There’s a reason they call it personal finance — the best personal finance software has everything to do with the person who’s doing the managing. What are her goals? What is his life stage? How much money are we talking here, and is it being managed by one person or more?
Any tool is only as good as your willingness to use it, so it’s important to get the right fit. So the best personal finance software is the one that is right for you.
Fortunately, personal finance is a booming industry, and has created tools for pretty much every life stage, personality type and control-freakery. We’ve sorted through dozens of personal finance managers to bring you these winners. No matter where you are in your ongoing relationship with your money, you’ll find something below that suits your needs.
One ground rule — to be considered for evaluation, a tool or service had to have a low barrier to entry — preferably free or with a free trial. Suggesting you throw away money to test a money-management tool you might not like is just more irony than we’re willing to sign up for.
Price: Free with ads
If you’re looking for a one-stop shop in your personal finance software and want a full-featured tool that still keeps things simple, Mint is the choice for you. Mint is a web-based tool (with mobile apps, of course) that will help you track spending, design a budget, manage debt, set goals and combine all your accounts (including the weird ones like balloon mortgages) in a single place. Many users love its simple, clean UI — the 2021 design refresh is getting raves — and at-a-glance financial dashboard, with net worth right there at the top.
While Mint and Quicken have long been the top contenders for full-featured financial management for everyday finances, Mint wins as the best personal finance software by being both free and slightly simpler than Quicken. Life is complicated enough already, and you can start your new era of fiscal responsibility right now by saving yourself the $42 annual price tag for Quicken Deluxe.
Mint makes setting up a budget a simple and straightforward process: Once you’ve set up your accounts, Mint takes a crack at categorizing your expenses for you. New in 2021, you can bulk-edit to make category adjustments.
Other powerful additions for 2021 include subscription monitoring, which helps you keep track of the subscriptions that seem to proliferate with every free trial. Mint will even tell you if those subscriptions change price. And personalized Mintsights offer guidance and suggestions to tweak the habits and behaviors that Mint “sees” in your financial activities, in order to help you pay down debt and save more. Mintsights are personalized for each user.
One feature our testers particularly appreciated was Mint’s free credit-score tracking and education. This feature gives you the “why” behind the numbers, breaking down on-time payments, credit usage, and average age of your credit and showing how your behaviors in these areas aid – or hurt – your overall rating.
Price: $41.99/year, with 30-day free trial
For the oldest player on the field, Quicken’s still got it. The feature set is as robust as any personal finance software out there. And you get more exporting and customization options than Mint, which makes Quicken one of the best personal finance software options.
Longtime Quicken users are familiar with the software’s top-notch budgeting, planning, and spending-analysis tools that have long complemented their robust account-management features. Quicken lets you transfer money between accounts at different institutions, provides specialized investment reports, and helps you create a tailored plan to pay down your debt. Supported account types include investment, retirement, and loan accounts, as well as asset tracking for insurance purposes. For lovers of detail, thoroughness, and tailoring their financial management, Quicken is a great fit.
Since 2019, Quicken users have had the added benefit of a browser interface that lets them interact with their finances on the go. Today, you can view balances and transactions, identify spending trends, and check the performance of your investments from anywhere you can get to a browser.
Still, we can’t help but suspect that its owners at H.I.G. Capital know how tied people get to their historical data. While there’s no arguing with Quicken’s feature set, the switch to a subscription model brings Deluxe to $42 a year. That’s a pretty hefty price tag for personal financial software that, for most users, isn’t much different than the free competition.
In a nutshell: People who have spent years mastering Quicken (and entering their data) have good reason to stick with it. Change is hard! But if you’re just starting out, take a look at Mint or Personal Capital for a lower-cost way to keep track of your ducats.
Price: Free app, with fees for wealth-management services should you choose to use them.
To be blunt: Personal Capital is what you graduate to, from Mint. Both personal finance managers are free, easy and friendly to learn and use, and will show you a comprehensive view of your finances.
