One of the best ways to track your spending and stay on budget, or get help filling out those pesky business expense reports is with a mobile app — otherwise you’re stuck trying to hold on to all of those paper receipts that are so easy to lose. Fortunately there is a wide variety of finance apps available on the iTunes App Store, and they can do everything from replace your paper checkbook register to helping you track every dime you spend to even (almost) automatically fill out your expense reports before you even get back to the office.
Checkbook HD (99 cents, universal)
Checkbook HD is one app that lives to its name — it is indeed an “HD” version of your standard checkbook register. It handles OFX imports if you’re already using a compatible app, but I found it easier to just set up my own accounts, specify the starting balance, and go from there.
Tabs on the right side of the screen take you from the basic register to your list of recurring transactions while the line graphs and pie charts that help you track your money. The icons at the bottom of the screen allow you to set up a PIN to keep your data more secure, set up CSV or HTML exports via Wi-Fi or email, access the app’s help file, sync with other iOS devices (useful if you use both an iPad and an iPhone, or want to share data with your spouse), or use the OFX import feature.
There aren’t any frills here, but Checkbook HD does work exactly as expected. If you’re looking for something very basic to replace a paper register, one that does the math for you and ensures that you’ll never forget a recurring transaction like rent and utility payments, Checkbook HD is the one for you.
Expensify (Free, universal)
Attention corporate expense report veterans: Expensify is for you. Once you sign up for a free account, you can add credit card accounts and have Expensify download all of your expenses, which you can then scroll through and categorize and/or tag as necessary. Each one under $75 includes an Expensify e-receipt; if you have an iPhone or the latest iPod Touch you can even take photos of your paper receipts to include with each transaction. In order to create a report, you just go through and select the relevant transactions, and Expensify does all the work for you. You can email the finished report to any recipient, which will include a detailed spending summary, all of the relevant e-receipts, and a PDF attachment of the full report.
While I did experience a couple of crashes when I tried to add memos to some of my receipts, Expensify worked extremely well. I will certainly be using this app for all of my future reimbursement requests — I think my boss will be pleasantly surprised when I file my reports before I get back to the office after each trip, instead of bumping up against the deadline every single time because I dread the task.
HomeBudget ($2.99, universal)
HomeBudget is designed to help you track your money and where it goes, so that you’ll always stay within the budget you set up. The list on the left side of the screen is for navigation; tap on each entry in turn to go to expenses, bills, income, your budget (by category), accounts, payees, reports, and search.
The concept is simple, and HomeBudget works, but I found it to be rather inflexible and hard to use. In order to add a monthly bill, for example, you have to have already entered the payee before you can set up the bill. Other apps would let you add a payee from within the bill setup screen, but not HomeBudget. You can’t specify an account either, which is difficult if you have more than one checking account (personal and shared household), for example. The price is certainly reasonable, but there are other apps that are easier to use if you’re trying to stick to a budget.
iCompta 2 Personal Finance ($4.99, universal)
iCompta 2 Personal Finance may have a strange sounding name, but it is quite powerful and also very easy to use. It provides a Quicken-like experience without being overly complicated. You don’t need the manual (which is a good thing because the print is too small to read); all you have to do is start adding transactions. Each entry can include a comment, category, and even participants, and setting up recurring transactions is extremely simple. The Scheduler allows you to see at a glance what your financial situation is at any given moment, or you can use the charts and graphics for a snapshot view.
A budgeting feature is included, which you can define by category, or you can set up multiple budgets for special purposes, such as a vacation fund or planning your holiday gift-giving. You can back up your information via Wi-Fi, and use an optional password to keep your financial information private. All in all iCompta 2 Personal Finance is a real winner, offering ease of use and powerful features in one reasonably priced package.
Money for iPad is from the same developer as Checkbook HD, and in many ways it’s simply a prettier version of that much-less-expensive app. Money has some nice additional features, like a calendar that helps you see at a glance when your recurring transactions — such as your salary and predictable bills like rent/mortgage and utilities — are due.
Like many of the other apps in this category, Money includes basic budgeting and reporting capabilities, along with some very pretty graphs and charts. You can sync your data with other iOS devices, back up your data via Wi-Fi or iDisk, import your OFX information, or set a PIN to keep your information secure. In the end, though Money looks really nice and performs well, I’m not sure that’s worth the relatively high $19.99 price tag.
PageOnce Personal Finance Premium ($6.99, universal)
Unlike most of the other apps in this review, PageOnce Personal Finance Premium doesn’t help you track your money and set up budgets. Instead it helps you to consolidate your online financial, shopping, social, and travel accounts in one place, so that you can stay on top of everything at once.
