These days, there’s literally an app for everything: keeping recipes, managing projects, invoicing customers, and managing one’s finances. Money management is an especially popular app category now that people can simplify budget tracking and analyze both earnings and expenses all in one window.
We’ve reviewed some of the popular Mac finance apps in the industry in the past, such as Koku, iBank, and Moneywell. These apps are known for their handful of features and innovative UIs, all of which are geared towards informing you exactly where your money goes, where it comes from, how frequent your spending has been for the past few months, and of course what is left in your account. But for today’s review, I’ll be taking a look at another finance app that takes on a simpler route: Savings.
Savings answers the call for a personal finance app that isn’t intimidating and difficult to use. It removes the extra bells and whistles and maintains a clean and straightforward design. With only the bare necessities for you to use, you can tell that this is an app built for users who are new to personal finance management or who are looking for a simpler solution to their money tracking problems.
There are nine key features built into Savings, the most notable being importing and reconciling transactions from your bank, charts for a comprehensive view of your progress, scheduled transactions, budget tracking, and multiple accounts. All these are on an simple user interface that makes it easy for anyone to navigate and use.
For the purpose of this review, I’ll be using both the sample database and my own account in order to see how Savings works, particularly with a relatively extensive bank account history.
Setting Up Your Accounts
When opening the app for the first time, you’re greeted with a welcome box that invites you to get to know Savings before actually using it. Once you get the feel of what Savings does, click on the “Start Using Savings” button at the bottom. You can also uncheck to disable the welcome box to start at log-in.
There are two ways to add accounts to Savings: add a single account or an account group. An account group— signified by a blue folder icon—can group several accounts under one category. This keeps things organized and the data as accurate as possible.
One of Savings’ main features is importing bank activity in a .QFX (Quicken), .OFX (Microsoft Money), or .QIF file format. This not only adds previous transactions to your account but also reconciles transactions entered automatically. This feature is useful and convenient if your bank provides downloadable bank activity and history; if not, you’ll have to start from scratch and manually type in all of your transactions into your computer.
One issue that users who go with the manual method may encounter is that transactions will automatically be marked as “pending” since it doesn’t have the bank information needed to reconcile the transactions. But if you can ignore the red flags and simply see them as ordinary transactions, this might not be an issue for you.
One problem with manually adding transactions on Savings is how the app recognizes the nature of the item. Unlike Jumsoft’s Money app, in which categories indicate if a transaction is an expense or income, Savings automatically places a minus sign before entering the amount of a transaction. This means transactions are marked as expenses by default. You’ll have to press Backspace to delete the minus sign and to add income into your account. Even after changing the category to Income, the minus sign still appears and the transaction still marked as an expense.
The actual layout of the transactions list is pretty straightforward. You have the reconcile status at the very left, followed by the date, the description and the note below it, the category, and the amount. The menu at the bottom is where you can add a new transaction, make transfers from one account to another, import your bank activity, and adjust the settings of the said account.
The list of categories is pretty limited with only the most common available by default (e.g. Clothing, Dining, Groceries, Household, etc). If you’d like to add a category or a category group, you can do so by clicking on the Category drop down menu and the Edit Categories option at the very bottom of the list. Apart from categories, you can also see a list of currencies where you can choose your “home” or default currency for your transactions.
Schedule Your Transactions
For monthly payments and earnings received, you can use the Scheduled feature for Savings to automatically add these transactions into your account. You can set the next due date of the transaction, the frequency, amount, and category. Assign it to an account and set the reminder for the transaction.
You also have a choice whether to mark a transaction as paid automatically or not. Once a scheduled transaction is close to the due date, a reminder will pop up. Unfortunately, reminders are only displayed as notifications (no Growl support yet) and the app has to be open and running for them to show up. It would be nice to have email notifications sent to one’s inbox to prevent missing out on scheduled payments.
Breakdowns and Trends
The second section of the Savings menu is the Charts where you can see a breakdown of your earnings and expenses and the trends of your balance. You can choose to break it down over the course of the month, the entire, year, or in the last 12 months if you started using Savings in the middle of the year. When viewing the trends of your account, you can choose either to view both expenses and income or each separately.
The feature I like the most in this section is Breakdown as it shows you not only how much you’ve spent or earned in a month but how much you’ve lost or saved. The bar graph shows which category you spent the most on or from where you got the most income.
And Finally, Budget Tracking
Lastly, Savings enables users to create budgets to help you manage your money depending on the duration of your choice. You can decide to create a budget for one, three, six, or twelve months. Choose a start date and a title for your budget.
Afterwards, it generates your budget based on your transaction history. To edit the estimate, just double-click the category and enter the estimate you have in mind for a particular category. The colored progress bars show you how much you’ve spent or saved and a Today Line tells you where you stand in that it shows you if you are spending too fast or earning too little.
All these data give you a clear idea of where you earn or spend your money, if you’re spending too much, or if you’re earning too little based on the estimates you’ve indicated.
Savings is a personal finance app that tells you exactly how much you’re earning and spending without features that get in the way or that complicate the process of managing your personal finances. The overall design, while not as eye-catching as Koku or Money, is pretty user-friendly in that it’s easy to navigate through.
Although it gets the job done, there are a few shortcomings to the app. Users who can import their bank activities will find Savings more convenient than those who have to settle with manually entering transactions. Because of this, the latter (myself included) may be vulnerable to forgetting to enter a transaction, resulting to inaccurate data.
Apart from this, the simplicity Savings aims to maintain may prove to be a limitation as well. In other words, you can’t expect more features as these will complicate the app’s functionality. So if you need comprehensive reports, investment tracking, budget plans, and the like, this is not the app for you.
But overall, Savings is a nice option for those who only want the basic features of easy-to-use personal finance software for the Mac. While it promises to be hassle-free and simple, I hope to see at least a more polished design and an iOS app for convenient synchronization. And at $9.99, it’s more affordable compared to the more feature-rich finance apps in the market.