Managing your money is a complex skill, especially now that you no longer have to leave the house or even pull out your wallet in order to spend money. That’s why it is more important than ever for you to track spending and stick to a budget.
But the old-school methods of budgeting can be far too onerous for the new Millennium. Hardly anyone wants to be carrying an old-fashioned ledger book around with them to record financial transactions. Creating your own Excel spreadsheets sounds like the world’s worst homework assignment for some.
Personal finance budget software can help both beginning and veteran budgeters get a solid handle on their finances. There are many different budgeting and tracking programs available to use.
$8.25/mo paid annually
$2.39/mo paid annually
Read our comprehensive list below to learn which program will work best for your financial situation.
All-In-One Budget Software
1. Empower (Personal Capital)
One way to describe Empower’s budgeting software is an “account aggregator.” This program allows you to track and understand every single penny in all of your financial accounts.
Once you link up all of your various accounts, including your bank accounts, investments, mortgage, credit cards, and any other accounts, Empower summarizes your finances and offers you basic investment guidance. More info…show
- Pros: The most comprehensive aggregate of financial information, making this ideal for those with complex finances. Basic investment guidance is a major plus.
- Cons: The program is not as customizable as some others–neither asset allocations nor spending categories are customizable.
- Cost: Free
- See our review of Empower.
2. Marcus Insights
Marcus Insights launched in January 2017, and was acquired by Goldman-Sachs in the spring of 2018. Though it’s still a relative newcomer to this field, it has been quite the mover and shaker.
The company’s mission is to offer a service that will both watch your back when it comes to your money choices, and help you take control of your financial life. The founders of the app believe that consumers deserve nothing less than transparency and advocacy in their financial choices. They designed Marcus Insights to provide exactly that. More info…show
- Pros: Marcus Insights takes care of everything within the app, which makes it easy to act on their recommendations. The app offers a fairly global look at your money, helping you cancel unnecessary recurring expenses, save more money, and understand your money habits better.
- Cons: The automatic categorization of your purchases does not allow for split categorizations.
- Fees: None. Marcus Insights makes its money through the sponsored products and services suggested to users. You do not have to use any of the suggestions made to you.
- Best For: Newbie budgeters or anyone who wants their money management to be easy and all in one place.
Mint is the OG free web-based personal finance tracker launched all the way back in 2006 and has been a staple of modern money management ever since.
When you sign up with Mint, you provide the program with all of your financial accounts, including bank accounts, investments, retirement funds, credit cards, 529 accounts, and even real estate purchases. Mint allows you to see all of your financial information in a single dashboard, which also calculates your net worth. More info…show
- Pros: Mint is completely free, very user-friendly, and offers balance and spending alerts to keep your money on your mind.
- Cons: You have to manually track cash spending, some automatic expense categories are not useful/incorrect and need to be changed by the user.
- Cost: Free
- Check out our full review of Mint.
To learn more and get started with Mint, visit mint.com
Quicken is the great-granddaddy of personal finance software–it was first introduced back in 1983. Though Quicken was owned by Intuit until a few years ago, the current version, Quicken 2019, has all the familiar tools and offerings that anyone who cut their teeth on the Intuit versions are used to. More info…show
- Pros: Quicken is the most comprehensive personal finance software available. Security-conscious users can rest assured that their information is completely safe.
- Cons: The sunset provision can be extremely frustrating.
- Cost: Between $40 and $55, depending upon which specific software package you purchase. The price jumps to $105 for the disc or $60 for the download if you get the “home and business” version.
Pocketsmith is a calendar-based financial planner that allows you to look at your upcoming spending, set goals, track your expenses, and pull reports that show you exactly where you stand financially. It will help you maintain a focus on cash flow forecasts while setting goals that help you reach your savings and debt reduction goals. You can add actual spending data from your bank account to help shine a light into areas you may be over-spending or under-budgeting.
- Budget Calendar
- Expense Tracking
- Live Bank Feeds
- Budgeting and Planning
- Reports, including trends, net worth, income & expenses, and financial digest
Using the Pocketsmith app makes budgeting-on-the-go a breeze, and you can even import data from other saving/budgeting apps you may be using.
