In February’s “Spend Wisely” post, we mentioned three smart phone apps that you can use for budget tracking: Mint, mvelopes, and Penny. I tried each one, and I’ll share my experiences with you over the next few days. First up, Penny…
Penny is free and available in the app store for download on iPhone or Android. It allows you to pull all of your financial accounts into one app, so you can summarize, analyze and track your spending patterns and create a budget. This interactive app is simple to setup and easy to use. Penny uses bank-grade security and does not store your bank log-in information.
When I opened the Penny app, it appeared as a chat environment. First, the red-headed cartoon girl presented the app’s features. Then, she walked me through linking my credit card and bank accounts. It took just a few minutes to input my credentials and set up my account. The first question she asked me was, "Which fast food restaurant is your favorite?" It gave me my spending habits at two of the biggies. I couldn’t help but wonder if that was a sign that I eat out WAY too much??
I really liked the personalized feel of the app. It was user friendly and fun. It performed as chat window, and it prompted me with what to “say” next. It also used emojis (pictographs) and animated .gifs (short animations) to keep the experience upbeat and entertaining. After my transactions filtered in from my two accounts, I went through and re-categorized some of them. The category list was minimal, with only five active options. A sixth option allowed me to exclude purchases from my list.
The app is easy to understand and update. Penny breaks down your spending habits by week, month, and year. Top purchases are displayed with specific dollar amounts. Bar graphs compare spending by category and by month. Future spending in each category is forecast using data from previous months.The charts and graphs really did open my eyes to where I spend my money.
Penny continues to provide user tips throughout the process. She "learns" the categories you choose for specific vendors and uses them on future purchases. You can set up announcements on your phone for new purchases. It notifies you when a transaction has posted. The immediate accounting allows you to quickly categorize and monitor purchases - and helps alert you to possible fraud.
I’m excited to continue using the Penny app. I like the idea of “talking to someone” about my spending habits and getting advice that is easy to understand - in addition to my annual review meetings. This will help me curb frivilous spending. My hope is that I'll be able to keep a tighter hold on my budget. Until today, I’ve been writing it all on a legal pad. :-P
Please let me know if this was post helpful and/or if you’d like to see something specific in the future. Make sure to keep an eye out for mvelopes and Mint app reviews to come in the next week or so.
Looking forward to your feedback.