenient than ever before. Whether you’re ready to finally pay off credit card debt that’s been hanging around, or you’re looking to make sure your spending habits are sustainable, check out our guide to the best personal finance software programs and applications currently available.
Quick Look: The Best Personal Finance Software of This Year
- Best Overall: Quicken
- Best for Mac Users: Banktivity
- Best for Budgeting: You Need A Budget
- Best for People Interested in Investing in Portfolios: Q.ai
- Best for High-Value Investors: Personal Capital
- Best for Mobile: Mint
- Best for Taxes: TurboTax
- Best for Couples: Honeydue
- Best for Earning Cash Back on Purchases: Upside
Why You Should be Using Personal Finance Software
Personal finance software helps you analyze spending
Off the top of your head, do you know how much money you spent on takeout last month? How much is your morning coffee habit really costing you a year? Most consumers have multiple credit card accounts, savings accounts, and debit cards that they use to make purchases. This makes it nearly impossible to determine where exactly your money is going when you analyze your spending by-hand.
Money management software programs aggregate all of your savings, debts, and credit accounts in one, convenient place. You can finally tell exactly how much you’re spending, and where, without sorting through seven different bank statements every month.
Personal finance software helps alert you when bills are due
If you have multiple credit cards open, the chances are you’ve forgotten when a bill is due in the past. Missing a minimum payment doesn’t just hurt your credit score, it can also cause your account to accumulate interest. This forces you to pay back more later down the line. Personal finance software can help you avoid interest or dings to your credit score by alerting you via email or SMS when you have a minimum payment coming up.
Some software programs even offer bill pay capabilities; these allow you to schedule automatic payments for all of your accounts through your financial management software.
Personal finance software makes tax season easier
If you are an independent contractor, or you own a small business, you probably already know that keeping your receipts and expenses in order can save hours of time and a boatload of stress when filing your taxes. However, even if you are a part-time or salaried employee, you can still enjoy a less painful tax season by using a personal accounting software program to categorize your expenses.
This makes deductions and credits easier to locate. For example, your personal finance software may be able to aggregate your monthly expenses related to childcare or education — both of which may qualify you for a bonus deduction when filing.
What to Look for in Personal Finance Software
Compatibility with your platform of choice
If you use a PC, you’ll have your choice from a range of personal finance options. Unfortunately, Mac users and consumers who only use a mobile phone or tablet will have their personal finance software options limited. Before you commit to a program, check and make sure that it’s compatible with your software of choice.
An interface that matches your level of technical skill
If you’re a spreadsheet nerd, you’ll probably be looking for a personal finance software program that offers a massive range of customization options and functions. If your technical skill doesn’t extend beyond email and social media, you’ll want to look for a program that makes minor functionality cuts in favor of a simplified platform.
The best personal finance software programs focus on keeping you on-track towards your budgeting and saving goals. Look for programs that offer comprehensive alert features; they can tell you when bills are due, you’re overspending in a certain category, or you’re approaching the deadline to make a contribution to your retirement account for the year.
The Best Personal Finance Software Programs of This Year
Best Overall: Quicken
As one of the oldest and most established personal finance software programs, Quicken is a comprehensive and powerful personal finance suite for PC users. Quicken allows users to import spending data from over 11,000 banks and creditors, analyze their spending, track when bills are due, set alerts for payment and investment due dates, and save and store receipts for tax season.
The software program also includes a suite of budgeting tools that help you create (and stick to) a household budget. Quicken even allows you to import bill data and pay through the software with just a few clicks. Though the program may intimidate users who are looking for their first personal finance software, Quicken’s suite can be an invaluable resource for business owners, those who need to keep track of investments across a range of sources, and those with complicated finances needing effective management.
Longtime Quicken users know the software is not without flaw; some users have complained about synchronization issues and a consistent lack of new features. However, it’s impossible to deny that, even with these issues, Quicken offers users one of the widest range of tools available outside of a professional accounting office.
Best for Mac Users: Banktivity
For years, Apple enthusiasts hoped they would receive a personal software update compatible with their system after a PC releases continuously tried to use unreliable patched software to force compatibility. Banktivity is a personal finance software option that’s native to the Mac OS. As long as you have the latest operating system from Apple, you can run Banktivity without dealing with compatibility errors or outdated patches. Banktivity’s feature list is the closest native Mac alternative to Quicken, with a customizable bill calendar, synchronization over a range of creditors and bank accounts, budgeting planning tools, and investment monitoring and tracking.
If you have a range of Apple devices, you’ll love Banktivity’s easy mobile, tablet, and Apple Watch synchronization. One feature that makes Banktivity a unique platform beyond its Mac-centric focus is consideration of a diverse user base. Unlike many personal finance software, Banktivity supports accounts in currencies beyond the USD. Plus, Banktivity’s Mojave Dark Mode makes for an easier experience for users with sensitive eyes.
Best for Making a Budget: You Need A Budget
You Need a Budget is a personal financial management app with a simple strategy: assign every dollar in your monthly paycheck a “job” to do, help you locate areas that you can cut back spending, and assist in re-adjusting your budget if you find yourself consistently overspending.
YNAB allows you to link your bank and credit accounts securely through the app with the software’s “import” feature; no more worrying about manually entering your transactions and risking miscategorization. One unique feature offered by YNAB is the app’s “Inspector” tool, which takes a look at upcoming expenses, analyzes your account, and determines whether or not you have budgeted enough in advance.
Unlike other budgeting apps, You Need A Budget forgoes investing options and focuses the entirety of its power on budgeting. For users looking for a simple yet comprehensive option for monitoring spending, YNAB is a powerful and appealing option. You Need a Budget costs about $7 per month, but the app does not sell your data to cover the costs of operation, which can make it worth the extra cost for some consumers. You can also enjoy a free year of YNAB with a valid student email address.
