What I Learned by Examining Every Personal Finance Software Application on Planet Earth

Best Personal Finance Software, Blog, Personal Finance Software, Recommend, Reviews

The goal for this site is to be THE most trusted site for objective information on personal finance software on the internet.  It is also to create a site that is so well done, people who use it feel there’s no more need to research and so it becomes their last stop on their quest to pick the right personal finance software for them.

It is a lofty aspiration given how many review sites are out there.  As of now, I’m very pleased to offer content that goes deeper than the standard 1 to 2 paragraphs they all provide.  Writing that content takes a lot of time.  Consequently, I’m kinda picky on what budget software tools receive my attention.  But at the same time, to truly achieve my goals, I feel compelled to always be watching the world of personal finance software and be on top of what available  (part of the value of this site – I do the research for you).

I mean, is there some personal finance software out there that isn’t on my list that should be considered?

Allow me to provide a little visibility for you into  all the different personal budgeting tools that I’ve examined as I’ve decided which to analyze.  First, I’ve compiled my list using  many different “big lists” from budget bloggers, other review sites, about.com, wiki, forums and any other site I could find.  Most just compiled the list and did not offer a lot of insight as to what they did with it.

For the record, I have literally opened up, registered myself as a user and spent time navigating the tool for each of these packages.  I got a sense for how the data flowed, how the reports looked, what functionality it provided.  I’ve watched their video (if they have one) and saved their logo and many screenshots to my machine in the event I decide to do a review.

Let me share with you what I have learned in a very straight forward way that I hope will aid your efforts to find the right tool.

Be A Critic

All these personal finance software applications will enable you to upload your banking transactions, make a budget and graph it.  Keep that in mind when you’re looking for software.  Don’t be wow’d as you see a tool can do that.  So many of these vendor descriptions are the same “hey!  You can keep track of a budget in our tool!”

Big freaking deal.  With all these options, you’d better be coming to the table with something more than just that.

Demand More

Given there are literally HUNDREDS of available tools, there are some things you should absolutely require:

1.     A software interface that gives you a warm fuzzy.

If the tool looks like it was written in 1995, keep looking.  A high quality user interface is one way a budget software tool can set itself above the rest.  Reward those vendors who have paid the price to get that feel and you’ll simultaneously reward yourself with a better experience for years to come.

2.     Tutorial Videos

The reason I say this is two-fold.  First, if a personal finance software product has a video, it means that the vendor was at a point it the maturity of their development process to actually spend time on something that is a “nice to have”.  With all the inexpensive, high end video editing software on the market, there is NO REASON any of these budget software vendors should be without this.

Which leads me to the 2nd half – Videos are the fastest and easiest way to learn the information.  I’ll add this too.  Training videos earns the vendor a seat at the table.  It’s a minimum requirement.  The best way to teach you would be to offer free online classes with a trainer.  That’s how the vendor earns an A+

3.     Mobile app

There are too many who already have one to be stuck in waiting mode at this point.  And it’s dang convenient to have all your key information at your fingertips whenever you want.  Demand it.

The Graveyard

I’ve been building up this list for a while now.  I occasionally will go back through and update my notes on a product.  And what I’ve found as I’ve gone back through my list is just how many didn’t make it.  And by that I mean the retailer has discontinued the software.

What I’ve also found is that you can still download many of these dead n’ gone budget tools from sites like cnet.  Be aware of that anytime you are on these kind of sites.

It’s noteworthy as you consider who you trust by investing the time it takes to learn a new tool and set up your finances.  Having them continue as a viable entity is a good thing.  Maybe I should start a “graveyard” section….hmmmm

With that, here you go.  My personal pool of all the personal finance software applications on the planet.  I’d love any help in identifying any I’ve missed as this is an ever changing list as new ones are created and others fail.

Why am I posting logos instead of just a list?  First, it’s visually more appealing, but it’s also evidence I’ve spent time on the site.  Perhaps someday I’ll share all my notes (prices, functionality, what I think of their user interface/reporting/functionality, if they have a mobile app, etc), but you’ll have to get by w/ this for now.

 

Evolution of Money Management Software

Blog, Personal Finance Software

Who remembers the good ol’ days of money management software?  Back when the only two options people really had were Intuit’s Quicken or Microsoft Money?  I remember using MS Money on my Gateway computer.  It was one of the primary benefits of the machine.  Using it made me feel like I was on the cutting edge and using technology to make my life better.

So what happened?

The Internet

The internet made it so, if you had an idea, you could get it easily into the hands of users.  No need to produce a bunch of CDs.  No need to have huge marketing budgets to buy ad time on TV.

Whenever a new money management software product was created, it’d get the internet forums buzzing…..and these were people, who like me, were anxious to make technology work for them.

It didn’t hurt that some of these products were good, really good.

Banks

money management softwareDuring this same decade, the banking industry was competing for people.  The tools the big banks are now offering look like an integrated money management software package.  And thanks to the disappearing of float and in conjunction with online bill pay, your account balance is accurate.  They also put your transactions into categories for you based upon where you spent your money.  It’s just “one more benefit” you get by banking with them.

