Over the years, so many people have written in to ask me if I had one budgeting software or app that I would recommend most. Since I’m not one who is really into apps and spreadsheets and software, I asked my husband, Jesse, and our friend and MSM team member, Brian, if they would help me evaluate 5 different personal finance products and share their thoughts on each.
Both of these guys find absolute joy in spreadsheets and apps and tracking all the finer details of finances so I knew they would be the perfect people to help me write this post.
Here are 4 personal finance products and why they might be right for you (or not):
EveryDollar is free budget software accessible from your computer and iPhone. It was created by the Dave Ramsey team and is based on a proven plan that’s helped millions of people get out of debt and save.
Pros to EveryDollar:
- It has a web-based interface — everything is always up to date because their apps are pulling everything from that web service.
- It’s intuitive and very easy to use to create a new budget or maintain a current budget.
- It was designed to help you get out of debt. EveryDollar tracks progress with Baby-Steps seamlessly and easily connects users to Ramsey’s Endorsed Local Providers for professional help.
- EveryDollar directly connects to your bank’s online banking system and pulls transactions directly from the bank. All you need to do is assign them to a budget category.
Cons to EveryDollar:
- While EveryDollar is free, there are extra features that make it comparable to YouNeedaBudget that cost $90/year or $7.50/month after a 15-day free trial.
- It’s not available for Android yet.
YNAB combines a simple, effective methodology with award-winning software with the goal of turning you into a financial superhero. They have a group of raving fans — and our family is proud to be among them. 🙂
Pros to YNAB:
- YouNeedABudget makes budgeting easy by assigning each expense to a category and automatically takes it out of the budget when you record the transaction.
- If you record the transaction from your phone using the mobile app, YNAB will update the balance and display the new category balance once the transaction is entered.
- They offer live, online classes every day of the week, and self-directed help guides.
- You can easily import transactions at one time from your bank by importing a downloaded statement on your computer.
Cons to YNAB:
- YNAB Classic is clunky when it comes to importing transactions to put into your budget because you have to download a file from your back and upload it to YNAB. Gratefully, they’ve now upgraded to a new version that will now directly connect to your bank like EveryDollar (we are currently testing the new version out and let you know what we think!)
- Unfortunately, the new version is subscription based — which means that instead of paying a one-time fee, you’ll now pay $50 per year (or $5 per month).
As I mentioned above, you’ve probably heard of Mint — the free website and app that helps you manage your money. Mint was created by the makers of TurboTax® and Quicken® and is used by millions of people.
Pros to Mint:
- You can enter your budget, it shows how much you are spending and warns you if you are about to over spend.
- You can categorize every purchase, then it breaks down your spending so you can see exactly where your money is going.
- It creates a beautiful pie chart (for those who love to see numbers in picture form!) to show what percentage of your money is going where. It makes keeping track of your budget fun and easy.
- The app lets you see how much is in your account and how much you’ve spent from your budget.
- When you enter your budget, it shows what the national average is for spending in that category (which is so interesting, and exciting when you see you’re spending a lot less than everyone else!)
- It sends you reminders to pay your bills and integrates with different accounts.
Cons to Mint:
- You don’t have as much ability to modify, change, or delete certain categories as many people would like.
- You may experience issues with it failing to save your changes — which can be frustrating.
- When you write a check, you can only see the amount and that it was a check — no other information.
And then of course, there’s Quicken — once the mother of all personal-finance products. It’s been around for 30 years so almost everyone has heard of it or used it before. Quicken is a not a cloud-based software and was designed to be used via desktop. (Quicken does now offer a mobile app and mobile connectivity through Mint.com.)
Pros to Quicken:
- Quicken is very good to use for an electronic register and is great at connecting with your bank and keeping bank accounts balanced.
- When we used it for a short time, we liked how easy it was to keep track of all of our assets (house, car, etc) updated with present values for tax and net worth calculations.
Cons to Quicken:
- The Quicken Budget tools are clunky and difficult to manage. When we used it, we ended up using as a register and used paper or Google Sheets for budgeting.
- Quicken was originally designed as a Windows-based software. The Mac version is over twice as expensive ($64.99) as the Windows-based software ($29.99).
- If you want to upgrade to the latest software, data will not transfer from previous versions.Have you used any of these personal finance products? If so, I’d love to hear your thoughts on them and how they’ve worked for you!
