Review of Personal Finance Software: YNAB, Mint, Personal Capital, Mvelopes, Everydollar and Calendar Budget

Which Personal Finance Software Should You Use?

Check out this review of personal finance software programs - includes YNAB, EveryDollar, Personal Capital, Mint and Calendar Budget. All great programs, just some work better for certain people.

In the class about tracking your expenses, I mentioned that my top choice for the method of tracking expenses is to use a personal finance software program.  And then of course I gave you a spreadsheet that you can use to track your own expenses (because that’s what I do-build spreadsheets!).  Basically, I gave you that tool just so you would have no excuses for not tracking everything you spend.  With all the free software out there these days though, there’s probably one that will work for any user and it’s totally worth it to get one set up!

BENEFITS OF USING FINANCE SOFTWARE

There are so many benefits of using software rather than a spreadsheet or pencil and paper.  Using personal finance software:

  • Saves you time by importing and categorizing transactions for you.
  • Ensures that you don’t miss any transactions by reconciling inputs to beginning and ending account balances.
  • Enables you to set up a system to make sure your bills get paid on time every month.
  • Allows you to see all of your accounts in one place.
  • If you have all of your accounts, assets and liabilities included, it helps you to easily track your net worth.
  • Allows you to quickly track your budget in real time to make sure you are staying in line with it or allows you to make adjustments as circumstances require.
  • Often integrates goal-setting and notes about transactions and budget categories.
  • Calculates numbers in your budget automatically such as averages, totals, etc.

SO WHICH ONE IS THE “BEST”?

Last year, I tried out many, many different personal finance software programs to see which one I thought would work best for me.  I had previously been tracking our finances in Excel due to having so many expenses in both U.S. and foreign currency while living in Asia.  Prior to our international assignment, I used Mint, but it just didn’t have the features and format I was looking for when I tried to use it again.  I tried Personal Capital, Mvelopes, EveryDollar, Quicken and YNAB as well and considered many more that I ruled out based on my research.  I loved YNAB and it’s by far the best software for my finance needs.

However, your purposes for a financial software might be different from mine as well as your own financial situation, process and the time you have to spend tracking your expenses and keeping your budget updated.  The same personal finance software that one person says is the best may not be the best one for you to use.  These are the things that were most important to me in a personal finance software:

  • Must be able to directly import from my bank accounts and also be able to enter them manually
  • Must be able to customize the categories, sub-categories and move them all around to match my spreadsheets
  • Must be able to split transactions into different categories
  • Must be able to clearly see budgeted and actual expenses for the month as well as the difference between them
  • Must be able to automatically characterize transactions based on previous entries to save me time

With that being said, I’ve listed and tried out 5 of what I think are the top personal finance software programs for people with varying needs and given you the pros and cons for each one so you can try out which one you think is the best for you!

YNAB (You Need a Budget)

YNAB

Cost: YNAB 4 (desktop version) is $60, latest YNAB (online based) is $5/month or $50/year

Who it’s good for:

  • YNAB is a great tool for those that want a zero-based budget and that aren’t living paycheck to paycheck.  As I mentioned earlier, it’s great for me.  I love it.

Things I like about it:

  • direct import (online version) or manual import (desktop version)
  • ability to split transactions into multiple categories
  • automatic categorization of expenses based on previous inputs (such as the payee Kroger being categorized as groceries automatically)
  • ability to schedule repeating or future transactions for each account
  • the format is a spreadsheet-looking view to compare budget and actual expenses (and the differences between them) rather than graphs and charts
  • it has a calculator function built in to add or subtract within the budget
  • ability to reconcile transactions and accounts to statements or online balance
  • the option to move money easily between categoriestotal customization ability to edit master and individual categories and move them around
  • automatic roll-over of positive category balances to the next month (I love this for our individual allowances)
  • ability to create goals for different categories
  • ability to tag transactions (such as for taxes, businesses, etc.)
  • awesome mobile app that integrates perfectly
  • easily allows for multiple budgets with the same software account

Things I dislike about it:  

  • all the features haven’t yet been rolled out such as reports and manual import in the new online version
  • there aren’t any good options for tracking investment account income, fees, etc.  (this has to be entered manually as outflow or inflow if you have those accounts included)
  • the software isn’t free (but I totally feel like it’s worth the price and I love not having ads or sales pitches!)

