How to Buy Accounting Software

Updated July 31, 2012

Choosing personal finance software

Most accounting software (the newer versions, at least) won't hog much of your system's resources, but you should check to make sure that it is compatible with your computer's operating system. See our Comparison Chart for system requirements. If you don't want to download software, there are a number of free online services you can use to track your finances; see our report on personal finance sites.

Some companies offer a mobile app so you can check your accounts on the go. SplashMoney has the widest selection, with an app available for every mobile device from BlackBerrys to iPhones. YNAB has mobile apps for iPhones and Android devices, and for the Kindle Fire. Quicken does not have any apps for mobile devices, though it shares a parent company with, which has a free online service and well-reviewed apps.

Experts agree that a personal finance software package should, at a minimum, offer the following functions:

  • Download bank and investment data: Check for compatibility with your financial institution. Quicken is compatible with most financial institutions in the U.S., and most of the other alternatives are compatible with larger banks but may not be connected to local banks or credit unions.
  • Create graphs and/or reports: If your needs don't go much beyond balancing your checkbook, this feature may not mean much to you. However, if you'd like to be able to chart your expenses and graphically see what percentage you spend on housing, insurance, etc., then these features can help you see the big picture.
  • Create a budget: Even basic software should allow you to work out a budget by tracking expenses and income using your financial information.
  • Easy to use reconciliation features: This means you can accurately match your transactions with the entries in your accounts, similar to balancing a checkbook.