Pennies review: Budgeting app for people who hate to budget
Keep better track of your money by using this app on your iPhone. It also works with Apple Watch.
By J.R. Bookwalter
MacworldJUL 15, 2015 10:00 pm PDT
At a glance
Confession: I will go to great lengths to avoid creating or following any kind of financial plan. Worse yet, the odds of me winning the lottery or becoming independently wealthy anytime soon appear slim, so budgeting money is a necessary evil I’ll have to endure for the foreseeable future.
If this sounds familiar, it’s worth investing a few bucks into an iPhone budgeting app to help tame such economic gymnastics—and luckily,
Pennies is one of the easiest to use and happens to be the most convenient, as well.
Pennies from heaven
Pennies isn’t concerned with the particulars of what you’re buying or where that money comes from in the first place. Instead, the app streamlines the process so users won’t become burdened by all the unnecessary details typically required with financial management software.
Setting up any number of budgets is a snap: Choose from one-off or repeating monthly, weekly, or bi-weekly choices, assign a name, start date, and currency type, then enter the amount available to spend. From there, it’s a simple matter of making entries with each purchase, and Pennies takes care of the rest.
By default, users can view the number of dollars and days remaining. A horizontal gesture moves between budgets, while a vertical swipe switches the view to funds and time remaining for the current day. New income or expenses from today or yesterday can be entered by tapping the “+” button; there’s no provision for adding earlier purchases, so you’ll want to start budgeting at the beginning of the cycle.
The app makes it easy to see at a glance how well you’re sticking to a budget with vibrant colors. If money is being spent too quickly, Pennies will warn you by changing the “fuel gauge” background to red as the amount dwindles. (Looks like it’s time to stay in and eat leftovers.) Otherwise, green or blue means you’re cleared for additional spending. Should you forget to enter expenses, the app will occasionally nudge users with a friendly push notification to get back on track.
Built for speed
For information junkies, Pennies won’t be a comprehensive solution. There’s no way to enter payee name or memos about where money is being spent, although entries can be assigned to predefined (but not custom) expense categories. It’s a trade-off, but one most casual users will be willing to accept in the name of speed and simplicity.
One potentially thornier issue is that Pennies is a financial island unto itself—should you have multiple bank accounts or payment methods, some mental gymnastics will be required to keep all those numbers straight without setting up a budget for each one, since the app tracks only a single source of money at once.
What Pennies lacks in depth it more than makes up for in minimalism: New entries take mere seconds so you can get back to shopping that much sooner. It’s also great on Apple Watch, which can be used to log entries without removing the iPhone from your pocket. One small hitch: You can’t tag expense categories from your wrist, which is unfortunate since entries can’t be edited, only deleted.
While I like the user interface and color scheme, it’s also worth noting Pennies has yet to be optimized for the larger iPhone 6 display. This only really becomes an issue when using the keyboard to enter or edit the budget name, since the built-in numeric keyboard works great otherwise.
Pennies won’t help you get rich quick, but it will help keep better track of the money you already have.