As our world becomes more and more digitalized, many of us never hold paper money, fill out a check or physically balance a checkbook. But this does not make money any less of a concern. We still have bills and expenses. While you can check your bank account from almost any computer or smart phone, money software and services offer more than a ledger and list of transactions.
Money software and online budgeting programs provide a single program in which you can store your financial information, customize budgets and view comprehensive reports, charts and graphs. The best budgeting software – including Quicken Starter Edition, Buxfer and Moneydance – allow you to directly sync to thousands of financial institutions so your banking transactions automatically appear in the program, lessening the headache of money management and saving you time and energy. To learn more about money management and budgeting, take a look at our articles on money software.
Whether it is desktop software or an online service, most programs offer the same basic list of features and options. Where you see the main differences is in the platform and its functionality. Many software and services offer free trials so you can get a feel for the platform and decide which program is right for you. The following information includes the features we feel are most important for money-management software.
The majority of software and services provides basic features and options: budgeting, categorized spending, reconciliation, and backup and restore options. All the programs we reviewed allow you to manually enter transactions as well as import files with banking information. Many services also allow you to sync to your bank or credit union, automatically transferring balances and transactions, both cleared and pending.
When looking at features, we also considered the ease of use for the program. Some services are very intuitive and make imputing information and generating reports quick and easy. Other services are not as easy to figure out and can be frustrating simply to enter transactions. We also considered if the service offers the convenience of mobile apps or mobile-optimized online platforms.
Reports & Tools
While all programs allow you to view your transactions and balances in the ledger, the best money-software programs allow you to generate reports to view specific data. Common reports include spending by category, payee or account; income versus expenses and budget reports to keep you on track of your spending goals. Most but not all services allow you to generate charts and graphs to have a visual representation of your data. Many services offer additional tools, the most common of which are financial calculators to help budget loans, savings and debt.
Importing & Exporting Formats
When directly importing account data, the most common compatible files types are QIF or Quicken Interchange Format, which nearly every service we reviewed accepts, and CSV or comma-separate values, which include spreadsheets such as Excel files. When exporting files, those two are also the most common files types, though the majority of services also allow you to print or save information as a PDF or text document.
Help & Support
These software and services have many self-help resources, including FAQs pages, forums, blogs or a searchable knowledgebase, and all of the services we reviewed offers support via email or support ticket. A few of the services we reviewed offer live chat but even fewer offer support via telephone.
Personal money-management software and services offer a single location in which you can keep all of your financial transactions and banking information as well as create a budget so you can stay on top of your bills and worry less about your finances.