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Best personal finance software 2021

Best Personal Finance Software 2021
(Image credit: Getty)

The best personal finance software can certainly help if you want to take greater control over your everyday finances. Whether your priority is identifying areas where your spending can be cut back or you simply want the complete picture of your household money situation all in one place, the top rated personal finance software can do it all.

Most home finance software will sync directly to your bank or credit card accounts, while budget planners and other helpful tools are usually included too - you may even get a warning when your spending is about to get too much. If you have investments, you'll want to find software that allows you to track your performance, like Moneydance, while the very best personal finance software often includes market comparison tools, and lets you set up retirement goals as well.

Working out how you can manage your finances better isn’t always an easy task, but with this shortlist of the best personal finance software, you’re getting off to a good start. Of course, there’s our selection as the top rated home finance software overall, but read on and you’ll find other trusted personal finance software that stands out if you’re on a budget, want to manage your money via app, or have investments that you need to keep track of each and every day. 

While you’re sorting your finances, remember that tax season is here too, and that the best tax software is perfect for getting this often onerous task out of the way for another year. And should your new mastery of money mean you have funds left over to invest, perhaps the best online stock trading brokers will now be of interest to you too. 

1. Quicken Premier: Best personal finance software overall

Quicken Premier is the best personal finance software overall

(Image credit: Quicken)

Quicken Premier

Quicken Premier is the best all round personal finance software bar none.

Reasons to Buy

Best tools for managing investments
Copy your budget to the next month
Can export tax data

Reasons to Avoid

Cheaper options available
Mobile and web-based applications don't have all desktop features

Our pick for the best personal finance software is Quicken Premier. Quicken is one of the best known names in personal finance, and it is constantly updating its software with new features. And as you would expect, the latest version of Quicken Premier - which typically costs $77.99 a year, but is often discounted - remains incredibly easy to get started with and hook up with your bank and investment accounts.

Once you've connected the program to your accounts, it will import your transactions and categorize them automatically - should something be incorrect, you can edit it. The categories are obviously there to help you organize your budget, with color-coded indicators providing an instant visualization of your current monetary state of play. If you need a more stark reminder when you're tempted to spend, there are also alerts that will be sent to you when a budget limit nears or is exceeded. There are budget setting options for everyone, with Quicken allowing you to keep the same limit each month, or direct any unused funds to roll over into the following month.

However, where Quicken Premier really stands out is in its investment, tax planning and retirement tracking tools. If you own stocks or other securities, simply link up your investment account and you can analyze your portfolio and compare its performance with the market. You can also track progress towards your retirement goals, and find out what you need to do to either stay or get back on track. There's the option to track cost basis and create Schedule D tax reports too, providing a head start when it comes satisfying the IRS requirements that come around each year. 


2. Quicken Starter: Best value personal finance software

Quicken Starter is the best value personal finance software

(Image credit: Quicken)

Quicken Starter

Quicken Starter is the best budget friendly personal finance software.

Reasons to Buy

Low cost budget planning
Has all the budgeting features of Quicken Premier
Can use the app to save receipt information

Reasons to Avoid

No investment monitoring features
Doesn’t export to tax programs

If you're looking for value in your personal finance software - and given it is money management products that we're talking about, you probably are - Quicken Starter is the less expensive, scaled-down version of Quicken Premier. Indeed, the cost of $35.99 is hard to argue with on any level, particularly as it provides the same outstanding budgeting tools as its more expensive counterpart - what you don't get is access to the investment and tax planning tools that are available on the Premier version.  

Quicken Starter connects directly to your accounts and imports your balances and transactions, automatically categorizing them. You can also manually adjust the categories if the default tags don’t match your budget. Budgets are easy to create too and can be divided into categories to track how much you spend on groceries, rent, and other items. You can set up email or text alerts for when you approach or exceed your budget limit in a certain category. 

For managing your finances on the go, the Quicken mobile app lets you check on your budget from your phone and take pictures of receipts so that you can add them to your records. And as with the Premier option, a web based version of the package is now available as well. All round, it's the perfect personal software option for budgeting on a budget, particularly if investments are not on your agenda right now. And if they are, then know where to find the Quicken Premier package. 


3. Buxfer: Best personal finance software app

Buxfer offers the best personal finance software app

(Image credit: Buxfer)

Buxfer

Buxfer is good for budgeting while on the go.

Reasons to Buy

Easy-to-use mobile app
Auto-tagging of transactions is accurate
Shared-expense tracking lets you divide costs with roommates, friends or family

Reasons to Avoid

Investment features are minimal
Limited reporting 

Having a mobile, web-based personal finance program makes it easy to track your spending and expenses from anywhere, and this is where Buxfer excels. 

Once you create an account with Buxfer and download the app, you can connect it to your bank and credit card accounts, allowing your balances and transactions to be automatically added to the application and categorized. An edit option is available too if you don't agree with the automatic categorization.

Creating a budget with Buxfer is also easy. You set an overall spending limit for each week, month and year and can use the categories to further refine your plans. One distinct advantage of being primarily app-based is that your budget planner is always readily at hand, ideal for easy reference when you’re about to splash out, but maybe shouldn't. What Buxfer also has is shared-expense tracking, which lets you send money to others, and can prove especially useful if you split rent or utilities with roommates.

