For a long time I’ve been searching for a simple to use application that allows me to keep an eye on what’s going in and out of my account each time, without having to fork out for an enormous, overwhelming program designed solely for professional accountants.
It’s proven harder to find than a good Nicholas Cage movie, but now I’m trying out MoneyWiz, and it’s fair to see I’m optimistic.
Setup & Interface
I know they say you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but in actual fact that’s a very hard thing to avoid, and I’ve found it particularly hard in the digital world. If an app or a website is poorly designed, it’s often tough to stick around and give it a chance. And again, with many supposedly ‘personal’ account apps, this is the case. However with MoneyWiz, I was pleasantly surprised.
From the outset, you’re provided with a clean, organized black and white interface that is welcoming, and considering my experience with more complex apps, it was somewhat relaxing. It generally feels like you’re using a personal app, rather than a professional one. Whether that turns out to be a good thing or not depends on what’s sacrificed, but we’ll look more at features later.
When you open up MoneyWiz, you’re faced with a couple of splash screens that you should be able to navigate your way through unhindered, and once you’ve done so and have reached the main application, you should see the following:
From here, as you’ll see, you can either just logout the account you’ve just setup, or you can add yourself a new account to start managing your money. Unless you’ve changed your mind about using the app already, then you’ll want to add a new account. To do so, hit the big ‘add account’ button in the middle of the first page and you’ll see the following splash menu:
On the left we have the menu you should see, and on the right is what appears when you hit ‘current account’. This is probably the most common type of account, so is what I’ve used for the review. However, there are a handful of specific options available for credit accounts, such as limits etc. that would appear here.
Once you’ve filled in the details, you’ll enter into the bread and butter of the application. Where it all happens. You should see the main screen as shown here:
This is the main layout of the app. Down the left hand pane, you have access to all of the accounts you’ve setup under one login, as well as access to the other feature areas that we’ll inspect in a while. However the general layout of this screen remains the same throughout the app. Obviously the largest pane which dominates the space is where all of your information is displayed once you’ve selected something to analyse.
Balances is displayed at the bottom, alongside the next important stage of setup, the ‘+’ icon at the bottom right. This is how you add income, expenditures, transfers and payees. Basically, this is how you add information to your currently bare account.
This is the pane for adding a new income, and it’s near identical for adding expenditure. Just fill in the details, it’s pretty intuitive so don’t worry.
Let’s carry on where we left off, with the basics. Adding transactions is probably the most fundamental use of MoneyWiz. You can add recurring income/payments, or you can add one off transfers, but every change you make will effect your overall balance and the reports that are automatically generated from the data you enter. Take care to be precise, particularly with the recurring payments, as you might find that after a while your balance might not be as accurate as you’d like it to be. You can assign any transactions to categories such as travel, taxes, bills and phones etc, so later you can track what you’re spending where. Once you’ve entered enough transactions, you should see something like this:
From here you have the relevant data you need to potentially make use of the other, more advanced, features that you see listed down the left hand side. Let’s take a look at these in turn.
There’s nothing especially complicated about any of this, just what you’d expect I suppose. The budgets features allows you to set a limit for how much you spend in certain areas, denoted by the aforementioned categories. So, for example, you might want to allocated £1,000 to your taxes this month, and you can. By adding a new budget and using a form which should be familiar to you by now, you can allocated £1,000 of your balance to your taxes as shown below:
Now, in the main pane you’ll see all the transactions that fall into the category you chose for your budget. So for me these are the ones I entered as ‘taxes’ in the original pane. You’ll now see that a couple of aspects have changed though. At the bottom you’ll be shown how much of your budget has been used already, and it’s very easy to add more elements to this status bar, if you like, by using the ‘+’ next to it. So in the example above I’ve also added how much is remaining to use in this budget.
Secondly, you’ll also see that underneath the name of the budget in the left hand pane, there’s now a green progress bar which visually displays how much is used. The bar goes red when you get dangerously close to the limit. This feature is particularly useful if you just want to quickly glance at a long list of budgets, and get an idea of the general state of your finances.
Next, we have the ability to schedule payments. Again, this should be pretty self explanatory, but what you get here is a calendar view, which shows by placing green or red spots on days of the month, when payments are due to go out. It also neatly separates what’s going out today with everything else that’s happening in the future. You can change the period of this easily by pressing on ‘click to set period’ in the bottom status bar.
This is also where you can add recurring payments such as salary, direct debits etc. They’ll be entered into the slot that you decide until the end date you select, or forever.
Reports is the feature that allows you to get a graphical representation of you finances. Automatically generating various graphs to show different aspects of your income and outgoings. The basic graph is a simple bar chart which displays your income on a day next to your expenditure on the same day. Clearly showing how much you spent in relation to how much you brought in. It’s useful, and it’s visually simple to use for simple users such as myself.
Also, as you might have noticed already, in the bottom left of the window underneath the label ‘Reports’ you get a small amount of other information, including ‘Net Worth’, essentially the total of all your accounts, how much you’ve budgeted, how much you’ve used of your budget and how much is remaining.
MoneyWiz comes with a few added extras that make it a more complete financial package. Firstly, is the inclusion of hundreds of currencies as standard. You can set your local currency, but also select via check boxes which you want ‘active’ within the app. By default these include British Pounds, US Dollars, Euros and the Japanese Yen. Also built in is currency conversion between any of these currencies.
Secondly, is their e-mail support. Available in any of the sixteen languages supported by the application, including English, Spanish, Swedish, Russian, Portuguese and, they claim, ‘more to come’.
Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, MoneyWiz syncs automatically with your iOS devices too, so you can access your finances on the go as well. We’ll be bringing you the reviews of the iOS apps shortly, in which we’ll look at how that synchronization performs, so keep an eye out for that if you’re interested.
Is MoneyWiz The Right App for You to Manage Your Finances?
MoneyWiz is one of the only applications I’ve used, that actually stays true to its name of ‘personal finance manager’. Often, personal finance managers or organizers, whatever you want to call them, don’t feel very personal at all. Having said that, there are a number of useful, advanced features that business users might also enjoy, such as the budgeting and reports, as well as the international aspect of the app.
Although the interface is clean and simple to navigate, and it looks very good, I have a problem with any application that deviates so far from the ‘normal’ UI that you find on an OS. The leather look attempts to give it the feel of a physical personal organizer, however down to personal taste, I don’t like it. The same goes for the calendar look in the reports section. It’s not just MoneyWiz that does this though, many Apple applications adopt this approach now too, and I can’t say I’m a huge fan. Having said that, though, the UI is beautiful when compared to apps such as Quicken, one of the leaders in this market.
Speaking of Quicken, let’s get onto price. Whereas Quicken can set you back anything up to $149.99, depending on the package you opt for, MoneyWiz is sold on the Mac App Store at £17.99, which is a perfectly reasonable price for software which I consider fairly powerful.
Overall though, although it does have its drawbacks and is not as suitable for pro users as rival apps, it doesn’t claim to be. It feels like a personal app, it behaves like a personal app, and most of all, it allows me to fully manage (and more) my personal finances. I’d definitely recommend it to anyone who, like me, just wants a simple looking place to keep track of finances.