Managing your spending is getting easier with the growing number of free money apps now available. The more difficult task is trying to figure out which of these money apps best matches what you need.
Having recently returned from an overseas trip with twice the amount of luggage and a slightly dented credit card, I decided it was a good time to start tracking my spending and be more disciplined with my budget. After some investigation, I decided to road test some of the more highly-rated money apps currently available and share my findings.
Best money budgeting apps
Pocketbook is probably the most popular budgeting app in Australia and the key advantage is its integration with many of the major banks. This means that you can sync the app with your bank accounts and credit cards to get a real-time view of your spending against your bank balance.
You can also tag specific transactions in your bank account as regular income, periodic bills and payments, and the app will use the data to help work out your monthly spend. Other features include the ability to automatically categorise expenses based on keywords in your description, attach a photo of the receipt against an expense and mark an expense as ‘tax important’.
The limitation is that if your accounts are not with one of the banks integrated with the app, you won’t benefit from its key advantage and will have to manually enter your income and expenses (like in other apps).
TrackMySPEND is a basic app developed by ASIC without all the extra bells and whistles. It’s easy-to-use where you set a weekly, fortnightly or monthly budget, add your expenses as you go and it lets you know how you’re tracking. You can also categorise expenses and set regular expense items like your daily morning coffee as favourites.
The feature that I like the most is that you can flag an expense as a ‘need’ or ‘want’, which makes you ponder whether the spend is essential or an opportunity to save. You can also extract the data from the app into a spreadsheet which makes it handy to import into other systems like an accounting software.
Goodbudget allows you to divide your money into buckets (or envelopes) so that you can organise and track your budget against each envelop. It’s great if you’re someone who prefers to plan your budget in this manner and track spending against your envelopes.
This app is good for couples as you’re able to share a budget across multiple devices, so that you can set a combined household budget and know how you’re both tracking. The free version allows you to create 10 envelopes and share across 2 devices, but you’ll have to pay if you want more envelopes and share across additional devices.
Available on iOS
Unsplurge provides a fun and social way to set goals and track towards them. Once you sign-up to the service, you can set-up goals, specify the amount required, add comments and set a photo representing the goal.
The social aspect of the app gives you the option to share your goals with the Unsplurge app community as well as your Facebook friends. This means you’re able to share your achievements and compete with your friends on who can reach a goal first. You can also get ideas and inspiration for goals from the app community.
The app doesn’t really help you track your spending and expenses. But it does track your progress on how you’re going towards your goals in an enjoyable and motivating way.
HomeBudget has a nice user interface that makes tracking income and expenses easy. You can set-up payees for bills and recurring expenses, as well as attach photos of receipts. It also gives you reporting tools, schedules of upcoming bills and provide reminders.
This is the free version of ‘HomeBudget with Sync’ so you’re limited to only 20 expense and 10 income entries. Therefore it serves as a trial for their full version, which comes with the ability to sync your budget across multiple desktops and devices that can be useful for families. But for $6.49 on the App Store ($6.72 on Google Play), you do really need to be convinced about its features and benefits before investing in the full version.
Each of these money apps has different strengths which means there’s a solution to meet the varying needs and motivations that drive people to budget and save. If your goal is a few years away, it might be a good idea to think about whether it’s better to leave your money in the bank or consider other options like investing which can boost your savings even further.
Personally, I wasn’t able to take full advantage of Pocketbook’s useful integration feature as to minimise fees, my savings are with a credit union and I don’t have credit cards with the major banks. I ended up liking the simplicity of ASIC’s TrackMySPEND as it’s an effective tool to track the little spends (e.g. coffee, afternoon snack, beer) and I didn’t need extra features like recording receipts and organising my money into buckets. Using a budgeting app has been really useful as I’ve been more conscious of my spending and actually exceeded my savings target last month.
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