The 7 Best Personal Finance Software Apps of 2024

Best Personal Finance Apps

Ten years ago, there were no solid personal finance apps out there. If you wanted to track your money, you didn’t have many options beyond websites like Google Finance. I got my start tracking our budget and net worth with a spreadsheet. I would learn about Intuit’s Quicken software but it felt silly to pay for software to help me save money. It wasn’t until later that other personal finance tools started to appear.

The best personal finance software works like a money management app that gives you an instant snapshot of your financial situation in seconds. A lot of the problems we face when dealing with money is how much time it takes to stay on top of things. A good personal finance app will help you save time and money.

Earlier this year I polled our readers for their “must-have, can’t live without” money apps. I compiled their responses and made the following list of best personal finance software (most of which have a mobile app).

Best Money Management App – Empower Personal Dashboard

A financial dashboard is a place where you can see everything involving your money in one place. Your assets, your liabilities, your net worth – all your financial accounts visible on one convenient page.

This is important because when that information is easily accessible, it’s easily remembered and understood. We use it to pull in all of our data, though we ignore the credit card debt piece because we pay off our bills every month in full.

What’s easier – logging into one account or logging into a dozen?

When it comes to a financial dashboard, the clear leader is Empower Personal Dashboard (formerly Personal Capital). It has a rich suite of tools built around investments, with a nod towards expense tracking similar to Mint, so you can get a sense of where everything is at a moment’s notice. If you’re interested in a consultation with a financial advisor, they have that built-in as well and it’s something that helps them stand out from other similar services. It’s how Personal Capital makes the money that supports the free tool.

This app is for you if: You want an instant snapshot of your finances, from your investments to your budget, in one place. Empower Personal Dashboard is free.

👉 Learn more about Empower Personal Dashboard

Best Investing App – Robinhood

Robinhood is a stock brokerage that offers commission free trades through their app or web interface. They’re like any other brokerage, they use Apex Clearing Corporation, are a member of FINRA, and have SIPC insurance for up to $500,000 like any other brokerage. There is no account minimum, no maintenance fee, and you can even trade crypto if you’re so inclined (I am not).

They make money by offering a Robinhood Gold subscription service that gets you margin and after-hours trading. If you pay for Robinhood Gold and have an IRA with them, they will even give you a 3% match on you contributions – which is a great way to get even more into your Roth accounts.

If you want to trade stocks, I find it difficult to argue against a Robinhood and their free trades. I don’t use Robinhood because most of my investments are just in index funds at Vanguard. I just use Vanguard’s app but most of the time I just log onto the website to manage it.

For a limited time, you can get a free share of stock from Robinhood.

👉 Learn more about Robinhood

Best Free Budgeting App – NerdWallet Budgeting App

We wanted to break up the “budgeting app” recommendation into two – a free and a paid one. The best free budgeting app right now has to be NerdWallet’s budgeting app. I played with it following the news that Mint was shutting down (and Credit Karma was a bad alternative) and was pleasantly surprised by the features it offered.

It’s absolutely free so you can download it and play with it yourself but it offers basically everything you could want in a basic budgeting app. You won’t be bombarded with ads while you use the app (though they will send you emails pitching various products and services), which is nice considering it’s completely free.

As for budgeting tools, you can track transactions, categorize them, edit them, and then watch your cashflow so you know where your money is going. You can tell it when your bills arrive (they will look at recurring transactions and try to guess, but you have to give it some help) and it’ll help you with planning for those.

You can’t split transactions across categories and NerdWallet updates your transactions every few days. They don’t update every time you log in.

Our review of Nerdwallet’s budgeting tool goes into greater detail with more screenshots of what it looks like.

👉 Learn more about NerdWallet

Best Paid Budgeting App – You Need a Budget

If you want to change your budget, You Need a Budget (YNAB) is one of the most powerful tools you can use because it does more than track your expenses – it actually helps you build and stick to a budget.

