Understand Your Spending
Keeping a balanced budget can help you stay on track and sleep better at night. But if your money-management system requires sifting through piles of receipts and retrieving cash from various pockets and purses, it’s time to reconsider your approach. With these seven apps, you can put away the paperwork and get a better understanding of your daily, weekly, monthly and annual spending habits.
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This app offers both smartphone and web interfaces. The clean, easy-to-navigate interface features four big buttons: SmartScan, Add Expense, Track Time and Track Distance.
“SmartScan” lets you photograph, categorize and tag receipts, and then add them to expense reports if necessary. You can also enter the merchant name, total amount spent and date for each expense. This is great for anyone who wants to save receipts but doesn’t want to hang on to a paper copy. If you prefer manual input, “Add Expense” offers the categorizing options. You can also note if the expense is billable and/or reimbursable by the flip of a few switches.
The “Track Distance” option is especially handy for freelancers who travel by car and want or need to bill by distance; here, you can track by odometer, or just turn on location and use the app’s GPS. The “Track Time” option offers a way to keep tabs on hourly earnings, which are based on a set hourly rate.
Add your debit and/or credit card through the web version of Expensify, and you’ll be able to track your total account balances alongside those daily expenses and earnings. Expensify offers both micro and macro pictures of your financial life. Later, you can export your expense reports or send invoices straight from the app or the web version.
Check is an excellent money management app for those who prefer to put all expenses on their credit and debit cards. After establishing a secure connection, Check asks you to add your bills to the account. This means credit card bills, gas, electric and even car payments.
Check is especially useful for notifications about bill payment dates. It tells you when your credit card bill is due, what your minimum payment is and also offers you an opportunity to pay your bill through the app. If you’re a first-time Check user, you’ll get $10 off the first bill you pay if you do use the app. You can also track your credit score for $6.99/month and learn about other credit card offers through the My Offers tab. If you are a heavy credit card user and want to track expenses that way, Check is an ideal app for you. You’ll even receive an alert email if you are using more than 30 percent of your credit limit’s total credit because doing so could damage your credit score.
When you enter your bank account info into Check, the app also tells you how much you have in your account right now so that there’s no vagueness around your current money situation. It shows you this week’s bills, how much is on your credit card at all times and a pie chart of where your money is going.
Operating systems: iOS
DailyBudgt (yes, there’s no ‘e’) is designed to help you keep track of your daily expenses. First, go into the app and set your budget for the week, then set your budget just for today. This can be especially useful if you’re taking out an amount of cash as a method of slowing down your spending. You can also turn on a reminder for extra notifications about what you’ve spent from your daily and weekly budget.
DailyBudget also shows you which week of the year you’re in so that you can better track long-term spending. After inputting information, the app lets you see what you’ve spent by day, month or week. Checking the “month” option will give you a circular chart with “total,” “balance” and “spent,” or how much you have left to spend this month. If you look at spending by week, you’ll see the icons associated with each type of spending in addition to a smaller pie chart.
This app does not connect to debit or credit card accounts. But if you are used to writing down all of your spending by hand on a notepad and feel ready to make the switch into digital, this app will do the trick. DailyBudgt aims for simplicity above all else.
Operating system: iOS
Spending is a great app for tracking month-to-month spending, particularly if your budget changes on a monthly basis. Start by entering the first month’s budget and then divvy your spending up into five categories: food, personal, transportation, bills and education.(There’s also a separate category for traveling only, which is useful if you do have a separate travel budget.) The app shows your spending yesterday and today, but you can also view it by week, month and year. You can also select the day your week starts, which is useful for people whose schedules do not operate on a regular nine to five, Monday through Friday work week.
When entering expenses, you can also mark something as a “repeat.” So if you take the same yoga class every Thursday, say, you can just input it as a recurring expense. In this app, you can also enter your income alongside expenses; your income appears in green, your expenses go blue and the overall balance (income minus expenses) appears in black.
You can also specify whether an expense is cash or credit upon entering it, which comes in handy if you’re putting certain expenses on your credit card and others with cash. Note that the app doesn’t put a default decimal point into dollar amounts so be sure to do it yourself. Otherwise, what should be $5.50 could turn into $550.
Operating system: iOS
DailyCost is an easy-to-use and rather basic app for tracking monthly spending. Before you open it, decide if your week starts on Sunday or Monday. Enter your daily expenses, filing them under a bevy of categories including movies, travel, books and groceries. DailyCost keeps track of everything through a spool-like counter at the top of the screen, organizing by number of days, number of entries and total cost.
To leave the input section, tap the checkmark in the upper right-hand corner of the screen; there you’ll see the entries broken down by category. To return to the spool, tap the bottom right-hand corner of the screen. For fun, you can change the wallpaper background on total spending; at the top, you’ll also see time elapsed by day of the week. You can also invite a friend via email to try out the app or export a CSV of all your spendings via email.
If you travel often, note that DailyCost differentiates between travel (flights and trains) and transport (commuting in cities via bus, train or taxi). DailyCost also offers international currency options.
MoneyWise is designed to help you balance your budget, track expenses, generate reports and bank on the go through a “find ATM” option and mobile banking. The app’s home screen is very straightforward, offering buttons for budget overview, adding expenses, tracking savings, expenses overview, categories, reports, finding nearby ATMs and mobile banking.
MoneyWise serves little tips at the top of the screen, which give this app a more personalized touch. (Example: “Go grocery shopping while you are in a hurry... You will be focused and won’t have time for needless browsing.”) Everything in this app is efficient and straightforward — especially the Expense section. Here, you see all of your spending by category.
Dollarbird is a useful and intuitive money-tracking app that doesn’t offer a lot of bells and whistles. This app uses a monthly calendar format, which allows you to look at how much you’ve spent every day of the month. Enter your expenses, and then they’ll show up as a single light gray number on that day. At the end of the day, you’ll know how much you spent and what you purchased.
You also have the option to track expenses by color-coded category. Be sure to add any new, recurring categories. For example, I added categories like “hair cuts” and “coffee,” which aren’t part of the Dollarbird default categories. Swipe through each month, and you’ll see totals and get a good idea of the category expenses you tend to spend the most on. You can also add your income and overall budget, and get an overview of spending by month through a comprehensive graph.
Dollarbird also offers optional PIN code protection and allows you to decide whether your week starts on Monday or Sunday. And if you’re the type that doesn’t constantly enter transactions but does save receipts, flip the switch “on” for a reminder to input transactions at a specific time of your choosing. There’s also an option to download all of your expenses into a CSV spreadsheet.