The best budgeting software helps you manage your money in a way that is organized, provides the detail you require and displays the information that you need in a way that allows for quick comprehension and analysis.
Here are four budgeting software systems that meet those criteria. Each system is distinguished by how it could best fit your personal approach to managing your finances. (For more on budgeting, see our tutorial: Budgeting Basics.)
Best for Fans of Zero-Based Budgeting
You Need A Budget (YNAB for short) is built on the zero-based budgeting principle that calls for you to “give every dollar a job.” With YNAB you need to be involved in your finances and willing to change old habits to make the system work.
In addition to the central mantra, “give every dollar a job,” YNAB follows three additional rules:
- Embrace your true expenses
- Roll with the punches
- Age your money
According to YNAB, following those four rules will help you pay off debts, save money and stop living paycheck to paycheck. It’s a tall order, but YNAB users say it works.
This browser-based subscription system runs on both Windows and Mac computers. Android and iPhone apps are available and are able to sync data back to your desktop. YNAB also connects to bank and credit card accounts to download transactions, but it does not offer a way to track investments. Following a 34-day free trial, YNAB costs $83.99, billed annually.
Best for Envelope Budgeters Anxious to Go Digital
Mvelopes is based on the familiar (pre-computer) budgeting system of putting cash in envelopes each pay period. Each envelope is labeled for an individual bill or discretionary expense. For discretionary expenses, when an envelope is empty, spending in that category is done for that pay period.
At its core Mvelopes provides you with a familiar system of using envelopes on a digital platform, but that is not all the software service provides. It is also able to link to bank and credit card accounts, allowing you to see past spending and assign money to future “mvelopes.” You can set up the system to move money out of your spending envelope into a credit card payment envelope so that you don’t run up your credit card balance.