Buxfer offers simple reports that help you visualize your spending. There are pie charts to determine what percent of your income you spend on various categories and line graphs to give you a quick view of your income versus your expenses. If you want to set up savings or retirement goals, then you'll need to look elsewhere, but if it's budget planning on the go that you're after, then Buxfer is the ideal choice.


4. Moneydance: Best personal finance software for investors

Moneydance offers the best personal finance software for investors

(Image credit: Moneydance)

Moneydance

Moneydance offers powerful personal finance software best suited to investors.

Reasons to Buy

Connects to brokerage accounts and peer-to-peer lenders
Great reporting options

Reasons to Avoid

No budget alerts
No retirement planning features

Moneydance is one of the best personal finance software options if you have investments and brokerage accounts that you want to keep track of. The platform is easy to use, yet there's a number of impressive options that you won't always find elsewhere, including the ability to sync to a peer-to-peer lender and the option to create your own custom-made reports. 

All of the usual account syncing options are available too, and a mobile app so that you can monitor everything while you're on the go. If you're looking for straightforward budgeting assistance, the lack of alerts might disappoint, and it's unlikely you'll need all the bells and whistles that come with the package overall. But if it's investments you want to monitor, and the ability to build your own bespoke reports, then Moneydance certainly has something to offer you.


5. Mvelopes: Best for envelope budgeting

Mvelopes is the best for envelope budgeting

(Image credit: mvelopes)

Mvelopes

Mvelopes is the personal finance software equivalent of putting money in envelopes

Reasons to Buy

Easy to set up and import transactions
60-day free trial

Reasons to Avoid

Doesn’t track investments
No alerts if you overspend

Mvelopes is the ideal go-to personal finance software if you want practice envelope budgeting with a 21st century twist. For time immemorial, people have put money into envelopes with the express intention of spending no more on groceries, shopping, entertainment or whatever is written on the envelope than the amount sealed inside.

Now, Mvelopes brings the method up to date, by allowing you to track expenditures that you've assigned to various digital envelopes. When you exceed a spending limit, the envelope balance changes to red, and you know you've gone too far. Mvelopes lets you sync directly to your bank and credit card accounts, so that a fast insight into your everyday spending is always at hand. You can connect to brokerage accounts too, but only your balance will be recorded -  you can't monitor your portfolio performance. Three plans are on offer, with each available on a free 30 day trial. 


Choosing the right personal finance software

Before settling on a personal finance program, take stock of what you need it for and how you’ll use it. Everyone’s financial situation is different, and some of these programs may not suit all your needs.

Basic Budgeting
If you need to get a handle on your finances and track your spending, a basic budgeting option is probably suitable for you. A budget can be as simple or complex as you need. You may want to simply track your total spending overall, or perhaps keep tabs on how much you spend on certain things. Some people feel most comfortable with the envelope budgeting method, which involves setting money aside each month for specific items or goals. 

Goal-oriented Budgeting
If you’re budgeting because you want to save toward a goal, say a down payment on a home or for retirement, many of the programs offer tracking tools that let you set aside an amount each month and track your progress. Using personal finance software to manage your budget can help you identify the areas where you overspend or can most easily cut back as you attempt to reach your financial goals.

Tracking Investments
Not everyone invests money in the stock market, but if you do, you’ll need personal finance software that can cover the full breadth of your financial situation. Many of the programs we tested integrate with your financial firm and can at least give you a top-level look at your portfolio. However, the best personal finance software allows you to track your performance and compare your portfolio with the market. Investment tracking software tends to cost a bit more, so if you don't have stocks to monitor, you're best choosing the lower cost software that should simply provide the budgeting features that you need. 

Best free personal finance apps

While most of the personal finance software cost money, often in the form of a monthly or annual subscription, there are also some programs that offer free trials too. If you're just getting started with budgeting, taking a trial would seem the best option to see if the system on offer works for you. 

Alternatively, there's a seemingly ever growing number of free budget and finance tracking apps that you can make use of, including:  

Mint
Developed by Intuit, the same company responsible for Quicken, Mint is a budgeting app that is free to download and use. Once installed, you can sync to your bank and credit card accounts, pulling all the relevant information into one main dashboard. Mint categorizes your transactions, so you can check your bank and credit card balances at a glance. It even goes a step beyond and lets you check your credit score and investment performance, as well as the value of your home. 

While Mint automatically creates a budget for you, this can be adjusted to suit your needs. You can also set up alerts to make you aware if you're about to stray beyond your budget or have a bill coming up. The main drawback with Mint is the prevalence of ads that you need to put up with, but that's usually the price of having something for free. 

Clarity Money
Clarity Money comes courtesy of Goldman Sachs, and is similar to Mint in the way that it syncs to your bank accounts, tracks your spending and sends alerts when you have a bill due. However, what makes it stand out is the ability to monitor your subscriptions to services and websites, and then to cancel them on your behalf if you no longer need them. Clarity Money can provide a useful picture of your finances, but if you need more in-depth budgeting tools, you may need to look elsewhere. 

PocketGuard
If it's very basic spend tracking that you're after PocketGuard might just suit you. There's little in the way of additional features and may not be prove good enough to reconfigure your entire budget, but it’s a more than useful way to quickly see how much money you have to hand.