This is fairly old, are there any updates? I have used Quicken since 1999 and have become more and more unhappy with them as things change with updates. I had to buy new software because they were no longer supporting the older software and updates and supposedly I was going to be able to sync my credit card accounts. That’s not actually true with all credit cards and now I have to manually go in and do it. It also refuses to recognize recurring deposits and expenses and I have to manually go in and make sure it has categorized them correctly after every download. The Mac version is full of bugs compared to the Windows version which may be some of my problem. But I was having these problems with both.
We have used (and loved!) YNAB for years! One YNAB “pro” I would add, is that you have the ability to have multiple budgets. We have three – a home budget, a small business budget, and our ten year old son has his own budget too!
Every Dollar is now $9.99/mo, making it over double the cost of YNAB annually. A “con” is that you can only have one budget. A “pro” is that the app has more features than YNAB’s app. I like that you can make and manage your whole monthly budget just from the app.
After setting up Every Dollar and using it for a while, we will stick with YNAB.
Crystal Paine says
Thanks so much for mentioning these things — super helpful!
I use Geltbox money -automatic download from any website (banks,credit cards).
I like that I can keep my data locally instead of in the cloud.
An excellent home finance planner and tracker.
I’ve been using classic YNAB for over 6 months. I love, love, love it! I don’t necessarily use it for a budget, but to keep track of spending( where our money is going) and as a check register. What I love about it is that at any time, I always know what the balance in all of my accounts are just by looking at my phone. The best part about it is, I can use it across devices. When my husband enters a transaction on his phone, it’s automatically updated on mine(provided I have mobile data on). We have a rule in our home, that any purchases made get immediately entered. This works terrifically for us. We also use one credit card for just about all purchases and assign the transactions to spending categories. I haven’t upgraded to the new YNAB yet because I haven’t seen the need. I don’t import anything because I keep track of every purchase at the time it’s made, so if anyone uses the new one, please tell me what, if anything I’m missing. 🙂
I use YNAB as do 3 of my grown children and we love it. We all started off with the older version (now called YNAB Classic) and 3 of us have switched to the new version and like it even better, especially the ability to easily import directly from bank and credit cards, and also a much easier way to handle credit cards. We all feel that $5 a month is a small price to pay to keep an awesome company in business.
YNAB is great if you can save up a month’s worth of expenses. I use it for a check register. Quicken is a headache for Mac users. I actually think Quicken has missed its prime. It needs to evolve with the needs of current users.
Thanks for the info on CountAbout. I will definitely check it out!
Brandette W. says
I have used Quicken for many years. I am an accountant by nature, so I have also used lots of professional finance software packages. For a home user, Quicken is a wonderful, easy to learn, frugal choice. There is one discrepancy in your CONS for Quicken though, Crystal. You can convert past data into newer versions of Quicken. I have rolled from year to year, never having a problem importing all my past transactions. The only time you will have a problem with this is if you buy the BASIC version of the program. It is not mean’t to transfer data to newer versions. I have always used Deluxe.
I am looking for an app that is linked to my bank account and registers transactions relatively quickly that gives me a notice everytime it registers a purchase reminding me to assign it to a preassigned budget category which tracks my monthly spending (ie. you have spent $80 our of your $100 monthly budget for entertainment) Does this exist? Reading about all the different options makes my head spin sometimes and I am having a hard time sorting through which ones to try!
Yes this is what I want too. Would love some feedback!
Mint does part of this. It doesn’t give you a reminder to categorize each transaction, but you do get notices if you go over a category. I’m not sure but you might be able to change a setting to determine when you will getry reminders.
Amy @ DebtGal says
So interesting to read all of everyone’s thoughts!
I actually just started using Personal Capital, and I’m in love! I love that it’s free, it allows me to see our networth, and the especially the great investment/retirement savings tools – the calculator, thefee analyzer, etc.
My favorite tool doesn’t get much love outside of geek circles, and possibly for good reason, but I left Quicken for it and am never going back. It’s GnuCash. It’s free and open source, has versions for Windows, Mac, and Linux, and best of all (for me), it’s not cloud based. I get skeeved out at the idea of having all my financial data consolidated out there in one place. The double entry accounting method takes a bit to get used to, but once you get the hang of it it’s really very much like Quicken.
I also do not want my accounts all linked to one place…I use paper, pencil and a calculator every two weeks.
I was just reading about GnuCash today. Happy to see your comment. I like double entry because I’m an Accountant, but also like free. I think I will give it a try!
Am I the only person who sets up an annual budget instead of a monthly budget? It seems like these programs are wanting you to have a monthly budget. We set our budget at the beginning of the year and then track our monthly expenses to ensure we are staying on track. For example, we set an annual budget for gifts…some months it is zero and others it is higher but we know where we are at throughout the year. This allows me the freedom to snag deals when I find them without worrying about going over budget that month. We have some cushion in our budget so this works for us. Just wondering how this scenario plays out using these programs.
