Quick Look: Splitwise for iPhone

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Splitting bills sucks, and it can range from irritating to downright awkward to remind someone they owe you a bit of money, and why that money is owed. I’ve dealt with this with friends and with my own girlfriend. Little meals here and there aren’t a big deal, but larger expenses like rent and electricity bills are not something you’ll just want to let slip. It’s good to have a sense of accountability, without having anyone feel like they’re being nagged.

I used to handle bills through a mix of Soulver and Money Pro (my current personal finance app), but a coworker recently introduced me to Splitwise, and it has been a great big smashing success for me. This is an app designed for splitting bills with groups of friends, or even a partner. My girlfriend and I share a few bills and the rent and we’ve decided against a shared chequing account for the interim, so we’ve been giving Splitwise a thorough test for the past few weeks.

The big magic feature of Splitwise is that it very clearly explains the basic math that somehow gets very convoluted as bills pile up. She paid $17 for that meal we split, and then I paid $45 for that cab ride because she was short on cash. But that was two weeks ago and it’s hard to remember how much were paid each other back, and what the current balance is. The UI in Splitwise makes it very easy to see who made a payment, and whether you ended up lending or borrowing money in any given transaction.

The way it all works is that you enter an expense amount, a date for the expense, and then detail how much was paid by each person. Most bills are simply split in half, but Splitwise can also handle payments in other ways as well. You can have people pay a percentage of the bill, or by shares, or enter dollar values. This is useful for restaurant situations where I’ve eaten an extra order of dessert, so I should pay a little more. I can use this app simply to record the expenditure, but I could also use it to calculate what each person should pay as well.

As the expenses pile up, you can easily see at any time who owes whom, right at the top of the screen. When it’s time to make a payment, you can track that too, with a button called “Settle Up”. You can make complete payments to settle all debts, or make partial payments and include a note about what the payment was for.

I haven’t had a chance to test group payments yet, but I have a feeling I’ll be making copious use of it in the future. You can track multiple groups in Splitwise, so you can gave one group for each trip you go on, and keep a separate group for you and your roommates.

It’s easy to get anyone on board with Splitwise because the app is free to download, and there are apps for both iOS and Android devices, so there’s almost no reason that your friends or family can’t use this app with you.

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