This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure for more info.
Finding the best personal finance software can be time-consuming. There are just so many good options. To save you time, I’ve compiled a list of the best finance apps based on personal use and research.
Maybe you’re at the very beginning of your journey to financial independence or you’re just trying to gain confidence that you’re on track to reach your retirement goals. Using financial software will help you get on track and stay on track in your journey to financial independence.
To achieve financial freedom, you must have a solid understanding of your finances. Finance apps provide the insight you need to achieve success.
Using personal finance apps will save you time. Many of these tools import data from your bank accounts, credit card statements, investment accounts, student loan accounts, mortgage loan accounts, and more, so you’ll have a comprehensive view of your actual financial situation.
Best Personal Finance Software in 2020
There are lots of personal finance tools that can help you reach financial freedom. These tools are in three main categories.
- Budgeting Apps
- Tax Filing Software
- Investment Apps
Tracking your finances and building a budget is step number 1 in your path to financial freedom. You have to know how much you make, how much you spend, and how you spend. Whether you have short- or long-term financial goals, planning and tracking your progress is an ongoing part of reaching financial independence.
Budgeting apps give you the information and tools you need to get on track with your savings. The best tracking tools allow you to see all of your investments in one place regardless of how many services you use to grow your nest egg.
You must know what categories make up your largest expenses — often housing, transportation, and food — and you need to create a plan to reduce waste as much as possible.
This is only possible if you track your spending.
If you’re looking for a printable worksheet, check out the Free Monthly Budget Sheet. That article provides information on how to budget your expenses, destroy your debt, and plan to retire.
Nobody likes doing their taxes. But everybody likes getting a tax refund.
Good tax filing software simplifies your life and puts more money back in your pocket. Tax software makes your life easier, and companies reward repeat customers with benefits like importing last year’s tax data to simplify filing in the following years.
If filing taxes has you stressed, reading How to File a Tax Return will teach you to file like a pro. That article covers the difference between a tax return and a tax refund, how to use deductions, and how 70% of tax-payers can file taxes for free. The software recommendations from that article made it to this list in case you just want the software options.
While some of the budgeting apps provide an all-in-one view of all your accounts including investments, some apps focus specifically on maximizing your investments and minimizing fees.
I’m personally a fan of extremely low-fee index funds (I use Vanguard), but I use automatic investing tools as part of my overall strategy. We’ll look at the best automatic personal investment software.
Something for Everyone
There are a lot of tools available! If I’ve missed something or you have your own recommendations, please let me know. Leave a comment.
What personal finance software do you use? Which of these apps do you think is the best?
Best Budgeting Apps 2020
Getting a budgeting app is step number 1 in your journey to financial independence.
Budgeting software highlights your financial strengths and, more importantly, your weaknesses. It gives you the insight you need to make better use of your hard-earned dollars.
The majority of these apps work consistently across the board:
- Create an account
- Link your financial accounts
- Analyze your income and expenses
- Create a budget that works for you
- Track your progress over time
There are a lot of options in this category, so let’s get to it.
Versions: Free and Paid; the paid version requires a minimum $100,000 in assets
Personal Capital is the main finance app I use to track my dollars. I use the free version. It gives me everything I personally need to track my finances and ensure I’m on the right path with my money.
Trusted by over 2 million registered users, Personal Capital provides automated tracking for all of your accounts and investments. Link your accounts to see your income, expenses, savings, debts, and investments in one place.
I wrote an in-depth Personal Capital how-to and review. Check that out for a deeper look into Personal Capital’s user experience.
Personal Capital offers at-a-glance net worth tracking, budgeting, income/expense tracking, and integration with all the large banks and vendors you already use.
One of the best features is their retirement planner. They offer the ability to create goals — home purchase or renovation, vacation, weddings, education — and factor this into your overall retirement plan. Then they run simulations based on inputs like your current net worth, your planned annual savings, and your planned retirement spending. Finally, they give you feedback on your probability of success.
For example, here is the report for someone age 34 with $35,000 in net worth who plans to save $15,000 annually until age 67 and spend $30,000 annually after retirement.
