The MoneyAware team take on a D.I.Y Secret Santa challenge to see...
We review 5 Android and iPhone budgeting apps
I use my smartphone for almost everything – all the general phone functions, camera, emails and keeping up with friends on Facebook and Twitter. I’ve even got a to-do list application that pops up and gives me little pep talks about how efficiently I’m using my time!
Although I have a good grasp of my bills and more regular expenses I find it harder to monitor things like food shopping and entertainment because I don’t spend my whole monthly budget at once. For a while I’ve been making a note in my diary every time I’ve spent something from these budgets but it hasn’t proved to be very accurate, always leaving me a bit short at the end of the month (surprise surprise!).
So I’ve been on a quest to find a good personal budgeting application. My hope is that using an application to do the adding up for me might help me to assess my spending more regularly and more accurately.
It’s also worth mentioning that this is by no means an exhaustive list; these are just the ones I tried. They’re all FREE, although some might have a ‘premium’ version which you can upgrade to at a price – ranging from 69p to about £4 – but I’ve found you can get a lot of decent applications without paying.
This is an application that does quite a lot of the budgeting work for you. It’s based on the tried-and-tested envelope method. Set a pay date and the envelopes will automatically fill up to your chosen amounts when your wages go in. Your budget details are saved and backed up to an online server so you can feel pretty secure about them if you lose your phone or it needs to be reset.
One really useful thing that this app provides is sliding scale graphics accompanied by encouragement – Great! You’re ahead by £4.52 – or a warning – You’re behind by £45.58. Stop spending for 9 days? If you go over your allotted limit the slider turns from green to red and the envelope looks disappointed in you!
Recording expenses is quite fiddly on EEBA. You have to include the place where the transaction took place and the app is pre-populated with a lot of company names, most of which I hadn’t heard of because the app is not UK-designed. However it does give you the option to enter other company names as you go along and will remember them for you.
EEBA advertises its premium service but you don’t have to subscribe to this to get what you need from the app.
Easy Envelope Budgeting App review verdict: A great all-round budgeting application, no need to go premium though.
This is a great app and probably the simplest in terms of recording expenses. You can set a monthly or weekly time period and budget categories. Entering expenses is very quick. It’s also completely free and not covered in adverts.
Spendometer uses a nifty speedometer graphic to show how your spending is going – the needle hovers in the red if you’re over budget.
A feature of the Spendometer is the ‘going out’ section. It asks how much you’re taking with you and the next time you open the app it’ll ask how much you have left over. A bit optimistic perhaps, but it forces you to budget ahead for how much you want to spend, and we all know how easy it is to lose track on a night out!
Spendometer shows a bias towards iPhone users. As an Android user I had to turn off the phone’s security and download an extra bit of Java software in order to install it, which was a pain and potentially dangerous to the phone. Navigation on this app seems to be a bit better suited to an iPhone as well.
Try as I might, I can’t find out how to set a monthly pay date on this app. It appears that you need to time-consumingly reset the amounts in your budget every time you get paid.
Credit Action Spendometer app review verdict: Great going-out feature, difficult to install on Android phones.
3. Budget Planner (UPDATE 14/2/14 – no longer available)
Budget Planner is a handsome application with navigation panels reminiscent of an alpine lodge(!). Once you get past the polished pinewood appearance it also operates nicely, allowing you to plan budgets, add transactions and check how much of your planned budget you’ve spent using a graph.
Budget Planner links neatly with Google Calendar and also has a separate calculator application that it can link up with (although it’s a bit fiddly to install both).
Transactions are displayed as both a report and on graphs, where you can look at what you have planned to spend versus what you have spent. The graphs are more detailed than most of the other budgeting apps and can become overly complicated at times. They also appear quite small on the display.
Budget Planner app review verdict: More style than substance but it does the job.
4. Pocket Budget (UPDATE 21/01/19 – no longer available)
This is a very straightforward app and one of its major advantages is that it allows you to manage several budgets simultaneously with ease. Theoretically you could manage a business and personal budget at the same time.
This does mean that you need to take care to attribute expenses to the right budget but it’s not the end of the world if you make a mistake – they can be rectified.
Recording income and expenses is very easy and there’s a simple graph-like report that shows you what percentage of your budget you’ve spent. You can also read transactions as a list, like a bank statement.
The budget can be backed up and exported as a .csv file (a basic spreadsheet) which is handy.
A downside of Pocket Budget is that there are adverts all over it and their flickering and swapping can be annoying. There is a paid-for advert-free premium service, but you don’t really get much else for your money. The premium service allows you password protection and the ability to change the currency (it defaults to sterling anyway) but there’s not much incentive to pay the extra unless the adverts really bother you.
Pocket Budget app review verdict: Easy to use and back up, a shame about the adverts.
Update 21 January 2019: Sorry, it looks as though Money Owl is no longer available.
5. Money Owl (UPDATE 21/01/19 – no longer available)
I have a weakness for owls so the wise-looking green bird on this app appealed to me straight away!
The sliding-scale graphics on the home screen display how much money you’ve got left in each budgeting category. The app itself is not overly fussy or graphics-y, meaning it’s very straightforward to use and while the occasional advertising banner does pop up it’s not constant and it doesn’t obscure any important parts of the budget.
The app offers the extra feature of adding a photo to your expenses. This doesn’t seem like an essential to me but if you like to reminisce about the way your overflowing trolley looked last time you went to Morrisons then it’s a nice extra!
I think there could be a bit more to Money Owl – perhaps a bit more help in managing money over time, saying what percentage has been spent in each category or issuing a warning if you’re overspending.
Money Owl app review verdict: Simple and straightforward. With an owl.
Do you use any iPhone or Android budgeting apps? Which budgeting apps do you like? Let us know!