The Daily App: Next -- Using Smartphones to Pinch Pennies
If you often find yourself asking where all your money went, financial experts say you should track your expenses -- at least for a short period. By taking note of every penny, you can figure out your "latte factor" -- those minor treats that add up over time.
That's why apps are ideal. You can enter receipts on the go instead of collecting a pile at the end of the day. At the very least, tracking will tell you where your hard-earned dollars go, so you can save some money and spend it on what's really important. But not all trackers are created equal.
What's the App?
What gives Next, a $2 iOS app, an edge is its clean and intuitive interface. Rather than a list-based layout, you just tap on any one of a number of category tiles -- dining out, clothing, home, utilities and so forth -- enter the amount and confirm it. That's it. You can rearrange home screen icons to better show your spending habits. The more you spend, the more blue the icons become, so you can quickly glance to see where you're spending your money.
The swipe gestures is nicely done: a quick left movement brings up an overview of the month's expenses, and flipping right breaks down of your total expenses, displayed in attractive graphs and charts. You can also swipe to easily delete entries.
Next makes budgeting a pleasure -- or as much as it can be. But by focusing on design, it leaves out a lot of features. I thought the spending breakdown, for example, was short on fine-tuning tools. And once you enter an item, you can't change dates or revise them, so you'll have to start over if you make a mistake. Other annoying omissions: you can't add notes to expenses. I would have liked to jot down notes of where I spent money too. But the most frustrating? The lack of a daily total. You can't customize much either, making it less flexible compared to other apps.
Overall, if you're trying to get out of debt, a rival financial app is better. But if you're a beginner looking to save a few bucks, it's more than enough.
You'll Want It If...
When it comes to money management, you know what you should do, but taking action and following through is hard. Money brings a lot of baggage, and it's easy to get overwhelmed. If you're an "avoider," Next is for you because it's so simple. Financial apps often try to cram every tool into one package, but the streamlined approach gives you a quick, simple start to take control of your spending.
It's Not My Thing, What Else Ya Got?
As beautifully designed as Next is, you may want an app with a bit more "oomph." Mint, the classic money management app for both iOS and Android, not only helps you keep track of spending, but puts nearly all aspects for your financial life -- from budgets to debt to retirement -- all at your fingertips. It integrates nicely with its Web version, so you get a plethora of features. But it can be overwhelming to manage. Fortunately, there are tutorials to help you along.
Pocket Money is another iOS app that's more robust than Next. The design isn't as sleek, but you can set repeating transactions, for example, so you won't need to enter in so many expenses. But the best part? Just take a picture of a receipts -- a plugin will automatically add the information to the app.
Toshl, for iOS and Android, is great to track expenses, and it's also on the Web -- so you can export results to other formats -- making it a particularly useful mobile tool. It nicely treads that middle ground between the intricacy of Mint and the simplicity of Next, but most of the features come at a price -- the pro version costs $20 a year. If you want more features with a less complicated interface, it's worth it. But only if you're serious about keeping your financial life tidy and organized.
If you wonder where your paycheck goes, wonder no more. Money can disappear quickly, but the right app, you can cut those unnecessary frills -- those pennies can add up quickly. ♦
Categories: Finance | The Daily App