An app created by by an Australian start-up is the most intuitive and user-friendly budgeting app we've ever used.
If you take a look at the iTunes App Store, it's pretty obvious that money management is a big deal. Finance is up there with a category all of its own, with the top app lists riddled with budgeting apps. It's not an innate skill, and many struggle with it.
We've tested a few budgeting apps over the years, but they always somehow fall a bit short — requiring manual entry and updating, or missing useful features. It's not that we distrust them per se, but if you're the kind of person who has trouble sticking to a budget, chances are you're the kind of person who won't remember to enter every little spending detail into an app, either.
Pocketbook, created by two guys in an apartment in Wolli Creek, is a breath of fresh air.
It automates pretty much everything. By syncing with your bank accounts, it is able to keep track of every cent you spend, showing data in real time so that you're always up to date with your finances.
But your banking apps can do that. Where Pocketbook differs is that it's designed to not only track your spending, but also help you manage your money. To this end, the app has a few other features that, after a quick, easy set-up, are automated to manage future spending, too.
Firstly, it can sync with a large number of banks (security concerns are answered here), including all of the Australian majors — Commonwealth, Westpac, ANZ, NAB, St George, Bankwest and others. This means that your money feeds are consolidated, showing you a net balance of all your funds. You choose which accounts to sync, too, so if you have a savings account you want left out, you can do so.
Secondly, it can help you manage your bills. The app can auto-detect bills in your transaction history, but you can also search your transaction history and add them manually (and their frequency). When a new bill is due to be debited or paid, the app will send you an alert, so you'll never be caught unawares.
Possibly our favourite feature is the "Safely Spend" budget. You can set an amount of money that you can safely spend on a weekly and daily basis. As you spend money, the counter goes down, showing you the remaining amount at the top of the screen, so that you always know exactly how much money you are allowed to use and can budget it over the remaining days accordingly. It also shows you how much money you have already spent — and what you have spent it on. In the days of monthly pay, this feature is invaluable.
There are a bunch of other features, too. You can manually enter geo-tagged transactions, so you know where you spent money. You can also add notes and receipts to your transactions. When you tap on one on your Overview screen, you're taken to a transaction view with a button on the bottom. This expands out into a menu that lets you trash the transaction, flag it as important for tax purposes, take a photo of a receipt, mark it as a one-off payment or, if it's a recurring transaction, set its frequency.
One thing we would like to see added is the ability to set a payday, and count the month from that point. The app currently counts from the first of the month; most monthly paydays, however, are on a different date.
That's one minor quibble with an otherwise excellent app, and the developers are set to introduce new customisation features soon, with confirmation that the feature is on its way. Even as it stands, though, Pocketbook is still the best app of its kind we've ever seen.
At the moment, the app is for iOS and web only, but will be expanding to Android in the coming months. You can pick it up free from the iTunes App Store here.