In the world of personal finance, the best software products on the market are not necessarily free. Each year, however, many new and updated versions of some outstanding budgeting software titles are released with affordable or even no-cost license options. If you’re interested in discovering what’s available at no cost–or nearly so–read on to find out how to find and evaluate the best free personal finance software programs.
We all need to handle our personal finances, so it makes sense that there are great free personal budget software programs out there to help us. These programs will handle your income, expenses, loans and bills, investments and retirement planning to name a few items.
The best free personal finance software helps you create a budget, set savings goals and manage your money. The best personal budget software (also known as a personal expense tracker) can help you track expenses and incomes, see where you’re spending too much money and keep tabs on your bank account balance.
The personal finance software market is growing and new products are constantly being introduced. A core group of financial services companies such as Intuit and Microsoft have dominated the market for a long time, but that’s changing rapidly. There are now several disruptive innovators entering the market and gaining mindshare with consumers. The number of online banking clients for companies like Kabbage and Prosper have grown tremendously. Financial innovation has happened at the fringes of the industry, in companies like Lending Club, Credible, Kabbage, and Wealthfront. These new startups provide attractive interfaces for users to manage their personal finance software needs.
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.
Having been around for several decades, Quicken is one of the most established personal finance software on the market. You can use the software to manage various aspects of your financial life from budget creation to debt tracking, savings goals, and even investment coaching. The software features Excel exporting, which allows you to manipulate and perform additional calculations on your data. One of the more advanced features includes bill paying, which allows you to set up payments for your bills right from the software. You can even use it to track the value of your assets to have an accurate calculation of your total net worth. The app is robust enough to manage both your personal and business expenses and even handles property management functions like rental payments from tenants. Quicken offers a 30-day money-back guarantee. The software starts at $35.99 per year and is available for Windows, macOS, iOS, and Android.
Best for Budgeting Mint
Mint is one of the most popular budgeting and expense tracking tools. You can have the software pull in your bank and credit card information to analyze your spending and pinpoint areas where you can cut back to improve your finances. For more accountability, Mint allows you to set up alerts for things like due dates and low balances to keep you on track. These features help you avoid expensive fees on late payments and overdrafts from your bank account. If you’ve set up budget categories, Mint will give you real-time information about the amount you can spend on things like food and gas. Mint is free to download and use on iOS and Android devices, as well as desktops.
Best for Habit Building YNAB
You Need a Budget, or YNAB, is a personal finance software that’s aimed to help you improve your financial literacy as you manage your monthly budget. As you create your budget and manage your daily finances, the software provides you with tutorials that will help you tackle some of the tougher financial topics. If you’ve been struggling with bad financial habits, YNAB can help you break those through a few basic financial management rules.
The software automatically links to your bank account, integrating your spending information for analysis and budget tracking. You can keep tabs on how you’re tracking toward your monthly budget and take action if you’re overspending. It doesn’t include any investment tracking capabilities. YNAB offers a 34-day free trial that allows you to use the software while you decide whether it’s right for your personal finance goals. The full software is $14.99 monthly or $98.99 annually.
Best for Zero-Based Budgeting Mvelopes
The traditional envelope budgeting system helps you stick to a budget by using envelopes to manage your money. Once you’ve broken down your budget, you put that amount of cash into different envelopes. So, if you budget $100 for gas for the week, you place that amount in a “gas” envelope. Once you’ve spent that $100, that’s it. Mvelopes take this same approach to the budget, except that it’s done digitally on your phone and computer rather than with physical cash.
Choose the financial goals that are most important to you, then add your bank accounts and set your income. Mvelopes will help you create a budget and set up your “envelopes.” The software tracks your spending and shows you what you’ve spent from each envelope to keep you on budget throughout the month.
The basic version starts at $5.97 per month, and you can try Mvelopes for 30 days for, free when you enroll in the premier plan at $9.97 per month.
Best for Taxes TurboTax
You may not necessarily need TurboTax to manage your finances throughout the entire year, but when it’s tax time, the software can come in handy. While it’s one of the pricier tax preparation tools, it’s also consumer-friendly, walking you through your tax preparation to help you accurately file your tax return. Entering your tax information is fairly simple—you can import your W-2 information from your employer or take a picture of it and the software will transfer the information into the form.
