I got married recently. Among many other exciting new things, this means that my wife and I are in the process of combining our finances. After talking about it, we've decided that we'd like to use an app to create a budget and track our spending, and that we'd both use it to track purchases.
I've downloaded a handful of apps and looked into a lot more, and I can't seem to find one that meets the features I'm looking for. There are also an overwhelming number of options out there, and it's hard to find one that meets our needs.
These features are listed in order of importance.
Any app without these features is not an acceptable answer.
1: Must automatically import transactions The application needs to be able to automatically import transactions from our bank, and allow us to categorize and approve them as they come in. This saves a dramatic amount of time (vs manually entering transactions) and is likely the only way we'll stick with this long-term.
2: Must be available on Android and iOS. My wife has an iPhone, I have an Android. For our needs, it has to be available on our phones - we're going to have a much harder time keeping up with tracking if we can't put it in as soon as we make the purchase.
3: Must be able to share or link accounts. My wife and I must both be able to share an account, or have separate accounts that are linked. The whole point is so that we can see what money the other is spending and hold ourselves accountable to a budget.
4: Must be able to create custom spending categories. Some apps that I've looked at have pre-built categories, and they don't let you create your own. This won't work for how we budget - for example, we have a problem with eating out so we want to budget and track "Groceries", "Eating out", and "Snacks" (getting candy at the gas station) differently. Groceries are a responsible purchase, Snacks and Eating Out are not. We want to be able to build and customize our own spending categories to tailor the budget to our needs.
5: Reporting on spending by category and date. We need to be able to answer the question, "how much money did we spend on eating out last month?" so that we can hold ourselves accountable to our budget. Likewise, we need at least basic reporting on our overall financial trends month-to-month. More detailed reporting is better and a strong plus, but not absolutely required
6: Split categories. Let's say I go to the store and buy $50 worth of food and $50 worth of clothing. When it pulls in the $100 transaction, I need to be able to split it between "clothing" and "groceries". Otherwise, my budget will be off significantly.
7: Subcategories. I need to be able to have a "food" category with subcategories for "Groceries", "Eating Out", and "Snacks", or a "Car" category with subcategories "Gas", "Maintenance", "Insurance", etc. This will allow us to fully customize our budget and tracking for our needs.
8: Free of intrusive ads I can't stand regularly using an application (like Mint, which meets the other requirements) that has unavoidable, intrusive advertising. I'm totally happy to pay for a subscription - the amount of money we'll save by tracking our budget with discipline far outweighs the cost.
Not absolutely required, but things we're really looking for.
9: Built-in budget tracking. It would be nice if the software had a built-in way to create budgets for a time period and see if we're on track toward keeping it or not. For example, it would be nice to be able to set a $50 "Eating Out" budget for the month, and then easily see that we have spent $23 of that by day 2.
10: Recurring charges. We have several subscriptions - it would be very helpful if we could put in a charge with an amount and a date it recurs on. I've seen some apps that let you use this to plan ahead, and that would be very helpful.
11: Comments and tags on transactions. It's nice to be able to have comments and tags on transactions to help us remember exactly when, why, and where we spent that money.
12: Desktop/web app. It's usually faster to track a large number of transactions on a computer than it is on a phone. If they have an interface/app that I can access from a computer, that's a plus.
13: Data export. I'm a data analyst by trade, and so it would be nice if I could export the data into a CSV (or other format) and do my own analysis on it.
Willing to pay. We are willing to pay a decent one-time or monthly fee for this app (probably not more than $15/month), especially if it meets most or all of the features above. Free is obviously preferred, but this app would pay for itself many times over if it helps us budget more effectively.