7 Top-Rated Affordable Budgeting Software

By: Saumya Srivastava on January 29, 2024

Running a small business requires juggling between fluctuating income, funding gaps, and ever-shifting project priorities. Managing these tasks often diverts finance managers from their core task—planning budgets. Without a solid budgeting plan, your business may witness financial instability, hampering growth and dampening motivation. 

An effective budgeting tool can help you devise well-strategized budgets, enhancing reporting, decision-making and saving your resources’ time and effort. 

This article highlights seven top-rated affordable budgeting software based on their pricing as found on vendor websites and verified software reviews. Based on our research, we've considered products priced less than $48 per month as affordable software and have arranged them in ascending order. Read more.

The software listed in this article can be categorized as budgeting and forecasting tools that can manually generate budget plans and revenue forecasts or automate them using artificial intelligence (AI).

1. Quicken

Business budgeting and forecasting in Quicken lets you create targeted budgets for different goals, including travel, payroll, and bills. The tool allows you to track the progress of each budget. It also gives you the flexibility to create new spending categories beyond the predefined ones to reflect on your spending habits. Its scheduled reminders can send you automatic notifications for recurring bills and income. 

The tool simulates different financial situations for forecasting. These may include a raise or unexpected expenses to mark their impact on the overall business budget. Predictive balances assess tracked financial transactions to protect your bank account’s future balance.

Product features of interest:*

  • Auto-generated spending plan: Analyze transactions from the past 12 months or less and automatically categorize them based on vendor names and transaction descriptions. The feature calculates monthly average (actual and forecast) spending based on these inputs within each category for the set period. 

  • Cash flow projections: Collate your past income and expenses categorized by account and spending habits to simulate and project how account balances will evolve over time. The feature allows the manual addition of upcoming bills, planned income, and expected transfers between accounts. 

  • Retirement roadmap: Define your retirement plan, factoring in inflation and healthcare to create a clear income target. The feature also stocks your current assets, savings, and expected social security to identify shortfalls. You can explore catch-up strategies and run ‘what if’ scenarios for different market conditions.

Starting price: $3.99 per month

Billing cycle: Annual

Customer support options: Community forum, chat, blogs, FAQs, and help center

Who should consider Quicken?

Quicken can benefit budgeters by focusing on multiple categories related to business operations and allowing them to analyze and optimize their spending. Users can also add personalized categories to gain deeper insights into their spending habits and track goals independently. Additionally, Quicken is beneficial for defining retirement plans for different market conditions, including inflation and deflation.

Analysis performed January 2024**

Quicken

Quicken

3.89 out of 5 stars

409 reviews

2. Reckon One

Reckon One’s business budgeting and forecasting tools help you set achievable organization-wide goals and measure your business performance using customizable dashboards and reports. The dashboard elements can be adjusted according to your business’s financial needs, such as adding net position comparisons between financial quarters and drilling down income and expenses. The tracked metrics are visually presented using configurable graphs and color coding. 

All bank statements are manually imported into the system and then categorized into different transaction categories. For payments, the tool lets you generate online invoices and share them with the vendors via an integrated payment gateway for credit cards. The received payments are automatically added to the system for reporting.

Product features of interest:*

  • Bank reconciliation: Match your statement’s transactions with the recorded transactions based on dates, amounts, and payee names. The feature identifies discrepancies between the two for missing income and expenses that impact your budgeting and forecasting. 

  • Online invoicing: Generate payment invoices with the brand logo and custom fields to reflect your business identity. The feature automatically pulls vendor details and amounts from the accounting system. It emails these invoices to the vendors along with an online payment link. 

  • Employee expense tracking: Track, manage, and store employee expense receipts to get approvals or claim taxes. These expenses are marked as billable and considered as money spent at the time of budgeting and forecasting. 

Starting price: $6 per month

Billing cycle: Annual

Customer support options: Phone calls, chat, FAQs, guides, blogs, glossary, personal advisor, and emails

Who should consider Reckon One?

Reckon One is beneficial for accounting and finance managers who bill clients for dedicated employee hours. In addition to managing daily expenses and matching bank statements, the tool helps you track employee reimbursements and project time schedules. You can use the tool to generate online invoices (via the card payment link), receive on-time payments, and set reminders for any dues.

Analysis performed January 2024**

Reckon One

Reckon One

4.55 out of 5 stars

88 reviews

Pro tip

Assess if the tool’s budgeting and forecasting-related AI capabilities can automate or suggest plan building and report generation. This will help you understand the scope of automation, assisting you to know the required manual effort.