(Though I set the retirement age to 67, I recommend you aim to retire early, and as early as possible.)
Overall, Personal Capital provides everything I need to track my finances and take control of my dollars.
- Free, high-quality tools to help you reach your specific financial goals
- Personalized insights and advice based on your own habits
- Options for both those who enjoy getting extremely specific and people who want a high-level overview of their asset growth
- High-security with third-party security audits. This requires occasional account re-verification, but that is preferable to a security breach.
- Expense categories sometimes need tweaking. This is probably because they import information as it comes from your primary account.
- Paid services require a $100,000 minimum, so the barrier to entry may be high for most. However, this model keeps the free version free.
Personal Capital is available in your browser, on macOS and iOS, and in the Google Play store.
Mint by Intuit
When you’re on top of your money, life is good. We help you
effortlessly manage your finances in one place. – Mint
Mint offers a really beautiful, simple interface. You can link accounts to all the big banks, investment firms, and loan originators.
Like Personal Capital, Mint offers a single-view dashboard for all of your accounts. They offer a simple budget creation tool, and they make suggestions for your budget based on your spending habits.
I think Mint’s user interface is beautiful. They offer detailed insight into your spending trends over time in beautiful charts and graphs.
Mint does a great job importing your expenses, but, like Personal Capital, the automatic categorization sometimes requires manual tweaking.
One thing I have noticed and others complain about is the high number of ads on Mint. But because Mint doesn’t have a paid version like Personal Capital, they make money by offering you services that may help you reach your financial goals. I don’t mind the ads since they inform me about things I’m interested in like rewards credit cards or savings accounts with great interest rates.
- Beautiful charts
- View all your accounts in one place
- Bill payment tracking tool
- Budget alerts
- Free credit score
- Expense categories sometimes need tweaking. This is probably because they import information as it comes from your primary account.
- There are a lot of ads; I like the opportunity to research offers, but you may not like this
Available on Mac, Windows, and Linux.
YNAB (You Need a Budget)
Versions: Free (for college students) and Paid
You Need a Budget is a great option for people who like zero-based budgeting, where every dollar gets a job. They offer a free 30-day trial and a paid subscription after that.
The developers behind YNAB provide insight into their budgeting method in Four Simple Rules for Successful Budgeting. The rules are:
- Give every dollar a job
- Embrace your true expenses
- Roll with the punches
- Age your money
YNAB has created a learning platform and a community around their budgeting system and software. They have great articles, video courses, and free workshops, and they offer students with a .edu email address a free annual subscription.
- Simple and focused on improving your monthly budget
- A practical approach to budgeting
- Their community education is a great touch
- Limited to budgeting for cash flow
- If you want investment tracking, a retirement planner that accounts for life events like college, home improvements, and weddings, you may want a more robust tool like Personal Capital.
- The subscription price point may be expensive for some
Disclaimer: I have not personally used GnuCash
GunCash appears to be a great option for a very specific group of people. If you’re a programmer or into data analysis, you enjoy reading the Help manual, and you must have a free option, GnuCash may be for you.
One benefit is that you own your own data, and you can create databases for transactions and run your own data analysis.
User complaints are focused on the interface (it’s ugly and clunky) and difficulty linking bank accounts to import your transactions.
- You control your data
- More options for using your own data
- You’ll be intimately familiar with your transactions if you have to do it manually
- If you run a small business, GnuCash offers Customer, Vendor, and Employee data tables
- A very thorough default list of account types
- User interface may limit accessibility
- Requires more manual work
GnuCash runs on Windows, MacOS, and Linux.
Budgeting Software Honorable Mentions
These budgeting apps came up several times in my research. I can’t speak directly to the quality, but they have users who think the software is beneficial.
Check them out and see if their tools align with your goals.
CountAbout offers a free 15-day trial and then a Basic and Premium plan. At the beginning of 2020, the Basic plan is $9.99 annually, and Premium is $39.99 annually.
CountAbout may be a great option if you have a small business since they offer invoicing as an add-on feature with their application for $60 annually. Additionally, for $10 per year, you can upload attachments like photo receipts or serial numbers from big purchases like bikes or your laptop for insurance purposes in case of damage or theft.