Best for People Interested in Investing in Portfolios: Q.ai
Q.ai bills itself as a way to hack Wall Street, making it possible for you to strategize improved investment plans while utilizing AI technology. The company is backed by Forbes and hosts an AI investing app that makes it easier for you to seek out financial freedom, use AI to make better decisions and even speak to a human advisor who can give you greater insight into your needs. There are also personalized investing kits that help you build a better portfolio.
Q.ai offers broad-based services that will:
- Serve investors of all skill levels
- Those who wish to invest in portfolios
- Those who would like to access hedge fund tools
- Handle portfolio monitoring and management
- Provide low pricing for all users
- Charge no investment fees
Best for High-Value Investors: Personal Capital
Personal Capital is a robo-advisor and financial advisor hybrid, offering investing advice and management, planning and budgeting tools, and automated investing options. Many users rank Personal Capital above other robo-advising services because the software uses a holistic picture of your finances to assess risk, instead of just your assets currently under management.
Personal Capital peppers its robo-advising services with access to human financial advisors as well. Users with less than $200,000 worth of assets under management have access to a team of financial advisors, while users with a balance of over $200,000 are assigned two dedicated personal advising professionals. These personal finance professionals can answer questions related to retirement planning, taxes, estate planning, and more.
Personal Capital also offers an impressive suite of tools (like their 401(k) and budgeting analyzers), and many of these are available to use for free even if you don’t have an account. — You will need to create a free, no-deposit-required login through Personal Capital’s site first.
Personal Capital was designed with the high-profile user in mind. You’ll need an initial deposit of at least $100,000 worth of assets to open an account. If you’re interested in getting access to your own personal financial advisors, you’ll need an account valued at over $200,000. While these high minimums mean that Personal Capital might be out of the running for most everyday consumers, investors with large balance accounts will enjoy the service’s lack of account fees and focus on personalized attention and service.
Best for Mobile-Only Users: Mint
Few mobile budgeting apps ever reach the ubiquity of Mint. Mint is a desktop and mobile software application that allows users to track bills, analyze their spending, and create a budget with one easy suite of tools. Mint’s mobile app is straightforward and intuitive, offering a useful and aesthetically pleasing package for both iOS and Android devices. Mint’s offerings are impressive: you can monitor your credit score, set up alerts for upcoming bills, and monitor your investments.
Mint even offers compatibility with Zillow, allowing you to track your real estate investments alongside your retirement account or taxable stock portfolio. With superior iOS and Android compatibility, and a high-functioning app, Mint is also a top choice for mobile-only users looking for personal finance software that doesn’t chop down their desktop version for mobile.
Mint is free to use but you should know that the company does sell aggregate anonymous financial data (not your individual data) clumped together with other users.
Mint may also occasionally serve you advertisements. However, users who need a low-cost budgeting solution may find that these downsides are worth the cost of not having to pay a monthly or annual fee.
Best for Taxes: TurboTax
If you’re already dreading tax season, an investment in TurboTax software can help ease some of your IRS woes. Largely considered to be the gold standard of tax filing software, TurboTax was created with the absolute novice in mind — both when it comes to taxes and technical skill. When you begin your taxes with TurboTax, you’ll be guided through a simple questionnaire that asks you questions about how your life has changed since you filed last year. You’ll be asked questions like “did you get married last year?” and “did you own a home last year?” that leave very little room for confusion or error.
TurboTax is a great software choice for men and women who don’t understand the tax code, its many credits and deductions, and who want to get their return filed as fast as possible. After a quick interview, TurboTax will let you know which credits you are eligible for and applies them to your return, ensuring you get as much money back as possible. TurboTax even offers live, on-screen, human assistance with its higher paid packages.
TurboTax has a free version that offers limited support for filing federal taxes, alongside a range of packages offering more in-depth tax filing services and state tax functionality. Perfect for consumers with simple taxes and freelancers and business owners who require more services and review, TurboTax has remained one of America’s favorite financial software options for a reason.
Best for Couples: Honeydue
Honeydue is a unique, free app that’s focused around couples budgeting. While using Honeydue, you can sync your account with your partner, allowing both of you to see all of your bank and credit card account activity in a singular place. The app allows you to control how much of your personal financial data that your partner can see, so it’s not just recommended for married couples with ten years under their belt.
Honeydue automatically categorizes expenses, and users can even take advantage of an emoji system to comment on their partner’s spending habits to encourage or discourage certain behavior. With household alerts, easy division of bills and expenses, and safe two-factor authentication, Honeydue is a great free choice for users who want an simple solution to holistic household financial planning.
Best for Earning Cash Back on Purchases: Upside
Upside is a simple and free app that allows you to earn cash back on many of the things you already do. Basically, when you use the app, you can see returns from activities like:
- Dining and more
When you earn these rewards, you can cash out with a:
- Direct deposit
- PayPal deposit
- Gift cards from Amazon, Target, Starbucks and more
You can download the app to your Apple or Android device, claim offers that appeal to you and wait for the reward to appear in your account—it usually takes 2 to 4 days. Plus, you can earn up to 3x the cash back you would normally get on particular programs, spanning more than 50,000 businesses.
Even if you aren’t falling behind on your bills or living paycheck-to-paycheck, you should still take time to organize your expenses with a budgeting app or personal financial management software program. Budgeting can help you work towards your next big financial goal without feeling like you’re constantly depriving yourself or dipping into forbidden savings accounts. To learn more about the importance of budgeting, check out our crash-course in spending plan and budgets here to get started.
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