Using a smartphone to look after the pennies [Times of Oman]
(Times of Oman Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) "Look after the pennies, and the pounds will look after themselves" is a British proverb that works equally well when you translate it into dollars and cents. In either form, it means that if you're careful with the details of your spending, then you'll save more money.
It's just not easy to do. Luckily there's a way to help track your spending without fussing with receipts: expense apps on your ever-useful smartphone.
Of all the apps for monitoring spending, one of the hardest to beat is Toshl Finance. Free on iOS, Android and Windows Phone 7, the app is all about making managing personal expenses an easy and almost light-hearted affair. It does this through user-friendly design and cute graphics that include animated cartoon monsters.Main interface
The app's main interface is a simple menu bar at the bottom of the screen. This gives you access to expense data entry, income data entry, a summary screen, a budgeting screen and settings. Entering expenses couldn't be easier: Tap on the expenses button, press "(PLUS)" and a large calculator-style keypad appears.
Toshl lets you tag each expense as you like (cafeteria lunch, for example) and maintains a handy display of all your tags for future access.
The income entry screen is similar. The summary screen gives you a plain bar chart display of monthly income and expenditures, and a readout of your balance. It also reports on how your balance compares with the previous month and how you're performing against a budget. Toshl can also email data as a text file so you can enter it on a spreadsheet on a computer.
The app lets you plainly see if you're spending too many pennies compared with what you're earning. And that's about it Toshl's best feature is simplicity. To enter more than one income amount per month, or to access other features like the ability to export your expenses data as a PDF or display more complex graphs, you'll need to buy the annual subscription for $20.
A similar but more powerful app is Expensify also free on iOS, Android and Windows Phone. This app is more formal, although it too revolves around an artfully designed user interface. Clearly labelled pages make it straightforward to enter an expense, identify a merchant, tag the entry for later reference and so on. The app also offers you the chance to track your time spent on a project, which could be handy for the self-employed.
If your expenses involve travelling by car, there's a system to enter your mileage, including automatically tracking your journey by GPS. There's also the option to enter a photo of a receipt into the app and have it scanned automatically. Ten receipt scans are free each month; after that, they're 20 cents each.
This app is a mobile interface for the Expensify website, so you need to set up a free account, but you can manage your finances from different devices easily. It's a powerful app, suitable for personal expenses or perhaps for small-business users. But it's not always good at automatically scanning receipts. And because its menu system is so plain, it's sometimes easy to forget where you are in the different layers of menus as, for example, when you're editing details in a previous expense entry.Powerful features
Users of Apple devices may prefer the $2 app My Wallet(PLUS). It balances an easy-to-use design with some powerful features. Entering expense data is easy, and the app has clever calendar dials to make entering recurring expense information simple. It also delivers its transaction summary data in a neat list of income and outgo above a sum total, similar to the way you may write expenses by hand.
There are many options for exporting your data (as in Excel-ready format or as a Web browser-ready file); and you can back up your data to Dropbox's cloud service. You can even protect your info with a password. If this app has failings, it's that it's a bit pedestrian and not as quick to interact with as some alternatives.
On Android, the free EasyMoney Expense Manager app is similar to MyWallet(PLUS), with the added options of tracking different accounts (like credit card versus daily spending), measuring spending against different budgets and tracking which bills you've paid. Its plain design is much more text-based than the alternatives, and this may put you off if your interest is in more casual expense tracking.
Apps like these may even help you save the $500 a smartphone can cost one penny at a time.Quick calls
Temple Run 2, sequel to the hugely popular original, is now out and free on Android. It's a great way to pass time while commuting. ... Nokia Drive(PLUS) is available as a test version for all Windows Phone 8 devices. A navigation app with turn-by-turn directions with voice guidance, it works without needing a mobile data connection, and it's free. (Kit Easton/The New York Times News Service)
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