If you’ve used TurboTax in previous years, the software will remember your personal information and ask whether there have been any major changes. The most basic version lets you file your federal and state return for free if all you use is form 1040 with no attached schedules.
On the higher end, TurboTax Live connects you with a tax expert to give you personalized advice and answer questions about your tax return. Paid versions of TurboTax include a feature to help you uncover deductions you may not have known were available to you. While you can use TurboTax on the web, you can also download the software to your device for added security.
Best for Investing FutureAdvisor
If you’re a DIY investor looking for low-cost access to a financial advisor, FutureAdvisor is a great option. The investment software provides personalized recommendations to help you diversify your portfolio, which you can follow or not follow as you see fit. You’re eligible to sign up for the software if you have at least $5,000 in investable assets. FutureAdvisor manages the assets you transfer into the account for a flat annual fee of 0.5% of the managed assets, billed quarterly at 0.125%. When you transfer your assets into the account, FutureAdvisor works to consolidate them into accounts with its partners, Fidelity or TD Ameritrade.
Best for Investment Advice Personal Capital
Personal Capital allows you to manage all your financial accounts in a single platform. You can include your bank accounts, mortgage, and other credit accounts, plus your investment accounts, to have your complete financial picture right in front of you. If you have multiple accounts—as most of us do these days—using Personal Capital can save you from having to switch between multiple screens to understand where you stand.
If you have a portfolio of more than $100,000, you can get personalized financial advice based on your goals. While you’re charged a fee for this service, financial advisors are obligated to provide you with advice that works in your best interest.1
Use the software to tell whether you’re on track with your retirement and other investment goals. Even if you’re not quite ready to take advantage of the financial advisor, you can use Personal Capital to track your finances and investments in one place. There is no monthly fee, and the annual management fee is tiered based on the investment amount.
Best for Spreadsheet Management Tiller Money
Tiller Money lets you see all your money in one place by automatically updating your checking, credit card, loan, investment, and other account data into a customizable Google Sheet or Excel template. Tiller Money lets you choose from templates that organize your data for you or you can customize your spreadsheet to suit your needs. It’ll also send you daily emails with a summary of your recent transactions and balances. The service costs $79 per year or $6.58 per month, but you can take advantage of the 30-day free trial to decide whether it’s right for you.
What Is Personal Finance Software?
Personal finance software is an application that helps with all aspects of your personal finances. You can choose different software for different goals. Some software is ideal for budgeting, others are good for investing, and others are right for debt tracking and savings goals. It’s designed to make managing and tracking your finances easier and more efficient and helps you set up systems that work for you.
How Does Personal Finance Software Work?
Personal finance software typically works by collecting your personal data, linking the software to your financial institution, investment accounts, and credit cards, and then helping you set up your financial goals. Once it has access to your accounts, it can monitor your credit, track your spending and savings habits, help you create a budget, offer tips and investment advice, and send out bill pay and savings goal reminders.
How Much Does Personal Finance Software Cost?
Personal finance software varies in features, functions, and costs. Some software offers basic features with free and paid versions. Other software helps you meet more complex financial goals and charges monthly fees. Personal finance software typically costs between $5.97 and $12 per month, or you can pay annually for a discounted rate. Other software charges an annual $35 fee and software that focuses on investing charges a flat rate of 0.5% of managed assets.
Is Personal Finance Software Worth the Cost?
Personal finance software is worth the cost if it helps you meet your personal financial goals. It may help you stick to a budget and save money or manage and track your investments and gain money. If you use it and it’s helping, then it’s typically worth the relatively low cost.
How We Chose the Best Personal Finance Software
We researched and reviewed many personal finance applications and chose our top eight personal finance software options based on price, variety of features, the types of financial goals they help you meet, company reputation, and more.
A personal finance manager is a program to help you manage your finances. It gathers all of the information about your finances into one place and helps you analyze that information so you can see what you’re spending money on, where you can cut back and save money, and if your investments are generating enough income. You can also use a personal finance manager to track your monthly budget or create a budget based on reports from previous months.
Free financial software, or personal finance software as it is most commonly known, is a must-have tool for individuals who want to keep track of their personal finances. These tools are great because they allow you to create budgets and monitor your spending patterns in a very convenient way.