Toshl Finance Blog

Between Scylla and Charybdis: Why We’re Switching the Locations Feature Back to Foursquare

We’re switching the expense locations provider to Foursquare! Back to Foursquare, as it was before April. Don’t let the exclamation mark of the first sentence fool you, it is not one of excitement, rather of frustrated dread.

When making Toshl v2 a few years ago, we thought it would be a cool feature to add the location of the expense or income. Cooler still, with the help of a 3rd party service, we could even show and save the name and info of the exact venue, not just the coordinates.

For this to happen, we chose Foursquare. We used their apps, knew they had a pretty good database of crowdsourced venues and at the time, offered the venues API for free, even for commercial use. Through the years of use and user feedback, we discovered that the coverage could be somewhat patchy in certain countries, but worked well overall. Hell, it was free, save for the attribution and data about which places were the most frequented.

Then earlier this year, a Foursquare representative sent us an email, saying that they’ve changed the terms and now want to charge us the 750 $ (US) per month for location API access. We’re not against paying in principle, they do provide a useful service, but a bait and switch with going from 0 to 750 $ a month was a bit harsh. Especially for a feature that doesn’t represent the core of our service, but is rather a nice add-on for most people.

Therefore we resisted and checked out other providers. Google Places API was an obvious choice. While the quality of location data also varied a bit, the database of venues was very large and we knew Google was definitively committed to keep improving it substantially in the future.

So we added the switch of location providers on our to-do list, updated the backend systems, optimised how the results were fetched and displayed, changed the location provider logos in the apps and launched the new location system with Google’s results on 18th of April 2018.

While Google’s Places API was not free in theory, there was a cap beyond which they started charging. Essentially this made the service free for us, as we didn’t surpass those rather generous caps.

Then on May 3rd, the bomb hit. Google announced they were raising their API prices. By A LOT. You can imagine how happy we were.

We weren’t the only ones:

Insane, shocking, outrageous: Developers react to changes in Google Maps API

There was a 3-month transition period after June 3rd during which they offered some transitional credits to existing customers, but after this, our monthly bill would go from 0 to about 3000 $. Wonderful.

We had a few calls with Google representatives to see if something could be worked out, or if we had misunderstood something, but all we got was a “that’s unfortunate” and a $300 credit for other Google Cloud services.

We obviously looked at other location data providers like HERE, TomTom, Mapbox and others, but very few offer worldwide coverage and even when they do, it can be pretty patchy and imprecise.

Perhaps that’s also because during the last decade Google offered these location services below cost, thus stifling stronger competition that might have otherwise developed.

 

So long story short, the locations of your expenses and incomes in Toshl apps will again be provided by Foursquare. We apologise for any inconvenience that might have caused, as the locations on both platforms don’t always match completely. As you can probably tell from above, our choices were somewhat limited. We hope the location function will work well, consistently and hopefully without further pricing shocks in the future.

 

 

Posted in Announcements, Development

Where Did All The Money Go? A Guide to Get You Back on Track.

Now that summer is coming to a close (if you live on the northern hemisphere), you are probably checking the damage that all those summer parties, trips and dinners did to your budget.

We get it, summer is the time to party and real sweating. Sweating about the small stuff like money should come later… But now, the summer has almost ended and you are stuck with sweating about the small stuff. Like money.

This guide is more about discipline than it is about changing the income and outcome factors deliberately. We’ve read some saving guides that began with “Earn more money” or “Start selling stuff you don’t need” and we said “This guy is obviously a banker!”. This guide is different.

 

Get yourself together!

First thing’s first – do not panic. Money problems are more common than a common cold. We are all in the same boat. The important thing is to get your spending habits recorded, so you know what the problem is. Some people don’t understand where their money is going and they just start hacking at costs left and right. Which is just silly, you need to eat.

However, did you know you are spending way too much money on collectible dolls from the 18th century? By which we mean if you own ONE 18th century doll, you are spending too much money on them. The perfect amount of 18th century dolls a person should have is zero. There you go. You are welcome.

Toshl tip

Connect your bank, import data from a file or enter the expenses in the app so you can have a clear, categorized view of all your financial ins and outs.

Keep adding everything you make and spend into the app to get a complete picture of your finances.

 

Create a separate savings account

Yes. Trust me. You need a separate account where you will move the money you are saving. No, you will not dedicate that portion of the budget mentally. No, you will not be extra careful. This is not junior high. Create a dedicated account for all the money you are going to save. Period.