- Pros: The focus is more on future goals rather than past mistakes. There is a free plan that will suit most basic budgeting needs, and if you feel you need more simply upgrade. There are demos and modules that make this software so simple to use.
- Cons: With the basic (free) plan, you will need to input data manually, there is no bill pay capability or investment monitoring features as there are with other options.
Basic (Free): This plan allows manual importing only. You have access to 12 budgets total and a range of six months’ projection. Allows 2 accounts.
Premium ($9.95/month or $90 annually): The mid-range plan includes automatic bank feeds, auto and manual transaction imports, unlimited budgets, auto-categorization, 10 accounts and 10 years’ projection.
Super ($19.95/month or $169.92 annually): Includes all of the features in the Premium plan, but allows unlimited accounts and 30 years’ projection.
- See our review of Pocketsmith
MoneyPatrol is designed as an all-in-one budgeting tool that also has an easy-to-use app that shares alerts, insights, and notifications about your finances. That allows you to have easier access to your money as well as make smarter financial decisions. More info…show
- Pros: Mobile app is available for iOS and Android. Document vault for uploading receipts.
- Cons: Price is higher than many other budget tools / software
- Cost: Free trial for 15 days, then $7 / month ($84 / year; no discount for annual pricing)
Zero-Based Budget Software
You Need A Budget (YNAB for short) is an online budgeting program based on the envelope method, wherein budgeters set money aside for specific categories of spending. The program guides you through the process of budgeting, setting goals and sticking to them, and reconciling accounts. More info…show
- Pros: YNAB is geared toward teaching users how to budget and make managing their finances a habit. The large online community can be very helpful.
- Cons: The hands-on nature of the program might not appeal to all users. The cost is higher than most other personal software.
- Cost: $84 per year
To learn more and get started with YNAB, visit ynab.com.
Qube Money (Formerly ProActive)
Qube Money is the digital version of cash envelopes.
The cash envelope method of budgeting is the age-old technique for preventing overspending. The problem is that we live in an increasingly cashless society. It can be tough to apply envelope budgeting strategies to modern methods of spending. Qube Money is a forward-thinking solution. It helps you make proactive decisions before purchases versus tracking your money afterward. More info…show
- Pros: Like traditional envelope budgeting, you cannot make a purchase with Qube Money unless you know which envelope the money is coming from. That’s the brilliance with this innovation. The credit card linkup allows you to enjoy the benefits of credit while making sure you set aside the money to pay off your bill each month.
- Cons: The fact that you are unable to use your Qube Money debit card if you do not have your phone available could be problematic. Qube Money recommends taking a separate pay card to alleviate this concern.
- Cost: Qube Money has lifetime memberships, rather than monthly fees. The Free account is best for singles. The Premium account is best for couples and is $216 for lifetime access. Finally, the Family account is best for families and is $324 for lifetime access.
Dave Ramsey, the get-out-of-debt and budgeting guru, released his free online budgeting software a few years ago. In keeping with his teachings, EveryDollar is focused on tracking every dollar. That way all of your money is accounted for and you know exactly where it is all going. According to the EveryDollar website (and borne out by multiple testers), you can create a budget on their intuitive and user-friendly online program in 10 minutes. More info…show
- Pros: The program is very easy to set up, with an intuitive user-interface and well-thought-out defaults. If you are a follower of Dave Ramsey’s teachings, EveryDollar will help you meet the goals he suggests.
- Cons: The free version of the software does not automatically add transactions, nor does it allow you to set up recurring transactions, which can cause some reconciliation headaches.
- Cost: EveryDollar basic is completely free. EveryDollar Plus costs $129 per year.
To learn more and get started with EveryDollar, visit everydollar.com.
SpendPal was designed in collaboration with Dr. Dan Ariely’s Behavioral Science Lab at Duke University. SpendPal offers another option for envelope budgeters in the cash-free world. When you sign up, the program asks you to sort the money in your checking account into separate spending Categories. You give each Category a monthly allowance and rank your Categories in order of priority. Whenever a new deposit comes into your bank account, your Categories are automatically filled in order. More info…show
- Pros: For beginning budgeters, the automatic filling of your spending categories can be an excellent introduction to money management. The fact that you can make “unverified” purchases without your phone available could be handy for the phone challenged.