After you sign up for a free PageOnce account you must add your other accounts – this includes both financial accounts like banking and credit cards to transactional applications like eBay, Netflix, Orbitz and Twitter. Once properly set up, Personal Finance enables you to track all of these accounts from within a single app. No matter what you do online, it’s probably there — I was surprised to see QVC included with the available shopping accounts, though I was disappointed to find that while box.net is included in the storage section, Dropbox and SugarSync are not.
PageOnce doesn’t allow you to make your own entries; the whole purpose is to consolidate all of the information that is already spread out among your various online accounts. If you’re not interested in writing down every penny when you spend it, but do want to keep a close eye on your bank and credit card accounts, or just want to know when your next Netflix disk ships without bothering to check your email, this is the app for you. A free version is also available, and though that one includes ads it has all of the same functionality — which makes it perfect for the cheapskates among us.
PocketMoney ($4.99, universal)
PocketMoney has a long history that goes back to the Apple Newton days. Like iCompta, Money, and SplashMoney, it aims for a Quicken-like experience with the ability to track multiple accounts with recurring transactions, spending categories, budgets, split transactions, and plenty of charts and graphs. It largely succeeds, though with a rather bare-bones, unattractive interface with a few examples of confusing terminology.
The App Store price for this app is quite reasonable, but be aware that you will likely need or want to acquire several additional features as in-app purchases: the Sync Server is $9.99, the charting functionality is $2.99, Photo Receipts is 99 cents, and colorful themes are another 99 cents. That allows users to start off at a bargain price, though some may be disappointed to find that they have to buy the more advanced features a la carte. PocketMoney works well, but iCompta delivers a better experience without nickel-and-diming its customers.
powerOne Financial Calculator ($5.99)
This app is somewhat misnamed, because powerOne Financial Calculator does a lot more than the standard financial calculations. You’ll find mortgages and profit margins and depreciation and loan qualifications and sales taxes, but that isn’t all. Unit conversions such as mass, area, length, temperature and volume as well, making the powerOne Financial Calculator the only one you’ll need (unless you’re an advanced engineering type, but I digress).
In landscape mode, templates are listed on the left and on the right side is where you’ll actually do the data entry. Just tap on a field (like down payment or interest percentage) to enter your data, and the answers will automatically appear once enough fields are filled in. If it’s a unit conversion, you just need to enter one data point and all of the other options will appear — which is much easier than having to choose your output unit ahead of time.
Have a funky calculation that isn’t “normal” enough to be programmed in as a default template? Don’t worry, because you can add your own equations. There’s even an online help page that can walk you through the process if you’re having trouble setting it up properly. Everything is very large and easy to read, and you can even email your results if you need to keep a record of your calculations. The price may seem to be relatively high when there are free calculators available, but this one truly is definitely worth the cost.
SplashMoney ($4.99, iPhone version available)
SplashMoney is the last of the Quicken-style apps in our roundup, and in some ways it is the most polished. Like many of the others, budgeting and graphing features are included, but SplashMoney simplifies these to perfection — concise, but still extremely useful, with your financial status available at a glance.
Once you set up your accounts and start entering transactions, you’ll find that things keep getting easier and easier. Once you’ve set up a payee or a custom category or a recurring transaction, entries can be completed in just a couple of taps. That streamlined process is much appreciated, especially after seeing how convoluted that process can become in some other finance apps.
I also appreciate SplashMoney’s ability to create custom reports by category, for a certain time period, for multiple accounts or for just one. If your financial institution allows it, you can even set up direct download for your accounts, so that you don’t have to enter any transactions at all. There is also a desktop companion application available as a separate purchase, if you would like the flexibility of being able to manage your money on your iPad and your desktop. SplashMoney is a very good choice, and is definitely a powerful contender in this category.
xPenseTracker ($2.99, universal)
The second of the two expense reporting apps included in this article, xPenseTracker takes a completely different approach than Expensify. Instead of connecting directly to your bank or credit card and downloading a transaction list, xPenseTracker is completely manual. It’s still very easy to use and well organized, making tracking your expenses dead simple.
You can set up multiple reports in order to keep different trips or projects separate from each other. Adding individual expenses is as easy as entering the amount, category, how you paid, and the client, description, and any notes you may want to add. There is even a photo receipt feature; on the iPad you would have to include it from the camera roll, or you can take a photo if you’re using the app on your iPhone or 4th gen iPod Touch. If you need it, an in-app purchase to unlock the OCR feature for your receipts is available for 99 cents.
Your expenses can be sorted by date, category, payment method, or client, and you can email your reports, export them to the desktop via Wi-Fi, or just back them up to ensure that you never lose any data. xPenseTracker is simple, but it works beautifully and is well worth the price. This app is from the same developer that created the excellent TravelTracker Pro, which is a must-have app for frequent travelers.