3. Productive

Productive lets you build budgets for fixed prices and hourly models. You can set up recurring budgets for multiple long-term projects and manage them for separate project phases. The projects dashboard provides a real-time view of your budgets, helping you assess your budgets’ profitability.

The tool offers insights into spending and future profit margins for each project, helping you identify when a project runs out of money. Automatic warnings are sent via in-app notifications when your spending or billable hours exceed the set limit for a particular project. You can share the budget reports with clients to monitor the project progress and approved spending.

Product features of interest:*

  • Time approvals: Track employee hours and effort for specific projects and clients. The feature allows you to select which projects require time approval. You can also set up multi-stage approval workflows, allowing approvers to approve, reject, or request edit access on individual or grouped entries. 

  • Rate cards: Set up rate cards for clients to give them an estimate of the requested projects. The feature allows the creation of a compiled version or separate rate cards for each project with details, including project descriptions, hours required, and the estimated budget. 

  • Retainer management: Set up recurring budgets with the dedicated amount, project scope and value, and scheduled payments. These budgets are readily available for regular clients and projects. 

Starting price: $9 per month

Billing cycle: Annual

Customer support options: Chat, webinars, blogs, resource center, FAQs, and emails 

Who should consider Productive?

Productive is another beneficial tool for financial managers handling budgets for clients and their projects. You can use the tool to create and share rate cards with clients and get budget approvals. They can access the tool’s dashboard to monitor the progress of projects, including time spent and project expenses. Such capabilities allow you to keep track of the projects in real time, seek client approvals, and implement the time and budget changes without delays and errors.

Analysis performed January 2024**

Productive

Productive

4.61 out of 5 stars

84 reviews

4. Xero

Budgeting and forecasting in Xero cover all aspects of a business, from tracking overall business expenses to specific assets, inventory, projects, and claims. The tool's accounting dashboard pulls data, including fixed asset depreciation and disposal, inventory stock bills and purchase orders, costs and job hours for client projects, and other employee expense claims. All the data is compiled to assess the income against the spending, identify spending patterns, and forecast future revenue and profits.  

The tool allows you to add new budgets for the available categories or edit the existing ones for their start date, actual completion, and budget period over months or years. The monthly amounts can be added individually or in groups using formulas (increase by amount or percentage).

Product features of interest:*

  • Multi-currency accounting: Make and receive payments in over 160 currencies globally. The currency exchange rates are regularly updated with the latest changes for accurate conversions during payment. 

  • Spreadsheet export-import: Import data from spreadsheets to add new budgets or export the system’s budget to edit in spreadsheets. The data is transferred in CSV file format.

  • Profit and loss reports: Generate profit and loss reports with the actual and forecasted amounts based on the created budgets. The reports are saved in the system for future reference or to download for sharing. 

Starting price: $15 per month

Billing cycle: Annual

Customer support options: Blogs, community forum, courses, webinars, and FAQs

Who should consider Xero?

Xero is for financial managers planning fixed asset and inventory budgets for their business. They can track inventory purchase orders, asset depreciation, employee job hours, and claims management for accurate budgets and revenue forecasts. With the tool’s direct spreadsheet import and export feature, users can simplify data exchange between systems, allowing them to create new budgets for inventories and assets.

Analysis performed January 2024**

Xero

Xero

4.39 out of 5 stars

2849 reviews

Pro tip

Consider budgeting software that offers multi-currency support, allowing you to deal with clients and vendors across the globe. The tool should be able to convert the entered amount based on the current rate of the selected currency.

5. QuickBooks Online

QuickBooks offers an automatic revenue recognition feature to create project estimates and advance invoices for future projects. With this tool, you can create multiple budgets for different scenarios, depending on how financial outcomes change under fluctuating market conditions. You can select your budget period (monthly, quarterly, or yearly) and format (consolidated or subdivided by location, class, etc.). 

The tool generates projections for your revenue, expenses, and cash flow using various forecasting models, including an average of actuals, trend analysis, or drive-based forecasting. Similar to budgeting, it creates multiple forecast scenarios to explore revenue opportunities based on the market conditions. All the forecasted data is visually presented using customizable dashboards and reports.

Product features of interest:*

  • Estimates: Create and customize estimates to fit your brand and business needs. The feature allows you to accept e-signatures via the mobile app and share estimated status with clients. You can also convert estimates into invoices for payment tracking. 

  • Project dashboard: Get overall project progress, including job hours, resources utilized, and costs against the set budget. The feature allows you to create dashboards with specific project metrics and generate reports that visually present the highlights and trends. 

  • Custom access control: Create custom roles and permissions for team members to access financial dashboards and reports. The feature allows assigning work according to transactions, such as deposits, sales, expenses, inventory, or reports, or by work location. 

