These days, you’re no longer limited to tracking your spending with a pencil and paper, or even with a spreadsheet. If you’re someone who hates tracking every single penny, poring over bank statements, and scouring credit card bills, you need personal finance software to help you manage your finances.
Today’s personal finance software offers a range of different functions and features for every consumer. If you need a robust, desktop software with lots of premium features to help you run your small business or track your freelancing income and expenses, you have several options to choose from. If you’re looking for something to help you set spending limits and stick to a budget, there are no shortage of choices there, either. There are even dedicated apps for investing, tax preparation, debt reduction, and more. Here’s how to choose the best software for you.
Consider Your Needs
Because there are so many kinds of personal finance software available, you need to think about the choice in terms of what you’ll use the software for — and consider that you may need to combine multiple types of software to get all of the features you need, especially if you’re trying to stick to free software.
Most people want personal finance software that can help them budget, save, and invest — and most desktop software solutions will combine all three into a hefty and comprehensive package. Some of the more comprehensive, desktop personal finance software lets you sync accounts, for hands-off transaction tracking and categorizing, as well as pay bills, schedule automatic transfers into savings and other accounts, track and analyze investments, tag tax-related transactions for filing time, build and manage your budget, balance your accounts, and even give you an overview of your net worth. Quicken is the most popular software in this category, with the largest range of features for use on desktop, but there are many other options to choose from, including web-based services like Mint.
On the other side of the continuum, you have more streamlined personal finance apps for use on mobile. While some of these, like Mint and YNAB (You Need a Budget), offer a more comprehensive overview of your financial life, many will focus on a single aspect of your personal finances: tracking your spending, for example, or managing your investments. While less robust, these personal finance apps can be a great solution if your needs are simple. If you choose a desktop solution, however, you should be able to access your data via a mobile phone app, as well.
Weigh the Pros and Cons
Once you’ve considered what you need from personal finance software, and how sophisticated you’d like yours to be, you can think about other factors that come into play. Cost is one — many personal finance apps are free, but if you have a complex financial situation, it may be worth paying for software that offers more features. Even if you choose a free app, you may need to upgrade to premium service to lift limits on the number of accounts you can add or access other features.
You should also consider what you need from the software in order to make the most use of it. Are you a visual learner who will do best with colorful reports and visualizations to show you where your money is going? Do you want the option to consult a personal financial advisor or just to speak with a human being, rather than a robot, when you have a customer service issue? Will the service be secure enough to protect your personal data? Do you need credit monitoring, access to credit products, or the ability to pay bills or make account transfers directly from the software? Would you need to generate historical reports and make financial projections based on your current spending behavior? These are all questions you should ask yourself when shopping for personal finance software.
With so many options on the market, choosing the right personal finance software can feel overwhelming. But it’s just a matter of considering your needs carefully and choosing the software that best meets them. After that, all you have to do is connect your accounts and let the software do the rest.