The internet just keeps giving us more and more apps and tools to manage our money. There are ones for investing, budgeting, very specific types of budgeting, micro-savings, micro investing, and more. To help you sort through the choices, we’ve put together a list of the best personal finance software of 2020.
1. Best for zero-based budgeting: YNAB
YNAB (or You Need A Budget) is a budgeting app pure and simple. They have some pretty big claims about how much they can help new users, saying that “on average, new budgeters can save $600 by month two and more than $6,000 their first year.”
Normally, I’d give you a warning on claims like that. But, YNAB has a huge cult-like following and a number of M$M readers have gone so far to describe YNAB as “life changing.”
The reason YNAB is so popular and successful is that they help you budget using zero-based budgeting. This is a powerful budgeting principle that forces you to focus money towards savings and debt instead of leaving them as afterthoughts. I know I’ve said, “oh, I’ll put X towards savings at the end of the month,” and then never make it happen. I’m probably not alone on that.
YNAB knows not everyone is going to get how to do zero-based budgeting at first, so they have a wealth of resources to teach you what you need to know. They have also built the entire platform around four rules that help you implement zero-based budgeting in your life.
YNAB’s four rules are:
- Rule 1: Give every dollar a job. You take the amount of money coming into your accounts, and allocate every dollar towards different budgeting categories until you’re back down to $0.
- Rule 2: Embrace your true expenses. Because everyone encounters unexpected or large purchases, YNAB helps you make and fund savings goals for these situations.
- Rule 3: Roll with the punches. This rule is all about flexibility. You can move money around if you over or underspend in areas.
- Rule 4: Age your money. Living paycheck-to-paycheck is a hard cycle to break. This rule helps you break that cycle by slowly teaching you to spend what you’ve earned last month.
The cost of using YNAB
YNAB isn’t cheap – it’s $11.99/month or $84 for a full year subscription, which is billed monthly at $7. They do offer a 34-day free trial so that you can test the software before making a financial commitment.
2. Best overall financial picture: Mint
With over 10 million active users, Mint often tops lists of best personal finance software. Mint is actually the first money management tool I ever signed up, and I did it because Mint promised to show me all of my finances in one place. They’ve done exactly that and users love it.
Mint gives you a full financial picture by helping you with:
- Bill tracking
- Goal setting
- Free updated credit scores from the three major credit reporting agencies
- List of your assets and liabilities
- A broad overview of your investments
To get all of that, you’re going to have to include and link as many of your accounts as you can. These are things like your checking, savings, credit cards, home/mortgage, car (including payment if you have one), student loans, IRA, 401(k), investment accounts, etc.
My two favorite things about Mint are the free credit reports, which I get every few months and the notifications I get when there are fees charged to any of my accounts.
Users occasionally have a couple of complaints (I’ve experienced both) – Mint is sometimes a little slow on syncing transactions and there are ads.
The cost of using Mint
Mint is 100% free to use (why they have ads). Most people I’ve talked to can overlook the ads knowing that they are still getting a quality piece of free personal finance software that gives them a complete look at their money.
You can read how Mint compares to YNAB at: YNAB vs. Mint 2020︱Which Budgeting App is Best?
3. Best personal finance for retirement planning: Personal Capital
Don’t scan past this superlative if you’re not yet actively planning for retirement. I say that because all of us should be planning for it, or at the very least thinking about how to make a plan. Personal Capital can help you start on that plan.
Part of devising a retirement plan is going to be investing, whether that’s a 401(k), IRA, or other routes. You can link all of those accounts in Personal Capital and then interact with them using some pretty robust tools, like the:
- Retirement Planner that lets you input information about your current and projected retirement age, then showing you whether you’re on track. If you’re off track, you can play around with different scenarios to help you find your way there.
- Asset Allocation Tool which tells you which parts of the market you’re over or underweight in.
- Investment Check-Up Tool that goes over everything to show you where you could be saving on fees and gives you an overall update on the health of your investments.
This can be a lot for newbie investors, but Personal Capital also has a wide array of articles that teach you why these issues are important and how to get more out of the software.
