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Best budgeting software of 2020: easily manage your money and debt

Best budgeting software
(Image credit: Pixabay)

Budgeting software can make it simple and easy to keep on top of your finances, whether you're saving for wealth management or looking to manage your debts.

The advantage of budgeting is that it look at your daily spend, so you can really see where your costs and your savings can be made.

This is especially as it is the small but regular miscellaneous costs that can really undermine your finances, and can be missed by general finance software and even free finance software, which are more targeted at general costs and managing those.

For example, when buying items with cash what do you do with your change after? This is something that budgeting software can account for that other financial software might miss.

Budgeting software also aims to get you into good habits, such as reducing debt and freeing up savings for investments purposes.

However, this also shows the limitations of budgeting software, as it's generally not built to manage your taxes or work as general accounting software.

Even still, as every business owner soon learns, small costs and spends can really add up, and budgeting software is ideally placed to help you identify these so that you can took better control of your money and overall finances.

Here therefore are the best in budgeting software platforms.

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Best budgeting software - at a glance

  1. CountAbout
  2. Mint
  3. YNAB
  4. Quicken
  5. BudgetPulse

(Image credit: CountAbout)

1. CountAbout

A mobile focused, and Internet connected budget solution

Supports multi-factor authentication  
Can import data from Quicken and Mint 
Initial support only available via email  
Premium subscription for automating data imports 

CountAbout is a personal financial and budgeting software solution. It is notable as it can import data from Quicken, or Mint, and is one of the few solutions that can do this.

It also connects to your other financial assets, including banking, credit card and retirement accounts which includes thousands of financial institutions. Additional features include multi-factor login protection, categories can be customized, running register balances, and support for recurring and split transactions. It also facilitates advanced budgeting, via activities such as account reconciliation, and tracking register balances.  

CountAbout is available for the iOS and Android platforms, and can also be used on a full PC via the web based interface. It is available via a subscription interface, starting with a Basic account for $9.99 yearly- but requires transactions be entered manually, or a more usable Premium account for $39.99 yearly and can automatically download transactions from your financial institution. 

(Image credit: Intuit)

2. Mint

A mobile based budgeting and planning solution

Free cost  
Highlights savings offers  
Features multiple security features 

Mint is another mobile based solution from the folks that brought us TurboTax and Quickbooks. It makes it easy to track expenses and balances. By creating an account, and connecting all your financial accounts, Mint can then provide analysis, to help find savings by providing potentially money saving offers for credit cards, retirement rollovers, and savings account deals.

Mint provides security via multi-factor authentication, security scanning with VeriSign and the ability to remotely delete your financial data in case your mobile device is lost.  

Mint also conveniently provides a convenient way to know, and track your credit score. The cost is free, but the catch is that they make money through affiliate offers. On our perusal, we found multiple credit offers with 0% intro rates, that then had rates from 14% to 25%, which for folks with better credit are hardly a bargain. 

(Image credit: YNAB)

3. You Need a Budget (YNAB)

Hand holding via software for the budgeting naïveté

Slick interface  
Encourages savings 
Higher priced than other options 

YNAB (You Need A Budget) is a modern approach to applying a budgeting solution to personal finances. Its chic interface is sure to particularly appeal to the millennial generation.

YNAB makes it simple by connecting accounts to come up with an amount to be budgeted, and then assigning where the money goes by the category including immediate obligations such as the rent and the electric bill, true expenses including medical and auto maintenance, and debt payments; the goal is to give every dollar a job.    

Via the interface, the right panel clearly displays overall budget information such as the amount spent last month, the budget from last month, and any underfunded categories. Better budgeting habits are taught and encouraged via a weekly video, a podcast series, and a newsletter. It also encourages goal oriented savings, for holiday presents, and even retirement.  

There is a free trial period for the curious duration of 34 days, and after that it goes for the price of $11.99 monthly. Alternatively, you can pay yearly for $84 a year.

(Image credit: Quicken)

4. Quicken

The venerable budgeting solution soldiers on

Exports to Excel  
Cloud based backups 
Higher cost

Unlike some of the more mobile focused solutions, Quicken is downloadable software for a PC, and is in the minority for supporting both Windows and Macintosh platforms. It is a venerable budgeting and financial program that has been around since the days of DOS and Apple II systems.

Quicken works by downloading all your transactions to make it simple, and obviate the need for tedious manual entries. It offers advanced features including the ability to export data to Excel, integrated Quicken Bill Pay, the ability to generate custom invoices with your own logo, and secure online backup of Quicken files to Dropbox cloud storage.  

The Starter tier is available for $34.99 a year, but moving up to the Deluxe tier enables customized budgets and runs $44.99 annually. The next higher tier, Premier, adds priority customer support and free online bill payment and runs $67.49, with the highest tier, Home & Business that can separately categorize both home and business expenses and can email custom invoices costs $89.99 annually. 

(Image credit: BudgetPulse)

5. BudgetPulse

The more secure online budgeting approach

Does not access sensitive financial data  
Free cost  
Can print reports 
Less fully featured than competitors 

BudgetPulse is an online, web based application that facilitates tracking money and better budgeting. Even though it is free, it can import data from Quicken or Microsoft Money, and has the ability to print graphs and reports. It also can encourage savings for bigger financial goals such as a wedding. They claim to be more secure as they do not access personal bank details nor credit card account information. 

More budgeting software options to consider

There are other budgeting apps available, some of which are paid services, although some are free. Obviously, free is better if money is tight, but paid-for software can provide added value in making you more actively manage your money, which may work better in the long run. Especially if this means rather than saving a few dollars on your grocery every week, you're actually putting a few hundred dollars in your 401(k) every year. Here we look at some of the other budgeting platforms you may want to consider.

Pocket Guard is more focused on saving pennies, which is really the first lesson of good budgeting. Not only does Pocket Guard help you keep an eye on your spending, it breaks things down into different areas so you can see not just how much you're spending, but also on what. Furthermore, it does a good job of trying to lower your bills in the first place, while trying to show where you get better interest on your savings, by shopping around recommended options.

Personal Capital isn't just about controlling your spend, it's also about growing the money you already have. While it integrates with your checking and savings account to give an overall picture of your finances, like many other products, it goes further in promoting investment planning and portfolio management.

Acorns isn't so much a budgeting app for juggling daily spend, but rather looks to cut bills and take advantage of financial offers such as cashback cards – and then help you micro-invest each dollar you save. As the name suggests, it's all about planting little acorns figuratively, and seeing how they grow – all from money the software has helped you save. Plans are priced at $1, $2, or $3 a month.

WalletHub is another different take on financial management, this time focused on improving and protecting your credit. It does this by helping to provide some of the better financial offers out there, especially for small sums. This means you have the opportunity to learn to manage small amounts of debt, which helps improve your credit rating, therefore allowing you to work with larger amounts of credit.