Best Personal Finance Software 2018
How are people supposed to test and try these programs to find the best personal finance software? None them will ring your bell. It is not like comparing a Ferrari to a Ford, it is not even like comparing banking apps where some banking apps are useless and some are great. Comparing personal finance software is like comparing bread. It is like tasting bread with wholegrain and bread with organic corn and figuring that one is maybe better than the other, but you are not going to leave your spouse if he/she eats your slice of toast.
Think of it this way, if somebody said something dirty and offensive about your car, your pugilistic side may rear its ugly head and you raise your fists in retaliation.
But, if somebody said that your personal finance software was worse than a barrel of rotten tomatoes that a homeless man was sleeping in, then you may say, “Meh, maybe you are right.” My point is that we researched so many of these fricking things, and you could pick one at random and it would be perfect for you. They are all sufficiently different, but there is a feeling of “One Size Fits All” when you are reviewing them.
Like A Car…It Is All About How You Use them
You can use a car to get you to work, or you can use it to play dustbin bowling with your car. The rules are that you wait for the bin emptying day, and you line up a few empty trash cans (preferably the plastic ones), and you knock them over with your car. A woman with ADHD taught me that game.
There were plenty of crap personal finance that we discarded like yesterday’s diapers (a Who Framed Roger Rabbit Line right there), but it is more about how you use them rather than how good they are. People still use the Envelopes method, which is about as low-tech as it gets, but it works for them if they commit to it, and the same thing goes for any of the best personal finance software packages listed below.
Three!! This Article Only Contains Three Reviews???? What Are We….Lazy???
As I mentioned above, all the personal finance programs we tested were so similar that in the end we picked three of the best. We chose three to review on here. We chose Money Line, YNAB and Mvelopes. Here is a list of the personal finance programs we actually tested prior to creating this article:
- Moneydance (Good for an abundance of reporting options)
- Buxfer (Good for setting alerts and budget management with an easy-to-use platform)
- Moneyspire (Good for forecasting your budget based on what you enter as you go)
- YNAB (Good for people who like to feel they have more control)
- BankTree (Good for people who have lots of investments and wish to watch them)
- iFinance (Good for the Apple iWatch only)
- MoneyWell (Good for seeing where you have overspent)
- Quicken Starter (Good for intensive budgeting for people who are genuinely committed to seeing it through)
- Quicken Premier (Good because of its money management functions)
- Banktivity (Good for auto-tagging transactions as you upload them)
- CountAbout (Good for doing most of the budget setup for you)
- Mvelopes (Good for people who have trouble sticking to a complex budget)
- MoneyLine (Good for numbers people who have an accountant’s mindset)
- LearnVest (Good for money management functionalities)
- WalletHub (Good for credit repair and credit monitoring)
- Harvest(Good for recording your billable hours and invoicing)
- Credit Karma (Good for people wanting to get out of debt)
- Mint (Good for spending analysis and trying to lower your spending)
- Doxo (Good for bill paying and tracking your standard bills)
We picked Money Line because it is so different from the rest in that it feels like an old-school accountancy program. We picked You Need A Budget partially because of its offline functions, and partially because it has the sort of GUI that you can look at every day and not become intolerably sick of it. We picked Mvelopes because it has the sort of easy-to-understand premise that makes it easier to stick to than the other more-complex personal finance programs we reviewed.
Let me start by saying that I dump all over this program for the first half of its review, but that is because it is not to my personal taste. I know people who have an accountancy mindset, and they think Money Line is the bee’s knees. Some of our research team also thought it was better than warm butter on hot buns, so I took their advice on board.
You are probably sick of reading about the “Mint” app, especially when programs like this are just as good. It is just that Money Line is not as pretty and not as heavily marketed as Mint.
This personal finance software has a GUI that is skinned like it was born in the 1990s. It makes it lightweight for your computer, but who the hell cares about lightweight when you are dealing with PC or laptop software? The GUI looks stale and dry, which is the sort of thing an accountant would groove on. If you are a regular Joe (or Johanna), then this program’s interface will not light your world on fire. It won’t touch you in places you have never been touched before. Here is a quick screenshot to show you what I mean.
I am not being unfair in showing you that screenshot. I didn’t pick a boring bit of the program and took a screenshot, this is the screenshot from the Money Line home page. That is how they choose to market themselves like how an uninteresting woman markets herself by putting on too much makeup and getting drunk at weddings.
(Best Personal Finance Software) Top Tip
– Don’t buy this program for full price. It may be the most perfect piece of software for you, but they run promotions all the time. If they don’t have a promotion running when you visit, then contact them and tell them you need a discount because you are reviewing the program. That is how we got our discount on this program.
Now I have finished pulling this program down like an ugly girl at prom night, let us examine a few of its finer features.
