How much money do I have left in my pocket?
November 30, 2011 1:38 PM   Subscribe

Looking for an iPhone app that helps me keep a tally of how much I am spending as I go -- cash, online purchases, etc. An on-the-fly "budget" that just counts down to zero.

Here's the scenario: I have used Quicken for years. I have a budget. My husband and I are using Mint and I have the app. The best way in the past for keep track of "walking around money" has been to go cash only. However, we've run into hurdles with this. And here's what it comes down to: I know how much money we have to spend every month after we pay all our regularly recurring bills.

So, let's say our budget for groceries is $500 every month. And let's say I personally have $1000 of discretionary spending available. I actually don't care whether I spend $300 or $800 on groceries as long as my other spending allows it. If I choose to spend $900 on eating out in fancy restaurants, that's fine, as long as I don't spend more than $100 on groceries.

So, here's what I'm looking for. Input a dollar amount, say $1000 and then as I go about my business, I can subtract expenses. Doesn't matter what category they are in. As long as I don't bust my limit, we're good. The ability to add a simple note and date would be great. Export? Not totally necessary because I'm using Mint for categorizing and tracking by category.

Then at payday, I can set it up again. I've tried Googling and I came across a similar thread here in Ask.Me where I think the guy was asking for something like this but didn't get a solution.

And, no, pen and paper won't work. Receipts won't work -- some of this is online spending and I've tried receipts before and that was no fun and easily breaks down.
posted by amanda to Work & Money (17 answers total) 30 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: You could do this with a simple spreadsheet app like iSpreadsheet. Cell A1 could be your budget, and the rest of column A could be transaction amounts. B1 could be budget remaining (A1-sum(a2:aX)) and the rest of column b would be your note fields.
posted by jon1270 at 1:52 PM on November 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: MoneyWell might work for you. It wants you to classify your spending into “buckets”, but you can move money from bucket to bucket as necessary.

In your example, you could start with a budget of $500 for groceries and $500 for fancy restaurants, and then flow money from the grocery bucket to the fancy restaurant bucket as needed.
posted by esd at 2:05 PM on November 30, 2011

Best answer: Easy Envelope Budget Aid (EEBA)
posted by plokent at 2:06 PM on November 30, 2011 [3 favorites]

Couldn't you do this in Mint? Create up a Budget called something like "Discretionary Spending" with a limit of $1000. Then, add your own sub-category called "Discretionary Spending" in a category like "Shopping" (you can add/edit your own categories in the category drop-downs).

Then, every time you spend cash out of that, just input it as a cash expense in the "Discretionary Spending" category. You could then set it to alert you when you are getting close to that budget.
posted by This_Will_Be_Good at 2:07 PM on November 30, 2011

Best answer: I use a combination of PocketMoney (for accounting) and LeftToSpend (divides monthly money into a daily amount counted down to zero each day). It's essential to enter every purchase as soon as it's made.
posted by tel3path at 2:19 PM on November 30, 2011

The way my wife and I do this is to have separate checking accounts (one for planned expenses, one for discretionary). Direct deposits go into the planned account, and on the same day there is a recurring transfer of our "discretionary" money into the discretionary account. We then use the iPhone app from our bank to track current levels in the discretionary account. We supplement that with text alerts from our bank when we hit certain thresholds.

This is based on the Stackbacks methodology (pdf link)
posted by alexfw at 2:21 PM on November 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I use iXpenseit on the iPhone. Been using it for business expenses, but also used it for a year in the way you describe ( although I broke it down by category, which is easy to do, and it'll remember that Esso goes under "Gas" the next time I use it ).
posted by backwards guitar at 2:22 PM on November 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

IF you've got a smartphone then couldn't you just log on to your bank account and just see how much is left?
posted by trialex at 2:38 PM on November 30, 2011

Response by poster: One of the additional problems is that I don't want a bunch of screens between me and this simple data. I've thought of using Mint and maybe I need to just try it but I don't want to screw up my categories. I do want to be able to go back and see where I have spent money for tax purposes and for budgeting.
posted by amanda at 2:58 PM on November 30, 2011

Best answer: I use a dirt simple app called Balance. It is a ledger. I put the money I have to spend and then put in debits till I hit 0. It is almost sickeningly simple. It I want to spend $100 on groceries I put in $100 debit, then I know I will have $100 bucks give or take for groceries.
posted by Ad hominem at 3:03 PM on November 30, 2011 [3 favorites]

iXpenseit has charts and reports for displaying your purchases, broken down by category. Report -> Summary is all it takes, but you can break it down to show specific data if you prefer.
posted by backwards guitar at 3:44 PM on November 30, 2011

Response by poster: This is great, y'all -- just what I was looking for. It was hard to search because there's so many other apps for tracking spending that do SO MUCH. Hard to find something that does something little and well.
posted by amanda at 3:49 PM on November 30, 2011

Best answer: So, I just wanted to check if there was a good way to do this again through Mint since you are already using it (and it might be helpful for me too).

If you do it the way I describe above, then all your purchases would be lumped into the category you create called "Discretionary Spending".

Another option would be to create a tag called "Discretionary Spending". I just tried this. I purchased some soap earlier today in cash at Rite Aid. So, on the Mint app I entered a cash expense from Rite Aid of $3.80, which auto-filled in the category Pharmacy. On the next screen before you submit you can add in a tag. That way you don't have to mess with new categories -- you could still assign groceries to groceries, and car insurance to car insurance, etc.

The only catch is that it doesn't seem you can create a budget from a tag. You can, however, go into trends on and see how you are doing within the "discretionary spending" tag which would be very helpful (and it would still sub-divide that by categories). The other problem with tags over categories, is that since you can't create a budget with a tag, you can't set an alert specifically for that tag. However, if you are just routinely glancing at the Mint site, it should give you everything you need.
posted by This_Will_Be_Good at 6:51 PM on November 30, 2011

I've tried to use Mint for this but iXpensit is so much easier.
posted by kdern at 7:17 PM on November 30, 2011

Best answer: I'm late to this, and I've never used this app so I can't vouch for it, but Spendings seems like it's similar to what you're looking for. Just throwing it out there.
posted by justgary at 9:50 AM on December 7, 2011

Response by poster: Okay, right now, Justgary's "Spendings" app seems to do what I want. I'm going to try it for a month and see how it goes. It's FREE right now so that's great.

I tried "Balance" mentioned in this thread and I can't figure out how to change the initial budget. This is mentioned in the reviews. I reinstalled it once to change it and then somehow changed it to 0. But then gave up when I couldn't fix it.

I'm on iPhone so the Android app mentioned looked super cool but a no-go. Spreadsheet is too complicated and using Mint for this purpose just isn't working the way I want. Both EEBA and LeftToSpend look pretty great, too.

Thanks again, all! Happy budgeting in 2012!
posted by amanda at 9:01 AM on January 10, 2012

Response by poster: After 3 months using "Spendings," I'm hooked! It's very simple and doesn't do much but it works great. I have it set to "re-set" my balance weekly. So, every Friday, it re-sets to the amount specified. I can easily enter in my expenditures and it logs everything in a history file which tallies by month. I don't think it exports but, again, I don't need it to as I'm tracking in Mint. It is helpful when I'm trying to remember a transaction for Mint.

Every Thursday, my husband and I see how we are doing and whether we have gone over our amount or if we have any left over.
posted by amanda at 9:15 AM on March 15, 2012

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