free home economy review!

when i started studying this fall i realised that i would have – after rent and broadband bill – 100SEK ($13) each day which is for me not much. this made me force myself to start keeping track of my expenses (and incomes!). i have been writing down everything in my calendar but i guess it’s not the best solution around.

so i decided to look into some nice app to help me. so i typed in finance in the search field at macupdate. two pages filled with small apps appeared. i decided to only stick for the freeware ones and ended up with Cashbox, CashForecaster, Conto and iBal.

lets start with iBal. i guess the creator of iBal is japanese because the homepage is all in japanese = i don’t understand anything, but there is a direct download link from macupdate and the app is in english, so it’s cool. iBal uses the same type of interface as iTunes. yes you could almost mistake it for being iTunes. in the left column you have a list of books. here you can make new “normal” books but also smart books, (like smart playlists in itunes) where you can decide the content by a matching criteria, like all expenses that are candy etc. this is a great feature! and the criterias are based on date, amount, comment and also keywords, which are the same thing as tags (i love tags!!!). when you add a new expense you type in amount, the date, comment, and then select keywords based on keywords you have created in the keywords palette. this is very easy fast. then if you realised you’ve typed in something wrong you can always edit the item in the listview (like changing the name of a song in itunes) but here i find the only negative thing with this app, and that is that you can’t edit what keyword an expense has! which means you have to delete the item and create it again. this sounds simple but think if you have 50 items that are some kind of food and then you want to divide the food into maybe food you cook and food you eat at restaurants – then you have a problem! another thing that is not the most satisfying is that if you have an income you have to add it as an expense and then put a minus before the amount.

summary: simple, easy and nothing more than what you really need.
overall score: 4/5

next up is Cashbox. their well designed website give us the tag line “something for the rest of us” which i guess means they want their app to feel like an iApp – simple and easy to understand. and it is. it has all the features iBal has and in cashbox you can also decide wether your item is an expense or an income (withdrawal, deposit) which is good. the only thing that differs the apps from each other is the way they use categories/tagging. in cashbox you can only tag each item with one keyword. this because you have the ability to make a cake-graph showing how big part of the cake each category are. this is cool, but this also means you have to look though your receipt and separate candy from foods etc which might be good but do you really have time for that??

summary: same as iBal but one more feature – the graph.
score: 4/5

as you might understand by just looking att the name, CashForecaster is slightly different than the apps above. this apps big feature is that it can give you graphs of how it believes your economy will be like in the near and distant future. how can it do that? well, in this app you can add re-occuring expenses and incomes such as salary and electricity bill. this is really funny/scary, because when i put in my income and my expenses the app is telling me my economy is going down! and darn how true it is (and that was the reason for getting an app like this). one negative thing is that you can’t tag different items so you can’t see how much money that goes to booze only which in one way is good…

summary: fun with the forcaster but i don’t like the lack of tags.
score: 4/5

last and to be honest also least is Conto. there is nothing conto has that the other apps doesn’t, except maybe that it lists items monthly, but you could easily do a smart book with the same result in iBal. one good thing though is that it’s the only app that you can keep your records encrypted so if you don’t want anyone else to know what you buy this is the app for you. you others (me included) this app is not worth choosing instead of the other apps.

summary: no tags, but encryption.
score: 3/5

overall summary: cashforecaster would have won easily – if it had some kind of tagging system but because it lacks that i can’t really decide which app is the best. if you want to see where your economy is heading and you don’t care of tagging, cashforecaster is perfect. i find it really hard to decide which one i’ll start using. darn it!

UPDATE: I have decided to use Cashbox!

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