Travel Expense Tracking with Trail Wallet

Apr 7, 2014 | Review | 10 comments

It’s easy to lose track of finances while traveling.  An expensive meal here, a souvenir there, and next thing you know you’re wondering where all of your money went.  Budget conscious travelers have utilized various methods of tracking finances, from collecting loose receipts to creating detailed spreadsheets, but now there is a more streamlined solution available.  Enter Trail Wallet, an travel expense tracker for iPhone that takes the hassle out of maintaining a travel budget.

Trail Wallet has been lovingly created by Simon and Erin, digital nomads of Never Ending Voyage.  As world travelers, Simon and Erin realized that while budget tracking is not exactly glamorous, it is necessary in order to maintain sustainable travel.  Trail Wallet was created to take the complexity out of expense tracking so that you can focus on more fun things.

Features

Track Monthly or By Trip

In the past, Trail Wallet had only allowed monthly budget tracking, which favored continual travelers but wasn’t as valuable to occasional travelers. Recently, however, trip-based budgeting was added which allows users to set their own travel dates and track expenses per trip. Each trip can be set to use multiple local currencies, and provides per-trip history, charts, and export options.

Categories and Breakdowns

Trail Wallet organizes your spending by using categories. Categories can be created and customized based on preference, and can be used to easily see where your money is going.  Are you spending more money on lodging or food? Transportation or admissions? A summary screen provides an overview of both your daily and trip expenses, while the interactive pie chart provides an overview which shows how much you’ve spent in each category. A history tab provides day-by-day listings of expenses and allows you to edit or move each line item as necessary.

Trail Wallet’s pie chart and history screens

Trail Wallet’s pie chart and history screens

Backup and Sharing

Trail Wallet features Dropbox integration, which daily backs up your data in case anything happens to your phone.  Trail Wallet also allows the exporting of CSV reports, so you can compile your data separately in a spreadsheet, send a budget to a friend, or just keep an additional record on your computer.

Trail Wallet has the ability to share “budget bragging” on social networks such as Facebook and Twitter, although this is a feature that we don’t use.

Ease of Use

The process of entering amounts into Trail Wallet is simple.  Once you have your trip set up and your currencies chosen, adding an entry takes only seconds. Tap the “add” button, make sure the correct currency is chosen (it defaults to the last used currency), enter an amount, choose a category, add an optional note, and save. You can even choose to spread amounts across several days (i.e. accommodation expenses) to better match your set budget.

Trail Wallet’s summary and add screens

Trail Wallet’s summary and add screens

Design

The design of Trail Wallet is clean and well thought out.  Bottom tabs provide access to the most used features.  Additional options are tucked away in a hidden side panel.  You can toggle between currencies by simply tapping on them.  The color palette of the app is bright and vibrant, even if it is a bit reminiscent of the Joker.

The most annoying feature of the app is the “budget reminder” – a nondescript speech bubble that encourages good budgeting or chides the user when overspending takes place.  Perhaps this feature was added in an attempt to add a bit of humor, or maybe just to give the app a more human feel.  Either way, I consider it unnecessary and out of place.  I prefer for the app to simply track my spending without the pep talk.

Price

Trail Wallet is based on a “freemium” model.  The app is free for download and allows 25 entries. Once you’ve completed 25 entries, the app will prompt you to buy via an in-app purchase.  The current price for Trail Wallet is $3.99, which is a real bargain considering the usefulness of the app.

Trail Wallet is only available for iOS.

Stability

Trail Wallet has a single stability issue.  I can systematically make it crash by viewing the expenditure history and then returning to enter a travel expense item.  This may be fixed in a later version, but currently it can be annoying.

UPDATE: Turns out that the latest version has fixed the crashes.  Just make sure you’re running version 2.1.4 and things should be as smooth as butta’.

Pros

  • Easy to use: Trail Wallet is thoughtfully laid out.  No user manual needed.
  • Detailed: All the info you need without additional clutter and bloat.
  • Attractive design: Aside from a few design choice quibbles, I generally find the look clean and appealing.
  • Price: Free to use up to 25 items.  After that, buy it at the bargain price of $3.99.

Cons

  • Pithy sayings become annoying: It’s a minor thing perhaps, but I don’t need an app chiding me about my spending.
  • No Android app: Since we use iPhones, this doesn’t affect us.  But for you poor Android or Windows users, no dice.

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