Mobile Applications For Managing Car Fuel And Personal Expenses

Computing platform has shrunk considerably - from desktop to laptops, notebooks and sub-notebooks, and then to PDAs and palmtop computers. In this race of providing computing power at a touch of button, cell phones have not lagged behind and albeit their limited capabilities, they are increasingly providing greater value for money through third party application downloads.

We are taking a look at few management tools - for car fuel and personal expense tracking. The good thing about these tools is that they can be downloaded easily from GetJar and run on any entry-level Java enabled phone without any specialised OS like Symbian.

Car fuel tracking

If you are one of those who want to remain in control of spending related to your vehicle and its fuel efficiency, Car Manager application is indeed a breeze with its ease of use and flexible settings. It starts with a car definition - asking manufacturer, model, purchase date and initial odometer setting which is a handy feature to track both new and used cars. Once a car is defined and selected, the main button is used to enter fuel charges paid, that is the total bill. Next entry is Fuel Cost. Additionally, two more information flags can be marked - first is Full Fillup, and second is Private / Business, both help in reporting purposes. Apart from fuel, other expenses can be defined such as parking and car wash. But since the app is not free, let's take a look at another one which is free.

It's called Fuel Consumption. Simplicity is the key in this application as all the menu items are listed in the first screen. Selecting ‘Add' results in data entry for date, odometre, litres of fuel filled and cost per litre. One improvisation in this application is that the next time user goes in to enter fuel consumption data, last odometre reading and fuel price appears automatically (based on last entry), and as the record is saved, a summary info message appears showing average consumption till now in litre / 100 KM. the entered data can be viewed or edited using ‘Data' menu and there is also a Delete All option to start afresh.

Statistics are detailed, showing fuel tracking to and from dates, distance covered so far, number of days tracked, total fuel consumed and its total payment, average cost / KM. plus a red-lined graph. This makes Fuel Consumption a really neat tool for keeping car fuel expenses documented. Keep in mind one important thing while using this application - the main menu selection button is not the centre key, it is the bottom left soft key on the Nokia 6030 and might be the same for other similar five key navigation system phones. In short, if the main menu doesn't respond to the centre key, press all the menu driving soft keys to find out the right one that works with this application.

Personal finance tracking

There are a number of useful tools for managing personal finance, for example, Money Manager 1.4.1. This has got some common expense categories already defined, which can be modified or new ones can be added. Adding a transaction is very simple - press insert, enter amount, select a category (at this point, a new category can be added as well thus saving time usually associated with configuring categories through a separate menu), and finally press Save. The transaction now appears in the main listing screen of the application. The good thing about this application is that it does away with debit and credit marking - instead, it uses -ve and +ve amounts to get available balance. For example, starting with ‘cash' balance of 5,000/-, expense of say eating out, can be recorded as -1,000/- resulting in 4000/- balance shown in the main screen at the top.

Multiple months can be navigated using right and left keys. The Options > Statistics is the menu that summarises, category wise, amounts spent along with number of transactions in each expense category.

Next application is simpler with a size of just 13.4 KB - it's called ExpApp. There are three versions available, 2A for touch screen (stylus) support, 2B for MIDP1 phones and 1.5 which is for MIDP2 phones - the most common and almost universally compatible one which we are going to review. Entering a transaction is again very simple - sequences of entries, mostly optional, are to be added. Only amount and category selection is enough before pressing Save. Summary view gives category wise breakdown, payer wise (self, other) and finally grand total.

Note that this application tracks the total expense only, not the individual accounts which means you can not setup a -ve / +ve balances to reconcile cash in your pocket or bank account with what has been tracked.

JabpLite is a bit more advanced financial tracking system. By default it opens up in Accounts view. Creating a new account requires name, description, opening balance, balance type (debit / credit) and account type from the list of existing categories, that is, Bank, Cash, Credit Card, Asset and Liability. Changing the view to Transaction for the selected account using Options > Switch Views allows transaction entry in that account.

Other views that are available include categories, standing orders, investments and currencies. In ‘Transactions' view, along with amount (which is either debit or credit) and category selection, user can set the flags like ‘Reconciled' and ‘Transfer'. The Extra Option menu is a plus point of this application that allows general preferences update, net worth calculation (means receivables and liabilities both are catered unlike other applications), compression and summary of accounts and transaction etc. are present along with some other useful items.

All in all, mobiles of today are becoming extremely capable of supporting various data management needs of people on the go - only if they are used to their full potential!

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