Good-bye, Microsoft Money! 12 powerful personal finance programs

Good-bye, Microsoft Money! 12 powerful personal finance programs

Microsoft Money is no longer available for purchase. Microsoft has essentially conceded that there's no demand for the personal finance software product. From the website:

With banks, brokerage firms and Web sites now providing a range of options for managing personal finances, the consumer need for Microsoft Money Plus has changed. After suspending annual updates of Money Plus in 2008, Microsoft is announcing today that we will no longer offer Microsoft Money Plus for purchase after June 30, 2009.

Now that Microsoft has thrown in the towel, where does that leave existing users of Money and Money Plus? Some of them are worried. I've received several e-mails about this recently, including this one from Lee G.: “Microsoft just left us in a lurch by killing Money. Any suggestions on finance software? I'm not really a fan of Quicken, but would entertain it.”

It would have been nice if Microsoft had provided a list of these “personal finance management and planning tools.” Since they didn't, I spent a couple of hours surveying the current personal finance software options. Here are some powerful personal finance software programs to take the place of Microsoft Money:

  • AceMoney is a Windows desktop app that offers all the features you'd expect: downloadable transactions, budgeting, investment tracking, and more. AceMoney costs $30, but a free “lite” version is available.
  • Budgetpulse is a free “upbeat” way to manage your money. It offers standard budgeting and tracking features, as well as international compatibility. One of this program's stated goals is simplicity; it doesn't try to do a whole lot other than track your core accounts.
  • ClearCheckbook is “an extremely easy to use tool that helps you balance your checkbook and manage your money. Think of us as an online checkbook register with the added bonus of viewing reports, setting budgets, creating reminders and more.” A premium version adds features. iPhone app available.
  • Geezeo allows users to create and manage a budget while obtaining support from other members. According to the intro video, Geezeo also has the ability to track investments. Mrs. Micah tried Geezeo and liked the goal-setting and community aspects of the tool.
  • Mint has become the Big Daddy of online personal-finance apps, with almost a million registered users. Mint offers support for investment accounts, which is cool, and allows users to create personal budgets. I've heard both praise and complaints from Mint users, so it sounds like something you'll need to try to see if it's right for you. (Here's an early Mint review from a GRS user.) iPhone app available.
  • Moneydance is a full-featured desktop personal-finance manager. It's available for Mac, Windows, and Linux. Moneydance offers budgeting tools, investment tracking, and many built-in reports. Because I prefer a desktop money app, I'm very tempted to try this.
  • moneyStrands is the new kid on the block. Based in part on a financial management tool from Spain, moneyStrands offers all of the features you'd expect (though no investment-management yet). This tool offers lots of budgeting goals with highly-configurable alerts (“let me know when I've spent $30 on coffee this month!”). It also allows you to compare your finances with other demographics (not individual users, but groups of users). If you prefer Spanish, this app is for you. iPhone app available.
  • Mvelopes is a web-based version of the envelope budgeting system. It automatically connects with most banks and offers a free billpay service. This looks like a slick product, but it's by far the most expensive program on this list. At a minimum, it costs $7.90 per month.
  • Quicken is perhaps the most popular personal-finance software available today. It's fairly comprehensive and well-supported, but not without problems. Old versions are “sunset-ed” at regular intervals, forcing users to upgrade if they want to continue using certain features. I use Quicken for Mac, which supposedly updates investment portfolios automatically. Supposedly. My copy is broken though, and I can't get it to update correctly. There's an online version of Quicken, but to be honest, I haven't heard good things about it. iPhone app available (though users don't like it).
  • Rudder sounds like a tool for those who don't want a lot of extras. As with all of these programs, it allows you to connect to all of your accounts. It also helps you schedule upcoming bill payments. Rudder claims that its “secret sauce” is a widget to help predict your future cashflow. iPhone app available.
  • YNAB is popular among GRS users, especially those for whom budgeting is important. I haven't used this software myself, but I know that it allows you to import bank transactions, pay bills, etc. YNAB isn't for users who want to track investment accounts, but is good for those who want to emphasize budgeting.
  • Yodlee is the grandpappy of online money-management software. It's the platform on which many tools, including Mint, are based. But Yodlee also offers its own personal-finance product called MoneyCenter. As you'd expect, it provides the same account-tracking functionality that most of these applications have, but it doesn't feature budgeting as prominently. Yodlee offers tight integration with most banks, and also has a billpay feature. iPhone app available.

From what I've seen, these apps are a lot alike: the desktop programs offer similar feature sets, and the online tools are all close cousins. There's not a lot to differentiate them. Wesabe had a great community, Mint tracks investment accounts, and moneyStrands offers a Spanish-language option. Each program offers something unique. But is there any one app that knocks it out of the park? I don't know. What do you think? Which option would you recommend for refugees from Microsoft Money?

For myself, I'll continue to use the desktop version of Quicken on my Mac for my personal finance software. It's not perfect, but I know its quirks.

Addendum: Many commenters also recommend gnucash, a free Open Source money-management tool. I considered listing gnucash, but discarded the idea because the software is billed as an “accounting” package. GRS readers report that it's actually very suitable for personal finances.

Note: There are many other specialized personal-finance apps out there: PearBudget for budgeting, Fuelly for tracking gas mileage, etc. I'll do a run-down of these in the future.

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