One of the biggest challenges in money management is in near-term planning. What are you going to do next week and next month?

Retirement can be decades away but you are spending money today and tomorrow. By getting the next month right, you go a long way towards getting your money situation under control.

YNAB has a four rule methodology that has worked well for its users.

  1. Give Every Dollar A Job
  2. Embrace Your True Expenses
  3. Roll With The Punches
  4. Age Your Money

Another reason why YNAB is powerful has to do with its educational tools and community. You will not find this with financial tools like Mint. There are no Whiteboard Wednesdays to help you understand your money a little better. This is what separates them from the pack in many ways. Our You Need a Budget review goes deeper into the app and the company if you wish to learn more.

We list Empower Personal Dashboard (formerly Personal Capital) first on this list but if you want a budgeting app and you are able to pay a fee, we consider this the best alternative to Empower Personal Dashboard for budgeting.

This app is for you if: You want to transform your budget and get your spending in line with your financial goals. YNAB costs $6.99 a month after a 34-day trial.

👉 Learn more about You Need A Budget

It’s this methodology around the tool that makes it powerful.

Best Support Tool – Tiller

Tiller is a service that will connect with your bank and credits card to pull daily transaction data into a sheet on Google Docs. No other service out there offers this. You can choose to start from half a dozen templates or roll your own, but Tiller will update it automatically from 100,000+ financial institutions.

Tiller automates your custom spreadsheet so it fits you perfectly. Don’t change the way you do things to match a tool, add Tiller and bring your spreadsheet into the 21st century.

Tiller is a monthly subscription but it won’t inundate you with advertisements or pitch you on their financial planning services as an upsell. (to be fair, other companies need to do that because they are free – the bills have to be paid!)

You get the customization of a financial spreadsheet but the automation piece so you don’t need to login to all of your accounts and update everything manually. Removing that hurdle makes money management that much easier. They offer a free 30-day trial.

This app is for you if: You love spreadsheets or have one you’ve tailored but need a tool to help you pull the data for you. Tiller costs $6.58 per month ($79/year) after a 30-day trial. (here’s more about Tiller)

👉 Learn more about Tiller

Best Micro-Saving App – Acorns

One of the latest innovations in personal finance apps is the idea of a micro-savings app – where you can automatically save small amounts of money and have it invested in the market. The idea is that these apps will figure out how much they can transfer into an investment account without you, or your budget, realizing. It’s less active than traditional saving but more effective if you’re the type of person who doesn’t actively manage your budget daily.

One of the best in class is Acorns, which doesn’t rely on a black box “guessing” how much to save. When you make a purchase, the amount is rounded up and transferred. This predictability is often seen as a better process than some other apps, which “guess.” Guessing can be a little scary.

They also have a “Found Money” feature with some partners where if you purchase with a merchant, they may contribute a small bit to your Acorns account.

Here is our full review of Acorns.

👉 Learn more about Acorns

Summary

There are a lot of apps, many of them free but some of them paid, that will help you save time, save money, and save gray hairs.

Want to hear something funny? When we surveyed of our readers, the number one “app” was Microsoft Excel. Far and away the most popular application for anything – budgeting, financial dashboarding, net worth, whatever category you picked – it was Microsoft Excel.

Microsoft Excel is all about finding a template and customizing something that fits your exact needs. It can be a lot of work but that hands-on interaction means you know the data is pristine. You can rely on tools like Tiller to pull the transaction data too so you get the automation (it works with Google Docs).

I use Microsoft Excel to track our net worth, with Empower Personal Dashboard pulling the data. It’s a nice little set up but it takes some time to get going.

The apps on this list are pre-built, faster to get into, and free. If you’re starting from scratch, these apps will get you there faster but will not fit you like a glove. Excel is like a custom-tailored suit, these are off the rack.

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About Jim Wang

Jim Wang is a forty-something father of four who is a frequent contributor to Forbes and Vanguard's Blog. He has also been fortunate to have appeared in the New York Times, Baltimore Sun, Entrepreneur, and Marketplace Money.