Personal Capital, though, has foregone budgeting and bill-payment tools to focus on next-level concerns. Features like its 401(k) analyzer, what-if Retirement Planner, and projected portfolio values are exactly what you need if you have the good fortune to arrive at the phase in which “How am I going to save some money” has become “What am I going to do with it all?” It’s next-level personal finance software, best for people who have gotten to that next level.
“Round-up” apps have become common in recent years. The concept is simple: Link your credit or debit card to the app, and whenever you make a purchase, the app rounds up to the nearest dollar and directs those extra pennies to an account. So you keep tossing money into savings without really noticing it’s happened. Acorn puts your money into a diversified portfolio of ETFs, so you’re dabbling in the market, too. You can also set automatic savings transfers to your Acorns account – you’re not limited to the round-up pennies.
As Acorn has grown, so has its ecosystem, and now it really is competitive in the realm of best personal finance software. Grow is its educational arm – a robust set of articles and videos, available with or without an account. Acorns Later lets you save into a Roth, Traditional, or SEP IRA, and you can add a full-featured checking account ($3/month). And with their Earn program, every time an Acorns user shops at select retailers (the list is currently at about 200 partner brands, including Airbnb, Home Depot, and Sephora), you get extra money back.
While Acorns doesn’t technically have a completely free trial, we let it sneak in to this roundup; for just $1, you can try it out for a month. They also have plans that offer checking, investment, and retirement accounts ($3/month) and a family version that lets you add your kids and provides materials to help teach them about money ($5/month).
When financial pressures increase, it’s easy to turn to measures like the lottery. You could win so big. But you probably won’t, and the money you spent trying is just…gone. Yotta has come along to turn that model on its head.
Fundamentally, Yotta is a free app that lets you save in an FDIC-insured account…and then gamble with it. But not really a gamble. The creators of Yotta found a way to keep the thrill while replacing the risk with an incentive to save and upping the odds of winning.
Yotta provides a savings account with a middling yield (.2%, which is still better than many brick-and-mortar banks — Wells Fargo’s standard account earns a measly .01%). But the potential to win real money increases along with your savings balance: every $25 in your account gets you an automatic (and free) ticket to that week’s “lottery.” Every night, Yotta gives away money — the smallest prize is 10 cents, and the largest? $10,000,000 for matching all 7 numbers in the Sunday night drawing.
Think about it: in one year, $1,000 in a standard Wells Fargo savings account would net 21 cents in interest. That same balance would earn $10.50 in today’s highest-yield online savings account, or $4.20 at Yotta before prizes. But at Yotta, even winning a measly $7 over the course of the year would vault you past them all. (One of our testers averaged 40 cents per week with the $1000 test; the other, .25. Now, there’s no guarantee on the annualized amount, but the trend looks good for beating even high-yield checking by a mile.)
Plus — fun. And our testers found themselves more engaged in their savings and motivated to save more.
Note: Yotta odds are best for users who keep under $25k in their savings accounts. To keep the same fat cats from gobbling up the winnings every week, accounts with over $25k in them “pay” $150 per ticket, while the lower tier gets a ticket for every $25.
Financial concerns are one of the biggest sources of stress in couples. Honeydue, personal finance software built for two, has set out to make it easier.
Honeydue offers the typical features of personal finance software, but also provides the ability to mark an account as joint or just the responsibility of one person in the relationship. Additional couple-centric features include marking a transaction for splitting, or notifying you both when a bill gets paid – particularly helpful for couples who divvy up the bills. You can add a note or question to a transaction, and your partner will be notified that it’s there.
Shared finances are rife with critical conversations: What are our goals? How do we feel about the amount of debt we are carrying? Do one or both of us need to be earning more? No amount of software can have that conversation for you. But “Hey, did that bill get paid?” or “I think you owe me $17 for that thing…” – when you let software handle those logistics, you can free yourselves up for the human conversations that matter most.