User reviews praise CountAbout as a replacement for Quicken as well as providing more features than Mint without the advertising.
- You control your data
- No ads
- Optional invoicing, which is useful for a small business
- Import data from Quicken and Mint
- May be expensive for some users
- The offer would be more enticing with the add-ons built into the Premium package
CountAbout is available on iOS and Android.
Banktivity by IGG Software
Banktivity claims their customers save, on average, over $500 annually (along with 40 hours of time).
If you’re looking for personal finance software specifically for macOS and iOS, Banktivity offers all-in-one financial tracking and budgeting.
Like other all-in-one financial tracking apps, Banktivity offers savings rate tracking to see how fast your savings grow, a net worth calculator, and investment performance tracking.
In Banktivity’s article on Envelop Budgeting, they provide a clear definition of their budget creation method. It’s similar to zero-based budgeting where every dollar gets a job.
They offer a 30-day free trial, so you can see if their tracking and budgeting style aligns with your personal needs. Banktivity also offers free weekly courses and a personal finance 101 blog to help you get started budgeting and working towards financial success. They also offer live chat support 7 days a week.
Mvelopes offers digital budgeting based on the “envelop system“, also known as zero-based budgeting.
They offer 3 plans: Basic, Plus, and Complete. At the beginning of 2020, these range from $6 to $59 monthly.
The Basic version lets you connect your bank accounts and create your budget. The Plus package adds videos, infographics, and other educational tools. And they provide a quarterly meeting with a personal finance trainer to help you make sense of your budget and plan for the future.
The premium version, Mvelopes Complete, adds to the Plus version by giving you monthly one-on-one access to a personal finance trainer.
If you want access to a personal finance coach, Mvelopes has a relatively affordable offering.
Check out Mvelopes’ YouTube playlist to see their software and budgeting in action.
Best Tax Software 2020
Filing taxes may seem like a real pain, but modern technology makes it pretty easy. Here is the best tax software right now based on user reviews and popularity.
You qualify for free federal tax filing if your adjusted gross income is below $69,000. If that applies to you, check out How to File a Tax Return.
The most popular way to file taxes in 2020 is TurboTax.
With the TurboTax Free Edition, you get free preparation, free printing, and free e-filing for your simple tax return.
TurboTax is the only software I’ve used to file taxes since 2006. I started using their services because they offered free filing for military members. I’ve continued to use TurboTax since I left the Air Force in 2012, including their paid services.
TurboTax makes the filing process very simple by importing all of your data from the previous year which also reduces your chances for errors. TurboTax guides your filing process by asking questions about your lifestyle and any changes from last year.
- Did you make a work-related move this year?
- Did you buy a house?
- Did you attend college?
The guide helps you receive the largest possible refund.
I’ve had great experiences using their Basic and Deluxe versions online. You can also purchase TurboTax software on Amazon: TurboTax Basic 2019 and TurboTax Deluxe + State Filing 2019 (an Amazon exclusive).
TurboTax is the only product I can recommend from personal experience.
H&R Block is reviewed highly in my research.
They offer several online versions ranging from free personal use to paid small-business options.
Like TurboTax and others, H&R Block offers prior year data importing and guided filing.
They provide a great user experience for comparing their different services. For each of their services, they offer an overview of its primary features (like W-2 photo importing) and a list of the tax situations that the service covers like child care expenses, student loan interest, and retirement plan income.
Like TurboTax and H&R Block, TaxAct provides a free filing version. Their free version boasts free state filing as well.
Like the others, TaxAct imports last year’s tax data to make filing easy. If you’re moving from TurboTax or H&R Block, TaxAct can import data from those services using an exported Form 1040 in a PDF format.
TaxAct also offers a guided question format that helps you file taxes quickly.
Automated Investing Apps: Robo-Advisor Overlords
There has been a steady rise in automated investing applications. The best personal finance software in this category offers automatic rebalancing to keep your investments growing while maintaining your desired risk level. Many offer zero transaction fees.
While you may not want to leave everything to the robots, automated investing apps could play a great part in your overall strategy to achieve financial independence.
