Mo money? No problem
We prepared a faux budget for our budgeting software review, based on the income ($40,000 after tax) and expenses of an average consumer. We assessed how easy it is to set up and maintain a budget on desktop software (via web browsers or downloadable programs), and mobile apps if available. Ease of use was evaluated on actions and tasks typically required by an average user when setting up and maintaining a budget (see table notes). If a service didn't make certain actions available, it scored zero for that feature.
With so many smartphones and tablets out there, we wanted to know if you could set up and manage a budget on a mobile device alone, and also assess how useful it is to be able to synchronise data between your bank account and the software/app.
Here's what we found.
All the software in our test is available on mobile devices. But can you set up and manage a budget on a mobile device alone? You can, but you probably wouldn't want to. Although some apps are technically just as functional as their desktop counterparts, for the most part, entering large amounts of detailed financial data and syncing your software with a bank is much easier with a keyboard, mouse and large screen.
Mobile apps are best suited for on-the-go budgeting and quick referencing. Having financial reports in your pocket is a great way to manage spending when you're out and about. All you need to do is check the app to see if you can afford the item you're looking at. We feel that, ideally, you should use mobile and desktop software together, for the best budgeting experience.
Auto versus manual entry
Software that can sync and pull information from your bank accounts generally fared far better than programs that were dependent on manual data entry. You don't have to use this feature if you don't want to though, as every app – except Moneysoft, which could only sync to banks – scored good or excellent for manual data entry. Some programs let you attach an image to your transactions, which is a handy way to keep track of receipts, especially when you're on-the-go. However, budgeting software in general hasn't quite reached the point where it can pull data from receipts that you've scanned or photographed.
Categorising your expenses is an important element of budgeting. This helps you identify where your money is going and, more importantly, where you can cut spending. All the programs in our review include this feature in one form or another, but some are a little more advanced than others. Boomeringo, GoodBudget, MoneyManagerEX and Moneysoft, for example, all show spending by merchant (e.g. Coles or Myer), while Wally+ can track your location to sort purchases geographically. Otherwise, you can tag transactions manually in any program.
During our test, a budgeting program called MoneyWiz scored 74% overall. However, it was superseded by MoneyWiz 2 after testing had concluded, and no longer appears in the table. While we didn’t test MoneyWiz 2, it shares a number of functions and features with MoneyWiz. You may still want to consider it.
Ready to buy?
Take a look at how we rated money manager apps in our budgeting app reviews.