Toshl tip

Create a new account in the Toshl app and give it an appealing name so you will feel good moving money from your checking account to it. Do not call it “Savings”, call it “Ass kicking account!”

 

Focus on the goal!

OK, you cannot just save money. I mean, you can, but saving money is like saving the world. You will never finish, plus everybody will tell you that there is a million things that need saving more urgently. Ugh, whatever Shaunna. But they are right – you need a goal. A target. A sense. But a goal can be anything – a new pair of shoes, financial independence, a motorcycle, being debt free, a new laptop, a house.


Toshl tip

Make separate financial accounts for your particular saving goals in Toshl and track your saved-up balances. Make sure you put the money aside on your bank account or in an envelope when dealing with cash.

 

Set a monthly budget and set up savings

You cannot just go ahead saving money. You need a goal inside a goal. Sort of like a budgetception. Only without Leonardo DiCaprio. Set a goal for how much you’ll save each month and use budget tracking to limit your general spending and make sure you always put the savings amount on the side. There is no point over-promising yourself and then never actually committing that much money.

Toshl tip

The River flow graph in the Toshl apps can help a lot in steering your money flows each month. You’ll see how your budgeting is going and how much you’ll save if you stick to it.

 

Automate the process

Seriously. The robots are coming for your job anyway, you might as well give them one and task them to take money from your checking account and put it in your saving account. If you have to do it by hand, it won’t feel as good. Yes, some things feel better when you do not use your hand.

Toshl tip

Set up automatic transfers between your checking and “ass kicking” (savings) account. Do the same on your online bank, or set a reminder to actually put the cash aside.

 

Save before you spend

This might be tricky, but time your saving robots with your incomes. If your paycheck is due on the 10th, make sure the robots do their thing on the 11th so that you will learn to handle the rest of the amount till the next month. If you want to play on a lower difficulty, tell the robots to move the set amount the day before the paycheck.

Toshl tip

Same thing as before – add a reminder to transfer to savings in the app so that the app keeps you on your toes.

 

Bonus: Change your spending habits

OK, up until now tips for focusing on discipline. This last one is different.

Maybe you should evaluate your expenses report and think about it. Spending too much on cable? Using outdated package deals that are not as viable anymore? Still having too many of those 18th century dolls? Adapt and see what happens.

You should make a ritual out of reevaluating some business deals every once and awhile anyway. Mobile phone providers, internet access providers, banks… these are the deals you made once a thousand years ago and then just got stuck with them because you just could not be bothered. But you should be!

Providers often count on your passive behaviour after the initial excitement about discounted prices even when the contract expires. So mark the expiration date on your contracts and go hunt for better deals when the time comes.

Toshl tip

Create annual reports or even annual budgets on individual costs tag so you can see how much money did you spend in total and then compare new offers to see if they are worth your time and money.

Posted in Budgeting, Tips & Tricks

Tracking Travel Finances – MissBeHelpful’s Journey to Barcelona

With great travel comes great responsibility. That’s not exactly how the original phrase goes, but we’re using our artistic license here to make a point. Getting your finances in order ahead of and during travel, is essential to keeping your leisure time enjoyable and stress-free. The financial part can even be fun if you do it the right way. I.e. by using the Toshl Finance apps, of course. 😉😊

To explore how tracking your finances works on a trip, we partnered with Yanely, better known as MissBeHelpful on YouTube.

She made some really great videos with her first-hand accounts both of her experiences of traveling in Barcelona, as well as her finance tracking with Toshl during that time. Check out the videos, as well as some extra questions we asked Yanely below.

 

 

How did you first come upon the Toshl app?

I was a teacher fresh out of college and really struggling to manage my credit card debt which was almost $20k in total! I had way too many unnecessary expenses at that time and I definitely wasn’t budgeting, so I google searched budgeting apps and I read a few articles. I downloaded a couple of different apps and I remember thinking that Toshl was one of the easiest ones to use. (I was also glad it was free because I was broke.)

 

What did you like the most about it?

I liked that I was able to get started in no time! I literally had a budget with a spending/saving goal in a matter of minutes. I loved the visuals, the fun little monster and the notifications reminding me to enter my expenses before bed. As with all budgets, if you don’t use it consistently, it really won’t work for you. The reminders helped me stay consistent and keep the budget up to date.

