What’s the Best Personal Finance Software?

Question: What is the best personal finance software for budgeting/tracking spending?

Answer: This is an easy question to answer but it also needs to be divided into two parts: personal finance software that you can buy/download and use on your desktop, and websites that you can use from any machine. Let’s start with desktop software…

iBank: $59.99
For Mac users, iBank is probably the most popular personal finance software used. It’s also, without a doubt, my favourite. After linking all of your accounts, it gives you a crystal clear picture of how much money you have, how much you owe, or where every penny you spend goes. On top of the desktop program, you can also use iBank on your iPad or iPhone.

Quicken: $49.99
I’m not a PC user myself but, if I were, I would probably buy and use Quicken. Quicken Cash Manager 2013 lets you track your spending, pay your bills, create a better budget and save for what you want. On top of being Canada’s best-selling personal finance software, my friend Krystal loves it so much she has given away free copies before – that’s a good enough review for me!

As for websites…

Mint: Free
With more than 10 million users, Mint is obviously the most popular personal finance website to use, and it’s not hard to understand why. It’s free, it only takes a few minutes to link all of your accounts, and you can do so much with it. The one thing to consider is that, in Canada, giving third-party sites (such as Mint) access to your accounts automatically breaks the agreements you have with your lender. If your accounts were compromised via Mint, your bank wouldn’t be at fault – you’d be out of luck.

LearnVest: Free*
Finally, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that I would recommend LearnVest. On top of the Money Center producing charts and graphics that help motivate you to stay on budget, my favourite part of the site is all of the content around it. And they released their first app in October. I wish, wish, wish it was available in the iTunes Canada Store! *Note: Since writing this post, LearnVest has become a paid for service. Also, Canadians cannot link their accounts to LearnVest.

And that’s it! Of course, there are a number of other pieces of software you can buy or download, but these are what I consider to be the best. Now, I still don’t think anything works as good as writing it all down by hand and putting it into Excel… but maybe that’s because it helped me see just how crazy of a spender I was, before I finally learned how to budget.

What’s your favourite personal finance software to use?

39 Comments

  1. Great post! Sucky about the vlog not working, hopefully next time. My favourite software is Mint.com, because it’s free, I can access it anywhere, and it automatically imports transactions. The only way it falls short is in the forecasting arena, and for that I have to still rely on excel, but I don’t mind.

  2. I am so excited you are starting a vlog! How brave! Sadly I do not own any Mac products so I don’t have the luxury of trying out iBank. Quicken I have used for work but not for personal reasons. As of now I am using the old pen and paper with the help of a premade sheet from a site called Coupon Snob . Then i upload it to excel so I can play with the numbers and see my totals. It takes time but allows me to sit down and stare my spending in the face.
    My question for you: When you decided okay today is the first day that my finances are going to controlling me, what was the first step in you turning your financial life around?

  3. Unless things have changed recently with Canadian banks, using a program like Mint is a violation of your banking contract and can leave you open to vulnerabilities if your account was ever breached (be it from Mint or other sources). I stick to my handy dandy colour coded excel spread sheet for that reason :)

    • Cait

      January 24, 2013 at 7:32 am

      Yea, that’s an interesting (/scary) point. Honestly, I love Excel for budgeting. It puts you in complete control. Thanks for your comment, Britt!

    • That’s a good point. Namely for this reason alone my husband and I have searched for a personal finance software that wouldn’t connect directly to our bank accounts and require disclosure of our private information. We’ve been using this nice budgeting tool called https://www.inexfinance.com/ for some time now and are both very happy with it. You still get all the benefits such online tools can offer without having to worry all the time whether our bank account information might be compromised.

  4. I use both mint and learnvest but haven’t fully set things up yet as I need to get my categories in my budget straight. Right now I just a use a good ol’ excel spreadsheet for that. I try not to overwhelm myself with tracking because then it just become a chore. It should always be fun…well fun-ish.

    • Cait

      January 24, 2013 at 7:34 am

      Tracking can definitely seem like a chore, at first, but I find it so much easier to track once/week versus once/month! By the last day of the month, my spreadsheet is already filled in and I know exactly how my month was.

  5. Great post Cait. We don’t use any fancy software rather we use a budget spreadsheet that we designed and has worked perfect for us the past couple of years. There are literally tonnes of software, spreadsheets etc out there with Mint being very popular like you say. I’ve had no need to use them but for others they are perfect! Cheers

    • Cait

      January 24, 2013 at 7:35 am

      I think it helps people visualize their money, which is always good – especially when you’re just starting to take control of your finances. Thanks for your comment!

