Long gone are the days of grabbing a legal pad, a calculator, and a pen to handle big personal finance tasks.
You can now manage your budget, monitor your investments, execute your debt payoff plan, and build for a better future with technology.
We're highlighting some of the best personal finance software available whether you need to manage your money on your smartphone or at a computer.
Most of these personal software options are free (yeah baby!) and are compatible for most Mac's and PC's.
Are you ready to get your personal finance swag on?
Let's take a look at some of the best (and mostly free) personal finance software to help manage your money.
Great Personal Finance Software
There are five major areas of personal finance software to help you manage your money. Everyone needs to have a budget, a way to manage their investments, a plan to eliminate their debt, the ability to keep tabs on their credit score, and the option to handle their taxes without help from an expensive accountant. Here are some of the best of the best software tools to help you do just that.
Budgeting Software Tools
Call it a budget, a spending plan, or just spending less than you earn. No matter the name, managing your day-to-day finances well will enable the rest of your financial plans to come to fruition. You can't pay down debt or save for retirement if you can't stop spending more than you earn. Start here and get this step right before moving on.
The standard bearer for budgeting software, Mint has outlasted the likes of Wesabe and Microsoft Money (both defunct) and surged in popularity among users.
The company was purchased by Intuit and has pumped out high quality apps for both the iOS and Android platforms.
You can manage your money at mint.com directly or on any device that lets you run smartphone apps from Apple and Google like the iPad, iPhone, and their Android equivalents.
One of the biggest features of Mint is you get a snapshot of what your spending looks like. It's common to think “There's no way I spend $75 per month on lattes and mochas!”, but then the analysis pops up and shows how much your spending at coffee shops. With Mint you track not only your spending, but what your goals are. The software then helps you manage your life toward those goals and keeping your spending on plan with your budget.
The best part? It's free! Category leading software to help manage your life for free? Try it out today.
Handling your monthly bills is a hassle. Normally you're getting 4-8 different bills mailed to you at different times of the month. They have different due dates.
Some of them let you pay them online for free, others charge for using a credit card to pay off the balance (this makes my airline miles credit card strategy useless).
Managing this process each month isn't easy. You've got to go to the post office to keep a supply of stamps and find that old dusty checkbook that you only use for writing checks for bills. Isn't it time for a more modern approach to paying your bills?
That's where Manilla comes in. Pure and simple, Manilla lets you import all of your bills to their web, smartphone, or tablet interface. You can login and see all of your bills, the amounts due, and the due date in one location. No more having to open up envelope after envelope. Plus, you'll get handy features like email and text message reminders about due dates to help you completely avoid late fees.
Note: Manilla has announced that they are closing down. The best and free replacement that I have found is Finovera.com
3| You Need a Budget
Everyone hates budgeting including our very own Jeff Rose. (What's up with that, Jeff?)
Thankfully, there's a tool that aims to make the often complicated process of budgeting both simple and fun. That tool is You Need a Budget or YNAB. The software has a humble beginning: it was something that founder of the company developed for his own personal use, then realized there was huge swath of people that hated the task of budgeting. He's developed it into something useful and profitable; a great entrepreneurship story.
YNAB takes budgeting and breaks into down into four manageable steps. The slick software has iOS and Android apps, and even has a 34 day free trial to try it out. (Why 34 days? So you can install it, implement it for a full month, and see results at the end of the month.) The software costs $60, but if you sign up with our link you'll get $6 off the cost. Some may balk at the service, but if paying $54 gives you a tool that you will help you save more money, pay off debt, and avoid late fees… I think it is worth it.
Take your 34 day test run of YNAB and save $6 with our link.
Investment Management Software Tools
Now that you're managing your monthly finances well you might set up some money to be automatically invested for your retirement. Here are some tools to help you manage your investment accounts.
4| Personal Capital
Some of the other tools mentioned in this post have an investment section to let you look at your investments. Unfortunately those tools aren't built solely for investment management, so the look you get is just surface level.
When you're talking about as something as important as your investments for the future and retirement, a specific tool is needed to keep you on track.
We just did an in-depth review of Personal Capital, but here's a snapshot. Personal Capital is an online tool (with iPhone and iPad apps) that runs an initial analysis on your investment accounts to look for flaws in your plan or costs that could be trimmed from expensive investments. After the initial check in, you can monitor all of your investments in real time and get unbiased advice for your future. If you are somewhat confused about how this differs from a budgeting software like Mint, check our review of Personal Capital vs Mint to get a full understanding on the strengths ans weaknesses of each free service.
Personal Capital also believes they have a fiduciary duty to their users. Don't know what that means? Check our review on why those two words are so important.