We were yearly budget people before YNAB. Right now I have budget categories that are in the red because I have over spent, but I carry the deficit over to the next month. As long as you are comfortable seeing red in some categories, it does work just fine. An example of this is utilities. I budget every month what the average is across 12 months but gas in in the red right now because it’s winter but by the end of the year it should be close to even.
I really like the monthly budget and giving every dollar every month a name.
Thanks Amy! Very helpful information.
My husband and I have used mint for several years now. For the most part, we have enjoyed it but I have noticed that we spend quite a bit of time “sorting out” things. For instance, we often have duplicate entries. It is easily taken care of but it requires that you do a little research into your bank account to figure out the details. As you mentioned, we have set certain things to be automatically assigned into a category and they often do not apply correctly. I enjoy that I am able to split a purchase amount between multiple categories. I use it because it is free so I guess that I am getting my money’s worth. 😉
We tried YNAB for a month and loved all of the featured but one big one–tracking credit card expenses. We pay off our one cc each month. YNAB wants you to set a budget for your card at the beginning of the month. Huh? And you can’t link your cc account to YNAB, so you have to manually input the transactions. Time consuming when you’re mobile!! And I’m still confused about how come you take cc purchase out of the categories and pay your cc bill from your estimated budget. My brain still can’t grasp it. We pay the cc from our monthly income, same as any expense. But YNAB wouldn’t let us record it that way.
Really? That sounds like it would be a problem for us too…if I understand your comment correctly. Do people really set a budget for credit card purchases? We pay off our one credit card each month too and each purchase would go against a budgeted expense. I use my credit card to purchase a lot of things….food, gifts, clothes, household, etc….so each individual purchase would be deducted from that category in my budget. But I don’t have a separate credit card budget. Now I’m confused.
We have been using YNAB for over three years. We do put in every CC transaction and give those transactions categories. We do not budget specifically for the credit card amount.
Gina W says
We used Quicken for years as well as a spreadsheet to do budgeting. But it was difficult for my husband to keep the budget amounts in mind when he was out and about. We ended up trying out YNAB and haven’t looked back since. He LOVES it! He can access the budget on his Android and see changes I’ve made on my iPhone and it’s made a huge difference in our money management. We’re going to stick with Classic YNAB for a while because I’m not yet ready to spring for the subscription for New YNAB.
I’ve tried YNAB and did not like it at all, it seems much more complicated than Mint. I’m curious to read your review of their new interface to see if I want to try it again
Great post! I am very interested in using one of these programs to track our spending. I am still using an excel spreadsheet but it is very time consuming. I have two questions that I am hoping someone can answer. Do any of these programs allow you to split a single purchase between different categories? For example, if I make a single purchase at Walmart that includes groceries, school supplies, and clothing, could I manually record that as such or would I have to dedicate that entire purchase to one category? Secondly, how do the programs work with credit cards? Can I itemize credit card purchases and put each purchase under a different category? Hope this makes sense! Thank you!
YNAB allows you to split transactions.
Mint also allows you to split a purchase between multiple categories.
Lisa Mu says
Quicken also allows you to split.
EveryDollar lets you split transactions.
Jessica Distad says
I was curious what your team thinks of Mvelopes? I have used Mvelopes 4.0 Premier for the last 3 years, and pay $9.95/month for the service ($119.40/year). We have paid off a LOT of debt during that time (and are now debt-free!), and just bought a used Toyota Sienna with cash last week. So it IS working for us.
However, I do use it exclusively on my desktop, and it does take at least a few days for transactions to show up in Mvelopes. I chose Mvelopes because a friend recommended it, and she convinced me by saying that it was like paying for a personal financial planner (but cheaper). I get unlimited envelopes (We have 30) and unlimited bank accounts (We have 11). I would not get unlimited envelopes and bank accounts with the free version.
I tried Mint for a long time before trying Mvelopes, but did not find it helpful at all. Once I got the hang of Mvelopes, I loved it and have used it consistently every since. I finally learned how to budget with Mvelopes. So I am reluctant to switch from something that is working and I am comfortable using. Anyhow, I was just wondering what your team thinks of Mvelopes?
Shelli Mader says
I like mvelopes a lot too! I was wondering what the MSM team thinks too!
I am a fan of the online budgeting software “mvelopes”. It sounds similar to Every Dollar or YNAB except that it is free (even downloading transactions from your bank account.) I love it, because it’s based on the cash envelope system of budgeting.
