Financial Hacks: Better visualisation of household expenses

This article first appeared in Personal Wealth, The Edge Malaysia Weekly, on September 21, 2020 - September 27, 2020.
Financial Hacks: Better visualisation of household expenses
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Making and maintaining a budget can be a challenging task, especially for large households. It can be an arduous process tracking and streamlining all the past, future and recurring transactions of the different members of the family. Dollarbird, a calendar-based personal finance management app, seeks to solve this problem.

First launched in 2013, Dollarbird is used by individuals, families and freelancers to manage their own or shared expenses. Its website and mobile app allow users to visualise their expenses throughout the month to ensure that they do not exceed their budgets before the next payday.

Dollarbird is a cloud-based app, which means the data stored will always be available as long as the users are online. Users can manually add their monthly income as well as daily transactions in a calendar format. They can also split them up into categories such as eating out, groceries, transportation and personal care.

Users can personalise the categories or add extra information to the transaction to help provide context to the purchases. They can also upload a photo of the receipts or invoices to catalogue all the expenses, allowing the purchases to be verified by those sharing the same calendar. For example, a child can key in a transaction worth RM25 together with a receipt, adding a note that it is for their arts and crafts class.

Users who want to plan ahead can enter any information regarding future transactions and future incomes. Examples would include a one-off income for a past freelance gig or a car insurance payment. By inputting these data, the app can calculate the user’s projected balance by the end of the month, giving them a better overview of their projected cash flow.

Dollarbird’s artificial intelligence technology studies the users’ transactions over time, helping them to input the data more easily the longer they use the app. For example, if a user inputs a RM20 transaction for lunch every Monday, the app will auto input this transaction for the following weeks. Data recorded on Dollarbird can be exported into a CSV file for any further record-keeping purposes.

While the free version of Dollarbird can be used to manage one’s cash flow, the calendar-sharing feature is only available in the paid version of the app. From US$3.33 to US$4.99 a month, users can sync up to 20 calendars. Only one user needs to subscribe to share the calendars with others.

Dollarbird can be downloaded for free from the Google Play, App Store or accessed via the web browser.