Whether you are saving up for a major purchase or paying down debt, keeping track of money is a great way to help you reach your financial goals. While budgeting plays a huge role when it comes to financial management, many experts say that tracking is just as essential.
Tracking what goes in and out of your accounts means that you are able to see where you are spending a lot of money, and where you may be able to save more. According to a report from the Wall Street Journal in 2013, long term financial experts say that “ongoing tracking, like stepping on the scale each morning, provides a crucial reality check, ensuring that savers stay on course for certain goals.
“The more we focus on our spending and are conscious of it, the more likely we will be to not overspend,” Ken Weingarten, a New Jersey financial planner explains in the article. It also helps us measure our progress for both spending and saving goals.
While the idea of dedicating time towards tracking your money might seem like a chore at first glance, it’s actually a lot easier now than it ever was before thanks to a wide range of money tracking apps.
These apps are designed to be a fast and simple way to track income and expenses from mobile devices. They can be used anywhere, which means you can find a time that’s convenient for you to use them to keep an eye on your finances.
The popularity of these apps has been shown not only by the number of people around the world that use them, but also by the sheer volume of personal finance apps coming onto the market. There are thousands of options out there, which can actually make finding the right option for you the most time-consuming part of the process.
With that in mind, here we take a look at the top five free money tracking apps (in alphabetical order) and what kinds of people will get the most out of them.
On This Page
- Commonwealth Bank Mobile App
- MoneySmart’s TrackMySpend App
- St George Mobile App
Commonwealth Bank Mobile App
CommBank has a wide range of mobile apps available for customers, but it’s the actual CommBank App that has the most unique features for tracking and managing money.
Like most mobile banking apps, the CommBank App lets you check your balance from the home screen and view and schedule different transactions. It also allows you view up to two years worth of transactions and filter them by date and amount.
But what really sets the CommBank App apart is a relatively new service called Lock, Block & Limit. As the name suggests, this feature basically lets you lock or block your cards for certain types of transactions (such as international store purchases), and also gives you the option of setting a spending limit.
“If you’re on a budget, you can now set a limit per transaction to help you stay on track,” CommBank explains, “Just enter a limit, say $250, then whenever a purchase is above that limit it will be declined and we’ll alert you.”
When it comes to keeping track of money, these features make it easy to stay on track without constantly checking your balance or transactions, so it is a great option for any Commonwealth Bank customers who don’t want to spend ages typing in details but would like to have more success sticking to a budget.
Expensify is an independent app designed – as the name suggests – to help keep track of your expenses. It’s actually targeted at businesses as a way of helping keep track of employee’s expenses, but there is also a free version for individuals.
Expensify lets you import card and bank details, scan or upload receipts and create expense reports so that you can visually see how your money is spent. It also syncs with a wide range of other services, such as Evernote, QuickBooks and Xero to make account management easier.
Experts in the finance industry also praise the app, with credit reporting bureau Dun & Bradstreet even saying Expensify is “great for those who don’t want to keep a stack of receipts at home and are too lazy to key in actual details.”
All you have to do is sign up for the app, sync with your bank accounts and Expensify will automatically add the transactions to your “Expenses” section. While the app is designed in the US, most major Australian banks are linked to the service too.
MoneySmart’s TrackMySPEND App
The TrackMySPEND app from MoneySmart is a comprehensive, easy-to-use free money management app that covers all the basics and more. It lets you set and track your weekly household budget, manage costs for special events, and records work, travel and other expenses.
According to the judging panel of the 2013 Australian Mobile Awards: “TrackMySPEND gives you a clear picture of what you are spending your money on by employing an easy-to-use, intuitive interface that helps you track actual spending against your salary or projected spending.”
“Since launch the MoneySmart TrackMySPEND app managed to achieve a phenomenal 170,000+ downloads on iOS (4.5 star average reviews) and 15,000+ on the Android platform. This was achieved purely via information posted on the Moneysmart website and word-of-mouth.”
The Mobile Awards also cited six specific features that set TrackMySPEND apart from other money tracking apps:
- Innovative tracking bar to monitor spending ‘health’ against time and budget,
- Track spending against a budget or salary, and against spending period or pay period,
- Categorise spending (consistent with other Moneysmart products),
- Ability to mark expenses as ‘needs’ vs ‘wants’ so users can better analyse their spending habits,
- Cloud backup to prevent loss of data; and
- Exporting data to CSV for accounting purposes.
This is probably one of the most comprehensive, Australian-based money tracking apps currently out there, particularly when it comes to fee-free options. As such, it’s ideal for anyone that wants to keep financial goals clear or would like to learn more about managing money through a tracking app.
Pocketbook is another Australian-based money management app with a specific goal to “make personal finance ridiculously simple”.
“Trying to manage your personal finances today is hard. Software out there is clunky, and professional help is expensive. Out of frustration people end up using spreadsheets and print-outs, or worse still – losing sight of their money altogether,” the Pocketbook website says.
“Pocketbook is designed to go with you in your pocket. All the number-crunching and heavy lifting is done in the background so you don’t have to. Using Pocketbook is over 100x faster compared to manual tracking. No more spreadsheets, no more sitting at the computer when you get home. Get on top of your money on the go and in real-time.”
Once you have synced your bank details on Pocketbook, the app automatically organises spending into various categories to show you where your money is going. You can also set up budgets, check account balances and view transaction histories.
It is worth noting, however, that the Pocketbook app works best in conjunction with the desktop version. As CHOICE says in a review of money management apps, “You can use it without the desktop companion, but its functions as a solo app are limited to expense tracking.”
By using both versions you can also manage account fees and build budgets and projections, as well as many other tasks, depending on how much time you want to spend managing your money.
Because Pocketbook is an independent app, it is a great option if you have accounts with several different banks because it means you can track all your money in one spot, rather than switching between specific bank apps.
St George Mobile App
The second bank-based app to make the top five is St George’s because, like CBA, it has features beyond basic mobile banking. In particular, this app gives you access to a budget-planning tool (which was previously a separate app).
“By entering your income and expenses, the Budget Planner will provide you with a summary of how much money you have left over (surplus) or if you are spending too much (deficit),” St George says.
“It also shows you where you are spending your money and how reducing your expenses will help you budget and save.”
This budget planner lets you set up 20 different budget scenarios at a time and features a wide range of graphs and charts to make it easier to understand how close or far off your goals your are at any given time.
For St George customers, this app could be a great way to keep track of money and even to choose what kind of accounts to open or close in the future.
There is a wide range of money tracking apps available, and these five give you an idea of just what you can do with them on hand. But the differences between each of the apps looked at above also highlights just how many ways there are to manage money.
While some people really will benefit from daily tracking and management, others could find that a weekly or monthly review is much more effective – a point explored in depth in the Wall Street Journal report mentioned above. But what all experts do agree on is that tracking expenses in any capacity can lead to some huge financial benefits.
Tracking spending, WSJ contributor Rachel Louise Ensign explains, makes it “easier to identify where you can cut back to meet savings and debt-paydown goals, and then follow your progress over time.”
“Even tracking expenses for a few months can jolt people into being more careful with their spending,” she says.
“For instance, some experts say, many people are shocked to see how much of a bill they ring up on things like restaurants and gifts.”
So whether you end up using one of these apps for a few months, or incorporate it into your ongoing money management plan, it could be a valuable asset when it comes to budgeting and saving more money.
Spending time dealing with personal finances is not everyone’s cup of tea. But with so many easy apps to use, you can save both time and money achieving your financial goals now and in the future.