Sometimes reaching your personal or business goals comes down to using the right tools. Laura reviews 20 of her favorite free or low-cost digital tools you can try out to make better money decisions, save money, be more productive, and have more success.
Managing money doesn’t have to be a ton of work. You can use free or low-cost digital tools to make better financial decisions and achieve your goals. Personal finance and business programs and apps have become incredibly popular, and for a good reason. They’re easy to use, generally don’t cost much, and can help with managing money, being more productive, finding the best financial products, staying on top of your credit, investing your hard-earned money, and so much more.
No matter what you want to achieve, such as sticking to a budget, building a side business, or shopping for cheaper insurance, there’s a digital tool that can help. In this post, I’ll cover 20 of my favorite free or low-cost online tools. Giving them a try could be the ticket to quickly improving various aspects of your financial life.
20 Best Personal Finance and Small Business Online Tools
See how each of these online tools can improve your personal and business financial success.
If you’re like me, you have a lot of online accounts. With so many online tools and apps at your fingertips, you’ve probably noticed that managing their passwords can be a real hassle. Also, you need to change passwords periodically to make sure your accounts, especially bank and credit cards, won’t get hacked by a cybercriminal. So how do you keep up with it all?
Fortunately, password managers like LastPass keep you organized and secure. It saves all your different passwords and automatically logs you into your accounts. All you need to do is remember one password, the master password that unlocks everything saved in LastPass.
LastPass offers password management for one device for free. However, you can upgrade and manage all logins across your devices for $3 a month or $4 for a family plan.
2. Credit Karma
I’ve used Credit Karma for many years to do monthly checkups on my credit. It just takes a minute to get an overview of what’s changed on your credit reports and how it may have affected various credit scores. That’s critical to ensure you don’t have errors or fraudulent activity dragging down your scores or putting your financial life in jeopardy.
The health of your credit ripples through your entire financial life, which is why monitoring it regularly is crucial.
The health of your credit ripples through your entire financial life, which is why monitoring it regularly is crucial. While Annualcreditreport.com is still the official credit reporting site, it doesn’t provide your credit scores. Credit Karma is the best place to get your credit reports and several credit scores for free.
Once you create a free Credit Karma account and verify your identity, you get access to a wealth of information. For instance, you can review your TransUnion and Equifax credit report and credit scores as often as once a week. Yes, you’ll see plenty of ads and financial product recommendations, but it’s a fair trade for the free credit data you get.
Credit Karma also shows you how to improve your credit scores. You can even see how your scores compare to others and how they’ve changed over time. That insight helps you know if your scores are moving in the right direction or if it’s time to adjust your financial habits. And, as I mentioned, seeing a decline in your scores could be the tip-off that you’ve become the victim of identity theft.
Quicken is one of the most popular personal finance programs, and I’ve used it for decades. If I could only recommend one money management tool, this is it. Quicken has become the gold standard because it can handle just about every aspect of your finances, including budgeting, paying bills, tracking investments, isolating tax-related transactions, and reporting.
After you sync your financial accounts with Quicken, it automatically connects and pulls in your cleared transactions. But you can also enter transactions manually if you don’t want to connect your online financial accounts.
If I could only recommend one money management tool, Quicken is it.
You can see a register for each bank account or credit card, or you can view all your transactions together. Quicken’s mobile app syncs with the desktop version, so you can switch between devices and always have access to your up-to-date information.
Once you assign categories to transactions, such as income, groceries, or clothing, Quicken remembers them. Automatic categorization saves time and allows you to easily see how much you’ve spent each week, month, or year food, gas, retirement contributions, or any other category you create. You can view your income and expenses over any period with simple graphs and reports.
While Quicken isn’t free, you can choose from a suite of products depending on the functions you need. For $35.99 per year, the Starter version allows you to see all of your accounts in one place, create a budget, have automatic expense categorization, and manage money from anywhere.
