Toshl is one of those weird little apps that, on paper, appear extremely useful but which I’ve never quite clicked with. On at least three separate occasions over the past year I’ve signed up for a free account, started setting it up, hit a road block and ultimately never returned. Every time, it goes like this: I’ll get an email regarding some new feature, think little of it and move on. Then, a couple of weeks later, I’ll decide I need to sort out my life and *bing*, up pops Toshl in my recent memory. “Perfect” I think, restart my account and… well, ultimately, remember some reason why the service isn’t right for me and abandon it again.
It happened again over the weekend. My partner and I are in the planning phase of a big holiday, unlike anything we’ve done together since officially entering “adulthood” and it’s becoming apparent that we’ll need to start budgeting and tracking our finances in order that we pull it all off. We were discussing this on Saturday when Toshl, obviously, popped into my head. It was only about a week ago that I got an email from them about some new feature (genuinely no idea what), so it seemed like fate. I fired up my account, set up a couple of payments, recorded all our monthly outgoings and began to get a decent overview of what we were spending money on. Recording every little purchase was a bit of a pain though, as it requires “adding” each one individually, which involves a number of dropdown boxes and deciding on stuff like categories (which didn’t always work: car, for example, should not be a “tag” or subgroup), and simply didn’t seem time effective. It was much quicker to create a Google Sheet, import our bank statements and quickly move cells around – plus we can both work on it simultaneously without having to share passwords, logins etc. However, this worked nicely in conjunction with Toshl, so was more of a speed bump than a roadblock.
As a result, it looked like I’d finally found a use for Toshl. The inbuilt calculators and setup, though a little fiddly, are genuinely great for recurring amounts of money (both in and out of accounts) and allowed us to quickly see how much it genuinely cost for us to live. Once set up, it was also easy to see break downs of what portion of our outgoings were flexible and which were not (e.g. taxes and rent). Excited and ready to start putting all this neatly sorted data to good use, I began setting up some savings pots. That’s when I hit the roadblock.
A free Toshl account can only have 2 “Accounts”, i.e. bank accounts, and 2 “Budgets”, which we were going to use as savings pots. Only two of the latter, however, was too little to even get a feel for how they worked. I do understand why companies restrict certain features and offer “Pro” or premium experiences at a cost, especially data heavy cloud services like Toshl. However, in this instance, the “free” version feels too much like a chore to actually use and restricts you from what I would consider its “core” feature: the ability to set and monitor savings targets.
So here we are again. My latest liaison with Toshl is already over and the account is now permanently closed. We moved over the monthly outgoing/incoming calculations to the spreadsheet, added some new functionality to mimic savings pots and everything’s working pretty great. Is our solution as shiny and well designed as Toshl? No, absolutely not. But it’s a lot more flexible, gives us exactly what we need and makes it very easy to expand upon, both from the perspective of functionality and the data being stored.
To be clear, this is definitely not meant as a take-down of Toshl, its services or methodology. I think it’s a genuinely good service and, especially outside of the US, is one of the best variants of this business model out there. Ultimately, though, it doesn’t do enough of what I want it to do and I’m not willing to spend extra money on something without finding it indispensable, which Toshl just doesn’t achieve. Oh well, maybe I’ll find another use for it in after another few months have passed.