Managing your finances seems like an intimidating process – especially if you’re just starting out for the first time.
Today, I’m going to share four free software programs that will help you grab hold of your financial future and be smarter with your money.
Want to become smarter with money? Want to pay down debt, track bills, and stop living from paycheck to paycheck? Pick one of the programs below and get smarter with your money today:
1) Buddi – The “personal budget software for the rest of us”
One of the funny things about budgeting is that many people think “they don’t need a budget.”
None of us really need a budget, but most of us can significantly benefit from a budget. In any case, Buddi is the free PC budgeting software “for the rest of us.”
What does Buddi bring to the table? Buddi offers a basic, clean interface free of ads and other annoyances. The software was developed by an individual programmer who clearly has a passion for budgets.
Buddi lets you setup multiple accounts. You might have chequing and savings accounts, for example, as well as a credit card account. After you’ve setup your accounts with the correct amount of money in each account, you move onto creating a budget.
Buddi’s budget system is totally customizable. You can create separate “income” categories for your salary, investment income, and spousal income, for example.
Just like with other budget software, Buddi also lets you setup categories for all your different expenses. You’re free to create whichever categories you want, but recommended categories include “auto”, “entertainment”, “groceries” and “misc.”
Now that the setup phase is over, it’s time for the hard part: remembering to actually track your budget. Buddi forces you to enter all your transactions manually, but it will track your money from there. The transaction entry screen is also very easy to use and has fields for the date, description, number, and “memo”.
Ultimately, Buddi isn’t as full-featured as some of its competitors. It doesn’t sync with your bank accounts or credit cards, for example, nor will it give you comprehensive debt settlement advice or financial guiding.
But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. After all, Buddi is also totally free to use.
You can download Buddi for free by clicking here. The software is available for Mac OS X, Windows 7, Vista, XP, and Linux. It’s been tested on a wide range of platforms and OSes and it’s also been rumored to work with Windows 95, Windows 98, and Windows ME.
2) AceMoney Lite
Looking for free personal finance software that emulates Quicken? Well you may have found it with AceMoney Lite.
AceMoney Lite is free home budget management software that lets you manage your finances “without any prior accounting experience.”
What does that mean? Well, it means you have 100 predefined spending categories with which to build your budget. You can also setup budget limits for all those categories and track how much you’re over-spending – or under-spending – each month.
Better yet, you can track the performance of your investments. AceMoney Lite includes built-in 401k tracking. You can also input your stock portfolio and automatically report Employee Stock Purchase Plans.
Like most free budget software, AceMoney Lite won’t automatically sync with your bank accounts or credit cards. Instead, the emphasis is on free and simple manual money management.
There is one cool trick there: you can impress your partner by generating colorful pie charts and other finance-related graphs. It may be unnecessary, but it’s a cool feature nonetheless.
AceMoney Lite is available for Windows and Mac OS X and requires just 8MB of storage space. It’s free, lightweight, and very easy to use. Download it today here.
GnuCash is the first entry on our list that offers both personal budget management and small business budget management. And, like all the other software on this list, GnuCash is totally free to use.
GnuCash doesn’t call itself personal budget management software. Instead, it calls itself free accounting software. GnuCash describes itself better than I could:
“GnuCash allows you to track bank accounts, stocks, income and expenses. As quick and intuitive to use as a checkbook register, it is based on professional accounting principles to ensure balanced books and accurate reports.”
It’s an ideal choice for small business owners who are just starting out. As your business grows, you’ll want a more feature-rich solution, but for beginners, GnuCash offers most of the things you need.
Useful features include double-entry accounting, scheduled transactions, financial calculations, QIF/OFX/HBI import, transaction matching, and the ability to track stocks, bonds, and mutual fund accounts.
You can download GnuCash for Linux, Windows XP, Vista, 7, 8, and Mac OS X.
4) Who needs software when you have free budget spreadsheets?
The software listed above is basic but effective. But if you want to get even more basic, then consider using a free budget spreadsheet.
Free budget spreadsheets are available from a number of different websites and provide the same basic functionality as the software listed above. You can use these spreadsheets with Microsoft Excel, Google Docs, or OpenOffice Calc (the latter two are free).
One of the cool things about free budget spreadsheets is how versatile they are. You can find pre-built spreadsheets for Christmas gift budgets, for example, or wedding budgets. You can even find budget spreadsheets which cater to children.
That’s why this option is ideal for anyone who doesn’t require a daily budget tracker, but instead uses budgets for special occasions: like vacations, Christmas gifts, or weddings.
With budget spreadsheets, all of the calculations and columns are pre-defined but editable. You can simply type in your income and expenses, or edit the spreadsheet to suit your needs.
You don’t need any spreadsheet experience to use this option, but it certainly helps if you want to create more complex customizations.
Want to find some good free budget spreadsheets? Vertex42.com is a good source. You can also find spreadsheets at MDMProofing.com.