The appliance of finance

There's a wealth of apps to help you handle your money more effectively, writes Bina Brown.

There's a wealth of apps to help you handle your money more effectively, writes Bina Brown.

BUDGETING has long been the bane of many a household. So it is with some surprise that applications designed to help you monitor and manage your daily spending habits are among the top finance apps for iPad, Android and BlackBerry tablet PCs.

Many of these apps actually make managing your finances fun, whether it's keeping an eye on your stocks, doing your banking online and, yes, even nutting out your tax.

Web developer Brendon Patcheck says competition between the Apple and Android operating system developers is such that any app that appears for one is quickly released for the other, although he says he prefers the flexibility of the Android system over Apple's.

Many of the apps have a US flavour but are made relevant to local conditions, for example, by factoring in Australian tax rates. And there are literally hundreds to choose from. Here are few.

TAX Australia with BAS ($20)

This app is designed to assist with the tax obligations of individuals, sole traders or small businesses. You add all the relevant tax information to an intuitive display that then generates an instant business activity statement and calculates pay-as-you-go tax.

Like most apps, the number of income streams and expenses that can be stored and tracked is almost endless.

At $20 this is one of the more expensive in the app world. On the other hand, it's probably cheaper than any accounting software that does the same thing.

Loan calculators

(free on Android $0.99 on iPad)

Simple and straightforward to use. There are four loan calculators to help select the best loan conditions.

It takes seconds to calculate the monthly payment for different types of fixed-rate loans such as mortgages, car loans and credit card borrowing. You can calculate "what if" scenarios to determine how additional monthly and yearly payments will help you to get rid of your loan earlier and save money in interest.

Money Lover Plus ($3.10)

One of the many budget apps available on iPad, iPhone and Android tablets. This one helps budget and track your spending. It acts like a financial calendar, alerting you to repayments that might be due and reminds you of transactions.

Mostly these sorts of apps do the same thing: you state how much you want to spend at the start of a month then record your commitments and spending.

iMoneyTracker Lite

(free also a paid version for $2.99)

One of the top free budget apps on the iPhone, this app organises and tracks your income, expenses, accounts and budget. You can make entries while you are on the move as well as view transactions on a daily, weekly, monthly and yearly basis.

Currency (free)

An iPhone and iPad app, Currency is a foreign exchange rate converter, which shows you what you are paying instantly, irrespective of what country you are in. It supports more than 150 currencies with real-time currency conversion. It factors in transaction fees and taxes but its greatest claim is that it is easy to use even when you have jet lag.

StockWatch ($2.99)

Tracks your portfolio with live stockmarket quotes. Written in the US and covers several global exchanges including the ASX. Investors can keep an eye on their favourite stocks and portfolio. With a simple tap they can look at the last trade, dividends, build charts and watch news feeds.

ASX (free)

The Australian Securities Exchange has an iPhone-only app that allows you to keep track of your 20 favourite companies. As well as real-time alerts for company announcements, there are delayed equity share price quotes. The performance of the S&P/ASX 200 and All Ords indices are available in real time.

Australian Stock Manager (free)

A free option to help keep track of the Australian financial market. It provides almost near real-time quotes of stocks of Australian and world markets indexes - including leading indexes in the US, Europe and Asia - with a very simple and user-friendly interface.

Bloomberg (free)

Bloomberg is a world-renowned source of financial and business information.

With this app users can personalise the news and data they see. Users can quickly scan financial news headlines and read full articles. Also available are world stockmarket updates, individual quotes, analysis charts and exchange rates.

Bank apps (free)

The bigger banks all offer apps that offer essentially the same services as their online banking versions. These enable you to complete most transactions on the web but some have features like finding the closest branch or ATM based on your GPS location.

A new Standard

AS A management consultant focusing on the wealth management industry, Adrian Johnstone needs to keep up to date with what's happening in his industry.

The founder and managing director of Sequential Project Services has always relied on the trade press, including Financial Standard, to keep him up to date with who is doing what across the industry.

And since the trade rag introduced its iPad app in August, he has been even more of a convert.

"The Financial Standard is important for us, it helps us stay on top of who is changing roles, upcoming M&A activity and proposed legislative changes," he says. "The wealth management industry at the moment is in a state of flux. We need a consistent source of well-researched information."

Johnstone says he still receives the print version of the Financial Standard, though he rarely reads it.

"I'm time poor and the fact the publication is constantly updated through the iApp, and that it's integrated with social media like Twitter and Facebook, makes it so much more useful to me," he says.

The Financial Standard app is not yet available in an android version.

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