Technology is changing how we handle money.
When I got my first bank account as a kid, I had a little passbook with my balance history stamped in it. There were no debit cards. And certainly no iPhone apps. And that was less than 20 years ago.
Ten years ago, online banking started to emerge, but few people trusted it.
Five years ago, I wrote about new personal finance manager software programs like Mint.com that would replace manual budgeting with a snapshot of all of your accounts in one place. But adoption was slow. This comment was typical:
…I am concerned about privacy and do not like having my financial information stored on more servers than necessary. Partially because of these concerns, I’ve elected to use money management systems stored locally on my own computers.
Now, Mint.com has more than 7 million users. Intuit bought Mint in 2010 for $170 million and has been investing in technology and growing Mint’s user base ever since.
Times are changing. Personal finance software is becoming commonplace. Today, there are a lot of able Mint alternatives. Most of them, like Mint, are free.
Mint was the first free personal finance manager software to attract a critical mass of users, and, a couple years ago, the best.
Mint’s greatest strength is how the program takes your transaction histories from multiple checking accounts and credit cards and automatically categorizes purchases. Mint then shows you—in a list or colorful graphs—where you’re spending your money. You can also create budgets and have Mint alert you when you exceed the monthly limits you set in each category.
Mint also offers investment tracking, goal setting, mobile apps and integrated product recommendations. (For example, if you bought sunglasses, Mint might show an ad for other fashion accessories under that transaction.)
Mint is free and powerful software, but it’s designed to be everything to everyone which, in my opinion, makes it a bit clunky.
- Large user based and fully-developed features
- Budget feature sends alerts if you spend too much in a category
- Occasional pop up ads and product recommendations
- Failed to automatically categorize my investments
- Cluttered interface
Personal Capital is another personal finance manager newcomer showing potential. In fact, after trying Personal Capital I’m hooked on their investment feature because it does the best job automatically figuring my total asset allocation across all of my investment accounts. (The screenshot below shows just one of the ways you can view your entire portfolio with Personal Capital. The colored bars represent different asset classes—foreign and domestic stocks, bonds, cash, and alternatives.)
Personal Capital aggregates checking accounts and credit cards, too, but it’s clear that their development priority is investing, which isn’t a bad thing. Unlike most personal finance management programs that make money by advertising or recommending products, Personal Capital’s business model is based upon selling investment advisory services to a small percentage of users.
Personal Capital Pros
- Best investing tools
- Great dashboard providing at-a-glance look of both spending and investing
- Provides integrated spend tracking, too
Personal Capital Cons
- Fewer spend tracking features than competitors
- No budget feature
Manilla is a personal finance program of a different breed. Unlike the other Websites in this article, Manilla does not grab the details of every transaction to provide total spend tracking. Instead, Manilla is like an online file cabinet for your bills and subscriptions. Manilla puts your credit card bills, utility bills, magazine and Netflix subscriptions—even your frequent flier accounts—all in one convenient dashboard.
If you’re less concerned about tracking every penny or watching your investments and simply want an easy place to track and remember all of your bills, Manilla is for you.
- Simplified platform for bill reminders
- Good for organizing finances when you don’t want or need a full finance manager
- Limited features
- Service may be redundant to online bill-pay you have at your bank
Jan 31, 2013 update: We originally included Adaptu in this roundup, as we believed it offered a lean and beautiful Mint alternative for tracking and categorizing spending. Unfortunately, we just learned that Adaptu is closing down next month.
Choosing The Best Program For You
The best personal finance software program is the one you’ll use.
If you’re comfortable with a good old Excel budget spreadsheet as your Mint alternative, then stick with it. Otherwise, it may take some experimenting to figure out which personal finance manager is best for you, but ultimately you want an application that makes your finances easier. If any of them become a pain, delete them and move on.
What do you think? How have you been managing your money lately? Do you use personal finance software? Any pros or cons about Mint.com or a Mint competitor to add to this post? Let us know in a comment.
Disclosure: At the time of publication Money Under 30 has affiliate relationships with Mint, Personal Capital, and Manilla. That means if a reader clicks through and opens a free account at these companies, they send me a couple bucks for the referral. This is how I earn a living and am able to produce the free content on Money Under 30, so if you choose to support me in this way; thanks!