This program will help you monitor your spending and your account balances. If you allow it to, it will connect with your bank accounts so that you may see your budget, update your spending, and see your bank account balances in one place. I have mentioned quite a few times that people should be careful when linking software to their bank accounts. If Money Line doesn’t connect with your bank account, then you need to pester Money Line for your money back and you need to tear them apart online, on review websites, and on social media if they do not give your money back right away.
- Set budgets and amend them as you go
- Categorize transaction types to make your budget easier to understand and track
- Manage your finances and track your spending by manually adding your spending information
- Checkbook register for all your personal accounts
- You may link your checking account and your savings account
- Add additional accounts you wish to track such as your credit cards
- Track your mutual funds, investment accounts and your stocks
- Set up your categories and allow transactions to be split across a number of them
- You may schedule recurring payments to save on manually inputting them
- There is a budget-setup wizard that takes you through your budget setup phase
- Track transfers from one linked account to another
- You may link your bank accounts and download your transactions from MoneyLine
- Their money reports help you see how much you are spending and receiving in total
- Use your bank account to reconcile your transactions and your purchases
- Categorize your monthly expenses into categories that you create and understand
- Generate your own financial reports
- The “check register” function allows you to track your expenses and spending
There is a parental control add-on featured on their prices page, and it works to help stop your kids from viewing adult websites. I tried it, I visited a free proxy site, and was able to visit any website I liked with no hassle. The same happened when I logged into my VPN. Your kids already know about proxy site generators because that is how they are downloading torrent files, so don’t waste your money on their parental controls software.
Taking a contrary position to the review above, YNAB is a popular personal finance program, but other reviewers dump all over it, and the ironic thing is that they dump all over it for the one selling point that I most enjoy. Other reviewers treat YNAB like a deformed puppy because it doesn’t connect to your bank accounts. What they don’t realize is that firstly it does connect to your bank accounts, it is just that you are not forced to connect to your bank accounts.
What I like about YNAB is that they do not force you to connect to your bank account, you can enter the information manually, which is great because firstly I don’t want a piece of software having access to my bank accounts, and because there are plenty of odd transactions in my bank account that budgeting software is going to misinterpret. For example, I won $370 on a (NeeVaaDaaa) gambling website last week, and I don’t want my budgeting software thinking that it is income because it isn’t, it is money I am going to spend on amusing T-shirts.
You Need A Budget is an offline budgeting tool, which is perfect for people like me who need to maintain a certain “Feeling” of control. Some people like the way that Money Line does things because it links up accounts and gives people one place to do it all.
People like me want to do it offline, and we don’t want to link to our accounts. Does it allow you to sync with your bank, yes it does, but it doesn’t force you to. Is the sync function kinda crap, yeah it is. It lags, and it doesn’t connect with all your accounts, but it still beats the nipples off of what other apps and budgeting programs can do.
(Best Personal Finance Software) Top Tip
– Build the habit of checking and updating your budget. Building habits around your phone is easy because you already have the habit of checking it 40 times per day, so make it 41 times and learn to celebrate your success. Until the habit of checking and updating your budget is engraved in your mind, you need to reward yourself, encourage yourself, and force yourself to keep checking and updating it. After 3-5 weeks, the habit will take over and apps like YNAB will become valuable assets to your personal financial management routine.
It costs about $83.99 every year, which I mention here because they forget to mention it on their website unless you go digging around and start clicking collapsible tabs like a kitty playing the piano. Also, it has gone up since we last tested it in 2016. It is a good thing that President Trump issued the massive tax cut because we couldn’t have afforded it otherwise.
Apparently the price of this budgeting program has gone up because their technology people have to keep updating it for each of the different platforms. They have an Up Next page that shows you all the things they are adding that are going to push the price up next year. At least they are more upfront than my bank who casually decided to lower the interest on my savings account because ReAsOnS!
You Need A Budget Features
- They have added a bank-syncing service
- You can sync between two devices to keep your budget up to date no matter what tech you are using
- Budgeting and debt repayment tools make debt planning easier
- Set and track your goals in a manner that allows you to believe in them if you develop a habit of updating your budget
- The progress reports are pleasing to the eye
- You Need A Budget has a colorful, but understated, GUI that makes repeated viewing a pleasant process
- It doesn’t oversell itself once it has your money (though, neither does Money Line)
- The service is fast and efficient and only lags in the bank-sync section
- It is now a subscription service and they keep updating the program every year
- Students can get it for free or for 10% cheaper depending upon the student’s status
- It does what Mint does but allows you to do it all offline if you wish
- They have a version for the web, Android, iPhone, iPad, Apple watch and Alexa
- YNAB doesn’t ask for your payment information when you sign up for the free trial which means you can simply let the free trial expire
I like the fact that YNAB allows you to do almost everything offline because I don’t want my personal information being bounced off of servers, and I like that they update their system all the time and that they are continually trying to improve their app. I like the GUI and the fact that the neutral colors make it easy on the eyes.