Crystal, thanks for compiling this information!
My family has used Quicken for years, and it’s faithfully helped us save, track our spending, and plan for the future throughout changing life circumstances — singlehood, early marriage, marriage with kids, and now a small business thrown in as well. We recently upgraded to the Home and Business Quicken product, which does a fantastic job of separating personal and business expenses while tracking the details of those business costs, clients, invoices, mileage, and more for tax time. Plus, we can create our own (personal or business) income and spending categories for customized views of our finances. Definitely recommend this software!
The big con I’ve found is that you’re forced to upgrade every three or four years if you don’t want to have your ability to download transactions electronically from your accounts (banks, credit cards, loan companies, brokerage funds, etc.) discontinued. Quicken and Amazon routinely offer great discounts on Quicken products however. (I nabbed by Quicken Home and Business software for half-price off Amazon!)
Crystal Paine says
Thanks SO much for sharing these thoughts on your experience — so helpful!
Alicia @ Turquoise Grace says
What a timely post! My husband and I just the “the budget discussion” last night and were contemplating a different system. We’re currently old schooling it with a paper budget. Thanks for the suggestions and pros and cons, definitely gives us something to think about.
Mint used to be great but now the transactions take 5 days to a week to show up! Not helpful when you are trying to stay on budget.
Anyone use CalendarBudget??? I just stumbled upon it by a blogger who recommends it for anyone, especially those currently living paycheck to paycheck. I was planning on showing it to my husband to see what he thought. It’s free, so that’s a plus. We definitely need budget help, but definitely don’t want to pay for it! : )
I use the basic EveryDollar app. I love it, and it shows you exactly where your money is at. I haven’t upgraded to the pay version, because the free version does exactly what I need at this time.
I have been using everydollar this year with decent success. Last year I tried it but also kept using my paper system as backup (it was too too much work) and eventually just went to tried and true paper. ED is saving me time, but it could use some improvements. You cannot edit the location of your category as far as I can tell. I buy groceries more than anything and yet I have to scroll through all my other categories that I hardly ever use…time consuming, frustrating. Also, I would prefer there was a better way to see/print at the end of the month what your expenses were. It is more like a display of what is left in each category and how much total was spent. I like an itemized list. Maybe these features are available with the paid version, but I have the free. I like that it is both for phone and pc. 🙂
Just in case you didn’t know you can mark your Groceries item as a Favorite. All favorited items are also displayed at the top so you don’t have to do all that scrolling. You can also now Reorder your budget groups. So for example, if you click on FOOD, you have the option to reorder it and place it anywhere you want. Hope it helps.
Crystal, I know you’ve talked about how Jesse is a huge fan of YNAB. I love it too but not the new subscription price. I’m curious if you and Jesse are using the new YNAB or sticking with YNAB4 and why you’ve chosen one over the other.
Crystal Paine says
We just downloaded the new interface this past week and are trying it out. We plan to do a review once we’ve used it for awhile.
Looking forward to your thoughts on it!
Quicken does upgrade your data with the upgrade. One issue is you can’t go down a version and keep your data. Ie you can’t have deluxe and degrade to the lower version. The budget is clunky but I haven’t been much on using budgets.
Lisa Murphre says
I have quicken for many years. I originally used the windows version, but converted a couple of years ago to Mac. The windows version is more robust than the mac, but both have served me well. I have upgraded many times and have never had any difficulty with my old data being converted into the new program. I do agree with previous comment that Quicken basically “forces” a user to upgrade by no longer supporting an older version, but it is usually every couple of years.
I upgraded from an old version to Quicken 2015 without a problem also. And, if you have a Mac but want to run the Windows version, there are a number of Mac products that will let you run Windows software on a Mac.
Should it be download file from your bank? You put file from your back.
Cons to YNAB:
YNAB Classic is clunky when it comes to importing transactions to put into your budget because you have to download a file from your back and upload it to YNAB.
I’ve used Quicken for several years. I don’t find it clunky or difficult to manage at all. I just recently upgraded to the newest version (because they were going to stop supporting the old version, which meant I wouldn’t even be able to sync my accounts online; I was really not happy to be forced to pay to upgrade when the old version worked just fine for me) and all my files transferred seamlessly. I love to see how my debt is being paid off and looking at if/then summaries. Quicken has also helped me catch double charges and increased bills more times than I can count which has helped me stay within my budget. I committed to being debt free in five years when I got divorced a year and a half ago and I’m on track to do it with the help of this handy program.