- Cons: The availability of “unverified” purchases without a phone could get some users in trouble. The lack of a credit card option might turn some users off.
- Cost: $8 per month
To learn more and get started with SpendPal, visit spendpal.com.
Other Budget Software
Large corporations use generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP) in their bookkeeping–so why shouldn’t individuals do the same? GAAP allows for efficient, comprehensive, and consistent accounting, which would be a boon to the average budgeter. AccountMe offers users a customizable GAAP accounting framework that allows you to view, edit, and budget your finances using the same double-entry bookkeeping as multi-national corporations. This means users will have an incredibly accurate view of their finances. More info…show
- Pros: Having a customizable GAAP accounting platform as an app on your smartphone is a major boon for anyone already familiar with GAAP.
- Cons: If you do not already know GAAP, it is not necessarily easy to learn from a smartphone app. This is only available for Apple.
- Cost: The AccountMe website is no longer functioning, although you can still download the app from the iTunes App store. It is unclear how much the app costs based on the information available on iTunes. When the website was still active, there were three levels, starting at $9.99 per month for the basic platform, $24.99 for the mid-level, and $49.99 for the highest level (nicknamed the Gordon Gekko level, which indicates the creators of AccountMe have a sense of humor).
To learn more and get started with AccountMe, visit iTunes.
Budget Software Graveyard
Unfortunately these budgeting software projects are no more. Many are completely shuttered, while some still have associated products.
Mvelopes is no longer available.
Like YNAB, Mvelopes is personal finance software that offers a 21st century method for following the envelope budgeting method. This online tool has both Android and iPhone apps that allow you to keep track of your spending on the go. More info…show
- Pros: Mvelopes is set up to be interactive in order to teach users how to budget. The credit card spending envelope feature is a very helpful aspect of the program.
- Cons: Multiple reviewers have stated that the program is not necessarily intuitive.
- Cost: $6/month or $40/year for Mvelopes Basic, $19/month or $190/year for Mvelopes Plus, $59/month or $149/quarter or $549/year for Mvelopes Complete
Check out our full review of Mvelopes.
Pluto is no longer available.
Pluto is an entirely free app is specifically geared toward helping “the Snapchat generation” get a handle on their money. Once you’ve downloaded the free Pluto app (which is currently only available for iPhone, although Android users can join a waitlist), the program will have you start by setting short- and mid-term savings goals, since having something to save for is such an important part of getting finances in order. More info…show
- Pros: The app is very user-friendly and is geared toward both helping you learn more about your money and make better decisions with your money.
- Cons: Currently, the app is only available for Apple, although an Android version is in the works.
- Cost: Free
Joy is no longer available.
Joy was created to improve your happiness by changing the way you choose to spend and save your money.
Scott Saunders, CEO of Payoff, pulled together a team of talented psychologists, neuroscientists, financial service experts, designers, and technology professionals to create an app that focuses on the psychology of people’s relationship with money. Their objective is to help people develop a positive relationship with money so they can achieve their financial goals and dreams. More info…show
- Pros: This app gives you the opportunity to improve your financial habits by asking you to think about how your spending makes you feel and by prompting you to set aside savings every day.
- Cons: The app is not currently available for Android.
- Fees: Free
- Platform: Currently, Joy is only supported on iOS platforms and they are working on launching an application for Android in the near future.
- Best For: Anyone who wants to improve their spending habits with strong support and encouragement from a coach’s feedback.
Pennies is no longer available.
Pennies is a very intuitive iPhone app that helps even the most absent-minded of spenders to stay on budget. Pennies allows you to set a number of budgets (such as monthly fun money, weekly food spending, and the like), with a start date, length of budget term, and the amount available to spend. Each time you make a purchase, you enter the amount into Pennies, which will show you the number of dollars and days remaining in that particular budget. More info…show
- Pros: This app is easy to use and offers a convenient method for tracking spending.
- Cons: Pennies only tracks one source of money, which means it might not work for individuals with more complicated finances. The app is only available for iPhone.
- Fees: $3.99 one-time purchase fee.
