Some may call me a little old school (many may call me old), and, I admit, I’m a little slow to the world of technology. When it comes to tracking my finances I still like the old pen and paper, but I’m coming around. Since I’ve begun using personal finance software programs, I’ve realized what a fantastic time saver they can be.
Starting from scratch with tracking expenses, net worth and budgeting can be overwhelming. Building a spreadsheet, figuring out budget categories and exactly how to plan for those large expenses is often intimidating and time consuming, especially when you’re just beginning to get a good handle on your personal finances.
There is a plethora of financial software, apps, programs and courses available and it’s hard to wade through them and figure out which is best for you. But when it comes to the best personal financial software, I’ve run across some great information that may help you decide what exactly is right for you.
Top Personal Finance Software and Tools
I’ve used Personal Capital’s free net worth and expense tracking tools for a few years. Both tools keep me posted on how much more/less I am spending than the previous month and if my net worth is going up or down (they even email me this information).
Personal Capital allows you to easily sync all of your accounts in one place, giving you a clear snapshot of what your net worth, cash flow, and spending look like. After linking your accounts, you can effectively use the free tracking tools for an overall picture of your net worth and spending.
Though Personal Capital isn’t necessarily a customizable budgeting tool, it provides updated information on the overall state of your cash flow and spending. Set up is quick and easy, although you may need to re-categorize some of your expenses, as the tool automatically assigns categories.
Whether you’re looking at your spending or net worth, the tools provide easy-to-read, color coded pie charts, giving you an accurate picture of changes from month to month.
Personal Capital is perfect if you aren’t looking for a detailed budgeting tool, but still want to compare your net worth and spending from month to month without putting in much upfront set-up time.
You Need A Budget (YNAB)
I’ve been using YNAB for a couple of months now. I was actually inspired to start using their program because of an email from a reader (more in that in a future post). As I talk to people and ask around, I’m more convinced than ever that this is a tool that, given enough time and attention, could help many, many people who need to get a handle on their finances.
Since I’m not a fan of strict category budgets, YNAB is a good fit for me. The YNAB motto is “give every dollar a job” and it allows for flexibility within your budget, similar to a zero-sum budget. When used appropriately, it allows you to set spending and savings goals, and not a single dollar gets missed.
YNAB helps you work toward spending last month’s money (rather than relying on the next paycheck!), allows for flexibility, and breaks down larger expenses into smaller, monthly expenses.
Unlike Mint and Personal Capital, YNAB does have associated fees, but you can try it out for free for 34 days. After the trial period it is $5/month or $50/year.
Update: I’ve recently partnered with YNAB to provide a special offer for Centsibly Rich readers. Use this link to get three months of YNAB free!
Since I have been using the YNAB system, I’ve realized you really need to stick with it for longer than the initial 34 days to get the full benefit and get acquainted with the program. The system does require your attention on a regular basis to keep your budget up to date but, in my opinion, this is a good thing. There is a bit of a learning curve when getting started, but the tutorials and webinars are there to help you along the way.
Mint is the only personal finance software on the list that I have never personally used. But it seems I may be missing out on something here. On a quick Google search, Mint came out on top on numerous sites, plus they’ve been around for a decade and have millions of users.
Reviews.com named Mint as their top choice because of it’s usefulness and easy-to-use application. Though you do have to deal with banner ads, Mint is also totally free.
Mint is good for those who want to start budgeting, set savings goals, and plan for upcoming expenses. It allows you to link all of your accounts easily and automatically syncs your latest transactions, so there is little manual input. Initial set-up is easy, but setting your budgeting categories and goals takes a few hours in the beginning, so you should expect to put in some upfront time to get started. Once you get started, you can easily change and view your spending on the dashboard.
Do you use personal finance software? If so, what has worked for you?
*Reviews.com also gave mention to Quicken. Quicken is similar to Mint, but comes with a price tag. It’s good for those who already have a handle on their finances, but want to be able to work on the nitty gritty details.
Don’t miss out on this great resource! If you are in need of some budgeting guidance, head on over to PowerOverLife.com and check out my friend Jacob’s ultimate Guide to Budgeting, complete with free spreadsheets and calculators to get you started today!
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