5 budgeting apps road-tested

posted by in Budgeting

Making a budget and actually sticking to the budget are two entirely different things. We all start off with good intentions but then life happens and sometimes it all goes out of the window.

Keeping track of your spending using your smartphone is a good way to try and stick to your budget. Or at least it’ll tell you exactly why you’re not able to keep to your budget. They don’t put any more money in your pocket but it could make you more organised about how you spend it.

We’ve picked five budgeting apps and each member of the MoneyAware team has test-driven one of them for a week to see what they think of them. Here are our opinions about the apps we tried out:

Wally – tested by Jenny

Jenny

The Wally app (iPhone/iPad & Android) is easy on the eyes. It’s got colourful bands for each day of the week for you to add your spending to.

You can add your income and set saving targets. I did this wrong somehow as the app calculated that I had more than I got paid per month left to spend. That was a sad moment.

It’s a good spending tracker but there are a few things I’d change. The categories for spending such as ‘gift’ aren’t specific enough for me. I’d like to add notes to my purchases so I know what I bought. However you can take photos of your receipts, so that helps.

Overall, if you’re willing to commit to the app, read the instructions and understand how to enter your income I’d say it’s pretty useful!

Toshl – tested by Rory

Rory

Toshl (iPhone/iPad & Android) is very well designed with a simple user interface that becomes familiar very quickly. It’s very straightforward to categorise your spending into different areas, including ones you can create yourself.

The app lets you visualise how much you spend by category which can be a bit of an eye-opener! The budget calculator shows your remaining money left for the month, or alternatively you can set a goal amount to spend which will leave you enough left over for savings or other areas.

You can set a push notification each day in case you forget to add your spending, which is helpful some of the time but can feel a bit like you’re being nagged after a while.

Monefy – tested by Rachel

Rachel

Monefy (iPhone/iPad & Android) is very nice to look at. It’s for this reason that I found it more engaging than some of the other budgeting apps I’ve tried (I think the scientific term for the look those other apps were going for is “ugly”).

The Monefy menu screen has cute icons for the various items in your budget, and can be easily customised to your liking. In order to change the icons, however, you will need to either upgrade to the Pro version or opt-in for adverts. I went with the advert option, and I didn’t find them too invasive.

Another thing I liked about Monefy was the ease in adding new spending records. Because there are icons for lots of everyday stuff – coffee, groceries, magazines – you can tot up those expenses as you go. What’s more, each item is colour-coded, so you can see where the majority of your spending is going over a period of time.

Money Manager – tested by James

James

Money Manager (Android only) is an ugly looking app and it’s tricky to get used to. There’s no tutorial, so you just dive in and press buttons until you get the hang of it. The brown colour scheme is pretty drab and it feels a bit dated in its design.

Despite the poor first impression, it’s a perfectly good spending tracker. You punch in what you spend and it keeps track of it. There are also some useful graphs to visualise your spending.

The major drawback of Money Manager is the ads. The banner ads aren’t too bad but the ones which pop up and fill the screen are quite annoying. You can get rid of these by upgrading to the premium app but reading the other reviews makes me think there are better budgeting apps out there for free.

Pocket Expense – tested by Laura

Laura

This is an American app but you can change the settings to pounds instead of dollars. Pocket Expenses’ (iPhone/iPad only) spending categories are also a bit American-sounding, so I had to log what I spent on gas instead of petrol.

I liked the bar charts which quickly show you where your money is going. I was quite surprised about how much of my money goes on boring household expenses.

Logging expenses can be quite tricky at times and I sometimes got a bit stuck with the navigation. I found myself forgetting to log things and would use my online banking app instead to keep track of how much money I had.

The verdict

All the apps we’ve test-driven have their strengths and weaknesses so there isn’t a stand out winner. Toshl and Monify both received the most positive reviews, so they’re our recommended picks of these five apps. As they’re free, there’s no harm in downloading them both to see which you prefer.

BONUS SUGGESTION: Track spending the old fashioned way

It’s also worth remembering that despite all the technology available to us, you can still use the tried and trusted method of tracking your spending with a pen and paper. You might not get pop-up reminders or colourful graphs using this method but you might find it easier than using your mobile phone.

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James Winterbottom has been a debt advisor for six years. Away from work he is an amateur app developer and writes fiction. James is a lifelong supporter of Huddersfield Town football club, which suggests he is either very loyal or very daft. He also likes to talk about himself in the third person in bio pages.

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