Many of the best budgeting software tools are totally free. We list the top 10 options for paid and free apps. The #1 budgeting app is totally free.
Each decade brings new and innovative ways to manage your money. In the 1990s, you could use simple PC-based software to track basic income and expenses. These later evolved into reporting and analyzing powerhouses.
In the 2000s, connectivity with the internet made PC-based software easy to synchronize with bank and investment websites. The connectivity, in turn, provided access to detailed account information right at home.
With the arrival of the 2010s, the next phase is to manage the information that already resides out on the internet. We accomplished this through web-based software that will provide data security, keep the records protected against loss, and allow the user access their information from virtually anywhere.
Here’s a list of ten of the best web-based solutions for managing your money.
Emphasis: Tracking your wealth
Description: Personal Capital offers a wide variety of tools that allow you to track your banking, investing and retirement accounts. Perhaps their greatest feature is the retirement planner, which can point you in the right direction to secure your future. Personal Capital also has a great cash flow tool which you can use to track returns and dividends on your investments.
Emphasis: Online financial management + advice
Description: A lot of personal finance management software allows you to track your accounts. Wela is a little bit different in that it actually provides you advice based on your financial situation. Through an app, with a robot named Benjamin, Wela will look at your accounts and make suggestions. “Perhaps you should be saving your money with Ally, which has a high interest rate” (for example). Users can choose to listen or ignore the advice, but if you’re looking for actionable steps, look no further.
Emphasis: Balancing your checkbook
Description: ClearCheckbook provides analysis tools for evaluating and tracking your expenditures. Your bank data is imported, and you can then analyze expenses by category and closely monitor your balance to avoid overdrafts. Uncleared and cleared balances are provided with alerts that can be set to any dollar amount.
Emphasis: Virtual portfolio tracking
Price: $18.95/month (or free)
Description: MorningStar offers a bunch of excellent premium content to paid subscribers. They also have a great portfolio tracker tool for the investor who sits at a computer all day. Quick glances at your portfolio will alert you to buying and selling opportunities.
Note from Nickel: Google Finance also offers a nice portfolio tracker, and it’s also free. I’m also not a fan of tracking my portfolio on a minute-by-minute basis, but… To each their own. Personally, I use the Vanguard portfolio tracker for a “big picture” view of our investments.
Emphasis: Tracking shared expenses
Description: Buxfer is great for people who share expenses with roommates. Instead of guessing at fair portions of bills and tracking things in your head, the software does the math and tracks who has paid for each of their expenses.
Emphasis: Online financial management
Description: HelloWallet is a unique service in that, for every five users who sign up, an account is offered to a person who cannot afford this service. The site offers all the money management functionality necessary to manage and budget and monitor financial investments.
Emphasis: Virtual envelope budgeting
Price: $129.60/year (equivalent to $10.80/month)
Description: Mvelopes is a virtual envelope-budgeting tool. When the bills must be paid, the dollar amount in each envelope is applied to the bill electronically. In other, budgeting and bill payment are combined into one handy tool. You can also track discretionary spending in a dedicated envelope.
Emphasis: Manage cash flow and avoid surprises
Description: Moneystrands allows you to create a budget from the ground up, and then it monitors your performance. Alerts are provided automatically when the bank balance drops below a certain level. When bills must be paid, the user is alerted to the tasks that must be completed. They also have an iPhone app.
Emphasis: Complete financial management
Description: Mint can track virtually any financial activity. You can create a budget, track monthly expenses, evaluate investment performance, etc. This is by far the most well-known of all the web-based software packages. It’s so good, in fact, that Intuit bought it as a replacement for their own “Quicken Online.”
Emphasis: Budget planning
Description: If writing down a new monthly budget isn’t your thing, BudgetPulse can help to make it easier. Users can import and export their personal finance data, create graphs and charts for category spending, and bring in any financial statement. The primary downside to this easy to use software is that as of today, nothing syncs with your financial institution. The data needs to be input manually.
Do you track your finances online?
Even with the horror stories of website breaches and identity theft, my view is that the benefits of online personal financial management software far outweigh the risks. These services all work hard to protect your information, and some even allow anonymous signups. If you’re not already managing your money online, my advice is to test out a few of these sites and see if they meet your needs.