Personal Finance Tracking Apps

I recently read the NYTimes writeup of a ton of personal finance tracking apps and wanted to share my own thoughts.PiggyBank

My conclusion is that there are a ton of apps out there, all take a ton of work, and none do the job quite right.

This is a big opportunity as these apps can look at your personal spending habits, see SKU level data, and piece together very interesting demographics about a person.  There are lots of advertising opportunities surrounding this data, up selling to other products, and of course managing the funds someone has.

Looking at my “Finance” apps folder it seems I use a hybrid combination today of Level, Mint, BillGuard, Venmo, PayPal, and SplitWise.  I also use all my proprietary card and account apps.  I have tried to put together a monthly budget ahead of time, as well as look back using some of the smarter filters in the services listed above and I still do not have a great view into the things I want to see.

 

Here are the areas that I think need the most work in personal finance:

Entrepreneurship/Freelancing

I have a few side projects/businesses that generate revenue that make it seem like I am making more than I really am.  I keep everything separated out neatly for tax and accounting purposes, but the overlap causes confusion.  I have re-classified many transactions but it still causes some headaches.

Couples

My wife and I manage everything together, but transferring money between accounts and cards gets confusing.  Mint comes closest to solving the need for transparency here, but one large transfer can throw off the entire system.  I have not seen a great solution for couples to manager their personal finances to date.  I think most of the solutions are focussed on tracking your daily, weekly, and monthly dollars going in and out but not segmenting them up very well.

Budgets

The budget feature in Mint just feels broken.  Each app throws out suggestions or calculations based on what it thinks will be left at the end of a month, but they are far from correct.  The most success I have had is self budgeting into a separate account each month towards a big purchase.

Classifications

Tied to the entrepreneurship bit above, there is no good way to classify certain transactions.  An example would be a tax refund, a cash outlay for something or payments to a friend.  Venmo payments throw off any chance I have at budgeting correctly as it looks like I have income and losses galore when its really just a transaction towards a weekend trip or a dinner.  There must be a better way to classify something towards a life event vs. “Income”.

There are probably others, but given some recent discussions I have had I wanted to get these down.

What are you using to solve your budget issues and what systems are working?

  • roccomob
  • I have a lot of the same pains with existing budget software. I use Mint to get a view household finances but it’s not really a budget tool—it’s a bookkeeping tool that’s good for going back and categorizing/tagging transactions, not looking forward. The fact that i can’t set a budget for June until it’s actually June is ridiculous.

    My top pain point right now is that I don’t feel like I have visibility into how much money is leftover (typically we underspend) at the end of each month to reallocate to savings goals or spend on discretionary purchases. As you well know, I don’t buy anything unless I have a plan ahead of time to pay for it. So I feel like we’re working harder than we need to saving for home projects or trips, and ending up with higher-than-necessary checking balances.

  • I totally agree – its painful that this all remains so unsolved.

  • Mike

    Have you tried Xero Personal mobile app? I’ve been using mint for most of my household expenses, but am thinking about moving over to Xero. Would love to hear people’s thoughts if they have used it before.

  • Not yet but just saw they are discontinuing it. They recommend PocketSmith to migrate too which I haven’t tried either. Let me know what you end up with.

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