- Best For: Beginning budgeters.
Couples looking to tackle personal finance together can do just that with the budgeting software Zeta. Designed with couples in mind, Zeta allows you to invite your partner to download it too and have shared and individual budgets. As you track your accounts, you can tag each other on transactions that need more explanation or ask questions. More info…show
- Pros: The ability to track and share finances with your partner. Being able to set goals together can help couples stay on task and reach their targets. Zeta is accessible through the mobile app and desktop version.
- Cons: They are a newer app and, therefore, constantly working to improve capabilities.
- Cost: Free
- See our review of Zeta.
Change is no longer available.
The founders of Change started with a simple idea: the best way to influence people to save is to spark behavioral change. After all, consumers have 100% control over what they spend and save. Yet they do not necessarily make the best decisions for themselves. More info…show
- Pros: Change is all about teaching users to be mindful spenders, which is the kind of long-term lesson that all consumers need to learn. There is no expectation that you will completely give up the spending habits that make you happy. These concepts are based on solid research in behavioral economics.
- Cons: Change currently only supports financial institutions in the U.S.
- Fees: None
- Best for: Change’s creators are specifically targeting 25-35 year old Millennials, although anyone who is looking for more insight into their spending habits would get a lot out of this virtual financial assistant.
Hip Money is no longer available.
Imagine you had a financially savvy best friend who you could fold up and put in your pocket. He’d do all the calculations you’d need to figure out how to reach your goals (with his tiny pocket calculator), suggest an amount of money you could set aside every day to reach those goals. Then give you itty bitty high-fives when you saved money. More info…show
- Pros: The app is designed to help you reach your goals without asking you to sacrifice your priorities or make drastic changes to your spending habits. It’s all about making saving money easy.
- Cons: It’s not entirely clear how the program determines a safe amount for you to save each day, nor what safeguards are in place to protect you from a potential overdraft.
- Cost: Once Hip Money launches, the app will cost $18 per year.
Level (Level is no longer active)
The Level Money app syncs with your bank account and determines how much will be left in that account after automatically deducting upcoming bills, recent purchases, and your savings goals. It then gives you an estimate of the amount of money that’s safe for you to spend over the next day, week, and month. More info…show
- Pros: The app makes spending decisions incredibly simple, and since it is synced with your accounts, you do not have to remember to enter in new purchases.
- Cons: Setting up the app can take some work, particularly if you have irregular income. In addition, some recent purchases can take a little time to show up in the app.
- Fees: None
- Best For: Beginning savers and/or budgeters, or those who hate dealing with money.
Cashpath (Cashpath is no longer active)
For the budget-averse, it can seem like handling money is about constantly juggling and never getting ahead. That’s where the free app Cashpath can help. Once you securely link the app to your bank and credit card accounts, the app uses your past transactions to predict and adjust your cash flow every day, showing your discretionary money as “Free Cash.” The program will help you split your Free Cash between Save and Spend. The app is designed to show you your money in real time. Therefore, it is able to automatically adjust your Spend amount each day in response to unexpected bills or over-spending. More info…show
- Pros: This is a gorgeous and easy-to-use interface. The program offers a simple method for on-the-go budgeting for individuals who break out in hives at the idea of a spreadsheet.
- Cons: The program is still new, and not all of the potential options are available yet.
- Cost: Free
Unsplurge (Unsplurge is no longer active)
Would-be savers who would like some community encouragement will love Unsplurge. This iPhone app asks you to choose a goal and upload a picture of your goal. Once you have set your goal, it can then be shared with “Town,” which is the community platform for Unsplurge, where users can see others’ savings goals and cheer each other on. You (and Town, if you choose) will get to see your progress as you put money aside for your goal. More info…show
- Pros: Both the progress bar and the community aspect of Unsplurge can be very motivating and help you to establish a habit of saving money.
- Cons: Unsplurge does not help you budget or identify money that it is safe to put aside in savings. Also, the app is only available on the iPhone.
- Fees: None
- Best For: Those who are comfortable with budgeting but need additional motivation to save money.
