This is going to be a completely independent review of Money Dashboard, a solution which I never thought I needed until recently…
What is Money Dashboard?
Money Dashboard is something I came across by complete chance while trying to find a solution to my Personal Finance records. Up until this point, I had been manually tracking my ingoings and outgoings within an excel file which I updated each month. You can imagine how laborious this became over time.
Money Dashboard is described as the ultimate solution to personal finance and budgeting, and is available as an online portal or mobile application.
The company was founded in Edinburgh in 2010, which I was surprised to hear having lived in Edinburgh myself for over five years during my University years.
Setting up a Money Dashboard Account
The process of setting up an account with Money Dashboard was incredibly easy. At the time I set up my account mostly from a point of being inquisitive, as I am always looking to try new online finance solutions. This means I have been through the set up process of many of these type of solutions in recent years.
Everything is as straightforward as you would expect. Although I have read opinions that setting up your account via the app can be a little more complex (I set up via the website, and downloaded the app later).
The overall process is as you would expect – the usual email & password and some basic personal information during the setup process.
The most complex part of the process was connecting your bank account. For me, I did some online checks on the security of Money Dashboard first, as I am understandably paranoid about allowing anyone access to see anything related to my bank account. However, I was glad to see glowing reports on their security (I’ll touch on this in more detail later).
The process will be slightly different depending on who you bank with. I would presume this will be more complex with the more niche banks. My Barclays account was a pretty simple process, and linked through to the Barclays system in order to provide my confirmations, before being reverted back to the Money Dashboard website.
Each step in the process is well annotated and clear of what it is asking from you.
The final step in the process was going through all my transactions and “tagging” them in order to give them a category. Thankfully they are able to tag most of these themselves based on their knowledge database of common shopping locations etc. However, some more specific items like my monthly rent & salary had to be manually tagged so that the system knew what these were. However, it now automatically tags these each month as it remembers the tagging in the system.
It is possible that the automated tagging could produce errors, so I would always recommend going through these in order to check they are correct. How long this will take depends entirely on how thorough you wish to be. I personally have been quite general with my tagging, while others may wish to wittle their expenses down into very specific categories. For example, I just put all my house/car/motorbike insurance into one pile, while others may wish to split them.
Setting Up a Budget
One of the features of Money Dashboard is the ability to set a budget. This is something I have not used extensively. The main reason I wanted Money Dashboard was because I wanted a way to track Income Vs Expenditure easily over a total period of time. This effectively allows me to look at my bank account as though it was a profit or loss statement.
In regards to the budgeting section, it will guide you through step by step, but I wouldn’t describe is incredibly simple. You can add certain categories to your budget, and you can add a budget name and what the amount is. However, you also need to make sure you stick to this. Personally, my spending changes so much on a monthly basis (especially at the moment), so it is difficult to stick to a specific budget. However, if you’re someone who is really on top of what they want to spend each month, then I can imagine this is a great tool.
You can set up your budget to be monthly or weekly. You can even change to a calendar month or pay-date to pay-date of your salary income.
I do like the idea of weekly tracking, as it allows me to take note a little better. Once I go into monthly spending mode, it is so difficult to stick to a specific budget.
This is one of my favourite features of Money Dashboard. It allows you to add common monthly expenses, such as rent, insurance payments, car payments etc into a table. Then, the system will analyse what your expected future bank balance will look like on a graphical basis over time. This allows me to see how much my bank balance is likely to grow each month based upon my common spending.
I like to predict this over a 12 month period and add as much detail as possible. For example, I set myself a very rough target of £500 per month to spend on food, I invest £500 per month into my ETF tracker, and I know how much my rent & income is. I can really go into some quite granular detail and predict my future bank balance based on all of these factors.
Of course you could technically calculate this yourself, but it tracks the individual events of income/expense on a line graph throughout the time period. It is all quite handy!
The main dashboard area shows you a bit of a summary of everything within the system. This is quite a neat area where you can get the key data points you may need, and then you can dive into the specific detail if you want to find out more.
For example, the below pie chart shows the category spending I have done for the month of April. I can then dig into the detail on that “repayment” aspect which seems quite high, and then realise that it is due to the repayment on my American Express card (I pay via Direct Debit each month to wipe the balance). I know this is fine, as I have been using the card more often recently in order to build up credit score, as well as build towards my travel voucher when I spend £20,000.
I would definitely recommend looking at the dashboard through your computer, as it really does give the better experience here. The mobile app version is good for checking specific aspects quickly (like general expenses and bank balance). But in order to really get into the nitty-gritty and analyse your budgets, I would always recommend the desktop version.
Everything here is split up into clear and easy to understand widgets, and you are easily able to edit your views – which I found helpful to eliminate anything I didn’t need to see.
Costs of Money Dashboard
Yes, you read that right, Money Dashboard is completely Free!
They make their money by recommending products/services they feel as though you may find useful, and gain a commission off their recommendation. Other than that, you don’t need to worry about spending a penny for this handy little application.
In addition to the above, Money Dashboard does sell your spending habit data to third parties. You don’t need to worry about this on a security level, and your specific identification won’t be shared. They’ll just know that I spent about £200 too much on takeaway food during lockdown in April…
Pros & Cons
As an accountant, I quite like the simple “positive vs negative” style of Money Dashboard. It makes it easy for me to think of my bank account and the Money Dashboard statements on a Profit or Loss basis over periods of time. For example, over 12 months I may have made a “profit”, but actually spent too much in a 6 month period and made a loss.
It can also be very motivating to gain control over your spending habits by constantly seeing those red negatives coming out of your bank account. I almost view the “planner” feature as a game. I have a target I want to reach in a 12 month period, and hopefully I surpass that prediction by the dashboard.
Overall the dashboard is laid out very well, and everything is easy to read and understand. My personal favourite feature is the planner, but that is the joy of Money Dashboard…everyone will benefit from different things. There are many different features, and depending on your requirements and financial situation, you will likely aim to view different aspects.
The main downfall of Money Dashboard is when it compares to its competitors. For example, “Emma” one of their close competitors will allow for more support in terms of your investment accounts. However, that is only going to be relevant if you’re an active investor. Emma will support a growing selection of investment platforms, which you can track in the app. As far as I am aware, they do not currently support DEGIRO (my chosen platform), so this wouldn’t be a big factor for me.
However, it should be noted that Money Dashboard has confirmed that development of a feature like this is currently under development, so we may see an update on this soon.
Security & Safety
Money Dashboard can only “see” your bank account, and cannot perform any actions. Therefore, you should have no worries for accidentally changing anything to do with your bank account within the system. There is also no possibility of anyone from Money Dashboard making any transfers or changes to your bank account.
The system uses the same security environment as many leading banks, and let’s be honest, if the banks didn’t trust them then they wouldn’t allow access.
They currently use a security certificate with 256-bit encryption and their services are ISO 27001 accredited.
All of your login details are stored securely with Yodlee, who is a provider of money management solutions to over 150 of the worlds top financial institutions and used by 50 million customers.
Overall, your details are in safe hands. Even in the unlikely event of a data breach, nobody can do anything with your account other than see how much you spent on McDonald’s last month.
Money Dashboard is toted as one of the best personal finance apps in the UK. However, I wouldn’t really describe it as an “app” in the sense that I very rarely use the mobile app. The real selling point is that it has some really useful features within its online dashboard, and I would never recommend using the application over the dashboard.
As it is free, it is definitely worth checking out!