Wouldn’t it be nice if we could all just have a personal money manager who helped us budget, save for the future, deal with taxes, and all the other head-swirling financial responsibilities we can’t avoid? While some people may be able to afford that kind of assistance, it’s not feasible for everyone — but that doesn’t mean those in the latter group have to go it alone, especially in the age of “there’s an app for that.” Because, really, when it comes to getting a handle on your finances, there is indeed an app for that. In fact, there are hundreds. “The key is to select an app that provides you with the information you need in a way that is easy to understand and implement,” said Tony Steuer, author of the financial preparedness book Get Ready!
“Another important factor is deciding what information to share with the app and the security level. A good starting point is to use apps provided by financial institutions that you have a relationship with.” Your bank’s app may have helpful resources beyond just checking your account balance; and, Steuer pointed out, they “already have [your] information so [you] don’t need to share it with another party.”
That said, it can certainly be worthwhile to download one or more additional financial apps if your bank’s app isn’t doing it for you, or you just want different tools and guidance. Here are five that may fit the bill.
When you have so many “set it and forget it” recurring expenses — like streaming services — that you pay automatically every month, it can be a little too easy to let those costs rack up for years without ever reevaluating. That’s where Trim comes in. “Trim is a great app for finding ways to save on your monthly expenses,” said Stefanie O’Connell, author of The Broke and Beautiful Life. “It will analyze your accounts to find recurring subscriptions and bills that you can either cancel or renegotiate to save more money.”
Have you ever paid for something in cash and told the cashier to just “keep the change”? Acorns takes that, “I don’t need this spare change” mentality and turns it into potential savings by automatically rounding up your purchases made with linked cards and investing the extras. “One of the basic principles of smart investing is called Dollar Cost Averaging, which is the practice of investing money systematically,” said Priya Malani, co-founder of Stash Wealth. “Acorns helps its users do this by automatically rounding up purchases and investing the difference on a regular basis. It’s a good habit to build and will come in handy when you’re ready to take your investing to the next level.”
Acorns’ service is free for college students; otherwise, you’ll pay $1, $2 or $3 per month, depending on the plan you choose. That said, Erin Lowry, author of Broke Millennial Takes on Investing, suggested you only sign up for a service like this if you’ll invest enough to offset the cost. “Micro-investing apps can provide a low-barrier to entry, which is great, but you need to invest more than just a couple bucks a month,” she said. “Ideally, you should aim to invest $50 a month or more into those apps to ensure the monthly fee doesn’t eat up your return. $1 or $2 a month as a fee doesn’t sound like much, but if you’re only investing $10 a month, it’s probably going to negate your returns.”
Mint is probably one of the best known finance apps, and offers a simple and straightforward way to get a handle on your finances. “It shows you where your money is going and allows you to track your spending and your budget in real time so you can make better decisions about your money in the moment,” O’Connell said. Through the app, you can set spending limits in various categories (like restaurants, shopping, transportation and more), link your credit cards and bank accounts for automatic tracking (and alerts) and keep tabs on your progress as you work toward any savings goals.
Morningstar for Investors
“Morningstar is the gold standard for professional financial advisors and provides comprehensive and unbiased information on stocks, bonds, mutual funds and [Exchange-Traded Funds],” Steuer said. The app, which is available with two plan options — basic and premium — offers the highly regarded investment services that Morningstar is known for, to help you research potential investments and manage your existing portfolio as you go.
Your credit score can have a significant impact on your finances, so it’s important to keep an eye on it and have a solid understanding of how to not only boost the number but also avoid causing it to plummet. CreditWise, an app from Capital One, helps you do just that. “We [at Stash Wealth] like this one for three reasons,” Malani said. “It’s a quick reference for your credit score; it’s got a really cool credit score simulator that allows you to play around with how different actions might impact your credit score (like closing an old credit card); and...it has built in ‘fraud protection.’ If anyone tries to use your personal information you get an immediate push notification, [which is] so much easier than freezing your credit.”