Budgeting app reviews: Fast Budget, Spending Tracking and Money Manager compared

Budgeting app reviews: Fast Budget, Spending Tracking and Money Manager compared

Without keeping track of your spending, it can be tricky to budget, so I tried out a few budgeting apps to see if they could help.

Lily Canter

Household money

Lily Canter
Updated on 11 September 2019

As someone who is increasingly carrying less cash, it can be difficult to keep track of my spending, so I decided to test three apps to see which one is the best to help me stay on budget.

Prior to contactless payments and online shopping, I rigidly set myself a weekly budget and took the money out in cash.

This was a failproof way to keep track of my spending and only spend the money in my wallet.

But in today's increasingly cashless society, this system no longer works, so I set out to find a new solution.

There are now hundreds of Android and iOS apps, which help you keep track of your personal finances.

Some of these such as Chip and Money Dashboard even link to your bank account.

You can go a step further and open a bank account with an app-based provider such as Monzo or Starling Bank, also known as challenger banks.

These banks send you spending notifications and let you ringfence cash for savings, as well as display your income and expenditure in attractive infographics.

I have two High Street bank accounts and three savings accounts that I like to keep track of, but I was not keen to link these to a third-party app.

Instead, I decided to try out three free budget apps to keep track of my irregular freelance payments versus my monthly spending.

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Fast Budget screenshot. (Image: Lily Canter/Fast Budget)

Fast Budget

The promise: "Visualise the flow of your money at a glance."

What it offers: This comprehensive app can synchronise up to five devices and has over 90 currencies available.

It provides graphs and charts of your income and expenditure and has a range of categories that can be edited and rearranged.

The app can also track credit cards and their interest rates and has a section for debts.

Multiple accounts can be added, and you can export data as a PDF, CSV or XLS (Excel) file.

Google Play Store rating: 4.6/5

Apple App Store rating: 4.3/5

Compare savings accounts at loveMONEY

What was my experience like?

This is a well-designed app with attractive icons, modern graphics, easy navigation and good use of colour.

It is very easy to gain an overview of your spending from different accounts over the last week and month and see your budget at a glance.

For me, it was definitely the best app for visualising money flow and lived up to that promise.

There was a good range of categories, but it was slightly irritating having to select a sub-category all the time, particularly for food and drinks. It felt an unnecessary step to choose between food and drinks again or eating out or bar.

Fast Budget is fast and it is simple to add income and expenses, while the overview pie chart on the landing page means you can see if you are over or under budget quickly.

In the free version, you do get animated advertisements popping up, but these can be quickly closed, and you don't have to watch them.

There is also a good support system and handy FAQs on the associated website.

The only downside is that it is unclear how many accounts, budgets or credit cards you can set up with the free version.

The unlimited version is only available in the Pro version, which costs £4.99.

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Spending Tracker screenshot. (Image: Lily Canter/Spending Tracker)

Spending Tracker

The promise: "The easiest and most user-friendly expense manager app."

What it offers: This no-frills app will track your expenses and income weekly, monthly or yearly and enables you to set a budget.

It has different spending categories and a variety of icons to choose from when setting your own categories.

You can set up recurring expenses and multiple accounts.

Google Play Store rating: 4.5/5

Apple App Store rating: 4.7/5

What was my experience like?

In all honesty, I was surprised this app had such high ratings. It is incredibly basic and the chalk on a blackboard design is rather anachronistic.

There are small adverts at the bottom, but these are easy to ignore.

Spending Tracker promises visual reports when you rotate your device, but I could not get this to work and noticed in the reviews that other users had similar problems.

The swiping across navigation is easy to use and being able to colour code payments was handy.

But compared to other free products, it has less functionality and appears dated.

There is no option for tracking savings or credit cards, and no sub-categories.

Transactions can be exported for free as a CSV file but for PDFs, you have to buy the Pro version for £2.99.

Overall, this is a very basic app which might be a good budgeting starter app for young teens or those with simple accounts, but for most consumers it won't go far enough.

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Money Manager screenshot. (Image: Lily Canter/Money Manager)

Money Manager

The promise: "Makes managing personal finances as easy as pie!"

What is offers: Similar to the other apps, it allows you to record income and expenditure.

The app also generates spending reports allowing you to view your financial data daily, weekly and monthly.

On top of this, Money Manager allows you to record data for savings, investments, loans, insurance, credit and debit cards.

You can automatically backup to Google Drive and export Excel files.

You are limited to 10 accounts in the free version although the £4.49 paid version offers unlimited accounts, no adverts and you can manage the app from a PC.

Google Play Store rating: 4.6/5

Apple App Store rating: 4.7/5

Compare savings accounts at loveMONEY

What was my experience like?

Similar to Fast Budget, this app offers lots of functions on the free version and different ways of viewing your money, including on a monthly calendar.

The filter button enables users to look at different spending elements in decent detail such as cash only and food, while the pie charts allow you to see where your money is going.

It is also easy to set up repeat expenses.

Unfortunately, I found the layout less attractive than Fast Budget as this app tends to portray information in lists and does not have a useful summary page.

I found it more difficult to get an overall sense of whether I was under or over budget in one quick glance as the focus is on numbers rather than visuals.

Money Manager is great for the fine detail though as you can click on a specific date on the calendar and see exactly what you spent and also add a note.

Which app was my favourite?

My favourite app of the three has to be Fast Budget.

Its attractive visuals and easy functionality made it the best and quickest app for keeping track of my money.

You can literally glance at the screen for a couple of seconds and know exactly how much you have spent, and on what.

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