Starting price: $15 per month

Billing cycle: Annual

Customer support options: Calls, blogs, demos, training, chat, and FAQs

Who should consider QuickBooks Online?

Financial managers working for membership or subscription-based businesses or long-term client projects can benefit from QuickBooks Online's automatic revenue recognition feature. You can automatically generate online invoices with client details, including name, service or product description, and annual charges. The tool automatically utilizes these invoices to estimate that year's revenue and profit margins. You can also monitor a project's profitability in real time and optimize the budgets or resource utilization for maximum profits.

Analysis performed January 2024**

Quickbooks Online

Quickbooks Online

4.32 out of 5 stars

6446 reviews

6. Syft Analytics

Syft Analytics provides financial data and budget-building prediction plans with a report builder offering AI commentary. The tool leverages AI to provide pre-built report templates that guide you on what to add as comments to your reports. For commentary, the AI algorithm summarizes your report with expense, net margin, revenue, and other details from the chart of accounts to depict patterns and trends. 

Integrate your financial (balance sheet, cash flow, profit and loss statements) and non-financial (sales leads, customer churn, and employee count) data sources with Syft’s dashboard to get a holistic view of revenue projections. The tool lets you define expected driver values for the selected forecast period, and it can calculate the impact of drivers on financial statements.

Product features of interest:*

  • Scorecards: Create cards to monitor the financial health of your business or specific projects. The feature allows you to set targets for individual or group entries and track their status against the set budget.

  • Live views: Monitor real-time key metrics and trends without manually refreshing the dashboard. The interactive finance dashboard updates the selected performance metrics based on changes in the synced financial and non-financial data sources. 

  • Valuations: Calculate an indicative value for your entities using discounted cash flow analysis, comparable company analysis, and transaction multiples analysis. The feature calculates key valuations for the selected valuation method. 

Starting price: $15 per month

Billing cycle: Annual

Customer support options: Chats, blogs, courses, knowledge center, and calls

Who should consider Syft Analytics?

Financial managers looking to automate time-consuming tasks, including trend analysis and anomaly detection when processing financial data, can benefit from Syft's AI commentary. The automation saves you time to focus on deeper interpretations and strategic decision-making. The tool’s AI capabilities help decode insights, such as potential risks and opportunities, that are sometimes not possible manually due to large and complex data volumes. This improves the accuracy and transparency of financial reporting.

Analysis performed January 2024**

Syft Analytics

Syft Analytics

4.75 out of 5 stars

179 reviews

Pro tip

Check if the tool can smoothly handle increasing data volumes as your business scales. It should not face frequent downtime during data migration or lag in updating real-time financial insights.

7. LivePlan

LivePlan is a business management and planning tool with financial forecasting and scenarios to create cash flow reports and profit and loss statements. The tool uses AI to suggest relevant revenue streams based on your business type and industry, which can be filtered for the target market, pricing model, and revenue channels. Each suggestion has a brief explanation and examples of business use cases for the relevant revenue streams, aiding businesses in understanding their potential. 

The tool’s AI capabilities suggest text for specific sections of your financial plan, including expense outlay, statement of financial position, and cash flow projection. You can select different writing styles for each section to tailor their tone for your target audience. AI algorithms also generate initial forecasts for key financial metrics, such as revenue, expenses, and cash flow. You can explore different ‘what-if’ scenarios by adjusting the assumptions and variables.

Product features of interest:*

  • Projection comparison: Compare your initial budget against your current forecast to see how your financial expectations have changed throughout the planning process. The feature uses charts and graphs to highlight variations. 

  • Plan building instructions: Get step-by-step instructions with examples on how to build each section of your plan and the financial forecast. 

  • Industry benchmark data: Input your industry and location during the plan creation process. The tool leverages a database of financial insights from US companies across various industries to provide relevant financial benchmarks for key metrics, including profitability ratio, liquidity ratio, debt-to-equity ratio, inventory turnover, and growth rates. 

Starting price: $15 per month

Billing cycle: Annual

Customer support options: Blogs, webinars, support tickets, chat, calls, and emails

Who should consider LivePlan?

Financial managers looking to automate financial projections and comparisons based on industry benchmarks can benefit from LivePlan's AI capabilities. If your projections significantly deviate from the benchmarks, the tool’s AI feature can suggest areas to investigate and potentially adjust your financial plan. Additional features, such as projection comparison and plan building instructions, simplify financial planning by guiding you to build plan sections and compare the projected data against the actuals or performance analysis.

Analysis performed January 2024**

LivePlan

LivePlan

4.52 out of 5 stars

133 reviews

How much does budgeting software cost?

