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Best personal finance software of 2020: free and paid versions for budgeting

Best personal finance software
(Image credit: Pixabay)

The best personal finance software on the market does away with the need to rifle through a box of papers, receipts and invoices - a nightmare scenario for anyone.

Some personal finance software can be used through software downloaded to a desktop computer (Windows, Mac, or Linux), or through a browser-based cloud software platform, or additionally through apps on your smartphone.

Software records are usually easy to save and backup, either to your hard drive or to a cloud storage service, making it harder to lose your progress.

Basic financial planning software simply provides an easy portal for managing your finances, but some of the more advanced ones can help with reducing debt, managing budgets, or even provide finance advice as an additional service.

We'll therefore look at the best personal finance software out there and show you the standout features of each one so that you can get a better idea of which would be best for you.

If you're looking to keep your business books with a bit more detail, check out our guides to the best accounting software and best tax software.

In the meantime, you can jump to:

Best personal finance software at a glance

  1. Quicken
  2. YNAB
  3. Banktree
  4. Money Dashboard
  5. Moneydance

Best personal finance software

(Image credit: Quicken)

1. Quicken

Speed up accounting with this super-fast tool

Fair pricing
Secure online backup
Desktop and app

Quicken is a long-established tool for managing personal accounts, and while its reputation was built on a desktop version, it's now available to run as an app on your mobile devices.

Quicken offers a good range of financial reporting tools. These are set around a few different areas, namely budgeting, bills, accounts, and even investments. For budgeting, it offers you a chance to input your purchases and income so you can compare them both together to get a better idea of how much you are spending compared to how much you are earning.

In terms of bills, you can also see which utilities and similar you are constantly paying out to, and see both the amounts to be paid and how much money you have left over. For accounting purposes you can even bring your banking and credit card bills together in one place so that you have a very clear idea indeed of how much you're paying out. This is especially handy as people easily underestimate how much regular small purchases can add to costs.

For investments it also offers the ability to track these, whether as part of your savings, investment portfolio, or 401k pension plan. This means you have a clear idea of how much your savings and investments are worth, though it's fair to say you shouldn't panic about short-term fluctuations in the stock market.

Altogether, Quicken brings together your budgeting, banking, and investment reporting into a single dashboard, which you can view from your desktop or even via your cell phone from the mobile app. 

Pricing starts at $34.99 a year for the Starter Plan which covers most of the basic features, though the Deluxe plan at $49.99 a year allows for additional budgeting and goal setting.

Read our review of Quicken here

(Image credit: YNAB)

2. YNAB

The service that grabs your attention

Free trial
Easy installation
Limited features

Just in case you need to be told explicitly what to do, along comes YNAB - short for You Need A Budget. Because, hey, if you don't want to spend every single penny you have and more, you absolutely do need one. And perhaps you have more money than you thought?

YNAB's primary mission, as you might expect, is to help you curb overspending and avoid living from paycheck to paycheck. Stick to the program, temper your spending appropriately, and eventually YNAB will see you spending last month's money rather than that which you've just earned.

It's quick to install, supports the majority of transaction information downloadable from banks, and appropriately configures itself for personal or small business use by changing its monetary categories depending on your needs.

If you get off track, YNAB – which is reasonably forgiving and understanding for a bit of software – will tell you what you need to do to get back to where you need to be. You'll have to make sacrifices, but if it's guidance you need, this sets itself apart from the likes of Quicken.

Pricing is a little higher than some alternatives, with pricing starting from $11.99 per month, or $84 a year when paid annually.

Read our review of YNAB here

(Image credit: Image Credit: Banktree)

3. Banktree

For tracking in multiple currencies

30-day free trial
Supports multiple currencies
Can be a bit tricky to navigate

BankTree is more than happy to support worldwide currencies, and in fact does a solid job if you're working simultaneously with more than one, offering balances in multiple currencies rather than rounding them off into a single total. It's also good for keeping track of everything, allowing you to scan receipts with its mobile app and import them later on.

It's not the prettiest software around, and it's slightly more awkward to use than many of its more refined cousins, although BankTree does produce very neat reports which you can break down by time, or by payee. It may be worth experimenting with the free trial before you choose to invest in this one.

Pricing costs £35/$40 for the desktop software and comes with one year of updates and support, though you are restricted to one PC and there is a charge of around £5/$6 per additional PC you want to run the software on. There's also a browser-based version available for £35/$40 per year.

Whichever version you opt for, there's a 30 day free trial available, so you can try before you buy to get an idea if BankTree will work for you.

Read our review of BankTree here

(Image credit: Money Dashboard)

4. Money Dashboard

Features personalized tags that make budgeting easier

Free
High security
Easy to use

This iOS/Android app doesn't try to reinvent the banking world or offer anything truly ground-breaking, but it is perhaps one of the most useful money management tools out there. Hook up every one of your UK bank and credit card accounts and you'll be able to see each of your balances in a single place with a single login. That in itself is enough for us to recommend it.

But there's more – Money Dashboard will track your spending, offering you an overall pie chart depicting your spending on loans, consumables, transport and the like. There's an at-a-glance overall balance, showing exactly how much money you have available across all of your accounts, and you can compare this to the previous month's figure to show how well you've been managing your funds. That's a great motivator.

It's super-safe, too: Money Dashboard locks down your login with an equivalent level of security to that of your bank, and it's completely read-only – your money isn't going anywhere.

There are apps available for Android and iOS, and surprisingly both are free to use.

Read our review of Money Dashboard here

(Image credit: Moneydance)

5. Moneydance

Money management made easy with a simple interface

90-day money-back guarantee
Strong reporting features
No Android app

Made primarily for Mac users (but also out on Windows and Linux), Moneydance is a desktop money management package with a very neat single-window interface. Load it up and you'll get an instant view of your finances, upcoming bills, recent expenses and more. Click an item in the left hand sidebar and the main content changes to reflect it.