 

Are you using it on Android or iOS phone?

I use it on my iPhone 7.

 

Did you try the Medici premium plan?

I tried Medici premium for a month since I was traveling for the summer and I figured it would be best to have everything in one place. When I started out I was in a lot of debt, so paying for an app wasn’t high on my list of priorities, and I don’t recommend paying for apps when you’re still in debt. But now that I’m debt-free and I have a nerdy passion for personal finance I’m a lot more willing to invest in apps and services that I know will help me reach my goals.

 

 

Who would you recommend the Toshl app to?

It’s definitely great for new budgeters who want a simple and quick way to get started. I work with a lot of HS and college students who use mostly cash and debit cards to make transactions, so I recommend the app to them. Also, people who aren’t interested in budgeting tools that have strict rules which you need to follow to the T. There’s a lot of wiggle room when it comes to how you use the app which is great – you can choose as many categories as you want for an expense and you can decide if you want to budget by category or by a certain time frame.

 

Posted in Goodies

How to Protect Your Phone on the Go

Look, we get it. Articles about phone protection are a dime a dozen and you only start paying attention to them when you actually lose your phone and start asking yourself the important questions. For example: “How do I call the police to report my phone stolen?”

We have also read the studies on two approaches to teaching people about security. Apparently you can be nice and cuddly and proactive or you can be rude, threatening and catastrophic – but none of those two approaches work.

So we thought of another way. We will talk about phone security through a series of Marvel gifs from the Avengers universe. Everybody likes Avengers, right?

 

Tip 1: Lock you phone with a passphrase

See, despite the laughs War Machine got in the theater when revealing his password, he was actually on to something.

Passphrase “WARMACHINEROX” is actually better than those weird passwords that include glyphs and numbers and other complex characters. Why?

Well because a) you remember it easily and there is no need for those pieces of papers, b) you can add a ton of characters which increases complexity and c) if it is embarrassing enough, you will not reveal it through the attempts of social hacking.

 

Tip 2: Secure your passwords

Even passwords need protection! These are dangerous times we are living in my friend and if you think you are in the clear just because you have followed through the tip 1, you are wrong. Like – Loki in Thor 1 wrong. Which is pretty much the most amount of wrong you can be. Think about investing a bit of effort in a two-factor authentication app and a password manager, so all of your passwords will be safe inside a vault. Of course you still going to remember THAT password but, it’s a lot more realistic you’ll manage that than keeping hundreds of different, secure passwords in your head.

 

Tip 3: Use privacy-first chat apps

When it comes to phone security, you should have trust issues. From apps to unprotected networks to weird messages to basic theft – you really should think about adding layers of security to your phone. This can mean adding more encryption by, for example, replacing the Facebook Messenger app with something a little more secure – might we suggest Signal?

 

Tip 4: Update your app selection

“Perfectly balanced. As all things should be” is a great advice when deciding on which apps to keep and which to remove. You just have to remember that you hold the infinity gauntlet and that you are responsible for all the apps on your phone. Apps that want permissions, might leak your data and do other scary things – and you are not even using them anymore. Be like Thanos. Perform the snap every once in a while.

 

Tip 5: Use a VPN connection

By using a VPN you significantly reduce the amount of information the network providers have on you. Less information, more privacy. Of course, you are still letting the VPN owner take a peek at your traffic, but there are some providers who protect that information.

 

Tip 6: Backup your data

See? Hulk backs up his data. That is his secret. That is why he is calm. Lost a phone? Restore from backup. Phone died? Restore from backup. Phone stolen? Restore from backup. Hulk know. You should be like Hulk. Not the smashy part. The backupy part.

 

Tip 7: Keep your phone updated

Finally, do not be like Nick Fury. If the phone or an app requests an update, you update. Updates are usually filled with improvements and important fixes that can affect security and who are you to argue with the engineers and people who know their stuff? Update. Your. Phone.

In conclusion, there are many things you can do to protect your phone, your data and your privacy. Of course, you have to think about security as a process and not as a state, meaning that you have to be on your toes for the next glitch in the matrix. Ooops, sorry, wrong franchise.

 

 

Toshl has your back!

Did you know Toshl offers and additional app passcode and two step authentication which can greatly improve the security and privacy of your finance flows? Here is how you turn it on!

Posted in Tips & Tricks