toshl: expense tracker makes budgeting easier

In the world of financial tracking apps and websites, Mint is the most well-known and most-used. However, it hasn’t worked for me. The two main reasons I dislike Mint are that (1) detailed personal banking information is necessary, which is just creepy, and (2), it wasn’t useful as a tool for budgeting and managing my expenses. In addition, I disliked the app for iPhone, which is clunky and often difficult to navigate.

The last time I wrote about Toshl vs. Mint, I had only been using Toshl for a few short weeks. Now, after nearly a year of use, I can definitively say it is the best and most used app on my phone. It has changed the way I manage my money, and I have seen significant improvement in my finances as a result.

There are two versions of Toshl: the free one, which is extremely limited, and the paid one, which requires a $20 yearly membership. I avoid purchasing apps, because they usually aren’t worth the expense; Toshl is the one app I have never regretted purchasing. Here are the top three reasons to fork out that money — or at least give the free version a try!

toshl is awesome1. The app rocks.

The first thing I noticed is that the app runs significantly better on my phone, and it tends to be more intuitive. I enter every expense personally, which means that each expense is immediately categorized correctly.

There are four main tabs: Expenses, Incomes, Sum Up, and Budgets. I won’t explain how the app works, but there are some key points. The first is that every expense and income requires a tag (you create as many or as few tags as you like), which places it in a category. It is easy, on the respective tags, to see where your money goes, and where it comes from. It is also easy to see a summary of expenses by day, which allows you to track your daily spending habits.

Second, the budgets tab allows you to enter as many different budgets as you need; as you create the budget, you can choose which tag(s) take money out of the budget. The main budget screen tells you how much is left in each budget, as well as where you have over-spent. It’s a great visualization tool for what you’re spending!

2. The analysis tools are great!

Toshl has all the analysis tools that I liked on Mint: graphs to show the trends in my spending, when I was over budget and when I was under, and when my income exceeded my expenses. A quick trip online allows me to view all this information easily, with clean, simple, and useful graphs. I love clean, simple, and useful graphs.

My favorite graph, in fact, is the “Sum Up” tab. It provides analysis of your current earnings and expenses in comparison to previous months, and it’s a great reminder that I should be attempting to spend less than I make every month. While I’m not always successful (Christmas is difficult!), I am more successful now than ever.

3. Toshl reminds me that spending money should hurt

Another reason I love Toshl is that it requires me to enter every expense on my own. One of the most notable disadvantages to debit cards is that it is often too easy to swipe a card without realizing how the expenses add up; the pain of separating from cash is reduced, and it’s easy to spend more than you intend. Using Toshl reinstates that pain, requiring that I acknowledge how much I am spending. It reminds me that every coke and snack and miscellaneous expense adds up. As a result, I weigh each purchase carefully against past and future expenses. Do I really need that coke when I’ve already spent $20 on snacks and drinks over the last week?

The pain of entering expenses into Toshl makes it a useful tool, in world of debit cards, for keeping to my budget. Every purchase I make is immediately visible against my budget, and I consequently make fewer unnecessary purchases. It is a constant reminder to spend less, and it has helped more than any other budgeting tool I’ve tried.

A miscellaneous note is that I am able to keep better track of my cash purchases, which is not easily recorded through Mint.

Toshl is for Budgeting; Mint is for Overall Financial Management

Toshl and Mint are different beasts. Mint’s greatest advantage is that it provides a mostly-up-to-date view of your bank accounts and loans, and thus your overall net worth. Mint is also useful if detailed information about certain expenses is necessary for taxes, or if you have more loans and accounts than you can easily keep track of in your head. If that works for you, or if you need that security, then great.

On the other hand, Toshl’s purpose as an app is not to give you a snapshot of your total net worth against your total debt; in my opinion, that is your responsibility. Toshl’s purpose is as a budgeting app. In this way, the month-to-month summary is the most useful, as it encourages you to spend less than you make every single month. And after all, that’s the only real way to save money.


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