Toshl Finance Blog

Financial Planning (Android)

Learn from your past spending and earning patterns and prepare for the future. That’s what the Planning graphs are all about.

Switch between 4 tabs to monitor all main aspects of your personal finance:

  • Balance
  • Expenses
  • Incomes
  • Net Worth

and make use of detailed views, calculated averages and estimates for the future. Filter the display of your financial data by category, tag, account or location, and compare the incomes with expenses and budgets in the River flow graph.

This feature is available with Toshl Pro or Toshl Medici subscriptions.

Balance – monthly balance of incomes and expenses

This balance is shown separately for every month and is calculated as:

monthly incomes  monthly expenses = monthly balance

Staying in the positive, above the central line, is crucial. It might evade you sometime, but aim for it on a yearly average.

Expenses – spending per month

This section shows you the sum of expenses for each month, but can also be filtered to display spending for chosen categories, tags, locations and financial accounts.

Incomes – earnings per month

Display of the total sum of incomes each month can be further adjusted by filtering by categories, tags and financial accounts.

Net worth – total balance of your financial accounts

These funds accumulate if you have regular surpluses on your monthly balances. The amounts reflect the account balances at the end of the month.

Tap & hold for details and a lollipop

To get the exact value for each column, tap and hold somewhere on the graph.

A “lollipop” will pop up, displaying the exact value for that particular month.

Past months will also display averages for the last 12 months, while future months show the estimates for the chosen period.

River flow – see the financial flows each month

You’ll notice that the River flow graph is displayed below the multi-month graph. It shows how your incomes and expenses compare to each other and your budget in an individual month. If you have a monthly budget for all expenses, River flow will include it in the calculation as well. That way you’ll always know how much you can spend while staying within your budget limits.

Travel in time

12 months are shown on the graph – by default 6 past ones, the current month, as well as 5 future months.

You can move through time by using the  < >  arrows under the graph, swipping left or right, or by using the general time span settings from the right sidebar.

If you’re interested in sums for a certain period, you can also select a custom time span. The selected months will be displayed in darker color below the graph and you’ll see sums for the entire period.

Filter by category, tag, account, location

You can zero-in on specific data you’re interested in and want to see over a longer period of time.

Let’s say you want to know how your spending on Food & Drinks varies in time. Tap on the Filter icon in the upper right corner, select “Expense categories” from the menu, then tap “SELECT” and choose “Food & Drinks”. Return to the graph by tapping the “back” arrow in the upper left corner. Your spending data is now filtered to only display the expenses for the Food & Drinks category, so you can see how it varies through the year.

You can narrow it down even further by selecting a tag. Do the same in the “Expense tags” section and you can see how much you spent only on restaurants, alcohol, groceries, or a combination of multiple tags.

You don’t have to pick only one filter. They can be combined. For example, you can set it to only show expenses paid with MasterCard (financial account), for Leisure (category), for books, movies and music (tags), in HMV Manchester Arndale (location).

The filtering is global, so it will work with all the data in your Toshl app. Any filter that’s applied will be displayed above the graph, and the excluded categories, tags, etc., will be written in strikethrough.

Estimates and planned expenses

You’ll notice that the future months on the graph aren’t as colorful. That doesn’t mean that the future isn’t bright, just a bit hazy for now.

The semi-transparent columns in future months can display your planned entries, future estimates or both.

Planned entries

These are the expenses, incomes and transfers you have already entered for the future, or were generated automatically based on the repeating entry settings that you have set for your finances. We advise to add as many of these as you can possibly predict. They will help you plan your future months and help you keep the financial stress down to a minimum.

These planned entries can be set to be displayed in your graph. You can adjust this by tapping the Time span icon in the upper right corner, selecting a month to review, and setting the switch for “Show planned expenses in graphs” to ON or OFF. This will also affect other graphs in Toshl.

Estimates

Estimates project your past trends in earning and spending into the future. This provides you with a rough guide of what to expect from your balances, spending, earnings and net worth in the upcoming months, if the current trends continue as they have so far.

Since the estimates are based on your past data, the more time you’ve been tracking your finances with Toshl, the more precise they can become. We will also continue improving the algorithm for this feature, so it will become better at estimating your spending patterns.

You can switch the “Include future estimates” option ON or OFF in the filtering menu, on the bottom of the page.

Toshl monster plays it smart and plans for the future. Join in!