If you step up to Quicken Deluxe ($51.99 per year) or Premier ($77.99), you get more advanced features for managing loans, investments, and taxes. All versions are available on Windows or Mac.
Quicken used to offer a free 30-day trial, but they’ve done away with it. Instead, they offer a 30-day money-back guarantee. If you’re not happy with Quicken during your first month, you can get a refund.
While you can use Quicken for small business bookkeeping, QuickBooks is a better solution. Once you enter the credentials for various financial accounts that you want to track, such as banks, credit cards, and lenders, it connects and aggregates your data into a dashboard.
Like with Quicken, you can categorize transactions or create customized labels. QuickBooks quickly learns which categories to assign to different transactions, but you can always change them or split entries between multiple categories.
There’s also a self-employed QuickBooks for freelancers, which costs $7.50 a month. You can use that version to track income and expenses, estimate quarterly taxes, track your business auto mileage, and much more.
QuickBooks versions for small businesses range from $25 to $180 per month if you have employees. They come with additional functions for managing contractors, billing, and expense reports. For an additional charge, QuickBooks can even handle processing your payroll.
If you can afford any version of QuickBooks, you’ll get a lot for your money. Plus, most accountants and bookkeepers use it, so it’s easy to get help or share your files for professional tax preparation.
RELATED: Check out Laura's newest book: Money-Smart Solopreneur: A Personal Finance System for Freelancers, Entrepreneurs, and Side-Hustlers
If you want to try out online money management without paying for it, check out Mint. It works a lot like Quicken, where you sync your accounts, such as checking, savings, retirement, loans, and credit cards, and it aggregates the transactions into a dashboard.
Mint provides a great place to start budgeting or finesse the budget you already have. With automatic categorization, it can do a lot of the work for you. And you can use Mint to set financial goals and track your progress toward them, too.
If QuickBooks has more bells and whistles than you need for your solo or small business, check out FreshBooks. It started as a sleek invoicing solution but has grown into much more.
Just like with other programs, FreshBooks aggregates transactions from linked financial accounts and allows you to categorize them. You can create customized invoices, receive payments, and create reports. There are also convenient time-tracking capabilities integrated with the invoicing function.
The strength of FreshBooks is the ability to create attractive proposals and estimates, turn them into invoices, and get paid with credit cards and bank transfers. You could get a proposal signed electronically and turn it into an invoice for a retainer or bill at an hourly or flat rate. Adding expenses for reimbursement, sending past-due reminders, or adding sales tax is easy to do.
FreshBooks bases pricing on how many clients you need to track. You get the Lite plan for $7.50 per month, which lets you bill up to five clients. For $12.50, the Plus plan gives you up to 50 clients, and Premium allows up to 500.
If you have a service-based business or need project management functionality, FreshBooks is an excellent option. It has an app for iOS and Android so that you can work on the go.
When you have multiple conversations and threads going at one time with business partners, employees, or contractors, Slack is an excellent way to centralize communication. It replaces email, allowing you to chat and share files using “channels” that organize content by client, project, or topic.
Slack allows you to initiate voice or video calls directly from the platform. Plus, it integrates with other apps, such as Google Drive and Office 365.
A free Slack version offers one-on-one calls, 5 GB file storage, and up to 10 app integrations. That’s an excellent way to give it a try and see if the interface could improve your business productivity. Upgraded plans range from about $7 to $13 per month.
If you were to mash up a spreadsheet with a database, you’d have the sophistication of Airtable. It’s an innovative and flexible way to manage records, link tables, attach files, and collaborate with teams.
For instance, multiple people can work together on Airtable data, with endless possibilities for ways it can be entered, shared, and viewed. It integrates with hundreds of other apps and can be used on iOS and Android to sync on all your devices.
You can get started using Airtable for free and upgrade to plans ranging from $10 to $20 per month when you need more training, storage, and workspaces. When you see how much Airtable can do, you may never use a plain spreadsheet again.