Microsoft Money fought an epic war with Intuit's Quicken, and Quicken won. The software has been around for a long time, developed quite the following, and drastically changed over the years. You are no longer forced to just use a PC as options for Apple and Android devices now exist.
More from GFC, Below
Quicken comes in several varieties that do everything from helping your budget your funds to tracking loan payments, setting saving goals, and managing your investments. The investment tool helps you see how you are performing compared to the market, make comparisons, and track your gains and losses for tax purposes.
6| Your Broker's Tools
We really like Personal Capital and how it can track multiple accounts at multiple companies in real-time. But what if you just have one Roth IRA with one broker?
Try using your broker's tools first. E*TRADE, Fidelity, Scottrade, Vanguard, TD Ameritrade, Betterment (learn more about them at our Betterment Online Investing Review page), Capital One ShareBuilder, and many more have great tools for their customers to use to track their investments, manage for better results, and get documentation for showing gains and losses at tax time. (Check out our lists of the Best Brokers for Beginners and Best Brokers to Open an IRA With.)
Debt Reduction Software
Getting out of debt is one of the best things you can do to stabilize your finances. Being debt-free helps you endure rainy financial days and frees up cash for other important items like investing and saving for your college expenses.
7| Ready for Zero
One of the newest players on the block, Ready for Zero is poised to be a big player in helping consumers pay down debt in an effective manner.
The company publicly says they are a technology company dedicated to helping you achieve financial success. That's an interesting take, but the iPhone and iPad apps look very slick.
Ready for Zero lets you import your debts like credit cards, student loans, and mortgages. The software analyzes your situation and gives you payoff options to help you get out of debt as quickly as possible. It adjusts based on your cash flow to make sure you stay on track.
As you make progress Ready for Zero will start finding other options for you to save even further money like finding better banks to work with and getting lower interest rates. The firm has data that shows its users pay off debt twice as fast as non-users.
Just like some of the other fine software on this list, Ready for Zero is free. And considering it will help you pay off debt faster than trying it on your own, there is no reason to not give it a try. Set up your free debt payoff plan today.
8| Credit Sesame
Credit Sesame is somewhat similar to Ready for Zero. Instead of building a plan to pay off your debt, reminding you to make payments, and so on the company connects you with better credit offers that will help you pay down your balances faster.
The idea is to make sure you have the best credit cards, mortgage, and loans for your situation. After you import your information the firm will do an analysis and if you aren't using the best products, they connect you with offers that you are pre-approved for to better your situation. (For example, if they find you're sitting on a 5% interest rate on a 30 year loan you will probably find a refinance offer for something in the 3.25% to 3.5% range.) Plus, when you sign up you get a free Experian credit score.
Credit Sesame is a great tool, but I highly recommend you combine it with Ready for Zero. You want to use the best of both worlds: make sure you have the best financial products that will automatically save you on interest, then work a debt payoff plan to pay those products off as quickly as possible.
Credit Monitoring Software Tools
Your credit score is an asset that you should protect. The easiest way to do that is to consistently monitor your credit reports and scores.
9| Credit Karma
This software is almost too good to be true. You get consistent free credit scores from the credit bureaus. You can track the ups and downs of your score and connect with savings based on your score. One thing to note: the credit scores you get aren't your MyFICO scores they are scores that the bureaus have created that are slightly different. However, being able to keep tabs on these scores is a decent substitute for your MyFICO score especially as you watch the score go up and down. The higher your score on any rating system, the better.
Start tracking your credit scores for free with Credit Karma.
Just a short addition to what we've already said about Credit Sesame. When you open an account you get access to a free credit score every single month.
Tax Software Tools
Benjamin Franklin is often quoted, saying, “…in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.”
Since that is absolutely true, why not use some software tools to manage your taxes? It sure can make the process of filing out page after page of forms a lot easier.
Quicken, as mentioned above, is a good tool to help you prepare to enter your information into your tax software. Being able to track when you bought and sold specific investments in terms of cost basis, profit/loss, and date of transaction makes life a lot easier when you're trying to file your taxes.
11| Turbo Tax
The standard bearer in the tax category is Turbo Tax. Popular (the #1 tax software), inexpensive, and available online. You get audit protection, the ability to get one-on-one tax advice from an advisor, and a guarantee that your refund will be maxed out as high as it legally can be.
Don't be overwhelmed by the idea of doing your own taxes. With great software the process can be … well, not enjoyable, but really not that bad. The software will ask you all of the right questions to help you find money and deductions in your taxes and, assuming you are answering accurately, you'll be able to send in your return electronically in no time.