In my previous post, I described my favorite tool for budgeting and tracking expenses, Mint. However, using Mint requires access to the Internet, which may be inconvenient at times. And, of course, there are always concerns about security and privacy: if website gets hacked, your financial information may end up in the wrong hands. The chances of that are very low, because Mint uses bank-level encryption to sync and store transactions data. Still, If for some reason, you prefer to stay away from the web-based app, I recommend you to take a look at the mobile app that I have been using for over a year prior to switching completely to Mint: Ace Budget 2.
The Ace Budget 2 is a mobile app for budgeting and tracking expenses. Its main advantage is that it is very customizable. You can set up any number of incomes and expenses that you would like to track (groceries, entertainment, transportation, etc.), and each item can even be assigned a graphic icon. You can also specify the time period (when expenses can start and end), whether it can rollover or not, how frequently it recurs, etc. Once you set up your budget, tracking expenses is very easy. Every time you spend money, tap on the expense (or income) and enter the name of the item or merchant, amount you paid (or received). You can include additional notes in “memo” field:
The saved transactions then can be viewed and analyzed using very easy-to-read reporting tool: each item is displayed using a different color, and you can request visualization of expenses versus income (to see how much , or breakdown of expenses by different categories. The charts and corresponding tables can be converted to PDF and exported via e-mail.
What is more important is that you can also export transaction data, in CSV format (also via e-mail). Unfortunately, instead of sending entire budget as one CSV file, each expense/income data file is sent separately, so if you prefer to have all expenses and incomes in one spreadsheet, you will have to combine the files in Excel file manually.
Overall, Ace Budget served me very well. The main reason for using it, however, was to track transactions conducted in cash. After Mint added the ability to log and tag cash transactions, Ace Budget became redundant to me as a tracking tool. I, however, still use it to simulate and build every month’s budget, before finalizing it in Mint.
Finally, remember: it does not matter which tool you choose to track your finances. What is more important is the tracking process itself. Budgeting and tracking your expenses helps you to build financial awareness and understand your spending habits, and these are the first steps towards financial proficiency and solvency.