When you need a user-friendly project management platform, check out Trello. It allows you to visualize a project and update its status using drag-and-drop boards, lists, and cards. You can add comments, due dates, attachments and collaborate with teams. It’s a simple and intuitive way to track a project’s progress and meet task deadlines.
The free version gives you plenty of functionality with unlimited cards and lists, ten team boards, and automation. Trello’s paid plans start at about $10 per month when you need more storage and customization.
If you choose to prepare your own taxes, TurboTax is a powerful tool that’s been around for decades. It’s included in some versions of QuickBooks, making it easy to transfer data into various tax forms, or you can purchase it as a stand-alone product. Likewise, some versions of TurboTax include a year of QuickBooks for free.
TurboTax has a suite of products suitable for individuals, real estate investors, and the self-employed. The program asks you a series of questions and then recommends the best version for you.
The basic version allows you to file federal and state tax returns for free if you don’t have any attached schedules. TurboTax’s Self-Employed version starts at $120, or you can get help from a tax professional with the Self-Employed Live version for $200.
If you drive for your job or your own business, MileIQ is a fantastic app that automatically tracks your mileage. You install the app on your smartphone and keep it in your vehicle while you’re driving, so it works in the background.
The app uses GPS to monitor your vehicle movement and calculate the distance of your trips. Once you reach a destination, the app prompts you to allocate the journey as personal or business and creates a log. It’s like a Fitbit for driving and is truly a game-changer for keeping up with where and when you go.
MileIQ also has a desktop dashboard for analyzing drives and printing reports by dates, locations, or events. It also integrates with other expense tracking programs such as Concur and Freshbooks.
You can try out MileIQ’s free version, which logs up to 40 trips per month. The premium version is just $5.99 per month for unlimited miles. Whether you submit mileage to an employer for reimbursement or claim it as a business tax deduction, MileIQ will revolutionize how you keep up with your miles.
Even if you use a bookkeeping program, you may want an additional tool, such as Expensify, to manage expenses while you’re on the go. It integrates with other apps and tools like QuickBooks. With just a photo of your receipt, it automatically transcribes, categorizes, and saves an expense.
When you take your smartphone on trips, Expensify uses GPS to track your mileage for calculating the vehicle tax deduction. You can try it for free or upgrade for $4.99 per month.
You’ve probably heard of the file-sharing veteran Dropbox. It offers a sleek interface for storing any type of file remotely instead of on your computer. It’s a great way to save space on your hard drive or backup data, so you have it in multiple places.
You share permissions with others so they can view and download your Dropbox files. You can share a link for any file by email or text and include password protection, allowing access to that file while keeping everything else in your account private. Recipients don’t even need to have their own Dropbox account.
Dropbox integrates with more than 100 other apps and programs, and they have an app for iOS and Android to sync across all your devices. Try it out for free with a Basic plan that gives you up to 2 GB of storage. You can upgrade to a business plan starting at $15 per month for up to three users and 5 TB of storage. For more space, the Advanced plans give you unlimited storage starting at $25 per month.
If you’ve ever visited a website that you want to remember, seen a photo that you want to save for inspiration, or needed a template for productivity, Evernote makes it possible. It’s an innovative tool that allows you to create notes, clip content from the web, organize your notes into notebooks, share notes, and archive them.
The ways you can use Evernote are as unlimited as your imagination. It integrates with other programs and has an app for iOS and Android that syncs across your devices. Try the free plan or upgrade for more storage in the range of $8 to $15 per month.
15. Google Workspace
Google offers more than 15 web-based productivity tools, which are free until you hit a total storage limit of 15 GB. The platform allows you to collaborate on documents and spreadsheets in real-time and integrates with hundreds or even thousands of other programs. It enables iOS and Android users to work from anywhere.
The Google Workspace Basic plan is $6 per user per month for 30 GB of storage when you’re ready to upgrade. It allows you to create email addresses with custom domains, collaborate across calendars, documents spreadsheets, presentations, sites, and voice or video conferences.
