I have been trying FOREVER to find the best budgeting software. I am still one of those people with a 3 ring binder, loose-leaf paper and an ink pen. It makes me feel like my mother…which is this case has been mostly alright! However, I hoped over time to find software that would make my life quick and easy as far as budgets go and so far it’s been a struggle.
My criteria, I thought were pretty simple:
1. INCREDIBLY easy to use. I’m not an idiot, but again, I am all about saving time. Spending 3 hours updating a bunch of mess is too much for me. In addition to that, if I have to spend hours and hours figuring out how to make a system work…I won’t.
2. I wanted it to link to my bank account to give me accurate information on spending so I could get a true overview of where our money goes.
3. I wanted to be able to see every single debt we have go from the total amount due to a $0.00 balance.
4. I wanted great examples of budgeting categories we tend to forget about.
5. Last, I wanted it to be as inexpensive as possible.
I tried 3 different budgeting programs for over a week. At the end of the week I cannot say I am a guru (yet) on ANY of these programs, but I have found a solid list of what I do and don’t like. I will also give the disclaimer that I might not have caught every trick available to every piece of software, but again, see #1. I’m not going to spend hours and hours figuring out every trick. If I can’t find it quick, it’s a waste of my time.
Pros: Free. Links up to your bank account based on when you start using it and will backdate old account info, but uses Day #1 as your first budget day. Links up to numerous other online accounts in order to allow you a full digital picture of what’s going on with your money. It also breaks down your categories and sends you email alerts if you are close to going over budget in any category. The BEST software for telling you where you might have some financial leaks in your budget.
Cons: Advertising!!! You cannot see your debt reduction if you don’t link it online. For us, that means we can budget medical bills, but it doesn’t show up in the overall picture of our finances. It also meant there was no way to be truly sure how much money we had for a snowball effect. The help forum was kind of hit and miss. Website was consistently SLOW.
YNAB (You Need a Budget)
Pros: Free 34 day trial. Looks very pretty and is pretty dang easy to navigate immediately. Help forum was pretty good and it had several instructional videos along the way for you to practice. Makes you budget to a $0.00 budget and if you have extra money it has you roll it over to next month so you can start “living on last months income”, their philosophy. (Which by the way actually just means slowly working yourself to a month AHEAD in your account, a philosophy I think is GREAT!!!) Great budgeting categories and flexible on moving your money around as you need it.
Cons: This is truly budgeting software ONLY. I could not find a way to keep track of total running debt while paying it off within my monthly budget. The app for your smartphone requires you to have Dropbox to make it work? I got annoyed after 5 minutes and ditched it. It does not link to your bank account and you have to reconcile the account every month. Sorry, I don’t want to balance my checkbook TWICE. My honest opinion is YNAB is a fancy looking spreadsheet. It costs $60.00 unless you find someone with a code that gives you about a $6.00 discount. Let me say that again- It’s a $60.00 pretty SPREADSHEET.
Dave Ramsey Budgeting Software
Pros: The software does almost everything I wanted it to do. Pricing is not bad at $17.95. Shocker- It makes you total your debt and shows it going down. It also has his budgeting worksheets that you can print out. It’s pretty easy to work with, in fact, it took me less time to set up our financial info on this program than on any other program. It has a debt snowball calculator to show you how long it will take to pay everything off. It also included “standard” budgeting categories that I did not immediately see on YNAB. Oh, and one of my favorite features is it shows you what percentage you are using in each category, so if your charitable donations are not at 10% it shows you the correct percentage.
Cons: The user interface looks like it was written for a computer that requires you to know DOS…C://anyone? (and please tell me someone else here is old enough to remember DOS??? Please???!!!) Ok ok, it’s not that bad, but if YNAB had the features of this software with the pretty screens and easy navigation, I would have paid $100.00 for it. Really, it only looks old and clunky on some of the larger text paragraphs. This software does not link to your bank account, but it also does not require monthly reconciliation either.
So, what’s my FINAL ANSWER???
I will likely continue to use the Dave Ramsey Budgeting Software IF I do not make my own spreadsheet. Truthfully, I am very tempted to just make a spreadsheet on my own and ditch all of the other software together. Not a single one of these programs handled ALL of my requirements, but of the 3, I preferred the Dave Ramsey software…unless it has a baby with YNAB. D-Nab? DavyNab? Anyone?
What budgeting software do you use? TELL ME!!!
Dave Ramsey has updated his budgeting software since I originally wrote this post. I haven’t taken the time to review it yet, but you can find the link here. There is a free version and a paid version.