There is a proverb that says:
From acorns mighty oaks do grow!
This saying summarizes Acorns’ guiding principle: make small, good decisions over time and it will add up.
Using Acorns is simple. The iOS app is very sleek, and you can get to any screen in just a few swipes. At a glance, I can see my total amount invested, total gain/loss, and my dividends which Acorns automatically reinvests for me.
Acorns’ number one feature is round-ups which is also called spare-change investing. After you link your accounts with Acorns, they round each transaction up to the nearest dollar and invest the difference.
Say you spend $8.37 on lunch. Acorns rounds that purchase up to $9.00 and invests $0.63 for you. This sort of passive saving and investing adds up over time.
In addition to the round-up investing at the core of their offering, Acorns also offer the ability to make monthly and one-off contributions to your investment account.
Acorns approach to investing seems like it’s suited for the person who wants to make good decisions passively and isn’t interested in more granular details. Their user interface is extremely simple without any unnecessary bells and whistles.
Acorns can be a valuable but limited addition to your overall financial strategy.
Betterment has around 500,000 customers and is growing.
When you sign up for Betterment, they guide you through the process of picking recommended goals like building a safety net, having cash reserves, and focusing on retirement. Sound familiar? It should. These are core aspects of retiring early. Or at all.
They let you set goals for common expenses like purchasing a car, planning for home renovations, and budgeting for vacation. Betterment then offers a plan for you based on your goals.
Betterment offers no-fee tax-loss harvesting. Tax-loss harvesting is when an investment manager sells an asset that has experienced a loss while replacing it with another asset similar in benefits and risk. Harvesting a loss in this way lets you reduce your tax liability by effectively reducing your income.
One of Betterment’s several options for building wealth is its Cash Reserve program which offers a variable 1.8% APY (annual percentage yield). According to the Weekly National Rates report from the FDIC, the national average savings rate is 0.09% APY, so Betterment offers a very strong incentive for storing your cash with them. These rates fluctuate, so compare this to other high-yield savings accounts to see if this is the best for your cash.
Betterment’s goal is to help you put your dollars to work for a low 0.25% fee. With automatic rebalancing to keep your risk level consistent, access to live advisors, tax-loss harvesting, and retirement planning tools, Betterment is a solid option for passive investing.
Since Betterment has no account minimum, you can start investing today with any amount of cash on hand.
Wealthfront offers another way to save money, plan for retirement, and invest all in one place.
They currently offer a savings account with a 1.82% APY which is just slightly better than Betterment’s at the time.
Wealthfront’s offer looks similar to Betterment with a 0.25% fee on invested assets. They provide risk-based balancing and use low-fee index funds to keep the management fees low. Like Betterment, they offer tax-loss harvesting.
One interesting point about Wealthfront is that they offer a line of credit based on your investment account if you have over $25,000. As of January 2020, they let you borrow 30% of your investment with interest rates between 3.9% and 5.15%, which is not bad at all if you’re in a situation where you need to borrow quickly.
While you do need $500 to start investing with Wealthfront, there are no annual or transfer fees. If you use Wealthfront and invite a friend, Wealthfront will manage $5,000 without fees for both of you.
If you’re interested in investing in real estate but don’t have enough to buy your own investment property, you may be interested in Fundrise. With a $500 minimum initial investment, Fundrise makes investing in real estate extremely accessible.
Related: Is Fundrise a Good Investment?
On their home page, Fundrise states they have between 8.7 – 12.4% historical annual returns, which is very good.
Marko from WhiteBoard Finance on YouTube has a great video for his Fundrise review.
What Finance Apps are Best for You?
With so many good options to choose from, selecting the best personal finance software is not an easy decision. A good place to start is with the free options.
If you’re just getting started with personal finance, I recommend a budgeting tool like Personal Capital or Mint. These tools give you everything you need to track your finances and make plans for the future without worrying about fees.
A balanced financial software plan includes budgeting apps, software for filing taxes, and tools for investing. But take some time to explore your options.
What software do you use to track your finances, pay your taxes, and manage your investments? If you have recommendations, please let me know in the comments.