The Business plan offers more custom features and unlimited storage for $12 per month or 1 TB per user if you have fewer than five users. There’s also a higher-level Enterprise plan for $25 per user per month.
You can install Grammarly on all your devices as a browser plug-in. Watch it catch grammar and spelling errors in your emails, texts, social media posts, blog posts, and web pages. You’ll instantly look more professional and become a better writer!
Grammarly’s free version checks basic grammar, spelling, and punctuation. The Premium plan is about $12 per month and checks for plagiarism, tone, variety in vocabulary, readability, and more.
It doesn’t get any better than Betterment if you want an incredibly easy-to-use investing platform with low fees. They offer regular investing accounts, tax-advantaged retirement accounts, and checking and savings accounts.
Betterment automatically manages your investments by rebalancing, reinvesting dividends, and handling recurring deposits. They offer a diversified portfolio of exchange-traded funds (ETFs) based on the level of risk you’re comfortable taking. Plus, you get access to their team of licensed financial experts for advice and support.
Betterment automatically manages your investments, offering a diversified portfolio of exchange-traded funds (ETFs) based on the level of risk you’re comfortable taking.
The annual cost of Betterment’s platform is 0.25% of your balance, which makes it affordable even when you’re just starting. You can get started investing with just $10. Once you have more than $100,000, the fee increases to 0.40%, but you also have unlimited access to their Certified Financial Planners (CFPs) for more personalized advice. But note that their checking and cash reserve accounts are fee-free.
I’ve enjoyed using Betterment for more than a decade now and am always impressed with its customer service, communications, and affordable fees. The experience on your desktop or mobile device is streamlined and straightforward, making creating accounts, setting goals, transferring funds, and monitoring your progress an absolute joy.
If you’re new to investing or struggling to save, try the original micro-investing app, Acorns. Once you link it to your debit or credit cards, Acorns automatically sweeps and invests the difference between your purchase cost and the nearest whole dollar amount you set.
For example, if you spend $20.50, the app could round up to $21 and deduct $0.50 from your bank account to invest. Or you could set Acorns to round to the next $5 increment and invest $4.50. Using round-ups is a tech-savvy way to invest so-called spare change. You can also invest lump sums or set up recurring deposits as small as $5.
Acorns also offers tax-advantaged retirement accounts, such as an IRA or SEP-IRA, and no-fee, FDIC-insured checking accounts. Using only the investing app costs $1 per month, but if you add a retirement account and a banking account to the mix, you’ll pay $3 per month (up to a $1 million balance).
The only downside is that paying flat fees instead of a percentage can end up costing a relatively high amount when you have a small account balance.
Before you make a financial decision, such as settling on a mortgage lender for a new home, getting a low-interest personal loan, choosing a credit card, shopping for cheap car insurance, or buying cryptocurrency, Finder.com can help.
It’s a one-stop-shop for researching and comparing a wide range of financial products and services. If you’ve ever wondered if you’re really getting the best deal, don’t miss all the information on Finder.com. Check out their helpful personal finance calculators that will help you make better money decisions.
If you need the answer to just about any financial question, like whether to get a 15- or 30-year mortgage, if you should lease or buy a car, or how long your retirement savings will last, check out Dinkytown.com. There’s nothing dinky about their massive library of more than 400 financial calculators.
No matter what numbers you need help crunching for your personal or business finances, there’s probably a Dinkytown.com tool that can do it. They have calculators for investments, retirement, mortgages, auto loans, credit cards, debt, insurance, taxes, business, and more. Their data is available for different countries and for consumers who speak Spanish and French.
Regardless of your personal or business goals, these terrific apps, programs, and websites will help you understand your finances, save money, be more productive, and take your money management skills to the next level. By experimenting with different technology, it's easy to find solutions that genuinely work for your personal or business style and allow you to create more success.