This is an un-paid review for which I received no compensation or reimbursement. I’ve found the software very useful and worth sharing.
There’s no doubt keeping track of your personal finances is important to building wealth. At the very least being able to see income versus expenses (categorised broadly) is essential. For those of us that like to thoroughly examine our financial data, we often end up with spreadsheets that we can fill in on a regular basis. This is exactly what I did in my early 20’s, ending up with a tarted up excel workbook.
This was fine for the better part of a year, yet manual inputs were tedious and I soon started looking at alternatives of which there are quite a few.
I wanted a platform that met the following criteria:
- Tracked expenses
- Tracked incomes
- Capacity for multiple customised budgets
- Quality Reporting
- Live account feeds for international bank accounts (a luxury, but exceptionally useful).
The software that best fit my needs is Pocketsmith.
Pocketsmith was founded by its New Zealand developers in 2008 and now provides its personal finance software to customers in 196 countries. It recently had a major under the hood refresh and was given a more modern user interface, which is quite pleasing to the eye.
What’s it cost?
The cloud based personal finance software comes in 3 iterations:
1. Free which allows you to create 12 budgets and have 2 manually updated accounts and 3 months history
2. Premium ($9.95AUD/month) with unlimited budgets, and history. Linked accounts are updated live.
3. Super ($14.95AUD/month) Unlimited accounts and 30 years financial forecast.
I opted for the free option for several weeks before requesting a trial of the Premium option, which I was kindly given for 1 month at no charge. I then purchased the yearly subscription (which comes at a discount compared to monthly payments).
What Pocketsmith offers
Fully featured Dashboard
The Dashboard provides an attractive graphical overview of net worth (green area graph) and forecast (blue area graph) as well as tabled account values, recent transactions and a doughnut chart of expenses (date ranges are customisable). The Dashboard also provides warnings about user selected budgets that are close to being exceeded and the duration before the budget resets (these can be modified by the user).
The Premium version offers unlimited budgets (Free provides 12). These can be set up as weekly, monthly, yearly or some combination (e.g. every 3 months, or every fortnight). They’re displayed on their own dedicated screen as well as the Dashboard.
Your transaction history can be viewed for either all or selected accounts. From here you can manually categorise or label transactions, split transactions, add refunds or reimbursements. The search engine is useful and also enables you to set up ‘filters’ and ‘rules’ which can apply to future transactions; for example, you could have every transaction from the merchant “McDonalds” categorised as “Fast Food” or “Eating Out” and this would occur automatically for new transactions. Transaction history can be arranged by category, merchant, date or account. A key feature that led me to Pocketsmith was its support for international accounts and currencies which is essential to non-US users wanting good personal finance software.
Categories are fully customisable and can incorporate timeframes and spending limits to create budgets. Your categories feature also in the excellent Cashflows statement, where you can view your month by month income and expenses in full detail.
Live and automatic bank feeds offered by the premium version of Pocketsmith provide for an elegant solution to manual input or uploading your own files. Live bank feeds are useful for those with frequent transactions and multiple accounts. Transaction history is fully provided for and can be arranged by category, store purchase, date or account. A key feature that led me to Pocketsmith was its support for international accounts and currencies which is essential to non-US users wanting good personal finance software. Another useful feature is that Pocketsmith learns your category behaviour and will start automatically assigning transactions to the correct category. I had very few errors with this feature, and they were simply fixed in a once a week/month over view. For those not using the Live automatic bank feed, transaction history can be uploaded in the form of OFX, QFX or QIF formats (CSV is not currently supported for uploads).
Net worth statement
Although a little basic, the Net Worth statement aggregates all accounts (e.g. savings, transaction etc) and debts (e.g. credit cards) in addition to user inputs for other assets and liabilities. It’s not quite there in terms of elegance and could really use integration with other software (e.g. an online broker for tracking investments) but is a good start.
