I’ve been searching for the best way to track my expenses on the go. I always have my iPhone on me and it’s an amazingly capable device. When I polled the audience on the best expense tracking app for iOS, I got many different suggestions. The two that stuck out the most to me were Piggie and Saver. In order to determine the best app for my uses, I’ll be comparing the two.
Before the information era had truly set in for the everyday man, before smartphones, and before debit and credit cards, everybody carried around a checkbook and a ledger. Whenever you paid for something, you cut your check and noted the expenditure in your ledger, updating your bank account’s balance. It was easier to keep up with expenses then. These days we spend much more frequently, therefore it has become more difficult to keep a ledger of expenditures.
Piggie and Saver take very different approaches to the interface of the digital ledger. Saver is a very dark, clean, and slick interface while Piggie is very light and default inspired.
The main view in which you’ll be spending most of your time in the app is the balance overview. In Saver you’ve got a large table view in the middle listing your expenses for the day, as well as a total in the top right. Unfortunately there’s no way to change the time span shown; to see expenses for a week, month, or year, you have to go to the History tab. By default, Piggie shows a large sticky note type UI displaying a monthly view of your initial balance, amount spent to date, remaining balance, and your expenses this month versus the previous month. They both show about the same amount of information at-a-glance, and in each app, you can drill down to get more information.
Why: Saver’s design of the main view is much cleaner and has a lower barrier for taking in information.
Setting Your Budget/Income
This is another area in which the two apps differ greatly. Piggie is very expense-based, having you add any income the same way as you would an expense. On the other hand, Saver prompts you to set your monthly budget the very first time you launch it, however, you can only enter whole dollar amounts, which sucks. You also cannot add any income to your balance after you’ve set your budget. You would have to edit your monthly budget and add the amount you’ve received on top of the previously set budget. If your career doesn’t provide a consistent income—such as freelance—, or your paycheck isn’t an even dollar amount, then tough luck, Saver is not for you.
Why: Piggie’s method is very flexible while Saver’s is not.
This is the most frequently performed action on the apps, so it’s pretty important to get this right. It shouldn’t be too complicated, but it has to have all of the most important features. Please excuse me as I go to great length describing to pros and cons of each app’s method of making entries into your “eLedger”.
To add an expense in Saver, you can either tap the large action button in the middle of the tab bar, or in an empty cell in the main table view containing the list of your expenses. You’re then presented with a phone-style number pad and a grid of categories. Double tapping a category cell drops down the number pad and lets you change the date of the entry, add a note and photo, and narrow down your choice with six classifications. You can also swipe to the right to add your own custom ones. Type in your amount and hit save. While this screen is beautiful and seemingly streamlined, it leaves much to be desired. Choosing a general category may be fine for some people, but I love being specific in my entries. I want specific categories and a description of what I spent my money on. I didn’t even know that you could double tap the cells until I read the “Help” in Saver’s settings. Keeping this hidden is a crucial mistake. I believe the app should present you with these options first, having you tap in the amount field to bring up the number pad. The biggest flaw in this view (and the entire app), however, is the fact that you can only create expenses. There is no way for you to add income. Say you loaned a friend $50. You put that entry into Saver and when he pays you back, you’re left with no way of making a note of that. You’re still out $50.
Adding expenses in Piggie is a much more pleasant experience. At the bottom of Piggie, there are two call-to-action buttons: the lightning bolt for jumping straight into your most used categories, or the standard “compose” button. The compose button slides up an action sheet, letting you choose whether your entry is an Expense or Income. Like Saver, Piggie immediately prompts the user to input the amount. Piggie has a great way of entering this amount. The decimal point is a fixed point and you just type your amount and it fills in. It’s hard to explain, so here’s an example: You buy a meal for $7.56. You go to type in your amount and you just type 756. It fills it in, putting the decimal in the right spot for you. It’s a small detail, but I love it. In this field you can also change the entry type (expense/income) as well as the currency. Below that is the category, date, and notes field. You can go into the app’s settings and add as many specific categories as you’d like.
Why: Piggie allows for adding income, has unlimited categories, and has a superior entry mechanism and UI.
Piggie has a really awkward way of navigating to different views. Tap the down-arrow in the top left and a little drawer slides down, showing icons to switch views.
Saver has an amazing Graph view that displays a gorgeous pie-chart that shows how you’ve allocated your money in either that week, month, or year.
Piggie allows you to set up automatically recurring payments for things like utility bills or internet subscriptions that automatically renew every month.
Both apps provide a way to backup your data. Saver makes you create an account with them and backs up to their servers with an incredibly designed animation. Piggie links to your Dropbox account and keeps up with backups, imports, and exports that way.
So if you’re still with us, congratulations. It was a long read, I know. While both apps are great, there can only be one winner. Here’s the pros and cons for each app.
- Flexible balance. Can input decimal amounts
- Intuitive and streamlined entry methods
- Unlimited Categories
- Can add income after initial balance
- Bland UI overall
- Cluttered main view
- Gorgeous UI and animations
- Simple and informative main view
- Great graph view for a graphical representation of expenses
- Budget amount must be a whole dollar amount
- Cannot add income
- Limited number of categories
- Notes, Date, Pictures, and specific categories hidden
While Saver has a much more beautifully design UI, it is lacking in crucial features that make it viable as a useful ledger. Being able to only set whole-dollar budgets and lacking the ability to add income cripples the app into a near unusable state. Where Piggie declines in UI, it greatly rises in usability and UX. So as an everyday, on-the-go account manager, I highly recommend Piggie as your eLedger. If Saver fixed those two main issues, it would easily turn the tables.