When you're on the road, tracking expenses is just another hassle that eats up valuable time. And as the receipts pile up in your wallet, it gets increasingly difficult to remember how much you've spent, and on what. Enter TextHog, a free (for now, anyway) Web app designed to simplify the tracking and analysis of business expenses while you're in transit.
There's no shortage of expense tracking and reporting apps for smart phones, but what sets TextHog apart from most others is the fact that it doesn't live on your phone at all. Instead, you just text (or e-mail) your expenses to a private address on TextHog as you incur them, as in Food, 8.34. This will create a record of the transaction on your TextHog account, which you can later view, categorize, edit, and ultimately output in the form of a CSV file with all the other expenses from your trip.
I happen to be on a business trip right now, so it seemed like a good time to give TextHog a whirl. As I've spent, I've dutifully logged my purchases via SMS. And whenever I've found myself at my laptop with an Internet connection, I've edited and analyzed my spending using the site's online tools.
TextHog's basic functionality--logging transactions that you send to it--works well, but requires you to format your messages precisely (using commas after keywords and a decimal point even on transactions that have no pennies after them). Format a message wrong and it'll vanish into unknown crevices of the Net.
But once your expenses are recorded on the site, they're relatively easy to work with--unless you count the time I made some sort of typo while adjusting the date of a purchase and inadvertently placed it 40 years in the past with no obvious way to retrieve or re-edit it. Yeah, apart from that the interface is a cinch. It would be even better if there were a 'show all' option that let you see all transactions, no matter when they purportedly took place.
Assuming you don't make some sort of date-editing blunder like I did, it's pretty easy to view pie charts of your recent transactions to see where your budget is going. And you can set custom budgets as well to help you spend more effectively as you travel.
TextHog's reporting features have some serious growing to do, as it only exports reports as CSV files and doesn't currently have any built-in way to get your expenses into popular accounting apps like QuickBooks. If, like we do at my company, you submit your expense reports in an Excel template, you can use field mapping to ease the process of importing TextHog CSV reports into Excel. So in my case, the CSV option works reasonably well.
All told, TextHog is certainly no expense-tracking panacea. But it's a fairly convenient way to at least keep an eye on what you're shelling out as you cram ever more receipts into your wallet over the course of a trip. And as long as it's free, it's definitely worth a try.