Once upon a time I started on a quest. It was the most noble of pursuits – to find the best personal finance software.
My mission, of which I was given no opportunity to accept, is to find or upgrade my a personal finance software by April 30th.
I had Quicken Personal Finance Software, but alas my friends at the Intuit company want to continue to generate income so as of that date I will no longer be able to update my information via the internet. This, unfortunately, renders my current software as virtually useless.
So, to be honest I’m a little anxious to get away from Quicken. I wanted to teach Quicken a lesson (don’t charge useless fees or you’ll lose customers) but, I didn’t want to deal with the learning curve of a new program.
Personal Capital | Best Free Web based Personal Finance Programs
If you like free products and your comfortable with a web based product Personal Capital will be a great product for you. Once synced all your accounts you’ll have the opportunity to track your spending and your investments in one single place. Previously Mint.com was the best web based product, but Mint doesn’t track investments. Personal Capital is free and it tracks investments. Your expenses are automatically synced and you have an opportunity to track your spending from there.
Mint – easy to use and navigate, popular, satisfied users. Cannot track cash, small bank and credit union issues, tracks what has been spend instead of what will be spent.
Moneydance |Best Paid Desktop Personal Finance Program
I’ll be honest – I’d never heard of Moneydance before I started this search. However, there seems to be a lot of positive comments about it that ultimately this is one of the products I’m going to try.
Their foreign currency capabilities is one of the most appealing elements.
You Need A Budget (YNAB)
YNAB is very specific in what it does (budgeting) but also very effective for that.
The YNAB philosophy is build on four simple tenants: Stop Living Paycheck to Paycheck, Give Every Dollar a Job, Save for a Rainy Day, and Roll with the Punches. The budgeting software was created to help you do those four things in the easiest way possible.
YNAB is both Mac and PC compatible. It is easy to navigate and has a crisp interface.
Other free products:
If you want a product that has a different feel to it try the free PocketSmith online tool. If you want to try and win a free PocketSmith premium membership valued at $60 just be sure to leave a comment on one of the Money Saving Monday posts this month.
Disadvantages of these free products:
- Most free products mean you will be seeing ads on the webpage. Some people are fine with this and other would rather pay for something than see ads.
- They give you the bank’s balance, but it’s not so easy to know what checks or charges are outstanding.
- There is reports of compatibility issues with smaller banks and credit unionsI mentioned at the start of this post that I’m not really interested in a web based product so obviously I didn’t really seriously consider any of these. But, I did want to point them out for you.
GnuCash | Best Free Desktop Personal Finance Program
GnuCash (http://www.gnucash.org/) was the most recommended application. I am also going to give this a try (alongside MoneyDance) however I’m less confident about GnuCash because the reviews talk about how it has a pretty steep learning curve. I’m not one to stick around a lot of complicated programs so we’ll if I survive the trial.
MoneyWell | Best Personal Finance Software For Mac Users
MoneyWell is a must try program for Mac users. There was some great comments and recommendations for MoneyWell.
Mvelopes & YNAB | Best For Personal Finance Programs For Budgeting
Mvelopes is an online finance tool that uses the often recommended envelop budgeting system, but with a twist. It uses electronic envelopes.
Once expenses are recorded that amount is removed from your envelope. This is a perfect alternative for people who like to use their credit or debit card for spending, but are attracted to the envelop budgeting system.
Once transactions are downloaded from your financial institution you simply drag and drop those transaction into an expense envelope. Mvelopes does have a 14 day free trial. It’s a cool alternative to you standard personal finance software.
Click here to try Mvelopes.
Moneydance: My Final Choice For Personal Finance Software
I automatically eliminated the free online products, because I wanted a desktop version.
Earlier this year I did purchase and use You Need A Budget. It was a great program, but it did not have the foreign currency tools that is so important to me.
I was intimidated by GnuCash.
So I went with MoneyDance. I’ll give a full review sometime in the future but I can say we really like it (we’ve had it for a couple of months now). For full disclosure I should mention that the folks at MoneyDance gave me a free copy of their product. But, they didn’t give me a free copy until I first bought MoneyDance for $40.00 (updated 8/27/10 – the purchase price in now 49.99). When the found out I was a personal finance blogger they refunded my money.
I wanted to finish this post with a quick fact about MoneyDance from one of their online reps:
In case you don’t already know this, we have a generous trial so users can decide if they like our program before they purchase it. The demo version is fully-functional and allows you to manually enter 100 transactions. Imported transactions are not limited. If users decide to purchase the program at a later date you can keep all your data, the license key simply unlocks the ability to manually enter more transactions. … We also provide online customer support to all of our users, even those who are using the free trial version.
Is personal finance software necessary?
For a moment I thought about taking a stand against buying a software package. Instead, I was going to use Excel (just like I do for my personal budget) to track everything. However, I quickly realized that this would be a lot of work to set up and I don’t want to take the time to customized everything to track my investments and such.
I decided that I would buy another software.
What Personal Finance Software Features are Most Important To You?
Initially I was going to set this up like my 88 best personal finance books post where I tried to find the most recommended personal finance software. However, I quickly came to discover that the best personal finance software has everything to do with what you are expecting and what you prefer from your software.
Here’s what’s most important for me:
- A product that allows me to see all my account balance and activity in one single location
- Can download information from the internet
- Tracks investments
- Foreign currency features are important
- Customizable and proactive (not just reactive – I can enter information not just sort bills once the money has been spent)
- Because of my lame internet service I prefer a desktop version not web based
A Note About Free Personal Finance Software
I think that we can all learn something from the fact that Microsoft Money recently closed it’s doors. They cannot compete against the free products. I take that as a compliment to the free stuff. Just because a product is free does not mean it is not any good. When searching for personal finance software try free first.
Methodology: How Did I Find the Best Personal Finance Programs?
I started looking around online for recommended personal finance software. I looked at several different sites and reviews. Here were three that I enjoyed:
- Consumerist – What the best personal finance software?
- Christian Personal Finance – What’s the best personal finance software?
- Frugal Dad – Best Personal Finance Software
But one of my first stops was the most beneficial – Get Rich Slowly. I read JD Roths’ post on the best personal finance programs. The article was good, but I’m found a gold mine in the comments sections. There was 230 comments where some people suggested their favorite finance programs (not all suggested their favorite software).
The thing I like about the comments is they are real people who have no incentive to promote a product (except of course the developers and employees who left comments).
I did more searching, but the comments helped me find the best personal finance software.
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Anyone have any favorite personal finance programs they can recommend? Be sure you let us know if it is a desktop product or web based.