Posted in Android Tutorials, Tutorials

Financial Planning (iOS)

Learn from your past spending and earning patterns and prepare for the future. That’s what the Planning graphs are all about.

Switch between 4 tabs to monitor all main aspects of your personal finance:

  • Balance
  • Expenses
  • Incomes
  • Net Worth

and make use of detailed views, calculated averages and estimates for the future. Filter the display of your financial data by category, tag, account or location, and compare the incomes with expenses and budgets in the River flow graph.

This feature is available with Toshl Pro or Toshl Medici subscriptions.

Balance – monthly balance of incomes and expenses

This balance is shown separately for every month and is calculated as:

monthly incomes  monthly expenses = monthly balance

Staying in the positive, above the central line, is crucial. It might evade you sometime, but aim for it on a yearly average.

Expenses – spending per month

This section shows you the sum of expenses for each month, but can also be filtered to display spending for chosen categories, tags, locations and financial accounts.

Incomes – earnings per month

Display of the total sum of incomes each month can be further adjusted by filtering by categories, tags and financial accounts.

Net worth – total balance of your financial accounts

These funds accumulate if you have regular surpluses on your monthly balances. The amounts reflect the account balances at the end of the month.

Tap & hold for details and a lollipop

To get the exact value for each column, tap and hold somewhere on the graph.

A “lollipop” will pop up, displaying the exact value for that particular month.

Past months will also display averages for the last 12 months, while future months show the estimates for the chosen period.

River flow – see the financial flows each month

You’ll notice that the River flow graph is displayed below the multi-month graph. It shows how your incomes and expenses compare to each other and your budget in an individual month. If you have a monthly budget for all expenses, River flow will include it in the calculation as well. That way you’ll always know how much you can spend while staying within your budget limits.

Travel in time

12 months are shown on the graph – by default 7 past ones, the current month, as well as 4 future months.

You can move through time by using the  < >  arrows under the graph, swipping left or right, or by using the general time span settings from the right sidebar.

If you’re interested in sums for a certain period, you can also select a custom time span. The selected months will be displayed in darker color below the graph and you’ll see sums for the entire period.

Filter by category, tag, account, location

You can zero-in on specific data you’re interested in and want to see over a longer period of time.

Let’s say you want to know how your spending on Food & Drinks varies in time. Tap on the Filter icon in the upper right corner, select “Expense categories” from the menu, then tap “SELECT” and choose “Food & Drinks”. Return to the graph by tapping the “back” arrow in the upper left corner. Your spending data is now filtered to only display the expenses for the Food & Drinks category, so you can see how it varies through the year.

You can narrow it down even further by selecting a tag. Do the same in the “Expense tags” section and you can see how much you spent only on restaurants, alcohol, groceries, or a combination of multiple tags.

You don’t have to pick only one filter. They can be combined. For example, you can set it to only show expenses paid with MasterCard (financial account), for Leisure (category), for books, movies and music (tags), in HMV Manchester Arndale (location).

The filtering is global, so it will work with all the data in your Toshl app. Any filter that’s applied will be displayed above the graph, and the excluded categories, tags, etc., will be written in strikethrough.

Estimates and planned expenses

You’ll notice that the future months on the graph aren’t as colorful. That doesn’t mean that the future isn’t bright, just a bit hazy for now.

The semi-transparent columns in future months can display your planned entries, future estimates or both.

Planned entries

These are the expenses, incomes and transfers you have already entered for the future, or were generated automatically based on the repeating entry settings that you have set for your finances. We advise to add as many of these as you can possibly predict. They will help you plan your future months and help you keep the financial stress down to a minimum.

These planned entries can be set to be displayed in your graph. You can adjust this by tapping the Time span icon in the upper right corner, selecting a month to review, and setting the switch for “Show planned expenses in graphs” to ON or OFF. This will also affect other graphs in Toshl.

Estimates

Estimates project your past trends in earning and spending into the future. This provides you with a rough guide of what to expect from your balances, spending, earnings and net worth in the upcoming months, if the current trends continue as they have so far.

Since the estimates are based on your past data, the more time you’ve been tracking your finances with Toshl, the more precise they can become. We will also continue improving the algorithm for this feature, so it will become better at estimating your spending patterns.

You can switch the “Include future estimates” option ON or OFF in the filtering menu, on the bottom of the page.

