Often our team is asked how you track your expenses in an attempt to maintain a household budget. Admittedly we all have biases and apps we tend to gravitate toward. However, that doesn’t mean we’re using the best tools for our individual clients or maybe even for ourselves. In an attempt to understand more of the market offering for budgeting apps we’ve launched this mini series. We’re trying out some of the more common tracking/budgeting apps and reviewing them, so you don’t have to. Each review will consist of the same thirteen yes/no questions, broken into three categories. In addition, three of our team members will provide a short answers to three subjective questions. Lastly, we will each give the app a score, 1-10 with a short paragraph for score justification.
But first, let’s get some disclaimers out of the way. Most of the apps we’re choosing to review are free. Think back to your very first economics class. We all know there’s “no such thing as a free lunch.” Just know these apps, like any other free offerings are using your data. They might be selling it to partners, using it to send targeted messages, etc. There’s always a cost. For this series our team only tested apps we were comfortable sharing our data with. If a platform makes you uncomfortable, don’t use it.
Let’s get to it.
Powered by Marcus by Goldman Sachs, Clarity Money is advertised as an app to help track spending and grow savings.
How is your information protected?
Transmitted data is encrypted and stored data is encrypted as well. Device security includes authentication via Passcode/PIN, Fingerprint/Touch ID, and when applicable Face ID. If signing into a new device or from a new browser you may be required to verify your identity.
- Can transactions be split across multiple budget categories? – NO
- Are there plan vs actual reports for past periods?? – NO
- Can target goals be set for categories ? – NO
- Are multiple sources of money (checking, savings, lines of credit) available to include in the budget? – YES
- Can multiple versions of a budget be maintained and can past versions be accessed? – NO
- Can budget categories be added/deleted/named/modified? Grouped together – NO
- Are credit card transactions categorized into budget categories? – YES
- Is there forecasting for future income and spending? – YES
- Are there trend reports showing spending over multiple periods? – NO
- Can multiple budgets be kept? – NO
- Can the app sync with checking, savings, credit card, loan, paypal, and other financial products? – YES
- Is there mobile access and synchronization? – YES
- Are notifications provided when close or over budget? – NO
Is the app easy to use – intuitive?
Damian – Yes. Information will be readily at hand and easy to review as needed.
Gayle – The app was intuitive in its functionality, but not as a budget tool.
Kristen – Very. I found it very easy to input my information and begin to review my spending.
Does the app encourage good behavior?
Damian – If you are the type of person that can keep things in check with some notifications on how much you’ve spent recently, then possibly. I think the app tries to keep your spending (in aggregate) at the front of your mind.
Gayle – No. There’s no tracking of planned versus actual spending so there’s no way to determine behavior.
Kristen – No. Almost every time I logged in to the app I was prompted with a “your spending is on track.” The app does not allow the user to enter goals which means there was nothing to gauge my progress against.
Damian – Very well put together. Easy to look at and understand.
Gayle – Yes. Nice colored boxes and charts.
Kristen – Yes. Very clean and organized dashboard.
Scoring and Final Thoughts:
Damian – 4/10
Clarity is a helpful tool if used correctly, but shouldn’t be confused for a detailed budgeting app. If you’re not quite to the point of budgeting, but want to be in better touch with what you’re spending money on, this may not be a bad choice as the app is easy to use and the information is presented very simply. The “budgeting” portion of the app isn’t probably what most people are looking for, but it may have its place in some circumstances. For example, if you only care to track certain types of transactions in order to keep an overall budget under control, this could potentially work. If you’re trying to focus on how much you’re spending on food, for example, you can choose to track all of those expenses and be able to find that data quickly.
I really want to like Clarity, and frankly, I think it does what it sets out to do quite nicely. But, for our purposes, it falls short.
Gayle – 2/10
This is strictly a spending tracking app, even if you get the budget app on your IOS device. The app couldn’t connect with my bank, and without a connection, you don’t have access to the features. Once I found an institution that it could connect to, I was in business but still not happy with the offerings in terms of categorization of spending, forecasting, and planning.The limited functionality, limited flexibility, and no real semblance of a budget tool makes Clarity unusable as a budgeting tool. However, if you’d like pretty charts of your past spending, the app can do this for you.
Kristen – 3/10
If you’re on the hunt for a tracking app only, this might work well for you. However, I think the app leaves much to be desired. In my experience many banks/credit card companies break down your spending much like this application. The dashboard is well organized and aesthetically pleasing but the limited features don’t allow me to recommend this app to future clients. My biggest complaint is the feedback given without a basis for goals. The app almost always told me “You’re on track.” Without the input of a goal the measurement is baseless. If anything I might use this application to talley my spending to then input into a spreadsheet.
To learn more about the experts who wrote this review, please visit YourMoneyLine.com.
Damian is the lead Financial Concierge on Your Money Line, the financial help line serving all Pete the Planner® Financial Wellness clients. Damian is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional and loves answering your money questions. Despite sharing a last name and sense of humor, Damian and Pete are not related.