It was too much for Microsoft.  Citing these factors, they announced they are discontinuing MS Money in 2009.

During this same year, Intuit took another route – they purchased the free online money management software site, Mint.com.  In September 2009, the New York Times reported this:

Companies like Intuit that sell boxed software have been struggling to gain their footing on the Web as free, online financial start-ups like Mint, SmartyPig and Wesabe have surged in popularity for their simplicity and ease of use, said Emmett Higdon, a senior analyst with Forrester Research who specializes in the online banking industry.

Quicken seems like something your dad uses,” Mr. Higdon said. Younger, Web-savvy users “aren’t likely to sit down nightly and enter in a bunch of financial information online,” he said. “These sites appeal to the iPhone audience.”

money management softwareIn June, Microsoft discontinued sales of its boxed finance software, Microsoft Money Plus, but consumers can still find many similar functions on Microsoft’s MSN Money Web site. It is a clear indication that online personal-finance sites are starting to have an impact, said Stessa Cohen, research analyst at Gartner Research.

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/15/technology/internet/15mint.html?_r=0

Yes, the day of online money management software has arrived and brought with it a host of good options to consumers.  What’s ironic is that, while all this has been too much for the two biggest players in the industry, this evolution hasn’t killed the simple budget spreadsheet.  In true “survival of the fittest” form, it’s simplicity will keep it alive forever.  But every day, people continue to move their finances into these tools and will continue to do so as the years pass.  If you haven’t spent any time in these products, go browse the list of money management software products that I’ve reviewed and get reconnected with what is now available.

YNAB Reviews Take Internet by Storm

Blog, Personal Finance Software, Reviews, YNAB

ynab reviewsYNAB is arguably the most energizing personal finance tool to hit the market since Quicken and MS Money dominated the space.  YNAB 3 was released in December 2009 and in the ensuring years, the software vendor has developed an almost cult following as evidenced by the literally hundreds of YNAB reviews.

Alright then.  So what is prompting all the YNAB reviews?

Let’s pull a couple I randomly selected from deep within Google’s pages to find out.  (fyi – none of these writers are YNAB affiliates.  Most reviewers aren’t as YNAB dramatically reduced these affiliates in 2012)

YNAB Review #1 – From creditcardassist.com

Blogger Bill Hazelton recorded this:

“…what started out as a ‘simple expense recorder’ has now evolved into a personal budgeting software application with thousands of very happy customers and media accolades from the likes of Kiplinger’s Personal Finance, Lifehacker and CNN, among others.

 

YNAB has an incredibly easy-to-use interface and also features live online training classes to get new users quickly up to speed.  The software offers an array of reporting features, including my personal favorite, the “I spend WHAT on WHAT?!” report.  With stellar customer support and their slick custom mobile applications, YNAB is an outfit that’s very clearly on the move.  While the budgeting process can be incredibly intimidating, YNAB is just the type of product and company that I would be comfortable referring to my very computer-unsavvy Mom.  (No offense Mom).”

http://www.creditcardassist.com/blog/you-need-a-budget-best-of-the-best-blogger-series-18187/

YNAB Review #2 – From About.com

YNAB author AHappyYnabber wrote this:

“Ynab recognize there will be days that you would overspend (hopefully unintentionally: P) more than your budget, it makes up for it automatically in the budget screen by deducting from your paycheck. Therefore you do not have to manually do it.

ynab reviewsThis is just a simple example of how it’s done and there are other ways to make up in Ynab, such as having a monetary buffer system.

I believe $60 is a humble price to ask for a program which can change your financial situation even if it just means getting you on the right track.

What makes Ynab stands out I believe is the simplicity of it, the user friendly program and the great Team. You get plenty of help from the guys at Ynab and the help system have information enough to get you going.”

http://financialsoft.about.com/u/reviews/budgetingsoftware/You-Need-A-Budget-Software-User-Reviews/The-4-Rules-are-Powerful-in-YNAB.htm

YNAB Review #3 – From comments section of amazon.com:

YNAB user Ted Wallace posted this:

“I’d previously used Quicken and Microsoft Money in an effort to do budgeting to no real effect. The truth is, Quicken and Money are more about having fancy checkbook registers than they are about helping you identify and conform to a budget. This is where they fail.

YNAB is straightforward and it does one thing, and one thing only — it helps you create and manage a budget. With careful record keeping, you can do the same thing YNAB does with a pen and paper, or with Excel — but the software is simple and easy-to-use and readily imports transactions (without fail) from my banking institutions.”

http://www.amazon.com/gp/pdp/profile/A130ZBLNY0NZGH/ref=cm_cr_rdp_pdp

Budget and finance bloggers across the internet are all giving similar YNAB reviews.  In fact, I had a difficult time finding any of the YNAB reviews that weren’t glowing.  There’s a reason everyone is saying the same thing.

YNAB got it right.

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