Penny (Penny is no longer active)
What if you had a money-savvy friend who could look over your finances, put the information into an easy-to-read graph, and even give you financial advice? That’s the idea behind the newly released Penny 2.0. It’s the personal finance app that feels as easy as texting with a really helpful friend. More info…show
- Pros: This easy to use app takes a great deal of the intimidation out of finance. In addition, Penny’s pre-written questions allow new budgeters to know what to ask even if they would otherwise be confused.
- Cons: The pre-written questions might be annoying to a more advanced budgeter.
- Fee: None
- Best For: Beginning budgeters.
How to make the most of your budgeting software
Regardless of what budgeting software you choose, it’s important to take advantage of all that it offers. How can you make the most of your budgeting software?
Be consistent: Come up with a system for viewing your finances. If you need daily or weekly checkups, plan them into your schedule. It’s too easy it “set it and forget it”.
Set goals: If your budgeting app allows you to set goals, do it. If not, set goals on your own. Most people never reach any financial goals simply because they don’t set any.
Customize: Choose expense categories that make sense for your budget. Some apps allow you to customize this. Take advantage of that setting and create categories that work for you.
Try them out: Do yourself a favor and download a few differently budgeting apps. Take them for a test drive, especially if they offer free accounts. Find the one that works best for you. If you end up not liking one of them, just get rid of it.
Tools: Utilize all the tools within the app. If it allows you to set up reminders or alerts, do it. Look at your budget every way your app offers.
Checkups: Take time to do monthly, quarterly, and annual checkups. This will keep you on track throughout the year. Make adjustments as needed to keep your budget on the right course.
Best Practices for Personal Finance Apps
Software and technology have changed the way people function in many areas of life which includes personal finance.
People manage their money on the go using iPhone apps with any of the products mentioned above.
Information is available near real-time when you want to look at your checking account balance, or just see how you’re doing against your planned budget for the month.
Software can help create better processes, but you must first invest in creating the right process with the right people and then leverage the technology to make it even better.
What does all of this have to do with personal finance? If you don’t have good personal money management practices in place, signing up for some of the best money management software may be of some help, but you still have to do your job well as the personal money manager.
Software can provide you the tools to create a budget and track your spending, but the tool by itself won’t help you succeed in achieving your financial goals such as paying off debt, spending less than you earn each month and funding your retirement.
Let’s look at a few practices you must establish to get the most out of the technology side of personal money management.
Planning and Tracking
It’s important to be proactive in planning your money each month by establishing a spending plan (to whatever level of detail that works best for you). You’re in control of your money if you’re giving every dollar a job at the beginning of the month.
If you’re only looking at your spending through the analysis features of your personal finance software at the end of the month, it’s too late to make any changes for the current month. You’ve most likely overspent money and will have to make up for it the next month.
A lot of software automatically assigns categories and provides budget suggestions for you. While such features can be handy and can save your time, be careful you’re not letting the product replace your important job of planning your spending and proactively managing it each month.
Technology provides the ability to manage your money on the go. It also helps keep your eyes on our spending categories and insure we’re not spending more than you’ve planned. But, it would be a mistake if you let the software come in between you discussing your spending with your spouse.
Even when using apps, try to take the time each month to sit down and plan together (it only takes 15 – 20 minutes). Then spend a little bit of time each week reviewing where you’re at with your plan (10 – 15 minutes) and discuss new spending needs not planned and how to manage them. Conversation can never be replaced by personal finance software.
Let’s be honest and recognize spending is not perfect each month. For example, some months you might spend more for groceries than other months. In some cases you might spend a little more on entertainment because there was a special event you wanted to attend.
Then there’s holidays, birthdays and many more things that aren’t regular recurring expenses. Be careful in planning your spending once and setting it up as a recurring budget in your personal finance software.
You can’t assume the same budget or plan can be carried over from month to month. In other words, it’s dangerous to go on autopilot. Doing so would be short-sighted as it’s important to review today’s needs and yesterday’s spending to manage wisely.
Software provides amazing benefits, but it’s important to remember that technology can never replace our important responsibilities of managing money.
It is still your job to plan, track, communicate and manage all the changing needs. It’s the software’s job to help you be successful at these responsibilities.
Do you have a favorite financial app? What do you love about it?