Give every dollar a job! That’s the friendly mandate of You Need a Budge ($11.99 per month), a tool that’s as much a philosophy as it is an app. YNAB is the best personal finance software if you want to truly understand your money and its management.
The YNAB software (desktop software for the big view, as well as solid mobile experiences) comes within an entire ecosystem that offers all the support, education, and encouragement to help you go the distance with a budget after the glow of that New Year’s resolution has worn off. The YNAB universe includes a blog, videos, a podcast, book and more.
Whether a dollar’s job is to be spent or to be saved, YNAB helps you think through your whole financial picture to ensure all your money is doing the right job for you. Definitely take advantage of the 34-day free trial; that’s a month to get the hang of it plus a few days to think it over.)
This free, simple mobile app isn’t specifically personal finance software, which makes it a dark horse but potentially perfect for people who want to focus on overall healthy habits. If you consider money as just one piece of living your best life, check out this handy little app and integrate financial habits into other practices you’d like to develop.
You can use the app on its own (if you want the habits but don’t want to sweat the numbers) or in conjunction with any of the traditional trackers above (if you still want to keep tabs on where your money goes, or track toward specific goals).
But we liked this one best for its combination of simplicity and flexibility. Did you do your thing today? A green check or red X shows you instantly where you stand. Boom, done. But where Goal Tracker & Habit List really stands apart for money-management purposes is that it lets you set a goal by day, week, month, or whatever, as well as set durations for the habits.
Nobody needs to be checking their credit-card statement daily. But if you’re trying to change your spending habits, once a week for three months might be a good idea. You get to set when and whether the app reminds you for each specific goal.
Goal Tracker & Habit List is mobile-only, which is, in our minds, is the best medium for such a tool.
What about Excel? Best way to kick it old school
Hey, be nice – Excel is not just your Grandpa’s personal finance tool. For anyone who loves to geek out on the numbers and to exercise total control over the slicing and dicing, nothing beats a spreadsheet. Excel wins over other spreadsheets for the sheer number of budgeting add-ons available — including many excellent freebies.
The internet is rife with bloggers willing to share their tips, practices, and templates for using Excel as your personal finance software. For starters, try the free Monthly Budget Planner, offered by Money Under 30. It has everything you’ll need to get started.
How to choose the best personal finance software for you
Managing your money is a long-haul commitment, one that’s worth taking an hour or two to get right. Don’t be afraid to take the best personal finance software tools out for a spin. Every product we mention here has a trial version, and we highly recommend that you take advantage of it.
Think about who you are and what you want. Has history shown that you’re more likely to use something that asks little of you, or one that pulls you so deeply into its intricacies that you forget to eat? With something as real as your financial goals, will gamification appeal, or turn you off because it feels frivolous?
Then take 2-3 tools for a test drive with some real-world scenarios. Think of a few questions you’d really like the answers to, such as:
- How much do I spend eating out each month?
- How long ‘til I pay off my credit cards if I up my monthly payment by $50?
- How much should we be saving each month to meet our retirement goals?
You get the idea. Try to get the answers to your questions out of each tool. If you do this, chances are you’ll know which product you’d like to stick with.
How we test personal finance software
These evaluations were based on the tools’ feature set and ease of use over a six-week trial period. How easy was the system to set up initially? Is the interface intuitive for even the most complex tasks? How much time did we sink into setup of features we eventually realized we were unlikely to use again? Does the tool have any unique bells or whistles that set it apart from its competitors?
These tests were performed on a Microsoft Surface Pro 4 and a Samsung Galaxy S9 phone. When a tool offered both a mobile and laptop experience, both were tested to see how well they worked together.
Because personal-finance software does not normally degrade system performance to any measurable degree, no performance tests were run. Anecdotally, we discerned no difference in processing speeds between any of the tools we tested.