The Income & expense statement displays your budgeted and actual expenses vs income for a given period (fully customisable). It’s a simple way to see those categories that are over budget for the period.
The Cashflow statement is one of my favourite features on Pocketsmith. This is a great feature for those that want to drill down into the details of their income and expense categories. The statement consists of three sections; i) Summary ii) Income Categories and iii) Expense Categories (not shown below). You can easily select which categories are displayed vs hidden here. Once again, date ranges are fully customisable so whether you’re interested in the past month, past quarter or past year you can see with ease your income categories, expense categories and the surplus/deficit for each month. The proof is in the pudding, as they say and for me, prior to using Pocketsmith, I had 5 out of the prior 6 moths in deficit. Since opening an account, I’ve had only 1 monthly deficit. This in itself suggests the subscription is worth the cost.
Calendar lets you quickly forecast upcoming expenses.
Online Help and Support
During the infrequent times I’ve contact support (with a live feed error or just a question) I’ve found their replies prompt and thorough. Issues were resolved very quickly (live feed error was due to third-party software incorrectly parsing AMEX data). They also seem to take feedback seriously and have an online community of users who provide ongoing feedback and suggestions for improvements (which suggestions users can vote for to increase their chance of being reviewed by the developer team).
Pocketsmith uses 128-bit SSL encryption, and is ‘read-only’ on automated feeds to increase security. More info on security features here.
Pocketsmith allows users to import from Mint, integrate with Xero, shared access which can be for collaboration with another Pocketsmith user, whether a family member, friend or financial advisor. e-mail notifications are also available; I use these to provide a bi-weekly summary of all accounts. Finally, for those that desire or like me, are a bit of a finance nerd, export of data (e.g. Transactions or Cashflows) as a .csv file for further manipulation in software like Excel or Numbers is available and useful when you wish to do further analysis on your spending habits. I do this once a year and use charting features to get an idea of trends etc.
Hoped for future additions
Pocketsmith could be improved with a more robust Net Worth platform, for example integration to online brokering accounts or other investment services like Superannuation, Sharesight et al. but for now I’m content to update these investments manually (I keep a separate spreadsheet for tracking Net Worth and my Superannuation accounts anyway).
I’d also like to see Budgets able to nest under a parent budget, which I believe is currently in the works (i.e. “Restaurants/Cafe/Fast Food to be nested under “Eating Out” so that you could allocate sub-budget limits and maintain an existing overall parent budget). [Update: Nested budgets was completed some time in 2016 – it works fairly well!]. I’ve had very few issues with the software and find it exceptionally good value. The developers are working on a dedicated app for iOS and Android which will be a neat addition, although the cloud based software works fine on my iPhone. [Update: There is now an iOS app for Pocketsmith, which allows you to view budgets, accounts and categorise expenses. It’s not feature rich, but does the basics well.
Overall, Pocketsmith is one of the most complete cloud based personal finance software platforms I’ve used and I highly recommend it if you’re looking for a personal finance or budgeting solution with live account feeds with support for international accounts and currencies.
On a rating out of 10, Pocketsmith earns a solid 8.5.
Below are some alternativews to Pocketsmith, which are worth a consideration as well.
Mint.com, developed by Intuit (who also developed Quicken) and I’m sure is very good judging by the number of users and its online popularity. Unfortunately for most of the globe, it currently only supports live feeds from accounts in the USA and Canada so I had to rule it out.
YNAB (You Need a Budget) another popular alternative available which I’ve no experience with!
MoneyWiz was developed for OSX, iOS and Windows. It’s a beautiful solution with great support for international bank accounts. I used this product for around 6 months in 2014/15. I trialled the free and paid versions of MoneyWiz and found the stand-alone software beautiful and the support staff incredibly hard working and helpful. MW improved leaps and bounds but I found myself frustrated with live feed and catergorisation errors, which led me back to the drawing board.
Have any questions about Pocketsmith or use it yourself? I’d love to hear from you so please post your comments! 🙂