Free budgeting software - reviewed

Budgeting software can help you keep track of your spending, making it easy to get your finances in order. Here we've rounded up the best free packages.

 
 
 
  • People calculating budget
    Niall Magennis
    By   | Tech & Gadgets contributor
    Last updated: 26 January 2017, 10:13 GMT

    Do you need to better manage a tight household budget? Are you looking for something to keep the finances of your small business in check? 

    If you fall into either of these categories then you'll benefit from using some budgeting software.

    These applications can help you keep track of both your earnings and outgoings so you can see exactly how you're spending your hard-earned cash.

    Most can also produce handy reports so you can tell at a glance where you may be able to make savings.

    It's much easier than trying to keep track of things using pen and paper or unwieldy spreadsheets.

    And the good news is that you don’t have to spend money to get a good budget planning and accounting package - many are available for free online.

    We've taken four of the best free applications for a test drive.

     
     
     

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  • Budgetpulse
    Niall Magennis
    By   | Tech & Gadgets contributor
    Last updated: 26 January 2017, 10:13 GMT
    BT rating
     

    Website: Budget Pulse

    Budgetpulse is a free online budget planning tool that's been around since 2007 and is primary aimed at home users rather than small businesses.

    Once you’ve created an account and logged in you'll find that it defaults to using US dollars as its currency, but you can quickly change this to pounds from the Preferences page.

    To get started you can either manually enter transactions or import previous records from Microsoft Money or Quicken files.

    Setting up your current, savings and credit card accounts is quick and easy. And, if your bank supports data export, you can import data files that you've downloaded from online banking sites.

    Naturally it supports recurring transactions for things like your mortgage and insurance payments, and you can easily assign categories to your transactions to make it easier to analyse your spending later.

    We particularly like the ‘goals’ section where you can set up personal targets and easily monitor how you are faring.

    Budgetpulse also makes it easy to keep track of multiple different bank accounts, and the fact it's an online tool means you can use it from many different devices.

    Its strength is its ease of use, but it lacks the types of features that business users require, so it's best for people doing personal budgeting.

     
     
     

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  • dsBudget
    Niall Magennis
    By   | Tech & Gadgets contributor
    Last updated: 26 January 2017, 10:13 GMT
    BT rating
     

    Website: dsBudget 

    A lot of budgeting software can feel quite intimidating to the first-time user, so it's great to see there's an application that aims to make it as easy as possible to get started with budget tracking.

    While dsBudget may have gone through a name change - it was formerly known as Simple D Budget - it's just as easy to use as it ever was.  

    The application runs in your Mac, PC or Linux web browser and a simple design means you can get the hang of it in no time.

    To get started you enter how much money you earn each month and then add in the things you have to pay out for on a monthly basis, such as utility bills, mortgage repayments, insurance costs and subscriptions services.

    The program then calculates the amount you have leftover after those outgoings are taken care of. From there you can split up this leftover sum into different categories (which you can create from scratch to suit your needs) such as clothes, entertainment and dining out.

    If you've never used personal budgeting software before and want an easy introduction to the concept, dsBudget's simplicity makes it a great option.

    However, it's only designed for home budgeting, so it lacks the extra business budgeting features you'll find in more comprehensive (and more complex) apps.

     

     
     
     

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  • GNUcash
    Niall Magennis
    By   | Tech & Gadgets contributor
    Last updated: 26 January 2017, 10:13 GMT
    BT rating
     

    Website: GnuCash

    GnuCash can be used to keep track of your personal budget, but really it's a full-blown accounting package, so it’s best suited to sole traders or small businesses.

    The software is available for Windows, Linux and Mac computers and the user interface is functional rather than flash.

    There are some quirks in the design, such as how it handles open windows. This, combined with the fact it’s packed full of features, means it’s not a good option for first-time users of budgeting or accounts software.

    However, if you're used to other accounting programs you should soon be able to get the hang of it and there is a lot of sensible help and advice available via its support forum.

    Despite the fact that it is free, GnuCash really does have a lot of powerful features that you typically only find in expensive commercial software, including support for double-entry accounting to ensure books balance, the ability to enter split transactions, and a feature that lets you set up recurring transactions.

    There are also good reporting options, and you can display data as graphs, pie charts or scatter plots.

    It may not be for budgeting beginners, but the excellent range of features means it compares favourable against expensive accounting packages. As a result GncCash is a great free option for those managing small businesses.

     
     
     

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  • Homebank
    Niall Magennis
    By   | Tech & Gadgets contributor
    Last updated: 26 January 2017, 10:13 GMT
    BT rating
     

    Website: HomeBank

    HomeBank is a personal accounting package, so it's designed for individuals rather than business use.

    Essentially the software helps you do two key tasks: manage your account and analyse your finances through a range of filters and graphs.

    It's available for Windows as well as Mac and Linux users and the interface is very attractive by the usual standards of budgeting software.

    We like the simple 'Where Your Money Goes' pie chart on the main menu screen that lets you see what most of your outgoings are covering.  

    The package also includes a browser-based manual that not only helps you get up and running, but also explains some of the more complicated features in reasonably easy-to-understand language. It means this is a relatively good choice for beginners.

    However, if you have used other budget planners in the past, the good news is that Home Bank allows you to import files from Quicken, Money and a few other packages.

    It also makes it relatively easy to track monthly utility bills and other regular outgoings, while the 'Vehicle Cost Report' includes not just set costs such as insurance, but also variables like petrol, which makes it much more useful.

    All in all, Home Bank is a well-designed package that's easy to use and has enough features to really help you keep track of your finances.

    But business users will need to look elsewhere as it's not really designed with them in mind.

     
     
     

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