Preview:

YNAB Preview

Mint.com

intuit_mint_logo_detail

Cost: free online based software

Who it’s good for:

  • Mint is great for anyone just starting out with budgeting that is mainly focused on tracking expenses without spending a lot of time setting it up themselves.  Mint will automatically try to categorize transactions from the beginning after linking your bank accounts.

Things I like about it:

  • quickest set up time – immediately after setting up your accounts, Mint will automatically start tracking expenses
  • direct import of transactions from all linked bank accounts
  • linking of assets such as homes and autos directly to valuation websites (Zillow and Kelley Blue Book)
  • they offer a free credit score
  • the budget is simple and easy to understand with amounts spent, amounts left and amounts remaining
  • you can add goals to track your progress
  • they have some extra tools such as for paying off credit card or other debt
  • you can tag expenses
  • there are a lot of useful charts showing your income, spending and assets over time, by category, by merchant, etc.
  • they have a great mobile app to use on the go

Things I dislike about it:  

  • Mint gets its revenue from companies that sell financial products on their website, so there’s always product sales & recommendations coming up
  • you cannot split credit card transactions until they are no longer pending charges (I prefer to always have immediate categories for transactions)
  • the budget format, although simple to use, is not in the column format that I prefer
  • there is no way to import or export information into/out of Mint

Preview:

{source: Money Crashers}
{source: Money Crashers}

EveryDollar

everydollar-logo

Cost: free for basic online version, EveryDollar Plus is $99/year

Who it’s good for:

  • EveryDollar is another zero-based budget tool, especially useful for the die-hard Dave Ramsey fan.  It includes the 7 Baby Steps in the structure of the software.

Things I like about it:

  • it’s easy to set up for those that want to get started quickly.
  • it is a zero-based budget software-that’s where the name comes from: giving “every dollar” a job
  • direct import of transactions from all linked bank accounts (only on the Plus version)
  • easily customizable categories and subcategories
  • easy to understand budget including planned and remaining columns
  • linking of assets such as homes and autos to valuation websites (Zillow and…)
  • they have an app that makes it easy to enter transactions on the go

Things I dislike about it:  

  • the free version of EveryDollar has some advertisements
  • the price to get direct import from your bank accounts is too high in my opinion (come on Dave!)
  • manually entering transactions in EveryDollar is tedious and time consuming
  • it doesn’t track account balances at all (with the free version)
  • they don’t have a reconciliation feature to match transactions and accounts to statements
  • they don’t have any investment features (it is meant to be budget only software)

Preview:

EveryDollar preview

Personal Capital

personal-capital-logo

Cost: free online based software

Who it’s good for:

  • Personal Capital is great for those people that want very basic expense tracking features, but are mostly concerned about tracking and analyzing their investments and net worth.

Things I like about it:

  • it’s free and it’s easy to get started and use right away
  • it automatically assigns categories based on the merchant, which can be adjusted as needed and remembered in the future transactions
  • it includes reports to be able to sort by category, merchant or dates
  • it includes built-in tools to assess retirement planning, college savings or disability
  • you can get an analysis of your investment asset allocations and fees you’re paying
  • it has a great net worth calculator based on the input of all your accounts-checking, saving, investment, IRA, loans, credit cards, etc.
  • it uses Zillow to automatically calculate home values
  • it shows upcoming bills and when they’re due
  • mobile app for iOS and Android

Things I dislike about it:  

  • there are a lot of emails and promotions sent about using their financial advisors
  • there’s no way to set a budget for each month for each category
  • you can’t add categories or split transactions between multiple categories (this is a huge one for me!)
  • there’s no way to reconcile to your bank statements
  • their asset allocations are not adjustable for those with different preferences

Preview:

{source: Investor Junkie}
{source: Investor Junkie}

Calendar Budget

calendar budget

Cost: free online based software

Who it’s good for:

  • Calendar Budget is only good for those living paycheck to paycheck that need to make sure that their income comes in before they have to pay the bills.  This software program (in my humble opinion) is only a short-term solution until you’re able to break the paycheck-to-paycheck cycle.

