Managing a personal budget is rarely fun, but sometimes it’s needed. Whether you find yourself overspending on impulsive shopping, or on a holiday with only so much cash, being able to track your expenses can be invaluable.
Expense Manager is a free (ad-supported) Android app with over half a million downloads, and over 6,000 reviews with a 4.5-star average. In other words, this is a tried-and-true way to manage your budget on the go.
The Main Screen, & Logging Expenses
This is what you see when you launch the app: A quick, birds-eye view of your balance (income minus expenses), and a quick income and expense breakdown by date. Now let’s say you’re out and about, and want to log an expense or a purchase. Tap the Add New Expense button:
You can use the Android expense app to manage multiple accounts, but by default it comes with just one, entitled Personal Expense. Having multiple accounts can be useful for managing an expense account from your workplace, if you have one. The date can be edited, which is nice, since it means you can use the app at the end of the week to catch up with receipts you’ve saved (although it is better to enter things immediately).
The Amount field is fairly obvious, but tapping the pencil next to it reveals a pleasant surprise:
Instead of having to fiddle with your keyboard’s tiny number keys, you get a large, friendly calculator. Very nice, especially when you’re in a hurry.
The only other point I’d like to show you is the Category field, because that’s important for budgeting:
You get a long list of categories, each subdivided into subcategories. This is a tedious interface (a quick-search or tags would have been much better), but it does allow you to note exactly what category the expense belongs to. That’s important for getting a handle over your budget, as we shall see now.
Managing A Budget
The Budget screen lets you set up daily, weekly, monthly and yearly budgets for each expense category, and even for individual subcategories. Note that budgets aren’t interpolated: If you set a daily budget for something, you won’t see an entry in the Weekly or Monthly lists. Not ideal, but this is how it works.
Creating a new budget for a category is easy:
You get to pick a category and subcategory, as well as the period. Note the absence of currency symbols in the dialog. The application isn’t meant for people who use multiple currencies. If you are using it while travelling, you may want to set up an account just for the country you’re in, using its currency. The budget display is intuitive, working like a progress bar showing how much of the money you’ve allocated is still available.
Expense Manager includes four handy tools, each nice enough to be its own standalone application. You’ve seen the calculator before. The currency converter features an impressive list of currencies. The tax calculator is very basic, but the tip calculator is quite nice:
It makes a pretty complex tax into something very simple. I only wish it were better integrated with the app, so I could instantly log my part of the bill as an expense.
Compared to Mint
The gorilla in this space is Mint, from Intuit. If you are expecting Mint’s level of polish, you sure won’t find it here, as you can see by the utilitarian interface above. There is also no sync to the cloud, although the application can export to a CSV, which you can then use in other applications and spreadsheets.
That said, Mint is heavily oriented towards the American market. International users may not find it very useful. Also, some users don’t want their personal financial data synced to the cloud – a sentiment I can definitely understand. For these two categories of users (international and cloud-averse), Expense Manager can offer a nice alternative.
Do you manage your budget on the go? If you do, I’d love to hear how – especially if you’re outside the US and Canada.
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