  6. It might sound odd but my personal finance software is Excel. I’d rather make my own spreadsheet. I am a spreadsheet geek. Sort of. :)

  7. I tried Mint out and I can say that it’s fairly cool. But being a true PF geek, I enjoy creating excel spreadsheets and filling stuff in with pen. Yes, I’m a nerd! :)

  8. Thank you for answering my question, Cait! I’m looking forward to giving these a try (and finding a better way to replace my multi-tab spreadsheet :)

    • Cait

      January 24, 2013 at 7:36 am

      Well, if you read the comments, it seems we all use spreadsheets! Maybe there’s no getting around that… :P

  9. Nice list! I’m going to look into iBank for sure! Another iPhone app I use is PocketMoney. I am kind of obsessed with it, and have nothing but good things to say about how easy it is to use, especially because you can input transactions into the future, which helps me stay on track with my spending!

    • Cait

      January 24, 2013 at 7:37 am

      Ooo, I’m going to look into that! Thanks, Meg!

      There are literally a TON of apps that I could’ve listed. Maybe worthy of another post? ;)

  10. Bummer about the vlog – hopefully next time.

    I used to use Mint, but was scared off by concerns about violating service agreements. IBank sounds interesting – I will have to investigate further.

    • Cait

      January 24, 2013 at 7:38 am

      It’s definitely worth looking into! Although it’s not a chunk of change that’s easy to hand over…

      It’ll definitely work next time. I forgot I could just use iMovie. #blonde

  11. Hey Cait!

    Since you’re having difficulties with photobooth on your mac – just wanted to let you know that you can also film directly into iMovie on your computer. You can also use Quicktime to film ‘one take’ style video clips.

    Hope this advice helps :)

    • Cait

      January 24, 2013 at 7:39 am

      Thank you, Lola! I completely forgot about iMovie but a friend gave me the same advice on Twitter after too. The next vlog will definitely happen! :)

  12. I’ve tried Mint but just like other commenters – I prefer to use a spreadsheet too! :)

  13. Excel…all the way. I set it up in such a way that all I need to do is put in the transactions and it automatically tells much how much I’ve spent and how much I have left to spend in each category. The less work the better!

  14. Great list of the best personal finance software! Excel is a great first step, but it feels limiting at times, specially if you can’t use it on the go on your mobile device.

  15. I officially put in a request for a LearnVest Android ap!!! :P

  16. Howdy!

    I’d like to put in a vote for “Microsoft Money.” While Microsoft has discontinued support for Money, they offer it as a free download, here: https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/download/details.aspx?id=20738

    I tried Quicken but found that the cash flow projection feature was broken, not taking into account budget items. That’s a huge flaw that has other Quicken users reverting to Excel spreadsheets. Discussion of that here: https://qlc.intuit.com/questions/163394-where-is-the-cash-flow-forecast-tool-in-quicken-2013

    Best regards,
    CJ

  17. One little known excellent free online budgeting web app is Out Of The Dark (OOTD) Budgeting, it offers easy, comprehensive and customizable budgeting with built in cash put-aside, a credit card debt terminator tool and expense tracking side by side on the same screen with budgeting, plus auto period closing with budget and historical reports sent to the account’s e-mail for easy, safe keeping, anonymous usage without giving out personal identity and without giving out access to bank accounts, all unconditionally free.

  18. Just wondering…

    When I was a kid, I wanted this wallet from Disneyland really badly. I had enough money for it, so I bought it, but after doing that, I had nothing to put in it — I spent all my money on the wallet.

    So I’m wondering — what is the ROI on something like Quicken? I manage all my money through Google docs, which is obviously free. It’s not as robust — you have to do a lot of work on your own, clearly — but do software like Quicken or iBank save you at least $60?

    I do agree with Mint, though — it’s a godsend.

  19. LearnVest actually isn’t free! It looks like an amazing and beautiful software accompaniment to any type of budgeting you do on your own, but there is a $89 first-time set-up fee and a charge of $19 per month every month afterwards….check out the pricing tab at the top of the link for more details!

    It just goes to show….read the fine print!!!

    • Cait

      May 23, 2013 at 7:43 am

      I know… it USED to be free to use the budget tool, but they recently changed that. Despite the new fee structure, I still think it’s an incredible resource for people who want to take control of their finances.

    • Hi Annabelle,

      OOTD Budgeting remains unconditionally free, a great budgeting system for people wanting to do their own budgeting online in total anonymity without any affiliation with banks, and it is the only tool I know that has a powerful cash put-aside feature built right into my budget.

      Happy budgeting

  20. I used Excel for years. What a great tool for budgeting. Though you do need to copy formulas when you add new transactions.
    Then I found a product called Moneyble – it is free. It does budgeting, forecasting, statement import which automatically assigns expenses to your budget categories based on history. And screens remind me Excel – everything is in spreadsheets. Very convenient and visual.
    I started using it several months ago and love it so far.
    You improve where you track. As soon as you start tracking your spending and your income – you start saving more.

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