App review: iPhone expense trackers. An update + new app: Numbers

Here’a an update for the review* I did of 4 iPhone expense tracker apps a while ago.

1. Versions

I realized that to do justice to the apps, I needed to include the versions I’ve reviewed, so here they are:

Saver — 1.0
BudgetCare — 2.0.1
MoneyBook — 2.5
Expenditure — 1.1.2

This is because some changes/improvements to the apps might have occurred since the post, and I want to set a context for my review, lest I give a wrong impression of the apps. Hence, if readers read the review and find that the version number has changed, it would then be wise to compare my review with the change log and see the improvements.

This would apply to any review done by anyone. I’d go so far as to say that if there is no way to ascertain the version in question, then the review is moot because it might not be the version you are paying for.

2. Budget setup

For all the 4 apps, there is no need to setup a budget in order to start tracking your expenses. The only downside is that you cannot see a balance (because there’s nothing to compare to!)

3. Search

Sometimes you’d just want to check how much you spent on that dress but there’s too much data to sieve through. Of the 4 apps, only BudgetCare and Saver allow for searching of individual expenses.

4. Recurring expenses

Recurring expenses are available for all apps except Saver, and BudgetCare has a nice touch of reminding you about future expenses via notifications.

———-

After writing the original review, I stuck around playing with the various apps and went back to MoneyBook eventually for its familiarity and robustness.

Then I realized that I had a fifth app to test out on.

Numbers by Apple. [Update: $9.99]

At this time of writing, it’s at version 1.4 and an universal app, meaning that it runs on both the iPhone and iPad natively. For those who are unfamiliar, Numbers is the Excel of Apple, and though I’m not doing justice to either by making a parallel, it’s the most effective in terms of introductions.

I’m not doing an Excel vs Numbers post here, but rather exploring the option of using Numbers as an expense tracker, especially since we have Numbers on the iPhone and iPad.

And it works pretty darn well.

Going by my original review criteria of setup, creating entires and reviewing, here’s how Numbers stack up.

a. Setup

Setup is a pain compared to the rest, simply because Numbers is not an expense tracker app but a spreadsheet app. What I did was to take the budget template and tweak it a little to fit my needs. It wasn’t immediately obvious how I could edit it, but after a while I had it fully customized.

And that is the power of Numbers — customizability. I could have as many graphs or categories I want, and as many budgets as I want. For the latter, none of the apps allowed multiple budgets, and multiple budgets is pretty useful if you want to well, budget.

There is a downside to Numbers though. Remember that it’s a spreadsheet app and so if I were to key in all my transactions it would soon be too cluttered. So what I did was to create a spreadsheet for each month of transactions by duplicating the previous month’s and removing all entries. It’s not pretty and soon I’d have too many spreadsheets, but for now it’s still managable. A potential workaround would be to keep the current month’s spreadsheet in my device, and store the rest on my computer for reference.

b. Creating entries

It’s hardly elegant in that I have to double tap on a cell to bring up the virtual keyboard, and there’s no way to quickly add in categories except by copy-pasting. In comparison, it’s terribly cumbersome.

IMG 0191

Expense tracking in Numbers (iPad) for the month of Aug-Sep

c. Reviewing

I think in terms of reviewing, Numbers trump all the rest, simply because I can make it look exactly the way I want it to. And there’s no tabbing or multiple windows. It’s just all there. This is where the pain of customizing pays off.

Conclusion

Numbers is not meant to be a expense tracker app but I’m using it as one, and in some ways it is more powerful; in many others cumbersome. Should you buy it just for this purpose? Never! However, if you are considering Numbers already or have it, give it a shot as an expense tracker before sinking in the cash for the rest.

———-

*My original review of the 4 apps can be found here.

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