Personal Capital does have some budgeting functionality, but it’s more focused on your cash flow. This is much different from strict budgeting software like YNAB, but the idea is to stay in the green, keeping your expenses lower than your income.
And then, Personal Capital puts everything together – investments, info in linked accounts (including credit cards, loans, checking and savings), and cash flow – to give you your net worth. Don’t let that freak you out if you’re expecting a negative. That number gives you an idea of the work that needs to be done, and just getting to $0 is a huge financial milestone.
The cost of using Personal Capital
With all of those tools, Personal Capital is free to use. Now, once you hit $200k in assets and want to use Personal Capital for wealth management services, you can pay for robo-advisor services. But even after you hit $200k, that’s optional.
Personal Capital consistently makes lists of best free personal financial software for good reasons, and it’s something that can benefit you no matter where you are along your financial journey.
You can sign up for Personal Capital using this exclusive link and both you and M$M get $20. Read the full Personal Capital review here.
4. Best app for getting and staying out of debt: EveryDollar
EveryDollar is similar to YNAB in that it’s zero-based budgeting, ensuring that you put every dollar to work. But, this one could also be listed as “Best Personal Finance Software for Dave Ramsey fans” because this app was created by finance guru Ramsey to help users work their way through his Baby Steps.
The Baby Steps are the key tenets of EveryDollar, and if you’re not familiar with them, they are:
- $1,000 emergency fund
- Pay off all debt using the debt snowball
- Save 3-6 months worth of expenses
- Save 15% for retirement
- College fund for the kids
- Pay off your house
- Build wealth and give
EveryDollar lets you track your progress through the first three steps and keeps you motivated while you work through the rest.
The reason is the app is so good for helping you get and stay out of debt is that Ramsey focuses on getting an emergency fund in place before you do anything else. You add that in as a budgeting category and go from there. Your emergency fund is what you rely on during, well… emergencies.
Rather than turning to a credit card to pay for an unexpected car repair, you use your emergency fund. EveryDollar trains you to replenish that fund as needed so that you’re always prepared.
The cost of using EveryDollar
EveryDollar has two versions, free and paid. With the free one, you are responsible for manually tracking all of your transactions. While is tedious, some people find a sense of responsibility by seeing how every transaction affects your overall financial picture. The paid version is $129 for the year and does the tracking for you. An EveryDollar Plus subscription now includes access to Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University.
You can read more about Everydollar in Mint vs. Everydollar.
5. Best personal finance software for couples: Twine
Twine is a very new app, started in 2018 by insurance giant John Hancock with the goal of helping you ply your finances together with your partner. It’s specifically for saving and micro investing, and lets you set goals that you and a partner fund together.
You can set any number of goals, like saving for a vacation, a down payment on a house, buying a car, etc. Depending on how liquid you need those funds, you choose an investment or savings account.
How couples can save with Twine
- Create an account using your personal info, remember that for investing you will be asked to provide your Social Security Number.
- You pick a financial goal, including a time frame, and then you invite your partner to work towards the goal with you.
- You both make contributions to a shared investment or savings account. You can both see your progress as you work to fund that goal.
While the app focuses on couples, like you and your spouse, you can actually set up and fund goals with any other person. I’m not sure who else you might want to save with, but the option is there if you need it. Realistically, this could be something like saving money with your brother to take your parents on vacation.
The cost of using Twine
If you’re only to save in cash, Twine is free to use. If you want to save in an investment account, you pay $0.25/month for every $500 you invest.
Learn more about Twine in the M$M Twine App Review: Money Saving Solution for Couples.
6. Best micro investing app: Acorns
Micro investing apps break down the barriers of traditional investing. These are things like not knowing how to start investing, perceived high initial costs, etc. That’s because, with micro investing apps, you can start investing with as little as $5.
Acorns has been at the forefront of micro investing, giving users the ability to link a spending source (think debit card), then rounding up transactions to the next dollar amount and investing the difference.
You spend $4.37 on a latte and Acorns will round that transaction up to $5 and invest the $0.63 difference.
