Saver: Expense Tracking with Style

There are certain application categories that seem to draw a lot of attention from both developers and users. Aside from to-do list apps, the most popular category would have to be applications that promise to help you keep track of your money.

Some of them focus on sheer information while many have tried to gain users with stunning user interfaces. Saver falls into the latter camp, at once entering a saturated market and shattering the average user’s expectations. Want to learn about how it works? Follow along after the jump.

First Impressions

The first thing that greets you upon launching Saver is a gorgeous design that tries to melt away as much as it helps point attention towards your data instead of the visual chrome inside the app. There are different “tabs” that can be cycled through from the bottom navigation bar, including a settings page, daily view, quick-addition view and a gorgeous pie-graph view of your month’s expenses. Even while flipping through the app for the first time, you get the impression that the developer has thought through what UI design should mean; in this case, it means a beautiful shell of an app with the important, most interacted-with data displayed in a stunning way.

Using the App

Upon pressing the “+” symbol for the quick-addition page, you’re prompted to enter the amount of money that you’ve just spent and assign a category to the item. Many of the most common categories are there, including Groceries, Vacation, Food, Utilities, Amusement and iTunes. Each of the icons is perfectly rendered on the iPhone 4, providing enough information without becoming an overly-cluttered mess.

Saver's entry screen is well-designed and functional

Saver's entry screen is well-designed and functional

Saver  allows the user to define a monthly budget, which is nice, but its implementation at this stage of the game is half-baked. For many — myself included — a monthly budget is essentially impossible to create due to an ever-fluctuating income schedule. A weekly view, in this instance, that allows you to track the budget for each week, is paramount. In my tests, the app also doesn’t support adding each week individually so that you can simulate a weekly budget, a work-around that I was definitely hoping to utilize.

Visualization & Customization

The app does offer options for the Graph page, allowing you to view the money you’ve spent by category for the week, month or year. This is helpful if you’d like to track your expenses or see how you spent your money throughout the past, allowing you to adjust future plans (or re-assign all of those iTunes purchases you don’t want your significant other finding out about). Also in the Graph page, you can tap one of the categories and be taken to the history for that category, so you can see that your food expenses are so high because of that dinner with your mother-in-law.

Saver's 'Graph' view is gorgeous and functional

Saver's 'Graph' view is gorgeous and functional

Besides the gorgeous Graph view you can also view your information as a list of items divided by category with the amount for each entry on the side. This is useful if you want a more granular view of your expenses; say, if you’re trying to see if you spend more money on a Monday instead of a Sunday, or whether you’re more likely to pick up a pizza when your wife works late on Wednesdays.

There is, of course, another option. The Settings page offers a nice amount of customization, including the ability to set a passcode for the app. Sure, every time you launch the app you’ll have to type in another four digits, but now nobody has to know that you went and rented Toy Story 3 from iTunes three times in the past week. You can also decide that the week starts with Monday (for those of you still in a school-week state of mind), which currency you would like to use and view the developer’s website and help info.

Saver gives you plenty of options so you can track your way

Saver gives you plenty of options so you can track your way

Maybe the most useful setting, though, is the ability to decide which screen you’d like to see upon launching the app. For many this should be the ‘New Entry’ screen, but you can choose any of the other screens (bar Settings) if you’re so inclined.

Deeper Control of Your Tracking

There is some more (somewhat-hidden) functionality buried within the app. The developer offers a free backup service for the app so that you can retrieve your information should you (or someone else) do something with your iPhone or the application itself that requires a restore or re-install of the app.

One of my favorite features is so well hidden that I discovered it by accident while I was poking through the app late at night. You can, upon tapping a category a second time, do a few things with the information that you’re trying to track.

Subcategories allow you to assign more detailed information to an expense

Subcategories allow you to assign more detailed information to an expense

You can also choose from some smaller, more precise sub-categories of the expense. For example, instead of simply assigning each purchase of an app to iTunes, you can hit iTunes twice and then say that you downloaded an Application. This applies to all of the categories; most of the common sub-categories or ubiquitous expenses can be found within this hidden sub-menu. It is also possible to add a note to a specific item. Say I re-up my Squarespace service for another month. While I can file it under Payments or Subscription, I can also add the more detailed “Squarespace” note that appears when I tap the expense.

If the sub-categories aren’t broad enough for you or you would like to get really specific about what you just spent your hard-earned cash on, the app allows you to create your own sub-categories. I’m in the middle of paying off a loan from a family member, so I just hit Payments and then Name and I know that I covered my expense for that month.

Conclusion

Is Saver worth choosing over the many other apps promising to help you track your expenses? I would say yes, but with hopes that the developer sticks with the application. There are a few wrinkles — like the missing functionality of utilizing a weekly budget — that should be ironed out, but the app is beautiful enough and useful enough as-is to warrant a purchase.


Summary

Saver is an expense tracking app that aims to be not only functional, but also enjoyable to use.

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