Keeping track of our expenses and purchases is easier when we shop online and use debit or credit cards, instead of checks and cash. No matter our best intentions, it’s a pain to keep up with receipts and record purchases in a checkbook. Plus, based on my experience, I think we tend to spend our money more wisely when we keep a weekly track of where and how much of our discretionary money goes to non-essential items and services.
For this reason, I’ve been a long time user of Mint.com, a personal finance service that downloads all of my debit and credit card purchases – from gas and food purchases, iTune App purchases, to utilities and car insurance payments. But sometimes Mint is not as informative as I would like it to be. It only records the transactions listed in my bank and PayPal accounts, and sometimes that’s not enough. This is where an iPhone app called Slice comes in.
Slice is a free service that can download the receipts of your purchases – including the dates of purchases and the name of merchants. It pulls this information from confirmation emails you receive for purchases you make online. While the information is limited by what it gets from your confirmation emails, it can serve as a good tool for tracking your online purchases and tracking packages. This is why we have put Slice on our Best of iPhone Apps page.
How It Works
You can manually add both online and offline purchases you make into Slice, and it will do a search of the item and add it to your Slice account. But better yet, if you receive email confirmations of your purchases via your bank, merchants, or PayPal, you can give Slice permission to comb through your email box and identify confirmation emails of your purchases.
Slice, in turn, will filter the information from the receipts it finds, including dates and amount of purchases, the name of merchants, the tracking number for shipments, and it will even add images of the product purchases you make. You can view your Slice account in both the iPhone or Android apps, and online.
Slice supports over a thousand merchants including Amazon, eBay, Walmart, Best Buy, Macy’s, Sears, Target, iTunes, and Rakuten.com. But the key to using Slice is to get receipts of your purchases mailed to you. Otherwise you have to add the purchases yourself. You can also add missing purchases that Slice doesn’t pick up by forwarding the order confirmation or shipping receipts to email@example.com (using the email associated with your Slice account), and the purchase will get added to your account.
If you have more than one email account that you receive receipts to, those other addresses can be added to your Slice account.
Slice downloaded the last five months of purchases it found in my Apple Mail account, which mainly consists of purchases made through my PayPal account, which immediately sends me confirmation receipts. Based on the information it pulled from those receipts, Slice made a good attempt to categorize the purchases, e.g., Books, Software and Mobile Apps, Music, Electronics & Accessories.
When your email receipts include a FedEx, USPS, and UPS tracking number, Slice will be able to track those packages for you and notify you via your iPhone and/or email about its shipment status. The app also includes a real-time map and detailed tracking information. Slice updates your account about every 15 minutes, so don’t expect purchases to show up in your account immediately.
Slice & Dice
Slice also filters your purchases by months and years, product categories, and merchants. This data is only as accurate as what is found in confirmation receipts. You can see where you’re spending your money, and the type of items and services you’re spending most of it on.
In regard to transactions, huge companies like Amazon, iTunes, and Best Buy are easily identified and categorized, but some merchants like my local grocery store and gas station are only identified by their address, not merchant name. This can be very frustrating for keeping track of purchases, and there’s no way to change or add the merchant name, as you can in a Mint account.
What I like most about Slice is that in some cases it provides more information about my purchases than Mint does. Not only does it provide, for example, my iTunes and Amazon transactions, but it also includes an image of the product I purchased. This way I know if the product purchased is an iOS app, a book, or a hardware accessory from Amazon or iTunes, for example.
Slice and other similar personal finance apps are not perfect, but they provide much more information about our spending than what we get from our banking or credit card accounts.
Let us know what you think about Slice. Is it an app for tracking packages that you might try?