Track Your Finances For Free – Introducing Money Dashboard
Do you like pie charts?*
Do you like tracking your expenses, yet dislike filling in tedious spreadsheets and copying all your data from your online banking website every month?
Do you like free stuff and cashback!?!
*A rhetorical question obviously; I am pretty certain everybody loves pie charts.
Well if you do I have some great news for you, you can do it all automatically using a not so new piece of web software shanniganary called Money Dashboard.
Introducing Money Dashboard
It would seem this has been around for a few years already so I am extremely surprised I haven’t come across it on any UK personal finance websites by now! There are some great features on this nifty bit of kit, and while not being perfect (it is free remember!!!) it is clearly a mature product that has been improved on over time. I actually stumbled across it in the end while searching the Top Cashback website looking for free stuff that gives you cashback**. I was pleasantly surprised that there are quite a few things in this category (filling out an insurance quote with no obligation to buy, etc…) but one of the best cash back amounts was this intriguing thing call Money Dashboard.
To receive cashback of £8.40*** simply follow these steps:
- Sign up to Top Cashback** (or just log in if you already have an account)
- Search for Money Dashboard
- Click through into the offer and then on the “Get Cashback Now” button, which takes you out onto the Money Dashboard website
- Sign up to a Money Dashboard account, then add the details of at least one of your bank or credit card accounts
- That’s it! Your cashback will be added to your Top Cashback account.
***If you haven’t got a top cashback account I realise that £8.40 doesn’t sound like a ton of money. However you can do a lot of your purchases through here, and it does start to add up very quickly. You just need to remember before you buy anything to check whether you can buy it through top cashback! Also it can take a while before you can withdraw any money, but the best thing is just to forget about it for a while (say 1 year) then withdraw a huge chunk as a little bonus, to help pay for a holiday, or maybe even buy some shares 😉
How to use Money Dashboard
It’s pretty self explanatory, so at the risk of stating the obvious here are some notes on how you should set up your Money Dashboard and ideas on where it will come in very handy:
- Make sure you add all of your credit card, savings, and current accounts. There are loads of banks and credit card providers on there, I am actually very impressed at the coverage, and would be very surprised if you have an account that isn’t on there. (You can even add a manual entry account if not though)
- When you first add an account, it will download transactions from the last month or two (I can’t quite work out how far back it will go, I think it probably depends on each bank: how much past data they offer that is readily available). It’s a shame it won’t go back, say 6 months, because that would have really helped me out in tracking my last 6 months expenses in detail, which is looking like a project doomed to the “to busy to do” pile. The good news is of course in 6 months time I will have some really solid data on my expenses, and it will have taken me practically no time at all to set any of it up. Death to the budget spread sheets!
- Every so often, maybe once a week, (although once a month would work fine as well) you should log into Money Dashboard and press the refresh button on all of your accounts. This will keep it up to date but now you will have some “untagged” transactions, that will need to be tagged properly if you want to track where your money is going properly. Tags are simply categories of spending, and each one has sub categories. For example: Going Out -> Dining and Drinking. This is why it is worth doing this once a week because if you leave it a month, you might forget why you drew that random tenner out of the bank nearly a month ago. See screenshot of tagged and untagged transactions below:
- They send you a weekly email update on your spending (this could be a good reminder to have a look and tag your transactions as in the above point).
- Every Month you should also review what areas you spent in by looking at the pie chart. If anything looks particularly high it is obviously worth drilling into and investigating further. You can do this very easily by clicking on segments of the pie. Mmmm pie.
- You can also view the top spending categories chart, see screenshot below
- After, say, six months (by doubling expenses), or if you want to wait then when you have a full year, you can get an overview of your income and expenses. This will make it a lot easier to work out how many years and/or what pot you need to save up for, before you reach Financial Independence. Ace or what?! You can also view your spending categories at a macro level so if you need to cut down on anything in particular, it should be fairly obvious!
- Other positives: As well as all of the great functionality provided as stated above, I emailed them a few questions on usage and feature improvements, and I am glad to say they got back to me very quickly (this was from my private email account and I didn’t mention I was going to write about this on the blog, or even that I had a blog). So thumbs up on that count as well.
It wouldn’t be a fair review (is this even a review? Ok, I guess it is!) if I didn’t point out the things that niggled me a bit:
- You can’t add custom tags at this point in time, but the current amount of tags they have should be comprehensive enough for most folk
- The only other thing is you can’t seem to (well I can’t see a way of) splitting transactions into 2 or more separate tags
For example if I got £40 cash out and spent £20 on clothes (haha!) and £20 on beer (that’s more like it!) then there is no way to split that £40 transaction into the two separate tags it should get, which would be Clothes -> Clothes, and Going Out -> Dining and Drinking. Bit of a shame, but another reason to just remember to put as many of your purchases as possible on a debit or credit card (the credit card only if you are accumulating points, cashback, or stoozing of course!)
Conclusion: Give It A Go!
I am still learning the system as only been using it for 2 months, but it seems very intuitive and I am sure there are some hidden power-user features I haven’t even found yet. If you have been looking for some free finance tracking software like Mint, Youneedabudget, and so on that all the US based PF bloggers tend to rave about, then give this a go by signing up via Top Cashback and earn £8.40, I’ve really enjoyed it so far! Glad to see that the UK has (finally!?) got their own version of this type of software! Oh and did I mentioned IT’S COMPLETELY FREE!?
And… if you have been using this already, let us know how you’ve been getting on? And are there any extra tricks or features you can tell us about? (Also… why the hell didn’t you tell me about it already!?)
Does anyone use any other financial software, free or otherwise, that they’d recommend!?
Let’s start the discussion below!
** Links marked with the double star in this post are affiliate links. I may receive a small fee if you sign up via this link, if you do, may I plant a most gratuitous thank you e-kiss upon your lovely face! (No?! Ok then. Just “thanks” will do!)