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Do You Use a Personal Finace App to Track Your Expenses?

Kristin McGrath

May 24, 2012

I’ve never had a budget. That’s not to say money isn’t important to me. I’ve always been the sort who thinks long and hard about large purchases, comparison shops endlessly for the best price and carefully checks monthly bank statements for errors.

Yet I’ll admit that not having a budget, or at least tracking my spending regularly, makes impulse purchases that much easier to justify. Killing time before dinner? Great, I’ll just spend time (and money) at the book store. Forgot to go grocery shopping? I’ll just buy lunch for the second day in a row. After all, it’s not like I can break a budget I don’t have.

With my first meeting with a financial adviser approaching, I’ve been thinking I need to get a bit more hands-on with my money. And, luckily, there are quite a few apps that promise to help me do that.

So I’m going to sign up for the following three services. They’re all free, of course, because this is about saving money, right?

In a couple weeks, I’ll check in with my thoughts about each.

  • Mint.com: I couldn’t do a trial-run of personal finance apps without trying this one. It’s one of the best known money apps, and I have friends who swear by it (and swear at it because apparently it sends you texts about your account balance in the middle of the night). Mint promises to streamline your financial life. You can sync it with your bank accounts, and it sends bill reminders and chimes in with saving tips based on your spending.
  • Toshl: Toshl doesn’t sync with your bank accounts — its focus is on helping you track your spending. When you spend, you confess to Toshl where your money went. In return, Toshl gives you colorful graphs that bring you face to face with your spending habits. For a monthly fee, you can unlock extra budgeting features.
  • The Birdy: This service’s claim to fame is its simplicity. Every day, you get a single email from The Birdy asking what you spent. You reply using hash tags (like #food or #entertainment), and The Birdy then organizes these purchases into a dashboard. There aren’t a whole lot of bells and whistles to this service, but you don’t have to share your bank account information either. The basic service is free. For a monthly fee you can add income tracking and budgeting features.

I’m hoping these services will hold me accountable for the money I’m wasting in a way my black-and-white nonjudgmental bank account statement can’t.

With taking responsibility for your spending in mind, here are some of the best personal finance blog posts of the week:

Million Dollar Journey suggests cheaper alternatives to having a landline phone.

Money Ning has some tips for cutting the cost of your summer road trip.

Enemy of Debt shares some tactics for bridesmaids who want to make it through wedding season debt free.

Consumerism Commentary ponders the difference between “needs” and “wants” when it comes to making a budget.

Money Crashers lists five ways ditching your car could save you money.

Mom’s Plans acknowledges the exhaustion that often comes with paying down large amounts of debt.