Review: Catamount’s PocketMoney for iPhone

Browsing through Apple’s App Store, I lucked out on a program I’ve been meaning to try: Catamount’s PocketMoney. Previously available for $9.99, Catamount dropped the price to $0.99 for a few days only, and I snatched it up as soon as I saw it. How could I resist? Catamount was a dedicated Newton app developer. They’ve ported their PocketMoney finance manager to everything from the Palm to the PocketPC, and it only made sense for them to bring their piggy bank to the iPhone.

How does it handle? First, let me say I tried PocketMoney for the Newton and just couldn’t get the hang of it. It could have been the navigation, or the unfamiliar icons, or a combination of a few issues, but Newton’s PocketMoney wasn’t intuitive enough to be my main “what’s in my wallet?” app. I found the Newton version clunky and awkward; I find the iPhone version to be none of those.

Catamount’s iPhone PocketMoney guides you through the initial setup process with help boxes for each screen you view:

While some may find these help dialogs obtrusive, I think they are exactly what I needed: what am I looking at, and what can I do with this screen?

First, PocketMoney sets up your main accounts (above). I use a cash/envelope system (thanks to one Mr. Dave Ramsey), so I use PocketMoney to keep track of how much cash I have on hand in each envelope, and what transactions I make out of each.

You make an initial “deposit” – however much money you have in-hand at the time – and then keep track of three simple things: withdrawals, deposits, and transfers.

So say I start out with $30 in my “Food” account (above). When I go to the grocery store, and I spend $26 of that, I mark that down as a withrawal. When I get paid each week, I “deposit” more into the account. Simple and easy, right?

But I just use PocketMoney to keep track of my cash. You can also use it to track your checking account transactions, your credit card balances, loan payoff amounts, and even some investments. PocketMoney lets you go as all-out as you want with your finances, and set up a system that works best for you. I like that.

Tracking all my financial transactions seems a bit heavy to be covered by an iPhone app, so the cash system is enough for me. For more in-depth money management, I use Quicken on my Bondi Blue iMac to track all my other financial matters, since it’s easier to sit down at a screen and think about money.

Unlike the Newton version, PocketMoney for the iPhone makes navigating from account to account super easy. It uses standard iPhone navigation tools (back arrows, plus signs to add transactions, etc.), and moving between accounts involves simply going back to PocketMoney’s home screen and choosing the account you want to update.

That screen is the most helpful because it tells you, at a glance, what you’re worth or how much money you have (or don’t have). Sure, I could check my wallet to see how much cash I have, but with Pocketmoney I can track where that money went.

Tools like catagories (groceries, fuel, dining, etc.) and memos (Apple store, Batman movie, etc.) help you monitor where your money is going, and PocketMoney offers reports on all that data for more analysis.

If I’m wondering how much money I spent on, say, dining so far this month, PocketMoney makes it easy to find out (above).

The one area where PocketMoney lacks is chart creation. Instead of the app creating charts and graphs, it uses Google Charts to do the heavy lifting – which means you have to be “on the grid” for the charts to work. It seems like a pie chart would be easy enough to create within the software itself – why rely on the cloud? Also, it would be nice if PocketMoney exported your transaction data into an MS Money or Quicken-compatible file. And despite a few recent updates, PocketMoney still crashes – usually when I try to make it back to the homescreen. Luckily, all the changes I made before the crash are saved.

Still, PocketMoney is a great tool for tracking what goes in and out of your wallet, either in the form of cash or checks or even debt. For instance, if you’re having trouble balancing your checkbook, as long as you mark down each checking account withdrawal in PocketMoney, you will have a handy reference for all the checks you’ve sent. It takes disclipline, and a good memory, to remember to track all the withdrawals, deposits, and transfers, but you can’t blame difficulty if you fail to manage your money. PocketMoney is a useful iPhone tool to do almost anything you want with your accounts. While the $0.99 promotion I stumbled on may be over, PocketMoney’s $9.99 price tag is still a decent deal.

And hey, any company that got its start on the Messagepad deserves a bit of our respect and patronage.

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