Finances 2 — Beautifully Detailed Bookkeeping App for iOS and Mac

Finances 2

The financial world is complicated, and no one knows this better than someone who’s worked in the field, without the benefit (and, if I’m to be honest, the proclivity) for Finance. The sheer number of terms floating out there is enough to make even the most hardened of linguists struggle, not to mention remembering subtle differences, such as the one between ‘Gross’ and ‘Net’. It is inarguable, however, that getting a handle on one’s personal finances is no longer a luxury, but a necessity. We live in the world rife with app subscriptions, periodically-renewing service contracts, infrequent but large lumpsum payments, and daily expenditures. Keeping on top of all this is getting more and more difficult, but smart devices are playing an increasingly pivotal role in this exercise. Gone are the days when one needed to guard receipts for the tax man – you can simply scan them using your phone and scanning software, like the excellent Scanbot, an app we’ve covered here and here. Thankfully, you can also get rid of your personal ledgers, because financial apps are plenty out there. One of the most detailed, and most well designed of such apps, is Finances 2.

The app itself has great pedigree – My Finances has been around for almost three years now, and has been covered here on Beautiful Pixels as well. Finances 2 seeks to bring modernity to an already polished interface of its predecessor, additional features such as multiple accounts and currencies, a better sync engine, as well as bring the power of its bookkeeping features to macOS. In the developer, Matthias Hochgatterer’s words:

Finances is an accounting software based on double-entry bookkeeping. Double-entry bookkeeping is the most popular bookkeeping system and is used for personal and business accounting. In traditional double-entry bookkeeping the terms credit and debit are used instead of negative values. Finances is different and uses negative values instead of credits and debits.

If that doesn’t make much sense to you, despair not – Matthias has a very handy guide up on the Finances 2 website, which will help you through the onboarding process. The app also has a reasonably well detailed demo in-built, which is always available for you to consult.

What it boils down to is this – Every time you make a transaction, you transfer money from one account, to another. For example, an account (say, Eating Out) gets credited money (money is added to it), and simultaneously, your Cash/Checking Account is debited the same amount (money is taken from it). Essentially, you’ve transferred money from your Cash Account to the Eating Out Account, that is, you’ve paid money for a burger. This is Double-Entry Bookkeeping, and the more you use it, the more it makes sense. I actually like this system more than the usual logging you see in simpler apps, because you get a much broader view of your expenses and your incomes. Finances 2, as quoted above, improves the ‘Credit and Debit’ nomenclature by using positive numbers to represent ‘Credit’ (i.e., the Addition of funds), and negative numbers to represent ‘Debit’ (i.e., the Removal of funds).

The app’s design is remarkably well done. You can divide your transactions into journals, based on two templates – Personal and Business. When you create a new journal, you can choose what to call it, which template it is based on, and the default currency. These journals contain multiple accounts, grouped into five categories – Assets (such as Cash), Liabilities (such as your Credit Card), Income (such as your Salary), Expenses (such as Groceries), and Equity. Accounts are colour coded for better visibility. Actually entering transactions is a breeze, thanks to the app’s extended numerical keyboard, complete with mathematical operators. For travelers and businesspeople, Finances allows you to conduct multi-currency transactions. The app also allows you to set up recurring expenses, such as subscriptions or bill payments. If you’d like to store receipts or proofs of transactions, the app also allows you to attach PDFs to a transaction.

If you think Finances 2 is too complicated for you, you are certainly not alone. While the feature set and design of the app is top notch, my lifestyle and the nature of my day-to-day transactions are just not built for this kind of financial journaling. I need an app that allows me to quickly enter a transaction amount, label it, assign a category (such as ‘Groceries’ or ‘Bill’), and save it. In other words, I need an Expense Tracker. That is why I use Next, which, despite not being updated with features nearly as often as I’d like, and problems of its own, has the best workflow for me. Next also has a fantastic widget, which shows my expenses over the course of five days in the form of a lightweight and easy to understand graph. Finances 2 is certainly more feature packed, and looks a lot more elegant than Next. However, its much more detailed (and therefore, complex) entry system, combined with completely different paradigm, make it a bridge too far for me.

This isn’t to say that Finances isn’t an app we recommend — far from it. It’s a really polished app, and has features galore, but it simply isn’t for those of us looking for a simple expense tracker. Maybe, at a later stage in my life, I’ll need an app to maintain my books. At that point, you can bet I’ll be using the wonderfully designed and feature packed Finances 2.

Finances 2 is available for $9.99 on the App Store, as a Universal app for iPhone and iPad. There’s also a macOS version of Finances 2, now available in Public Beta. Your data is synced across your devices via iCloud.

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