Its reporting features are quite strong if not spectacular to look at, and one of Moneydance's most useful sections is its account register. If you're old-school and once managed a cheque book, this operates on a very similar principle. There's also an iOS app for logging transactions on the go, which later syncs with the software on your desktop.

Unfortunately for UK users, Moneydance doesn't support the connection protocols used by UK banks, so you'll need to download your transaction history manually to keep on top of it and revert to your bank's own app to move money around. US users, however, are well covered.

Cost for use is $49.99, and that applies per household rather than per computer, which means that you are licensed to run it on multiple dekstops at home. While no free trial is advertised, a 90-day money-back guarantee is.

Read our review of Moneydance here

Best free personal finance software

  1. Buxfer
  2. HomeBank
  3. AceMoney Lite
  4. GnuCash
  5. Buddi

(Image credit: Buxfer)

1. Buxfer

Perfect for managing personal finances

High level of encryption
Free version
Reporting options are limited

An online service that's not slathered in effects and colours, Buxfer does a good job of presenting your finances in a clean, professional manner. It cutely brags about the fact that it's currently helping its users manage over four trillion dollars in funds, so it's got a solid user base behind it.

You don't have to give Buxfer your exact banking details if you're uncomfortable doing so – you can opt for offline manual syncing with your bank account instead – but if you do trust it, there's a layer of high-level encryption to protect your data and the company is regularly audited.

We like its budgeting tools best of all – the visual reporting is very strong, and the fact that it doesn't force you into predefined categories and instead allows you to tag expenditures however you see fit means Buxfer should fit nicely into most people's banking lives.

The free version gets you five budgets, accounts and bill reminders, the Pilot version ($1.99 per month) adds on automatic tagging and bank syncing, the Plus version ($3.99 per month) gives you unlimited budgets, and the Pro version ($4.99 per month) includes online payments, advanced forecasts and more besides. Get it all though with a Prime version for $9.99 per month.

Read our review of Buxfer here

(Image credit: HomeBank)

2. HomeBank

Powerful finance software with handy reports to keep you on track

Cross-platform
Imports data from other apps
Supports unlimited accounts

HomeBank will appeal if you work on multiple platforms, or don't use Windows by default. Available for Windows, macOS and Linux (there's also an Android app in development) HomeBank can be installed normally or as a portable app, and it makes the topic of personal finance easily accessible. If you've been using another program – such as Quicken or Microsoft Money – to manage your finances, you can import data to save having to start from scratch.

You can add an unlimited number of accounts to the program, and they can be linked to each other to allow for easy money transfers – it is all entirely dependent on manual editing, though. With enough data entered, it's possible to generate all manner of reports, including helpful predictive reports for car ownership and the like. Very much designed with the average person in mind, this is a personal finance app for people who hate personal finance apps.

Read our review of HomeBank here

(Image credit: AceMoney Lite)

3. AceMoney Lite

A great choice if your financial affairs are relatively straightforward

Intuitive interface
Available for Windows and macOS
Only supports two accounts
Doesn't link to online accounts

Billing itself as an alternative to Quicken sets a high bar for AceMoney Lite, but it's a target it manages to reach, even in its free, cut-down iteration. There's only support for two accounts in AceMoney Lite, but this should be enough for many people – and the full edition of the program is only $44.95 (around £30, AU$50) anyway. You can even use the program to keep track of your PayPal account.

Managing accounts in different currencies is no problem, but you'll have to enter data into this free personal finance software rather than having your transactions pulled in from your bank account. That said, if you download statements from your online bank account, these can then be imported to saved time with manual entry. AceMoney Lite also makes it easy to track your spending and investments, making it a reasonable financial tool for anyone looking to take control of their finances.

Read our review of AceMoney Lite here

(Image credit: GnuCash)

4. GnuCash

Flexible enough for home users and small businesses

Imports data from other apps
Payroll for small businesses
Cross-platform

GnuCash is simple enough to be used for home finances, but flexible enough to be put to use by small businesses as well. While the software is easy to use, the fact that it's suitable for small business accounting is thanks to the inclusion of a number of extra features that you would not necessarily expect to find – support for payroll management and double-entry accounting, for instance.

Although relatively easy to use, this free personal finance software does really require some familiarity with accounting software, and it's simple to migrate from another program because you can import data in QIF and dOFX formats. Support for expense tracking makes this ideal software for preparing for tax season, and there are a huge number of reporting options to help you to make sense of your cashflow. The software is available for macOS, Windows and Linux, as well as Android, and it's highly recommended that you try out this great tool before you consider any of the paid-for alternatives.

You can read our GnuCash review here

(Image credit: Buddi)

5. Buddi

Clear and well designed – ideal if you're new to finance software

Well designed interface
Excellent budgeting tools
Requires Java

Proving that free personal finance software doesn’t have to be complicated, Buddi keeps things about as simple as they can be. In a matter of minutes, you can set up all of the accounts you need and start keeping track of your incomings and outgoings.

Money can be easily pulled from and moved between different accounts, and Buddi can generate all sort of reports about your spending and earnings broken down in a variety of ways. If you're looking to save money, the program can help you to stick to a budget and for anyone who is completely new to the concept of accounting, the Buddi website has a number of helpful guides to help get you started.

On the downside, Buddi requires you to have Java installed which is not going to be to everyone's liking, and the software itself has not been updated for a little while. Neither of these two factors are enough to stop us from recommending that you take a look at the program – it could well be just what you've been looking for.

You can read our review of Buddi here