Jim has a B.S. in Computer Science and Economics from Carnegie Mellon University, an M.S. in Information Technology - Software Engineering from Carnegie Mellon University, as well as a Masters in Business Administration from Johns Hopkins University. His approach to personal finance is that of an engineer, breaking down complex subjects into bite-sized easily understood concepts that you can use in your daily life.

One of his favorite tools (here's my treasure chest of tools, everything I use) is Empower Personal Dashboard, which enables him to manage his finances in just 15-minutes each month. They also offer financial planning, such as a Retirement Planning Tool that can tell you if you're on track to retire when you want. It's free.

>> Read more articles by Jim

Opinions expressed here are the author's alone, not those of any bank or financial institution. This content has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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7 years ago

I use Mint to track spending and it works great! I just wish they would offer a paid version that would do more and get rid of advertising.

Sam
7 years ago

Thanks for this article. I am looking for an alternative to the aged Quicken desktop. I recently stumbled upon Buxfer and found the UI to be the most intuitive I have seen out of all SaaS products I have recently evaluated. However, I am discovering that this product might not be under active development. Can you provide any insight ? Thank you !

Sam
7 years ago
Reply to  Jim Wang

Yes, I agree and was disappointed to see that it was (apparently) abandoned. Robust search/filter…and the ability to act upon the filtered set of records. Surprised to find that this was lacking in all other products. Which makes me wonder, can you tell me if Personal Capital has that sort of capability ? (i.e. “find all the records that have “t-mobile” in the description and then categorize/tag them accordingly) ? Would love to know of another SaaS that can do that.

Frank Kempton
7 years ago

Great list Jim! I’ve used a lot of these over the years. I personally also like MoneyStrands for its simplicity and ease of use. It has helped me control my finances. There is also Venmo which is a free digital wallet that lets you make and share payments with friends. Cheers mate!

7 years ago

I have used mint in the past and really enjoyed it. What I realized it was doing though was making me check in on my portfolio much more then needed. This would lead to rethinking strategy on days it does good vs. bad etc. For me the best move was to not be on any tracking that is on my phone and stick to quarterly calculations to check progress. Have you found using to many apps can be addicting in the same way social media can?

MoneyMatters
6 years ago

Actually, Quicken is no longer the buy-once software tool you described. The new owners announced a change last year to a yearly fee model.

Scott
6 years ago

We have used Mvelopes for 12 years and it has changed our whole financial landscape. Here’s what I can’t find in any other financial software that Mvelopes has — the ability to set aside money into easy to see virtual envelopes, always showing in a column at the left with their $ balance, that you can move incoming transactions into, AND the cool thing it does with credit card transactions. I can create and edit envelopes (some of mine are: groceries, electric, fuel, cell phones, Geico, mortgage, home repairs, etc.). You can use basic ones they provide or create own… Read more »

Norma
6 years ago
Reply to  Scott

thanks for the great description, I will try it out!

Lisa
6 years ago
Reply to  Scott

Yes, thank you so much!

Janis C
6 years ago

Excel is great until you grow your business. I was fine until I got my second rental apartment, then it become more complicated – copying formulas and structure between sheets inevitable brings pain and suffering and errors. I prefer specialized apps over Excel any day and it is fine to have specialized app for particular need. E.g. I use Landlordy app for tracking my rental income and expenses, Mile IQ for tracking my travel, HoursTracker for tracking my hours. All of them are in so many ways better than any spreadsheet can be thanks for integration with smartphone capabilities like… Read more »

Mark
6 years ago

If you are already using Personal Capital, why bother with Excel to track Net Worth? Personal Capital will keep your Net Worth up to date every time you log in.

Elizabeth Hogan
5 years ago

I am looking for an alternative to Quickbooks, which I have liked very much, but times changes, and looking at other options.

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