The first step to financial freedom is taking control of your money. It’s possible to do that with spreadsheets, but there are a lot of downsides. Spreadsheets are easy to mess up, hard to work with, and not secure.

Fortunately, there are other options.

Personal finance software allows you to keep track of your finances and make them work for you instead of own you. There are a lot of different systems out there, but we’ll keep things brief and just cover two of the more popular ones: Mint vs. Quicken.

Mint is a solid option for a basic budgeting tool, and it’s completely free! Because of its intuitive features and usable platform, it may be the best free personal finance software out there.

It only takes a few minutes to get signed on and start taking control of your finances. Once you link your banking and credit accounts to Mint, it builds suggested budget categories based on your spending history. These budgets are easy to customize to fit your specific needs or to adjust if your finances change.

On top of basic budgets, Mint allows you to track your spending trends, make financial goals, track investments, and check your credit score penalty-free.

Mint is also a mobile-friendly app and can send you notifications and updates on how you are doing with sticking to your budget. It’s good to keep in mind how you’re doing throughout the month so you know if you have a little breathing room or if you should be more careful with your spending.

Mint is secure. They take great care of your financial information. As long as you don’t give out your password and access to your email, you don’t have much to worry about. It’s a cloud-based program, which allows you to access your information from anywhere while maintaining strong security.

A big part of money management is education. Not a college degree, but information on how to use money. To help you out with this, Mint has a Financial Literacy Blog to help you navigate the world of personal finance.

Mint is great, but it isn’t perfect. You can track your bill payments through Mint, but you can’t pay them through Mint. That’s definitely unfortunate, but not crisis material. Stay on top of the reminders that Mint sends you and you won’t have a problem.

It’s fair to say that Mint is a standard, no-bells-and-whistles piece of software, but it’s totally free, and that’s hard to beat.

As I’ve looked around for other opinions of Mint, I’ve found that an average score for Mint reviews is about 4.5 out of 5 stars. It’s a pretty well-liked product.

Quicken was one of the first online financial planning software companies. They’ve been around for over 30 years and have developed a pretty incredible product over that time.

There is, however, a slight downside to Quicken right out of the gate. It’s not free. They have four plans that start at $34 per year, and go up to $68 per year. It only costs about a dollar per week, but that’s still something to keep in mind. You’re getting a great product, but you do have to pay for it.

Quicken, like Mint, has budget categories that are created automatically based on your buying history. Also like Mint, it’s mobile-friendly, it’s secure, and it automatically transfers your banking and credit information.

And that’s just their starter package. The plans get more robust as you move up the ladder. The deluxe and premier plans have features that allow you to track your debt and investments, create a retirement plan and pay bills through the platform.

Quicken also has an extensive knowledge base and great customer service to help you out along the way.

Quicken 2018 reviews average about 4.25 out of 5 stars. Slightly lower than Mint, but that difference is probably insignificant.

Overview

Both of these are great platforms for creating a budget. They’ve at least got all of the must-have features for a personal finance product: bank account and credit information transfers, mobile-friendly platforms, visual budget plans, bill tracking, and strong security.

Which one you choose to use comes down to your own situation and what you need.

If all you need is a simple budget to help keep track of your income and expenses, then Mint’s free platform will do what you need it to and quite a bit more.

On the other hand, if you need something with more features to help you manage not only your basic budget but also your investment portfolio, taxes, bill paying features, and retirement planning, Quicken’s Deluxe or Premier plans would probably be a better option.

Once you move to Quicken’s more robust options, you really start to reap the benefits of that payment.

So decide what you need, and take ownership of your finances today!