When it comes to managing your money in the digital age, you have a lot of options. Older software mainstays have been joined by web and mobile applications, all promising to be the only tool you need for getting – and keeping – your finances in order.
With such a dizzying array of choices available, how do you choose the right one? Well, it depends largely on your goals. We rounded up the best, most affordable choices in digital personal finance tools for different financial objectives and styles.
Best For: Someone who wants a trusted name in financial planning, has a specific set of money management needs, or wants to make tax time easier.
Quicken has long been the gold standard of financial planning tools, and with good reason. The software comes in five different versions: the Starter Edition, dedicated to first-time budgeters; Deluxe, which focuses on debt reduction; Premier for investors; Home & Business for small business owners; and Rental Property Manager, which is exactly what it sounds like. Each edition has a robust set of features, is easy to use, and all are integrated with the Quicken mobile app. Another benefit of Quicken is that its parent company, Intuit, also makes Turbo Tax, so if you do your own taxes, syncing up the two programs is a breeze.
The Quicken editions vary cost-wise, from the Starter Edition at $39.99 all the way up to $154.99 for the Rental Property Manager. Cost may be an issue for some users, especially when you can find many of the same features from more inexpensive – or even free — tools. You can usually find discounts and deals fairly easily, however.
Cool Feature: The mobile app allows you to track purchases by taking pictures of receipts.
Best For: Someone who wants to manage money without doing a lot of work, isn't managing a family budget, or doesn't want to pay for budgeting software.
Another Intuit product, Mint is one of the easiest money management tools to use, due to its high level of automation. Simply connect all of your accounts – checking, savings, credit cards, loans, investments, etc. – and Mint will categorize your spending, set a budget, remind you when bills are due, and offer advice on meeting your financial goals. Mobile apps integrate seamlessly with the desktop version, and the best part: it's free.
Mint is a personal finance product, so if you're managing money for an entire household, it may lack some of the features you need. And for those who don't feel comfortable connecting all of their personal finance information to one site, Mint probably isn't the best option.
Cool Feature: Mint now offers free credit scores.
YNAB (You Need a Budget)
Best For: Someone who has to manage more than one budget, doesn't want all of their financial information tied to one website, or likes to be more hands-on with their money management.
YNAB is like an Excel budgeting spreadsheet with a brain. You use the worksheet to create a budget, and then track income and spending via the desktop or mobile app. While you don't connect your accounts directly, you can import transactions from your bank directly into YNAB. You can also schedule recurring transactions, and create more than one budget. YNAB organizes your data into easy-to-read reports that you can then use to adjust your financial decisions.
The main drawback to YNAB is the cost: a $60 one-time fee. It comes with a free 34-day trial, however, so you can give it a try first and decide if it's worth it.
Cool Feature: Easy split transaction entry if you're entering a receipt for items that belong in different categories.
Best For: Someone who finds money management boring, needs a little extra motivation, and loves competition.
FlexScore is similar to Mint in that it's free and largely automated. Where it differs is that using it is almost game-like, leading to a fun, highly motivating experience.
FlexScore takes all of the financial data from your connected accounts and gives you a score between one and 1,000, and then offers you Action Steps to improve your score in real time, which can be anything from reading an article about financial planning to setting up a life insurance policy. You can also compare your score to others in your location and age group to see where you rank.
One drawback of FlexScore is that it's only available on the web, but mobile apps are in the works.
Cool Feature: All of it.
Best For: Someone who is new to budgeting, wants to pay down debt, or wants to try a tool before they commit to purchasing it.
The name doesn't lie: this tool is easy to use. Focused mainly on debt reduction and wealth management, BudgetSimple allows you to create a basic budget and spending plan, track income and expenses, and run reports for free. The premium version, which is $4.99 per month, $39.99 per year, or $99.99 for life, allows you to connect your bank accounts directly to the tool and receive savings alerts.
If you sign up for the premium version of BudgetSimple, it comes with a money-back guarantee and a promise that you'll save at least $4.99 each month.
Cool Feature: The Debt Payoff Tool shows you how long it will take you pay off your debt based on what you're currently paying monthly.
What about you, readers? Do you use any of these personal finance tools? Or perhaps you prefer one that we didn't mention? Let us know in the comments!
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