Hello everyone! Budgeting apps were something I got put off a little by being an early adopter – the ones I used didn’t offer me huge amounts of value relative to a simple spreadsheet and tended to make fairly simple mistakes. However as I’m presently drawing up some short term financial plans, I thought I’d give the new crop another go – and that’s a good opportunity for a review piece so here’s my thoughts on Money Dashboard Neon!
How long has Money Dashboard Neon been around?
The team behind Money Dashboard Neon have actually been around and making budgeting apps since 2009. There was an older version simply called Money Dashboard – but now that the Open Banking regime has since come in and budgeting apps have got much smarter, the team launched a new flagship product in the form of MoneyDashboard Neon in 2020.
You may see references elsewhere online to MoneyDashboard Classic – this is the older app and is no longer available to users.
How does Money Dashboard Neon Work?
The app uses the “Open Banking” infrastructure which is provides limited read-only access to your bank account and to your credit card accounts. You can select what accounts you want to give access to, however you obviously need to integrate every account you spend or are paid into for a complete view of your finances.
Your first thought might well be “is that safe to do?” – I’ll cover open banking in more detail after the review below.
The app worked seamlessly in terms of adding my accounts, integrating with the apps for my bank and credit cards already on my phone. I could see that it worked with the vast majority of well and not so well known banks and card providers and was impressed with the range.
Using this information, the firm works out our incoming and outgoings. It then scans who you’ve been spending with in order to categorise them (for instance by groceries, utilities entertainment etc.)
Unlike some of the apps I’d used previously, I found that the app did this very well – the only things I made manual changes to were harder-to-detect elements like mortgage payments which I wanted to split out – anything with a third party was in the right bucket.
The app then creates a high level summary for the month, detailing income, spending and drawing out anything you’re putting into savings. You can then dig any of these to see the split – this was interesting, I was a little surprised by how small purchases from the grocery store downstairs added up!
An example of how the “by merchant” bucketing works:
Creating a budget in Money Dashboard Neon
A feature I liked about the app is that you can specify your payday and it will create a month to month budget for you and project out your spending for that month. (You can create a spending plan for other periods as well, but I’m using this as an example as it’s practical for a lot of people).
This works via a few steps:
Firstly, you specify what your payday is, so it creates a month to month cycle based around this.
The app will then use your previous information to create a monthly forecast – if you have a bill you regularly pay on a monthly basis for example, it will assume that will continue. If that bill varies, it will use an average based on recent periods to make a sensible guessimate.
The app will then lay this out graphically for the month, highlighting any points your outgoing don’t meet your expenses.
If you don’t have much in the way of savings and are close to an overdraft limit, something like this becomes invaluable in helping you take corrective action.
What Money Dashboard Neon does well
Beyond the forecasting mentioned above, I appreciate just how seamlessly the app was in respect of grouping my data into categories, and liked the fact that I could also create manual groupings if I wanted as well and the app would recognise these on an going basis.
For instance, the app has classed my regular mortgage payment as being under bills – now given this is a significant outgoing in and of itself, I wanted to split this out. As I did so, they app went looking for other similar transactions and asked if I wanted to apply this to the history, and if I wanted it to learn to treat this transaction the same way going forward – helpful.
I also liked that I could switch between viewing my spending via types of bucket and simply viewing my grouped spend via each retailer as this was useful in a different way. An example of a bucket view here:
The app was generally well designed and it was quite intuitive where you’d find things – but I’d say that this was often the case rather than always the case.
What Money Dashboard Neon could improve
I had a couple of minor frustrations using Money Dashboard Neon that didn’t spoil my use of the app, but I had to make adjustments for.
The first problem was that my payday is not dead on regular – it’s a fixed day unless that day falls on a weekend, and where that happened it screwed up my monthly budget cycle at times, leaving me with a couple of months where it looked like I got paid twice and a couple of months where I didn’t get paid at all.
Now whilst there’s an obvious solution in terms of making the cycle a couple of days later so the variance doesn’t matter, I have various bills set to pay as soon as my salary comes in, so changing the cycle date would mean these get missed.
If anyone from Money Dashboard Neon is reading this, my suggestion would be to enable the app to be able to learn what a salary payment looks like, and be able to adapt to slightly variable salary cycles based on this.
The other minor gripe I had was far more fixable. As I had both my American Express and my bank account loaded onto the app, it would include a transaction that was my bank account paying off the Amex – making it look slightly like an odd double count. I was able to fix this relatively easy by simply asking it to manually ignore that transaction, but it was something I thought the app might recognise better by default.
How much does Money Dashboard Neon cost?
The app is completely free, both to download and to use on an ongoing basis.
Overall Review of Money Dashboard Neon
Money Dashboard Neon is well worth it to many people. It’s easy to set up and analyses your data sensibly, getting the vast majority of things right first time without requiring significant set up or manual intervention.
Where the app becomes exceptionally useful is to those who run a risk of dropping into their overdraft, and can use this app to demonstrate quickly if they are likely to have a problem meeting their budget this month.
A star was knocked off for the minor gripes I had above, and occasional places where the app wasn’t quite as intuitive as I’d like in how to get to seeing the specific information wanted.
Where can I download the Money Dashboard Neon app?
(Note: We may receive a small commission for referring you using our link, but it won’t affect the service you receive and per our editorial policy, we always write honestly about what we review, no matter if we get paid or not).
Is Money Dashboard Neon safe?
As I mentioned above, Money Dashboard Neon uses the Open Banking initiative to read our bank account data, so I wanted to include a piece on the safety of open banking.
Open Banking is now a well established part of new rules brought in by legislation under the Payment Services Directive to allow organisations to access and make better use of financial data. The access you grant to apps like MoneyDashboard Neon is very highly regulated to keep it secure, however nothing can ever be said to be 100% risk free.
All you provide to MoneyDashboard Neon is read only data – I.E it’s the equivalent of letting the app take a peek at your statement for a short period of time which you must re-permit each 90 days – you don’t give any access to the actual management or the direct login of your bank account.
On on that, just remember you should NEVER give any app or any person any of your account’s direct login details.
Therefore the potential direct harm or someone to make malicious transactions/steal your money is limited, however in a more general sense you should think carefully about who you provide read access to beyond Money Dashboard Neon. Given the wrong person read-only access could provide a fraudster or hacking with data on your spending that could help them commit identity fraud.
How does Money Dashboard Neon make money?
They do sell your data to do so, but all data is on an aggregated and anonymous basis (so they remove your name and any identifiable markers, and combine it with other people).
Have you tried Money Dashboard Neon? I’d love to hear your experiences or if you have any further questions! Just let us know in the comments below.