Toshl monster plays it smart and plans for the future. Join in!

Posted in iOS Tutorials, Tutorials

Christmas Is Coming!

There are two ways you can react to the title of this post. You can be joyful or you could start stressing out. According to research, the happiness and dread of christmas holidays are two of the most intense general feelings so we are getting ready for christmas a bit early this year.

Several researchers are noticing that christmas shopping is one of the most stressful events throughout the year and there are several reasons for the induction of stress – from money worries to the social pressure, from the feeling of urgency to the feeling of guilt.

We are offering some tips on christmas budgeting and gift planning which we hope will make the next festive season…well… festive!

45 days rule

It all starts with planning as we abide to the 45 days rule where you plan for events that are happening 45 days in the future. This rule has several beneficial effects:

Keep it together

First thing is that you are not under any pressure. I mean OK, you still do not know what to get for your aunt, but that will not change. Aunt Clarice is just a mystery to you and no amount of planning will change that. But other than that, you can rest assured that planning that far in advance will be less stressful compared to last-minute shopping.

Be thorough

By keeping it together and planning your christmas shopping in autumn, you can give more thought to your naughty or nice list. I mean sure, Santa probably has some hard-core elf algorithm working for him, but you can do the same thing by making a list and thinking it through. No fast reckless last-minute decisions!

Be thoughtful

The 45 days period gives you enough time to check if the planned gift really works for the giftee. Sure you can make some mistakes by planning a gift that later on turns out to be a complete fail, but panic buying in the first week of December increases that possibility many times over.

Toshl tip

You can set custom reminders in Toshl so that you will get a nudge when the time for planning comes. Also attached to the reminder will be a cute monster, specialized in friendly guilt-tripping if you do not obey.

Step 1: Make a list of people

This should be straightforward enough. Write down the names of all the people who are getting gifts this year. Separate them according to the nature of your relationship (that way you can be thoughtful of your business associates and partners as well) to help you decide on the nature of the gifts.

Toshl tip

We are a money tracking app so people are not our speciality. However, we have one tip – you can tag your expenses by person so you will know exactly how much are you spending on friends who do not return your phone calls.

Step 2: Make a gift list

You have to decide on the type of gifts you are giving out, whether these are customed per person, customed per type of relationship or general across the board. This will come in handy when you come upon a person that is on the receiving end but you are not quite sure what to give them.

Toshl tip

Did you know you can add different costs under the same name? Handy in-app calculator and currency exchanger helps you when entering gifts from foreign countries.

Step 3: Make a budget

Now you are ready for a budget. Use the results of step 1 and 2 combined with the general state of your personal finances to figure out the perfect amount you are going to spend this year.

Bear in mind that gifts are a predefined social norm and they are based upon agreements within a specific social group, so do not feel weird about planning them collectively. Asking someone what do they want for Christmas usually reveals surprising choices you have not thought of which are very often nicer on your budget.

Toshl tip

Toshl offers budgeting for individual financial goals where you can set budgets, create special accounts and notifications that tell you when you reach your goal.

Step 4: Get creative with wrapping paper

Every year we spend a ton of money on wrapping paper which then gets discarded promptly. Instead you can replace it with newspapers, plain boxes or other containers you already have. Stuff is getting recycled anyway, might as well use is appropriately. On the other hand, you can dedicate a special gift container for each person so that they can look forward to the same box (but hopefully not the gift) every year!

Toshl tip

You can track you current annual expenses for buying wrapping paper and then marvel at the savings when you switch to a more eco-friendly solution.

Step 5: Avoid Christmas sales

Yep. By planning your gifts in advance you will more easily avoid christmas sales which are bad for you. Worse than smoking!

By participating you are actually doing more harm than good – you are participating in a hysteria-inducing event which makes you blind to the fact that a) the prices usually go up just before the sales b) items on sale are usually not the latest editions and c) you are caught in a whirlwind that causes you to buy things you really do not want or need.

Toshl tip

By planning for Christmas in advance you might realise you actually have the extra cash to spend on Christmas Sales. You can also set individual budgets for the sales or marvel at the savings by ignoring them completely.

There are also other ways to save on Christmas shopping. You can focus on meetings rather than things or organize a christmas recycling exchange. You can also pull the break and go frugal or change the ways you pay attention to people during the holidays.

Posted in Budgeting, Tips & Tricks

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