Ten years ago, there were no solid money apps out there. In fact, apps weren't really a thing yet and the first iPhone wouldn't be released until January of 2007.
Personal finance software consisted of Intuit's Quicken, or the business alternatives of Quickbooks, and not much else.
Mint wouldn't become a thing until 2006 and even then it's initial version wasn't that great. But it was free.
Today, you have free personal finance apps that are better than what you had to pay for years ago. Personal Capital, SigFig, Mint, YNAB, Mvelopes, … the list is long and distinguished.
Money apps have taken over and we all can benefit.
That's why earlier this year I polled the readers of Wallet Hacks for their “must-have, can't live without” money apps and here are the results.
If you see a list of “best apps” and it doesn't list a spreadsheet like Microsoft Excel at #1 — they didn't actually survey. They made it up. 🙂
That being said – Microsoft Excel is all about you finding a template and building 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. I know because I use Microsoft Excel to track our net worth.
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.
Table of Contents
A financial dashboard is a place where you can see everything involving your money in one place. Your assets, your liabilities, your net worth – one convenient page.
This is important because when that information is easily accessible, it's easily remembered and understood.
When it comes to a dashboard, the clear leader is 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 against other similar services. It's how they make the money that supports the free tool.
For tracking a budget, Mint is one of the most popular budgeting tools out there.
If you don't have sizable investments, Mint is a very powerful tool that is better on budgeting but less effective when it comes to investments. Personally, I felt like Mint was fantastic up to a point. Once you care more about investing than budgeting, Personal Capital has more tools to help you succeed.
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.
YNAB has a four rule methodology that has worked well for its users.
- Give Every Dollar A Job
- Embrace Your True Expenses
- Roll With The Punches
- Age Your Money
It's this methodology around the tool that really makes it powerful.
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 isn't free, it costs $5 a month, 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 spreadsheet but the automation piece so you don't need to update everything manually. They offer a free 30-day trial.
LearnVest is very similar to Personal Capital in that there is a suite of investing and budgeting tools to help you dashboard your finances. It's more than Quicken and Mint in that it offers more investing and financial planning, which is how they earn their money. When you upgrade to a Premium plan, which costs $299 up front with a $19 per month subscription, you get a financial plan, an advisor, and access to more tools.
The grandfather of personal finance tools, Quicken has been around for ages (since 1983!).
Unlike many of the other apps on this list, Quicken is not an internet based tool. It's software you buy once and you install on your computer, PC or Mac, and runs locally. Quicken was originally owned by Intuit but Intuit sold the business to H.I.G. Capital, a private equity firm in Florida. Intuit acquired Mint in late 2009 and shuttered Quicken Online, which was Quicken's online version, in mid-2010.
CountAbout was built to solve all the problems Quicken users kept having (but Quicken didn't solve fast enough). CountAbout is often cited as a great Mint.com alternative because it's one of the few that can pull your information from Quicken and Mint so you don't lose it – which is a big pain point for long time users of both software packages.
It's not free though, $9.99/year for the Basic and $39.99/year for Premium. Premium supports automatic downloading of transactions.
More financial apps will be added as they are mentioned.