Multiple bank accounts, credit cards, various income streams, rebates, investments, loans, superannuation … does the thought of making an all-encompassing budget and savings plan make you weep? Spreadsheets like Excel do a reasonable job of helping you keep track of your finances to a point, but they are manually intensive and onerous; you have to be very organised, motivated and have lots of time on your hands to keep it up. Even then, it’s not always clear where your problem spending lies or where your income is actually going, and spreadsheets don’t tend to provide feedback, notifications or automatic updates.
Luckily, with budgeting apps it’s now very easy and affordable to keep track of all your finances, create and keep to a budget, and receive notifications of whatever you need to know in relation to your finances – all on your smartphone. Each app is slightly different so you need to look carefully at the features of each to determine which one suits your purposes best. In general, however, the good ones provide a visible, easy-to-use, automatic, secure and much more reliable method of budgeting and saving.
Here are five apps that can help you get your finances organised and keep them that way. Ratings are by Apple App Store users.
1) Pocketbook: free
Rating: 4.3 stars
With 350,000 Australian users, this savings tracker app must be doing something right. It syncs with your bank accounts, credit cards and loans, and automatically lists and categorises all your expenses. Initially, it may not be able to classify some transactions, but once you manually allocate them, it will follow suit for similar transactions. Fear not; it promises bank-level security and encryption. The app allows you to see where you are spending your money and how much; gives you weekly, monthly and six-monthly overviews; allows you to set safety limits on spending and gives notifications when you approach or surpass the limits.
2) MoneyBrilliant: free (or $9.90 per month for full features)
Rating: 4.5 stars
Similar to Pocketbook, but this app adds in your superannuation and investment portfolios as well. It also has a ‘tax deductions’ function, which finds potential tax-deductible expenses based on your occupation. On top of what Pocketbook offers, it also provides savings goals and priorities, a budget and progress tracker, insurance tracking, and even a ‘bill watch’ feature for gas and electricity deals based on your usage data. Again, it provides bank-level security and encryption.
3) Goodbudget: free (with in-app purchases for certain features)
Rating: 4.7 stars
This app offers more budgeting features than Pocketbook or MoneyBrilliant. It links to all your bank accounts and allows you to share the budget with your partner or family members. You can set limits on spending in different categories and the app will hold you to these. It provides flexibility in terms of creating budget cycles, topping up or rolling over balances and so on. There are also lots of good visuals and graphs to make it easy to see at a glance where you are at, and you can create reports – such as an income vs. spending report – to help you plan and forecast your next move.
4) Spendee: free (with in-app purchases for certain features)
Rating: 4.5 stars
This financial management app is like a personal accountant. It syncs all your bank accounts into one place and categorises your expenses and income automatically. Then it provides a range of tools to help you keep track, such as real-time reports, historical cash flows, incoming vs. outgoing money, budget limits and so on. It differentiates by operating in most countries and currencies, which means it’s ideal for travelling, and it even keeps track of daily exchange rates. You can ‘share your wallet’ with your spouse, family or roommates. The cute graphs and other visuals mean you can see your information at a glance.
5) Moneytree: free (or $4.49-$6.49 per month for full features)
Rating: 4.6 stars
This personal finance app collects, analyses and displays all your financial data in one place, including bank accounts, your cash spending, credit cards, investments, superannuation and even digital money. You can also track your work expenses separately. It provides notifications of payments, large transactions, low balances, bills and so on and has good visuals to track your financial situation at a glance. It even tracks your loyalty points (such as frequent flyers), letting you know when you can use them and alerting you before they expire. It promises ‘global best practice’ security.
Using one of these finance apps may be the only online subscription that will help you save rather than spend more. Keeping your finances easily visible – which is essentially what they do – is a key step in staying on top of your expenses and reaching your savings goals. Your lender may have a good finance app too – some are better than others. If this is important to you, speak to your Smartline Mortgage Adviser about which lenders have the best tools and features in their mobile banking offering.