Choosing the Best Personal Finance Software
Finding the best personal finance software for you depends on your needs and what you’d like it to do for you. Some personal finance software does only basic accounting while other types have added features that allow you to track your personal expenses as well as your business expenses. Do you want to see all your activity in one location or do you prefer separate sheets? Some like to be able to download information from the Internet while others want only a desktop application. Do you want to track your investments and generate reports or will a simple spreadsheet be enough?
Some programs are very easy and you’ll be using them in a matter of minutes while others take some practice. It’s best to list the features you want before you start looking for the best personal finance software for your individual needs.
Quicken Gets You Going Quickly!
Quicken is one of the better known software programs for managing your personal finances. It’s easy to get started, as you just answer a few questions, go through the short tutorial and you can begin.
This personal finance software helps you create and stay on a budget. It will set up goals for you based on what you’ve spent; you can customize it and it will track your progress as you strive to reach those goals.
You can see which bills have been paid, what’s coming in the future and if you have enough funds to cover them all. It will give you the option to set reminders so you don’t forget important payments and you can check the status of past bills. It is set up to make it easy to spot inaccuracies in your accounts.
Many people think this is the best personal finance software on the market.
You can manage both your personal and business finances and see them together in one place. This includes banking, credit card activity, loans, 401K and any investing accounts you have. You get a complete financial picture using just one password. For those with small businesses, this personal finance software serves double duty.
This best personal finance software Quicken can access over 12,000 banks, brokerages and other financial institutions including PayPal. It will show you your expenses so you can see where your funds are going.
You not only see where your money is going, you can categorize both your personal and business expenses to see where you’re spending money. You get an overall picture of what funds are coming in, going out and what is left for the month. You can check to see where you are for the week, month or year.
This excellent personal finance software also captures all the deductions (including mileage and expenses for specific jobs) for your business as well as household expenses that you can write off. Create Schedule C reports for your accountant; export your data directly to TurboTax so you can do your taxes quick and easy whether it’s for your personal return or your business.
Quicken also has investing and planning tools to track, analyze and optimize your portfolio. You can see changes in assets and liabilities and net worth with one click and it also identifies your best performing investments and compares mutual funds.
This program is consistently rated as one of the best personal finance software programs. You will have to judge if it is the best for you personal needs.
Quicken is listed at $99.99 and is available as a download or on a CD-ROM.
MoneyDance—Simple and Easy in Layman’s Terms
MoneyDance is a personal accounting software that uses a simple interface and everyday language to make personal money management easy and convenient to use. You’re given a homepage that gives you a review of your finances including balances, reminders, upcoming transactions as well as overdue bills. You can click on an account or choose one from the drop down list and then enter activity or reconcile it against your statement. When you encounter a reminder you can click on it and it will give you a window where you can record the transaction.
Online banking is easy with MoneyDance. It automatically downloads your transactions and you can send payments online from hundreds of banks and financial institutions. It will also learn how to categorize your transactions automatically. All activity is in simple terms, not accounting language that is difficult to understand.
You can see your income and expense activity in easy to read graphs. Choose the type (bar, pie or line), set the range of dates and pick specific settings. You can see more information about your data by moving your mouse over the different sections; a pop-up balloon will appear over the information you pick. You can print the graphs in a GIF file for future reference or to share with your accountant, spouse or significant other.
MoneyDance's account register will look very familiar, as it resembles the standard checkbook register. You can enter, delete or edit activities. Balance calculations and transaction sorting is done automatically so you no longer have to calculate yourself. There is a payee auto-complete feature that saves you time and keystrokes.
You also get the option for reminders that insure you don’t forget upcoming or past due transactions. They appear highlighted on a calendar so you can see the entire month at a glance.
If you’re on the go a lot you’ll want to download the free MoneyDance mobile application for iPhone and iPod Touch. This is a desktop version that lets you update your finances wherever you are.
This program is on our best personal finance software list.
If you’re not sure that MoneyDance is right for you, you can try it at no charge before you buy to be sure it’s right for you. This software is configured for both Windows and Mac, is priced at $49.99 and subsequent yearly upgrades are about $25.
AceMoney is an Ace in the Hole!
AceMoney is money management software that tracks bank, cash and credit card accounts as well as allowing you to do some budgeting and track your investments. Its $30 price tag includes free lifetime upgrades and it is available in dozens of languages.
