Managing your money is always easier when you use software to automate processes and help you keep on track. While there is an increasing number of smartphone and online apps available, sometimes you get more power and control with a native piece of software on your home PC.
As ever, there are plenty of choices, each with its own advantages and disadvantages. We take a look at some of the best (and free) finance software out there for the home and small business.
1. Buddi (PC/Mac/Linux)
Since it runs on the Sun Java Virtual Machine, Buddi can run on almost any home operating system and is available in a number of languages. It’s designed for the average user, those of us who don’t have a background in financial planning or double ledger bookkeeping.
Helpfully, you can encrypt your financial data with a password; useful if your PC is used by multiple people (just don’t lose your password!).
For a small, open source program, Buddi has a number of features, including budgeting, tracking of accounts and personal finance reports. However, it doesn’t link to your bank automatically and out-of-the-box doesn’t allow you to import transactions from a spreadsheet; there is a free plugin that aims to do this though.
2. AceMoney Lite (PC/Mac)
The Lite (and free) version of this software only allows two accounts, but since one of these can be a Paypal account, that’s likely to be enough for most home users. You can’t link your bank accounts live, but you can import transactions from your online banking.
You can track spending, create and manage a home budget, track the performance of investments and set deadlines for bills, making this a powerful program for keeping track of all your finances and helping you to stay on top of your spending.
3. HomeBank (PC)
Unlike AceMoney Lite, the standard free version of HomeBank allows unlimited accounts and is an ideal choice for beginners. Your accounts can be linked to one another allowing transfers and there are templates for recurring transactions for bills, as well as to savings accounts.
To help you visualise your finances better, HomeBank contains a graphic-heavy userface with lots of graphs and charts so you can see things at a glance.
4. GnuCash (PC/Mac/Linux)
Fair warning: if you’re looking for a modern, aesthetically pleasing interface, you won’t find it with GnuCash. It has a dated early-2000s feel, which might put some users off. However, beneath its not-so-glamorous hood, you’ll find a powerful double-entry bookkeeping program that can handle all of your personal and small business finances, while still being easy to use.
It uses a recognisable “check book” style register making it familiar and convenient. You can also create recurring scheduled transactions with reminders, meaning you can stay on top of all of your bills. You’ll find plenty of visual graphs and charts and the ability to create customisable reports and it also has a number of advanced and experimental database features if you’re a small business looking to store your finances in an SQL database.
5. PLCash (PC/Mac)
PLCash is another free program that you can use to take control of your home finances. You can import and export transactions and, because it stores its data in plain text format, you can use either a spreadsheet or word processing program to analyse your data.
You can analyse your spending and track specific transaction types as well as create a large variety of reports, including tax and income/expenditure reports. As with most of the programs here, PLCash can take a bit of getting used to, but once you’ll do you’ll find it’s extremely useful.
6. Money Manager Ex (PC/Mac/Linux)
One of the big advantages of Money Manager Ex is its useful wizard that guides you through the setup process. While you can’t link directly to your accounts, you are able to import transactions. However, this software is at its best when you manually enter your transactions.
While this may mean more time and effort, entering your transactions manually in Money Manager Ex is worth it; you’ll not only find that the program effectively tracks your money, you’ll also have more control of not only the input but also of your expenditure itself.