Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Review of BusyWallet

I came across Prem Sagar's blog and his post about his side project of creating an expense tracker for busy people. I've always been using tools to track my expenses right from my college days (where I used pen & paper!). 

One of my pain points with expense tracking is getting bogged down by minor details. I always attempt to assign an expense to a meaningful category that looks good on my dashboard (monthly summary). Inevitably, I start organizing categories into sub-categories. Even after all this work, I come across expenses that don't seem to fit into any category. Rather than creating a new category on-the-fly, I assign it to a Miscellaneous category, thinking that I'll get around to fixing that odd expense, which never happens. 

Another pain point is missing out on cash expenses despite my best efforts. Earlier, I used to note down exactly how much cash I had in my wallet at the start of each week. By the end of the week, I would check if I missed out on cash expenses that I didn't track and assign them to Misc category. This continued for a few years, until I finally resigned to only tracking those cash expenses I could remember.

This is where I found Prem's approach with BusyWallet simple & rather unique. Instead of breaking your head over expense categories, he proposes to just track your overall monthly expenditure. The Dashboard provides a visual to track this metric over many months. This metric is also one of the key factors for financial freedom planning, which I feel is a natural progression for this tool. Since you're tracking your bank accounts, there is no chance of missing out on any expenditure.

  • Simple & unique approach for tracking monthly expenditure
  • No complications with expense categories (there are none)
  • No issues with missing out on cash expenses
As Prem mentions in his post, the learning curve for using this tool is rather steep. I've compiled a list of steps that anyone can use to make good use of this tool in short time.

(1) Download your savings account statement in Excel format 
(2) Note the ending balance for each month 
(3) Note the starting balance for the first month 
(4) Repeat the following steps for each month -

(a) Filter out rows that correspond to expenses
(b) You should be left with only records that correspond to other transactions (not expenses)
(c) Label each record as Investment, Income or Transfer.This serves as a sanity record to validate that you are indeed left with records that are not expenses. The actual label you use is not important. 
(d) Add up all records under the withdrawal column
(e) Add up all records under the deposits column
(f) Compute the difference = deposits - withdrawal

At this point, you have ending balance and the "Adjustment-In" figure for each month. Enter this in the tool. Repeat this for each of your savings account. Although there is some manual work here, its a lot less when you compare it with tracking your day-to-day expenses. 

Suggestions (ordered by priority)
  • Clicking 'Add Transaction' in an account page should have that account selected (by default, it goes to the first account)
  • Support adding multiple transactions
  • Show the average monthly expenditure in the dashboard (maybe a red dotted line in the graph)


I wouldn't go as far to say that there is no benefit of breaking down your expenses by category. This is absolutely essential if you are looking to cut down your expenses. Just having one number is not going to help you there.

What I think people need is a tool that automatically assigns expenses to predefined categories, thus letting the user focus on why they really track expenses - to know where the money goes and which categories to target for reduction. 

No comments:

Post a Comment