Things I like about it:

  • it’s free!
  • it keeps track of your bank balances, not your budget accounts daily to make sure you have sufficient funds to cover upcoming expenses
  • you are able to project your bank balances through the month and into the future
  • it encourages you to plan ahead for transactions and make sure you have enough in your bank account to cover it ahead of time
  • they have an app for iPhone and Android

Things I dislike about it:  

  • the setup takes a long time – each category needs to be set up by bank account and ideally with a recurring transaction (such as groceries in checking account with a weekly set amount)
  • everything needs to be entered manually-no direct importing
  • it’s not a zero-based budget or much of a traditional budget even at all, just a tool that tracks expenses and forecasts expected expenses to make sure you can cover your bills

Preview:

CalendarBudget Preview copy

Other Popular Personal Finance Software:

  • Quicken – Quicken has been around for a long time and has a very loyal following.  However, their recent versions are getting a lot of negative feedback due to being buggy, not up-to-date enough, a very old-looking interface and lots of other criticism.  I personally purchased Quicken before switching to YNAB, expecting it to be the resource I needed to manage my finances and budget and track my investments, but ended up returning it because I wasn’t satisfied with the way it was  (or rather wasn’t) working.
  • Mvelopes  – Mvelopes software is great for those that like the envelope budgeting system, but have joined the 21st century and don’t want to carry around wads of cash in their wallets.  It’s great for those that tend to over-spend and are willing to enter transactions often to keep their budget up to date.  To link more than 4 accounts and have more than 25 envelopes, you must pay for their Premier service, which is $9.95 per month.
  • LearnVest  – LearnVest is great for people who want extra help with their financial plans, as it has an “advice center” where you can get answers to your questions.  You can set up your budget, link your accounts to automatically synch transactions, adjust categories and it has most of the features that Mint has.  In addition, they focus on offering some basic finance education to people.

Do some research and see which software you think will work best for you!  The most important thing is that you are tracking your expenses and keeping up on your finances with ultimately keeping in mind that this is all leading you to being able to reach your financial goals.

What personal finance software do you currently use?

 

LIKED IT? PLEASE SHARE!

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on pinterest

9 Responses

  1. I print out a spreadsheet with the the various spending categories in separate columns. And then use a pencil to write down all my expenses in each category at the end of the week. The paper and pencil approach has worked great, but it would be nice to have a spreadsheet online so I don’t have to do all the math. So first I need to learn how to write formulas on excel. I really don’t like the idea of all my financial forms online in case I can’t access it when needed. Tech savy I am not.

    1. I can help you with the formulas if you’d like. If you use Google Drive, you can access your spreadsheet from the internet and from your desktop if the internet is down.

  2. I use Quicken where I have 10 years of tracking data stored. It’s worked very well for my wife and me. We like to manually input our transactions, adjust our categories, and split transactions. We do, however, use a spreadsheet for our monthly budget/cash flow, so we can see everything exactly the way we want (last 6 months of transactions, 12-month average, comparison to budget).

    1. I really, really thought I would like Quicken being an accountant and having used Quickbooks before. However, it really just wasn’t my thing. They have some awesome built-in features like amortization tables and investment tracking though, so it’s a great software for those that it does work for. I did hear that they sold the software to a private equity firm, which will hopefully help with the issues they’ve been having the past few years.

  3. Does your excel spreadsheet permit direct inputs from the bank, credit cards, etc. so we can by-pass the purchase/use of Quicken? If so, are these inputs categorized?

    1. The spreadsheet can be linked to Tiller to directly download your transactions. They won’t be automatically categorized, you’ll have to do that part manually. Tiller is amazing, though, and also allows you to pull your account balances in as well.

  4. Hi Kathryn, could you tell me the difference between YNAB and Tiller? Do they do similar tasks,or are they completely different? Do you still use YNAB? I like the zero budgeting concept. Would love to automate my workflows and entries for budgeting. Trying to determine what systems/spreadsheets are best to use. I appreciate your input. Thank you!

    1. They are quite different, although both do focus on budgeting. I still use YNAB for budgeting (love, love it!) and I use Tiller for automatically pulling my current and historical account balances directly into my Excel spreadsheet. There is a bit of a learning curve for YNAB, but once you get your process down, it saves a ton of time. I especially like how I can set up scheduled transactions (for example, monthly cell phone bills, credit card bills, etc.). Let me know if you have more questions!

Comments are closed.