Financial Planning: There’s an App for That
Written by Camille Puschautz on July 21, 2015 in Credit |
Among your laundry list of things to do, you may feel that updating your budget is one of the least pleasant. If that’s the case, you may want to consider looking at one of the many available financial apps that can help monitor your account balances, help track your spending, and help you stay focused on your financial goals.
More and more, consumers are using their smartphones to help stay on top of their cash. In fact, according to a recent USA Today article, nearly 60 percent of 25-35 year olds, said they used their phones to bank last year.
Here’s a look at a few popular financial apps and how they are helping consumers manage their funds.
Probably the most well-known in the financial app sphere, Mint is a free platform owned by Intuit, the company behind TurboTax. By linking to consumer accounts, Mint can provide an overview of your financial status.
“I like using Mint because I am able to see my checking accounts, saving accounts, investments, and student loans all in one app,” says Katie Press, an academic advisor at a college in Wisconsin, who’s been using Mint for a year to manage her finances.
Mint updates your expenses and gives you a quick look of how much you spend in different categories, such as groceries, gas, and entertainment.
“After I categorized the Shell station near my house as ‘gas’ a few times, the predictive functions caught on, and now it mostly categorizes all my expenses automatically,” Press says.
Mint also allows you to set email alerts that notify you when a bill is coming up soon or when you’ve exceeded your set budget. Press says she checks in on Mint at least once a day.
“I use it like a wallet—except it’s a much more informed wallet because it can tell me everything I have at once,” Press says.
LearnVest started out as a money management tool for women, but after Northwestern Mutual purchased the company in early 2015, its audience expanded. Like Mint, LearnVest is a free platform that allows consumers either to manually input expenses or automatically link to accounts at financial institutions. Users can also opt for a financial plan that connects directly with a LearnVest financial planner.
LearnVest encourages users to put the budgeting app on your phone next to an app you use frequently, such as Facebook or Instagram, so that checking your accounts becomes as habitual as scrolling through your newsfeed.
You Need A Budget (YNAB)
YNAB is a financial tool that helps users adopt a money-saving strategy by budgeting for next month’s expenses.
The app, for which you must pay a one-time fee of $60, helps users allocate each dollar toward a category, showing you how much you have to spend every time you make a purchase. When app users overspend, you have to shift your funds around to cover the extra money, and you get less in the category in which you overspent the next month.
“I’m not naturally good at keeping track of my money or saving receipts, so I knew I needed something to help me stick to a budget,” says Paeter Wait, a youth counselor in Minnesota. Wait has been using YNAB for more than a year.
“I think the best part about it is how it helps you learn to save for big expenses,” Wait says. YNAB focuses on teaching users what they need to do to plan ahead for holiday presents, wedding gifts, or a car emergency.
“Now, I’m not anxious when I spend because I know that’s what I saved for,” she explains, adding that the financial peace of mind she has gained is worth the initial fee.
Acorns is an investing app that allows users to automatically invest their spare change in a diversified stock portfolio. Ideal for frequent credit card users, Acorns rounds up purchases to the nearest dollar and invests in different funds, based on individual user preferences.
For example, if your change adds up to $5 every few days, it will amount to $1,000 that you can use with Acorns over the course of the year.
If you are wary of working with a brokerage firm or just don’t have time to think too much about investing, Acorns is a set-it-and-forget-it system that can help you get started. The app is free, but once you start investing, it charges $1 per month.
Have you had friends tell you they’ve gotten a free hotel stay, flight, or cash from their credit card purchases? It’s almost impossible to keep up with all the rewards available and which card you should use to get them. The Wallaby app tells users which credit cards yields the most rewards for each purchase.
By inputting your credit cards and your rewards preference, such as flight miles, cash, or points, Wallaby can help you choose the right credit card every time you shop.
Financial apps are a quick and easy way to stay up to date on your accounts. You’ll still have to work hard to budget appropriately, but these apps can help you stay focused on your financial goals.
Camille Puschautz is a researcher, writer, and web producer at Think Glink Media, with a background in print and digital media. She is a graduate of the University of Dallas and Northwestern University, where she received a master’s degree in journalism.
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