AceMoney provides a simple, no-frills way of tracking of your finances. There are no extra bells and whistles to learn and no ads. You’ll first see your “accounts” page where you can enter transactions by clicking on the appropriate account name, which is a hyperlink that takes you to that page. In the full version your accounts are grouped according to type such as credit accounts, cash accounts, bank accounts and so forth. The account register resembles a traditional checkbook register so it’s familiar to most people. Transactions are entered in a separate window which is a bit slower than other software. If you have a lot of entries to make the keyboard shortcut makes it more convenient. If you make a mistake, just double click the transaction and deleting is as simple as selecting one and clicking a "delete transaction" button.
The columns are resizable and you can easily resort your transactions. AceMoney remembers who you pay and the amounts and will auto-complete your transactions. It has a reconciliation tool so you can balance your accounts. Organizing your transactions is easy; AceMoney includes more than a hundred pre-loaded categories and subcategories that you can modify or delete as you wish. You can budget by inputting a “budget limit” into a selected time period of the category window. You can then generate a report that shows you whether you ran over budget or if you’re right on target. There are many ways to filter your reports and they are highly customizable.
AceMoney also allows you to schedule transactions so you can be assured of paying your bills on time.
The "reports" feature is one area where AceMoney really shines. You can choose expenditures by category and subcategories, payee reports, cash flow reports, expenditures by accounts, budget reports by categories and subcategories and even reports on your investments’ performance.
AceMoney is simple, focused and easy to use. It’s ideal for anyone who just wants to manage their money without a lot of fancy features that they really don’t need. It’s so simple that teens can use it as they learn to manage money but feature-rich enough that adults will find it perfectly adequate for managing their personal or small business finances. If you’d like to try the software before you buy, AceMoney Lite is free. It has limited features but will give you an idea of how it works for Windows, Linux and Mac.
The Best Free Personal Finance
Gnucash—Function Over Beauty
Gnucash is software to manage the financial aspects of your personal life as well as small businesses and comes in versions for Linux, Mac and Windows. Based on professional accounting principles, it has a double-entry bookkeeping system that helps avoid mistakes by recording information in two accounts that must balance. Gnucash does this automatically so there are no complicated entry requirements for the user. You can track bank accounts, stocks, income and expenses.
Gnucash’s interface is not exciting but it is functional and looks familiar to anyone who has done their banking online. You will see checking accounts, CDs, stocks and other investments in a “tree” on the left side of the screen. Once you make your selection it will be displayed in a larger pane. There are commands at the top of the pane that allow you to take actions, access reports and use many other tools. This system makes it easy to see reports, reconcile your checking accounts, see balances and investment returns and other tasks.
Gnucash does use accounting language so the novice may have to take some time to get used to this program. However, the tutorial takes much the mystery out of the language and terms. It also provides a wizard that walks the user through the setup process.
If you have a few accounts that you’re trying to manage and feel overwhelmed with the time it takes to do so, GnuCash is an excellent time-saver. It also includes many features that are meant to manage a small business and has a mobile application that allows you to take your GnuCash anywhere you go.
Gnucash is on our best personal finance software list and it’s free.
Mint is Both Flashy and Functional
This personal finance software is flashy, sleek and easy to use. They say you get what you pay for but in this case you get more. Free doesn’t mean bare-bones functionality in this case. Its main function is to synchronize with your bank and other lenders and financial institutions in a secure way. One drawback is that you can’t choose your own categories but you’ll quickly get used to the categories it provides.
You will see ads but they are fairly unobtrusive and listed in the “ways to save” section. This is what keeps it free. For instance, it will tell you that you can earn 3% on your money at a certain online trading concern and shows you what the numbers would be if you switched.
Setup is fast and easy. Enter your financial institution, your login and security information and Mint will take that information and gather as much data as it can while categorizing your transactions at the same time. You can exclude any business accounts you might have at that institution if you like so they don’t get confused when generating reports on spending, travel, etc.
"Overview" is a simple snapshot of your finances. After that you’ll move to your Transactions; this feature is attractive but doesn’t function easily. You’ll be dependent on your mouse for moving around and you must click a lot to get anything done. You can label your transactions but they aren’t tied to the reporting engine so you might as well not bother.
Reporting is called Trends and you will like this feature. You can see your reports in bar graphs or pie charts and compare it to other people that live in your location. This might give you a sense of pride when you see you’re going much better at building your wealth or it might spur you to try harder when you see that others have less debt and more savings and investments than you do!
Mint also shows you ways to save or earn more money by comparing the costs and benefits of accounts at different institutions. The budgeting feature allows you to set some limits on your spending and warns you when you are about to exceed those limits.
In short, is easy to use and does its job well. It’s not the ideal way to manage your money but it does track it and show you where it’s going.