English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

I am in the middle of developing an app. I'm having some trouble trying to decide the best usage for two features in particular. I know what both of these words mean, but I am becoming increasingly confused and irritated the more I try to find a good-fitting word for both features that is not only easily understood by your average Joe, but also doesn't sound too weird or out of place.

Expense and Purchase.

The reason I am becoming confused is because I was originally using the word Expense to allow you to enter things like Grocery Shopping items, utility bills, petrol, lunch, dinners, etc.

But then I wanted to make things a little easier. I wanted to separate necessities, or things that we really need from things that we want - or just simply one-off purchases. So then I introduced the word Purchase. So now I have a menu that looks like this:

File ---New ------Purchase ------Expense ...

You click on New Purchase if you've just bought something and want to record it (this is a budgeting app). You click on New Expense if you have things to pay for like bills, petrol etc on a regular basis.

I'm not sure anymore. I've confused the heck out of myself and now I need some help.

Which word would best describe the feature: "I just purchased something and need a record the details of this transaction" (Please don't suggest using the actual word Transaction. That word is literally everywhere else.)? And which word would best describe this feature: "I have some bills and/or items that I buy on a regular basis, and I want to record the details of these future transactions."?

Remember: I'm trying to keep them separate. I know I could just use one word for both features, but due to many minor differences in each feature it could be confusing to others and I like a nice and clean interface.

share|improve this question
Is the distinction necessity vs nicety or recurring vs once-off? If the former, consider procurement (or acquisition), though this generally applies only to products and excludes the consumption of services; if the latter, consider receipt? – Dan Bron Jul 31 '14 at 14:55
Perhaps this question would be better asked on User Experience. It might become tiresome always having to pointlessly select "New" every time you want to record a one-off purchase, simply because once in a blue moon you can't enter another instance of a recurring bill because it's the first one for that particular payment. – FumbleFingers Jul 31 '14 at 15:22
@FumbleFingers although its completely unrelated to this problem I appreciate your suggestion. We do have a nice pretty toolbar for convenient access though :-) – jay_t55 Jul 31 '14 at 15:25
up vote 5 down vote accepted

Generally, questions related to programming are off-topic here, and you'll get better answers over at the Usability Stack Exchange, but I'll take a stab:

From a usability perspective, the user shouldn't have to interpret the meaning of these labels. They should be obvious.

If I were you, I would think about labeling them with more than one word to make it crystal clear. Something like:

------One-Time Purchase
------Recurring Expense
share|improve this answer
Thanks @Kevin. I've decided to go with your words. :-) – jay_t55 Sep 17 '14 at 11:47

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.