We’re often 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 to. However, that doesn’t mean we’re using the best tools for our individual clients or 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.
THE BREAKDOWN: Each review gets the same thirteen yes/no questions, in three categories. Three of our team members answer 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. Now, we all know there’s “no such thing as a free lunch.” Just know these apps 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.
How is your information protected?
- All of your data in Lunch Money is protected and none of your bank credentials or personal identifiable information (other than the name and email you provide) is stored in their databases.
- You can also add extra security to your account by enabling two-factor authentication. Lunch Money supports using an authenticator app and SMS (US/Canada only).
- Your data is never sold to a third party (period) and you’ll never see an ad.
- Lunch Money currently costs $8/month or $80 for a year if you pay for 12 months up front.
- However, Lunch Money has offered a special discount for our readers of 25% off the annual rate when you use the code PETETHEPLANNER at checkout. Thanks, Lunch Money!
- Can transactions be split across multiple budget categories? — Yes
- Are there plan vs actual reports for past periods? — Yes
- Can target goals be set for categories? — Yes
- 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 — Yes
- 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? — Yes
- Can multiple budgets be kept? — Yes
- Can the app sync with checking, savings, credit card, loan, PayPal, and other financial products? — Yes
- Is there mobile access and synchronization? — No. Though the developer anticipates that a mobile option could be available by the end of the year.
- Are notifications provided when close or over budget? — No.
— Is the app easy to use – intuitive?
Damian — Yeah, actually. It may appear like it could be complicated or really involved if you’re looking through the website at a couple of the screenshots and animations (I’m looking at you, rules). Don’t fret. It’s simple to use with some great and powerful options behind the scenes. Once you get a feel for the app, even the “powerful” stuff is pretty easy to implement.
Gayle — Yes, it’s easy. The entire set up of Lunch Money is easy to understand and there are simple steps to get everything in working order. There’s a lot of flexibility in the set up, which I love.
Kristen — I found the app to be very intuitive. Linking my accounts, tagging transactions, and updating categories took very little time.
— Does the app encourage good behavior?
Damian — Not specifically. But, your data is all right there and presented in a very understandable way (there are some great chart options if you’re into that kind of thing). If you can motivate yourself based on what you see, then you’re in luck. If you’re looking for texts, alerts, alarms, and whatnot, this may not be for you.
Gayle — No, but it does provide great reporting data which helps me better understand my spending behavior.
Kristen — Not for me personally. I need more than a percentage or a dollar amount expressed in red to hold me accountable. However, the app provides the ability to analyze spending with several different filters. I found this encouraging but it’s very easy to ignore if you’re not interested in these analytics.
— Aesthetically pleasing?
Damian — Some of my favorite cars are very simple in appearance and design, which seems like an odd place for me to start. However, I appreciate a clean and uncluttered look that allows you to focus on the important stuff without the added distraction of ads and unnecessary descriptions or copy. In this way, Lunch Money delivers.
Gayle — It took me a little while to get used to the font and presentation of data, but once I adjusted, I realized how much I actually like the simplicity of the layout. It’s clean and streamlined, no garish colors and no ads.
Kristen — This platform is aesthetically simple, which I like. In a budgeting app I don’t need cluttered space, advertisements, and more clouding the data.
Scoring and Final Thoughts:
Damian — 8.5/10
I really enjoyed playing with Lunch Money. Connecting my accounts was a breeze and getting things set up was pretty quick as well. There’s always a bit of a learning curve with any new app, but Lunch Money streamlines this by keeping things relatively intuitive. Customer support is great and you get regular updates from the developer (a one-woman team!) as well. Is it perfect? Nah. I’d like to see some nod to goal setting/tracking to help with motivation and behavior. And I’d love to see an app, even if it’s scaled back a bit. But, is the app good? Oh, yeah. There’s a very likely chance that Lunch Money has earned some of my money and will become my preferred app for the foreseeable future.
Gayle — 8/10
I had to adjust to the simple aesthetic but the more I worked with Lunch Money, the more I liked it. It’s a straightforward and handy budgeting app that has pretty great data analysis. It’s easy to set up and sort/categorize transactions, review spending, and set up budgets for each month. I would like to see more functionality with savings goals and tracking, as well as have it connect with one of my small credit union accounts. Overall, I think this is a really great app at an affordable price.
Kristen — 8/10
I really like Lunch Money. It’s easy to use and accomplishes it’s goal with ease. One of my favorite features is how easy it is to review transactions to ensure proper placement within the categories. A couple mouse clicks and you can be sure your expenses are reflected accurately. My favorite feature is the ability to remove “recurring expenses” from your budget. These expenses are important and accounted for, but outside of your truly variable expenses. My only “wish” for Lunch Money would be to establish a savings tracker in addition to the expense tracker. The ability to analyze savings goals in the same way the app allows spending analysis would be great.
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.