I downloaded a smart, simple expense tracking app back in early 2013 when it was first released on the iOS App Store. I tried it for a while but eventually deleted it from my phone. Leap forward to today though – the app has some notable improvements since I first used it and I’m drawn back in to using it daily.

What is it? Next for iPhone. Here’s a link to it in the iTunes Store. There’s also a version for Mac and iPad, and with iCloud support you can manage your expenses wherever you go. The version for iPhone costs $2.99 and is well worth it, in my opinion. Even if you don’t have an Apple device please keep reading – I want to cover the benefits of an expense tracking app and there are dozens of expense tracking apps on every app store.

Next for iPhone ScreenshotBefore digging further, let me explain why I like Next. First, it’s extremely simple and intuitive to use. There are three main screens in Next, two to analyze your data, and one to add new data in (pictured right). Things are kept super simple – you can pick from a handful of icons to represent whatever expense category you’d like. Once you’ve arranged them, all you do is click on one, enter a dollar amount, and that’s it! No other info required. Of course, if you want to go back and make a note about what a specific transaction was for, that’s super easy to do, too.

The reporting in Next is my favorite part. It’s easy to see your spending on your current day, your spending for the week, and for the month and year, too. And what makes this so much better than looking at your expenses online (say, at your bank’s website, or with Mint.com), is that you are personally responsible for entering your expenses. Once you start using Next, you’ll realize you don’t want to go in and add expenses – not because it’s too difficult or time-consuming, but because you don’t want to see your expenses growing! Now, with every purchase I make, I have to realize that I’ll need to add that cost into Next. It certainly makes a 5-dollar latte from Starbucks seem a lot less appealing.

Next for iPhone Screenshot 2Keeping track of your finances is a crucial step to becoming financially fit. Without realizing it, a Friday night out with friends can turn into $50 for beer, food and a movie, or a Saturday at the mall can turn into $500 worth of clothes or other goodies you’ll soon forget about. Even your typical day-to-day expenses add up quick – especially if you have to commute to work, buy meals on-the-go, or get your daily dose of coffee.

The underlying benefits of using a manual expense tracking app are that (1) you’re forced to literally see where your money is going and how much is going away, and (2) you’re forced into the habit of tracking your expenses with each purchase, and (3) your mind connects each purchase with the emotional feeling of seeing your expenses add up.

If you’re ready to get serious about where your money is going, get Next for iPhone. Better yet, before you even do that, create a zero-based budget and have a plan of action for where every dollar goes.

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