Managing your finances can be a daunting prospect, particularly if you start from scratch by creating your own spreadsheets. Thankfully, it doesn't have to be that way. There's some excellent free personal finance software around that will take the stress out of staying on top of your money.
Whether you simply want to keep track of regular income and expenses in a current account, or need to manage accounts with multiple banks for a home business, there's a personal accounting tool that won't make a dent in your balance.
Some free personal accounting tools rely on manual data entry, while others receive figures directly from online banking services. It's your choice whether you want to give your personal finance software that level of access. If you're not sure, pick a program that doesn't require a connection and don't include any specific like account numbers and sort codes when you set it up.
Personal finance made easy with a clear, simple interface
Setting up a financial database for the first time can be daunting, but Money Manager Ex guides you through every step of the process. You're prompted to enter the details of all your accounts indicating their type (current, savings, etc) and funding level. As you receive and spend money, you can add this data to the program, adding payees along the way or setting them up in advance.
At its most basic, Money Manager Ex lets you see where your money comes from and where it goes, and the reporting tools are refreshingly clear.
There's no option to pull in data directly from online banking services, as there is with tools like Mint (see below), but with enough manual data entry Money Manager Ex can help you with budgeting and cashflow forecasting.
The soul of Money Manager Ex is about tracking income and expenditure, and this it does flawlessly. You just have to be willing to put the time and effort into keeping everything up to date by hand.
Money Manager Ex is available for Windows, macOS, Linux and Android.
If you're used to accounting, you'll like GnuCash's advanced tools
Suitable for home accounting as well as for small businesses, GnuCash is flexible and convenient.
As with other free personal finance software, you're guided through the initial account setup process so you can quickly add all of your accounts, assets, regular payments and so on. If you've already been using financial software, you can import data in QIF and dOFX formats.
Small business features such as double-entry accounting and tax tools also serve to bolster the home financing side of things. GnuCash does really require a degree of familiarity with accounting, but the data analysis and reporting tools are an excellent free alternative to employing an accountant or financial advisor, and the reconciliation tool for checking transactions on a statement is something that could come in very useful.
Takes the complexity out of managing multiple accounts
With support for an unlimited number of accounts, HomeBank is some of the best free personal finance software for novice users, no matter how complicated their finances may be. Accounts can be linked together to allow for transfers back and forth, and there are a number of templates available to make it easier to setup recurring transactions for bills and savings.
Clearly keen to make the potentially dull topic of money more approachable, HomeBank make heavy use of colorful graphs and charts to help you to visualize how you're spending your money. There are also some handy extras like the vehicular cost tool, which makes it easy to monitor and predict the cost of car ownership based on factors including mileage and average repair cost.
HomeBank isn't the most advanced financial tool, but it has all the essentials covered, making it ideal for most home users. It's available for Windows, macOS and Linux, and an Android version is in the works.
Streamlined personal finance software with support for e-payment
AceMoney Lite is a cut-down, free version of the premium AceMoney personal finance software. This means that a few sacrifices have been made along the way, but the streamlined program is still excellent in its own right.
AceMoney Lite can only handle two accounts, but for many people and families this is likely to be enough, and while it isn't possible to import transactions from your bank automatically, you can download and add them yourself quite easily if you bank online. This is a great timesaver when it comes to getting all of your transactions in place, and is one of the main reasons you might want to consider using AceMoney Lite over some of the alternatives.
As well as traditional banks, there is also support for e-payment systems like PayPal making this program ideal for internet shoppers. The two-account limitation is the only thing that's slightly disappointing.
If you can get by with this, AceMoney Lite is the perfect free personal finance software for you, but otherwise you may need to consider upgrading to the paid version for US$40 (about £30, AU$50).
A personal finance manager that connects straight to your bank
Mint is a mobile and browser-based personal finance tool that pulls data directly from your online bank accounts and gathers it together in one convenient location. You can use its built-in tools to see notifications when bills are due, set up payment schedules (though you'll still need to pay each bill individually as it arrives) and be alerted to unusual account activity.
Because Mint connects directly to online banking services, security is paramount. The web version uses uses multi-factor authentication, and the app is protected with a PIN or Touch ID. Your online bank login details are stored in an encrypted database.
Mint only supports banks in the US and Canada, so you'll need to check out one of the tools above if you live elsewhere.