Super-simple spending tracker: My Finances for iPad

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The generically named My Finances app for iPad is an easy way to track everyday expenses and generate simple, clear reports that will show you what you’re spending your money on. In a world of automated and complicated finance apps, My Finances does one thing and does it easily and well.

IMG_0645I had a simple question: “Where the heck is all my money going?” Maybe you’ve been there, too: at the end of the month I have a giant hole where my paycheck used to be, and I can’t, for the life of me, figure out where it all went. Also, I plan to move soon and wanted a handle on my spending so I could make a realistic budget for the future. Knowing that as for all things in life there’s an app for that, I started to browse the app store for some help. Yikes! Talk about app overload: I think there are as many finance apps as there are weather apps or to-do lists. Many of the apps are very sophisticated, automated, and comprehensive. Probably the best known is Mint, which has many good reviews and happy users: you connect it to your accounts and it automatically tracks incomes, spending, investments, etc. But I was looking for the opposite of automated—I was on a mission to see where every dime went; if I let it all happen behind the scenes, how would I get that granular level of awareness? So I downloaded the free versions of three apps that seemed the most simple, looked like they would generate the clear report I wanted, and got decent reviews. After trying them all for a week, I settled on My Finances, and then ponied up for the paid version.

Entering expenses

IMG_0647In My Finances, you enter every single expenditure manually, something I wanted. When you enter an expenditure, you’re presented with an intuitive form that takes about 10 seconds to fill out. You enter: amount, category, date, and add a note if you want. There are a number of pre-set categories such as “housing” and “groceries” that you can use, ignore, or delete. You can also add any number of custom categories to better suit your spending. For example, I added one called “Pet Care” because, as all pet owners know, those “free” kittens or puppies you adopt are free for about a day. That’s all there is to it: three fields for entry and you’re good to go. As your expenditure list grows, you’ll start to notice trends. I noticed the purple  “eating out” tag was appearing with startling regularity.

IMG_0646If you want to track your spending against your income, you can also enter income items. I didn’t find this useful as my income is pretty easy: once a month I get a paycheck and I know how much it will be.

Reporting

Once I had a few expense entries, I turned to the reports, and tapped the bar-chart button on the bottom right of the screen: bingo, there was my budget drain clearly spelled out in bright colors, in a percentage of spending, or in absolute dollars. Because I hadn’t paid rent yet, the groceries and eating out categories were #1 and 2. While finance apps like My Finances won’t save money for you, they’ll do what health apps also do: give you new information that you can use to make changes to improve your life. The apps give the info; the willpower is up to you. In my case, I have to say that having accurate data provides the feedback I need to make changes. (I think I’m going to stay in and cook tonight.)

The only negative experience I had with the My Finances app was support. I was having a problem syncing data between my iPad and my iPhone. I wrote to the email address listed under the support tab (a benefit of paid membership) and waited. And waited. Eventually I spent a long time figuring out what was wrong by myself. A week later a support representative finally wrote back and said he didn’t answer because “I was on vacation.” Um, okay. The My Finances app is $3.99 for the full version, in the app store.


Marc Luoma

I'm an iPad, and iPhone enthusiast, Mac user since '84, world traveler, dog and cat lover, living in Kigali Rwanda for a year.

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