One annoying drawback to debit cards is that deposits and withdrawals don't register instantly on your checking account -- which can give a false sense of your actual balance. Back in college I was often led astray by the "current balance" line on my ATM receipts, discovering a day or two late that I had overdrafted. (A very expensive mistake, indeed.)
Another challenge for would-be record-keepers is keeping track of spending. After all, when you withdraw money from an ATM, your debit card history won't show how you spent that cash -- whether on lattes, dinner or dry-cleaning.
Now online personal software service Mint.com has announced an updated iPhone app for tracking spending -- whether cash, debit or credit -- on the go. The free app allows users to punch in their cash transactions, along with pending expenses or credit/debit card transactions that have yet to clear. It gives you a more accurate reflection of how you're spending and how much you have available -- and it saves the embarrassment of an "insufficient funds" rejection or, worse, a $30 overdraft fee.
Mint's technology joins a growing set of financial apps that offer similar expense-tracking services. Here are four more that can help:
Xpenser: The software -- available on the iPhone, Android and WebOS devices -- lets you record expenses and even forward receipts from online purchases, which will be automatically included in your expense rundown. The service is not tied to your bank accounts, though, so you'll have to let it know what your starting balance is each month. For a fee, Xpenser also offers a more souped-up service that lets you record transactions from any device, import bank and credit card statements and export your data to budgeting software like Quickbooks. Those extras cost $9 a month after a 30-day free trial.
iPhone users will want to download the free app Fresh Xpense Capture for Xpenser, which acts as a conduit to your Xpenser account; it captures your expenses and relays them to Xpenser. Android and WebOS device users can just download "Xpenser" in the marketplace.
Pennies: Enter your expenses, as they occur, into the app, which then deducts the money from a personal budget (say your current checking account balance -- though you'll have to update it manually). You can enter expenses and categorize them in 10 different areas such as food, auto and personal. It's currently available on the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch. Cost: $2.99
Cashish: This free app is designed for people who spend mostly with cash; it lets you keep tabs of cash spending and cash earnings. While it's not hooked up to your checking account, like Mint, it does let you at least watch where all your dollars go.
PocketMoney Lite: The free version of this app lets you track all your income and expenses on the go from various accounts, including credit cards, savings, and checking. Again, it's not hooked up to your accounts to allow for real-time balances, but you can manually punch in your starting balance at the beginning of the month in checking and go from there. Charts can also help you visualize where your money is going.
Farnoosh Torabi is a personal finance journalist and commentator. She is the author of the book Psych Yourself Rich, Get the Mindset and Discipline You Need to Build Your Financial Life. Follow her at www.farnoosh.tv and on Twitter/farnoosh
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