Budgeting and forecasting software solutions can cost as low as $4 per month or up to $63+ per month, depending on various factors—features, number of users, budget templates, AI capabilities, business size/type, training availability, deployment options, integrations, and storage. Most budgeting solutions typically include the following pricing plans:

  • Free trial: No-cost plans ranging from seven to 30 days, giving users access to all or limited software features. These are ideal for businesses that wish to try out a tool before purchasing it.

  • Free version: Free software plans offer basic features and limited premium features. These are ideal for small business owners or freelance providers with a limited budget.

  • Entry-level: Starts at $4 per month and offers limited features, such as forecasts, pitch builder, budget builder, and performance dashboard. These are ideal for small businesses with basic budgeting needs.

  • Mid-tier: Range from $5 to $39.85 per month and offers advanced features such as scenario planning, industry benchmarks, multi-currency support, and project tracking. These are ideal for businesses that have outgrown basic budgeting solutions but don’t require the full range of functionality offered by enterprise-level tools.

  • High-end: Advanced budgeting software plans going up to or over $63 per month offer unlimited entry-level and mid-tier features with dedicated account management. These are ideal for larger businesses.

Hidden costs associated with affordable budgeting software

Besides the software license, there may be additional costs, including:

  • Implementation and training: These include data migration, customization, and employee training, which are substantial for complex systems.

  • Cloud storage: Financial planning can be data-intensive, and some software may integrate with cloud storage services. Users might have to pay additional fees if they exceed the free storage limit. 

  • Transaction fee: Some software might charge an additional fee per transaction for online payments, making it more expensive as your activity increases.

Frequently asked questions when selecting budgeting software

Here are some questions to ask budgeting software providers before making a final purchase:

  • Does the software address core budgeting needs?

Detailed forecasting, scenario planning, and budget building are some of the core features to look for when selecting a budgeting tool. Check if the software offers robust forecasting capabilities, considering the historical data, and if you can adjust the assumptions and explore different scenarios for deeper insights. Analyze the scenario planning for different models, including increased expenses or changing revenue streams. This will help you prepare for potential impacts and make informed business decisions.

  • What are the security measures in place to protect financial data?

Encryption in data storage and transmission, regular security audits for system vulnerabilities, and steps to mitigate cyber security incident damage are some of the security measures to look for in your budgeting tool. Additional capabilities include user access management, such as multi-factor authentication and activity monitoring, and compliance with data privacy regulations, such as GDPR [1] and CCPA [2]

  • What budget methodologies does the software support?

Some common budgeting methods used by the tools include zero-based budgeting to build new budgets on top of the previous year’s figures, top-down budgeting for senior managers to build the budget, and bottom-up budgeting for all teams to create separate budgets and get manager approval. However, each of these approaches varies according to their business use cases and benefits in financial planning. You need to select a tool with budgeting methods that support your business’s financial goals.


Methodology

To be considered for this list, products had to:

  • Have at least 20 unique product reviews published on Software Advice’s budgeting and forecasting software category page within the past two years, with an average rating of 3.0 or higher (as of Jan. 15, 2024). 

  • Include ‘what if’ scenarios and forecasting as core features.

  • Must meet our market definition for budgeting software: “Budgeting software automates the coordination of an organization's financial resources and expenditures.”

  • We assessed all products that met the first three criteria for their monthly pricing and considered the products with publicly available pricing information. Based on the assessment, the average price was calculated to be $48. Products with a monthly subscription price lower than $48 were then shortlisted to be included in this list and arranged in ascending order.

*Our research team identified these features from vendor websites (as of Jan. 15, 2024) based on their analysis of what users find valuable in or expect from budgeting and forecasting software. This list is not exhaustive. For additional features, refer to the vendor's website. 

**We selected products for this article based on their average ratings as of January 2024; however, the article displays each product’s current average rating, which may differ if more reviews have been left since our analysis.

Editorial independence: We select and rank products based on an objective methodology developed by our research team. While some vendors may pay us when they receive web traffic or leads, this has no influence on our methodology.

Note: Products evaluated for the pricing calculation were taken from Software Advice’s budgeting and forecasting software directory. The pricing ranges exclude freemium versions of the products. The features highlighted were identified based on their relevance and the percentage of products in the Software Advice directory that offer them.

Definitions:

1. GDPR: Global Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is an EU data protection regulation that provides companies with a framework for securing personal data. This regulation necessitates companies to have strong progress in place for capturing and storing personal data for clients and customers.

2. CCPA: California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) is a US state law for the data privacy of the business’s clients and customers in California.