Now, little amounts like that take a while to add up, but Acorns shows you that investing is something that anyone can do. You can round up to larger dollar amounts and automate deposits to boost your investment balance.
I’ve been using Acorns for almost a year now, doing round-ups and scheduled deposits, and I have a little over $1,300 saved. That’s not nearly enough invested to keep me on track for retirement (don’t worry I have other more traditional investment accounts), but if you’re a newbie investor, Acorns teaches and builds good investing habits.
The cost of using Acorns
Acorns offers three different account levels:
- Acorns Core $1/month (free for college students with a valid .edu email address). This is a basic investment account.
- Acorns Core + Acorns Later $2/month. This allows you to also put money aside in a dedicated retirement account.
- Acorns Core + Acorns Later + Acorns Spend $3/month. Everything listed above plus a checking account.
These monthly fees are for account balances under $1,000,000.
Learn more about Acorns, including what will be in your portfolio, types of round-ups, and more in the full M$M Acorns 2020 Review.
7. Best for DIY budgeters: Excel
If you go nuts for making your own spreadsheets, color coding everything, and then inserting every single penny on your own, then you might be a DIY budgeter. With so many online tools, spreadsheets are often called “old school,” but if it works for you, do it!
Excel is where it’s at for making your own spreadsheets and for good reasons – you probably already have the software, there are a ton of free templates if you need inspiration, and you’re not going to encounter any ads (ever).
Excel is the OG, free personal finance software and it still has a lot to offer younger users.
8. Best personal finance software to cut your budget: Trim
Negotiating your bills from time to time is one of the easiest ways to reduce your monthly spending. The last time I called my car insurance company, for example, I was able to shave $30 a month off our plan. It was a 10-minute call, and now I’ve freed up $360 a year in my budget.
But, I know a lot of people who are intimidated or nervous about negotiating their bills. It’s also something that’s easy to forget about unless you put a reminder in your phone or calendar.
Enter Trim, a personal assistant app that works to negotiate your bills for you. Trim also reminds you about any unused subscriptions and helps you cancel those too. The idea is to trim small amounts of money off your budget.
The cost of using Trim
The Trim app is free to use, but if you want them to negotiate your bills, they will take 33% of what that negotiation saves you over the course of the year. They cancel subscriptions for free.
Learn about the rest of Trim’s features at Trim App Review 2020︱An Easy Way to Save Money on Bills.
9. Best innovative savings app: Qapital
Qapital isn’t any old micro savings app – it’s designed to be millennial friendly and works by allowing you to set a variety of triggers and rules that initiate savings. For each one, you set the specifics, including the dollar amount saved. You can turn them off or pause them when you need to.
There are savings rules for freelancers, ones that put money into savings when you shop at a specified merchant, a 52 Week Rule, and more.
I think the triggers are really the most interesting part of using Qapital, and here are a few of the dozens of triggers you can set:
- Save money every time you take an Uber
- Save every time the president tweets
- Save money every time you tweet
- Save every time you post a picture to Instagram
- Save when the temperature reaches a certain point
- Save every time you add a song to a Spotify playlist
- Save when the Space Station passes over your house
That’s just the beginning. There’s even a trigger that puts money into savings when Qapital creates a new trigger.
The cost of using Qapital
There are three different plans ranging from $3, $6, and $12/month. The base plan comes with a Qapital savings account. The higher level plans both come with investment and checking accounts.
Read more about Qapital at Qapital Review 2020 – Save Money Without Even Noticing.
The final word on the best personal finance software of 2020
Remember, these apps are tools. A budget doesn’t just find extra money to put towards your debt. A micro savings app alone won’t prepare you for retirement. You’re the one responsible for using these apps to help you work towards your goals.
So, make a habit out of checking in on your budget, looking at your transactions, seeing where your investments are at, looking at your balances, etc. Use those apps to learn what money moves you need to make.
And if you’re wondering what is the best personal finance software for you, think about which areas of your financial life you need help with. Some of us have budgeting down, but we need help with investing. Some people need help paying down debt.
Knowing that some of these are also free personal finance software, you can try them out for a few months and see if they make a difference in your financial life.