How to budget on your phone
With average wages still in decline in real terms and the cost of living in the UK increasing, it’s never been more important to get control of your finances and make the most of your income. Thankfully, it’s also never been easier.
In recent years, a plethora of smartphone apps have come onto the market for both iOS and Android. The quality and features vary wildly between them, but choosing the right one could make the difference between knowing what your spending and keeping track of your finances and ending the month wondering why there’s nothing left in the bank.
We take a look at some of the most popular and well-reviewed apps on the market today, including some recommendations on how to use them.
You’ve probably heard of Money Supermarket. It’s a popular price comparison site and, in 2012, was joined by Martin Lewis’ MoneySavingExpert. Since then, it’s become a well-loved hub for financial advice and information, price comparison and more.
They’ve now launched a budget app called OnTrees. Like many of the smartphone apps available, this one is also accessible online through your browser and will hook up to your bank, automatically populating your account with balances and transactions.
It has a simple interface and it categorises transactions well without much need for manual input, making it easy to start using it right away. It also has a new budget feature that allows you to set upper limits on categories of spending and shows you at a glance when you’ve overspent.
The interface can be a little clunky at times and it has a habit of asking to log you out due to inactivity even though you’re in the middle of sorting out categories, but it’s a great way to keep track of all your income and expenditure.
Money Dashboard has a similar function to OnTrees in that it hooks to your bank accounts and populates all of your transactions. Its auto-categorisation leaves a lot to be desired, meaning you’ll probably need to spend a fair bit of time manually labelling transactions, especially when you first load them, but over time that should be less of a problem; just make sure you check regularly to keep on top of things.
What it does have going for it is an excellent visual interface, with dashboard widgets full of graphs and pie charts that let you see your spending behaviour at a glance. It also has an excellent budget feature that allows you to set upper limits on your categories and see your overspend.
For some reason, its cashflow forecast doesn’t seem to take into account your previous income, making it look like you’re heading for financial ruin in three months’ time, but ignore this and use the excellent Trends page to see your previous income and outgoings by month for the last year; that should give you a good idea of where you’re headed.
Wally doesn’t have a desktop version and is app-only %28for the time being – they’re working on a desktop app%29. However, it claims to offer a seamless, ‘360-degree view’ of your finances. Similar to the previous apps, you can link up your accounts, watch your transactions separated by category and set goals and limits on each. You also have the function to photograph and upload receipts for each purchase, something that the previous two apps don’t offer at present.
Again, it is graphically very simple and bold, meaning you can check your financial behaviour at a glance. It will also automatically categorise spending by location if you have location services turned on in your phone settings, allows you to track savings as well as expenses, and gives you smart notifications when you’re reaching your limits or goals.
This makes Wally very handy; there’s no need to physically enter the app to check your goals and limits. Instead, Wally will automatically notify you. We think this is a great way of helping you to change your spending behaviour, in real time, where it counts most.
Whichever app you use, make sure that you take some time to check all your categories and set upper limits on them, as this will help you to track those all-important overspends and help you to reduce spending in the future.