What I don’t like is that it is now a subscription service where I as supposed to buy the updated version next year, and I don’t like the fact that the price has bounced up by about $40 in the space of two years. Also, if I am going to nit-pick, they should allow us to see more screenshots without having to sign up first. We signed up anyway because we have to, but we didn’t pay because we used their free trial and then let it expire, so we had access to any screenshots we wanted, but it would be have been nice to click on a picture or two without it reverting to their sign up page.
As I have mentioned earlier, we pick Mvelopes because it has a simple premise that is easy to stick to. I tried to drive the point home earlier like a stake through a vampires nuts, but if you stick to any budgeting program then you are going to successfully manage your personal finances. If you stick with the program and stick with the rules you set out for yourself, then your personal finances will be all set and you can start working on the other things in your life such as your increasingly bad breath (because you breathe through your mouth more as you age), or your increasing waistline (because you have learned patience as an older person and patience has a side-effect called “Less action”).
The Mvelopes system works on the same premise that your nan used in the old days when she used to put her mortgage money in one envelope, her electricity money in another envelope, and her insurance money in another envelope, and then get mugged as she took them down to the post office, only to come home and see her African-American cousin taking a piss in her rose bushes. Mvelopes works on the same envelopes system, but in this case you only get mugged by your bank and the African-American cousin is pissing away her inheritance on rose colored shades.
There is Mvelopes basic that starts at $4 per month and it only works on your Smartphone. I see the benefits of having a budgeting app on your phone because you are likely to spend while you are out, and even if you shop online you are probably going to have your phone nearby. That may be why a budgeting app on your Smartphone is a good idea, but I personally prefer desktop-based budgeting programs because I am faster at typing (keyboard and numberpad) than I am at thumbing my phone.
Mvelopes Plus allows you to use the budgeting program on your phone and on your desktop computer, but it costs $19 per month. I know it is not a massive amount, but it is still a little high for a budgeting program. Mvelopes Plus also gives you access to their learning center.
(Best Personal Finance Software) Top Tip
– If you are going for the Mvelopes Plus or the Mvelopes Complete (mentioned below), then you really need to commit to it. By commit, I mean you need to use the app, and you need to visit their learning center and hopefully find out how to become a better budgeter. If you have a habit of starting things that you do not stick with, then seriously consider trying your hand with a free budgeting tool before you pay for one. I am not saying that this budgeting tool is not worth the money, but you really need to work in order to get your money’s worth. Please think hard before you sign up with any of these subscription services.
The Mvelopes Complete program gives you everything than Mvelopes Plus gives you, but you get access to a personal finance trainer. This package costs you between $59 and $79 per month.
A quick shout out to Mvelopes, your “Features” page sucks. We were trying to look for features to give us a head start before we even downloaded the app, and your features page bored us to the point where we ordered some vegetarian Indian food and started harassing your customer support for a free download. Sort out your features and plans page, it sucks like an Electrolux (dang, that is an old slogan, I think it was from the year 2000).
- Add bank accounts if you wish
- 25 spending envelopes
- Usable via the web
- Compatible with Mac and Windows
- Define your income
- Link to your bank and auto-load transactions
- There is an Android and iPhone app
- Envelope spending plan view
- Track your net worth
- Gather your transactions
- I like the way it looks and the simplicity of its function
The spunky-fresh thing about Mvelopes is that you fund each of your envelopes, and then you base your budget decisions on how full your envelopes are rather than how much of a bank balance you have. I know that the sentence I just wrote is the definition of how you work a budget, if you ignore the envelopes bit, but the idea of putting your money into envelopes seems to make the whole process easier. It is like those online wallets we used to review, I think there are still a few of them kicking around our website, where they allowed you to set up different balances within your account and then label them things such as “Vacation money” and “Car insurance.”
Conclusion – Which Do I Like?
Personally, I like all three, but I think that Money Line is probably the weakest for me. I don’t have an accountants mind and I am not a big “Numbers Guy” (as the mafia would put it), so spreadsheets upon tabs of spreadsheets do not jingle my love spuds. I was more of a “Can’t we just mind-map the numbers and put them together later” kind of kid in school. But, I know people who would sell their daughter’s kidneys for a good spreadsheet-based budgeting system, which is why we included Money Line.
All I want to remind you of is that you shouldn’t spend money on any of these unless you are willing to fully commit to them. This is especially true if money is tight or you are having trouble balancing your checkbook (do people still do that? I mean do they sit down and do a Marge Simpson with the calculator?).
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Anyway, take it seriously and make a commitment to the budgeting program if you are going to spend money on it. Don’t do what so many other people do and spend money on the budgeting app so that you can sleep better tonight. A budgeting app is not going to fix your financial problems, but committing to having a budget and keeping it every day may help you claw your way out of debt—If you stick with it.