In our last blog we rehashed a great up to date blog on finance apps for debt reduction and money tracking that had been reviewed by About.com writer Shelley Elmblad. The great staff at Debt Cutter decided to work through their own favourites and gave us their take on the debt reduction apps available that would benefit their clients in achieving their financial goals.

The team had two criteria: Must be cost free & must support Australian currency.

Apps under review include: MoneySmart Budget Planner, CBA Budget Planner, ING Budget Planner, Budget Tracker Inc, MoneySaving Expert Budget Planner, BudgetPulse, NAB Budget Planner.

Budget planner

With so many budgeting apps available it pays to research to find the right one for you.

Amongst the apps reviewed the popularity leaned towards those that allowed saving and exporting your budget into another format, such as .doc, .pdf or excel spreadsheet. This valuable feature due to its ability to allow users to save their budgets into an offline format for future access, promoting visibility of plans surrounding financial circumstances became the apps of choice.

A common popular feature across the various budgeting tools reviewed was the different ways in which “Budget Summaries” are presented graphically. As seen below, some apps display the user’s budget information as a pie chart, allowing quick analysis of the approximate proportions each “category” will occupy.

Online budget tracker

Online budget tracker usually require a user to register.

Some of the more advanced budgeting tools (Such as Buxfer, Budget Tracker and Budget Pulse) required a registration before you can use any of their features. This can be said to be both a positive and a negative pre-requisite for use, dependent upon what the user wants from the program. In some cases, wherein users require a higher level of detail – registration is a definite plus as it allows users to save their budgets to their account and access it again from a different location. However, those users who just want to “outline” their budgets, registration via email and remembering account details could potentially be tedious.

One unique feature of the CBA Budget Planner was the ability to calculate income tax for you based on the level of income entered. This can be seen in the below screenshot, where the final “Income” field has had Australian tax deductions subtracted from the “gross salary”. 

Another beneficial feature of this particular budgeting app (By CBA) was the logical division of expenses into household and lifestyle categories – easily presented for the user to analyse their circumstances and allocation of funds.

Another useful feature unique to Budget Tracker Inc. was the ability for users to “Schedule” or “Forecast” upcoming bills and expenses, with email reminders. This feature would be particularly useful for users who depend heavily upon the Budgeting software for frequent reminders and updates their account to reflect expenses paid and withdrawals made.

But lets look at the specifics! Here’s the teams reviews.

ING Direct Budget Planner

Pros: High visibility, all income and expenses together on one page; Calculates and gives totals; User can print completed budget;  Simple, concise GUI; No fuss or unnecessary info; Each category broken down logically and presented well; Super easy to use; No registration required; Save as .DOC or .PDF

Cons: Simple calculator only; Nowhere for investment purchases; Rent included under Loans, Credit Cards and Store Accounts; No graphical display of budget breakdown.

Budget Tracker, Inc.

Pros: Guided Budget Setup Process; Export to Google Calendar and Excel (Premium Features); Transaction Forecast; Customisable Toolbar; Loans and Investment Trackers calculates interest on loans and savings; Reminders! For upcoming expenses; Can have these emailed to users.

Cons: Requires subscription for premium features; Must pay for graph chart functionality; Overview has too many summaries; Cannot display currency in AUD.

MoneySmart Budget Planner

Pros: Allows user selection of weekly/fortnightly/monthly; Create an account and Save or print budget; Save Budgets to Excel; Shows % of committed income on summary screen; Comprehensive Expenses;

Cons: Cannot rename expenses; Cannot view “Total summary”, seeing the whole budget on one page;

CBA Budget Planner

Pros: Comprehensive Expenses; Adjustable weekly/fortnightly/monthly; User can print budget; All expenses on one page; Shows summary of where income is committed; Simple, themed GUI; Easy to use; No registration required; Calculates your Income tax for you; Logical division and presentation of expenses (Household v lifestyle exp.); Ability to include additional expenses.

Cons: Cannot rename expenses; Cannot save your budget; Cannot export to Excel; Users unable to define additional income.

BudgetPulse

Pros: Easy to use dashboard and site navigation; Users can rename expenses; Gives bank account overviews; Can export chart to PDF; Can develop and set saving goals; Can Import data from OFX,QFX and CSV files; Saves all budget info and recurring transactions under clients account;

Cons: Can only enter monthly amounts; Very detailed, more towards total financial management than a mere budgeting tool; User must update account with recent transactions frequently.

NAB Budget Planner

Pros: Free and Easy to use; Set billing frequency to weekly/fortnightly/monthly; Gives summary of totals; User can print, save or email budget to themselves.

Cons: Some issues with printing the entire budget.

MoneySaving Expert Budget Planner

Pros: Excel or online choices; Weekly, monthly or annual entry columns which are auto-calculated into monthly amounts; Detailed break up of income and expenses so it is pretty hard to miss anything; Lots of article links back to their website with a plethora of ideas and hints and interactive mini games on saving money; Gives you a pie chart on what you spend your money on.

Cons: $UK not AUD, Articles use different colloquialisms and store names.

What’s your pick of apps? Tried any of these or have another to share? Share them with us on our social pages. We’re keen to know how you stick to your debt reduction plan.  Facebook | G+ | Twitter

If you’ve been following our blogs over the last few weeks it would be great to know how you are travelling with creating your budgettracking your expenditure and now calculating your SMART goals. For anyone who is keen to share with us their journey we are giving a $50 Coles voucher to four people working towards reducing their debts, who share a photo of them working on their budget with a comment of their SMART goal to our G+ Debt Cutter community page or onto our Facebook page. There is also a $200 Coles voucher for the most inspiring video shared. The winners be will chosen by the community members and you are welcome to invite anyone to vote for your pic or vid.