This article was published in the New Haven Register on March 19, 2018.
If you need help with basic money management – budgeting, saving, paying off debt – the support you need may be as close as the smartphone in your pocket. Dozens of apps now offer ways to automate personal finances.
Perhaps you already deposit checks online with a banking app. Did you know there are apps that will automatically transfer money from your checking account to your savings account? Have you heard about the apps that will track your spending habits and text you messages about subscriptions and bills and warnings about spending limits?
Many personal finance apps are free, while some carry nominal charges such as $1 per month. Some are available only to iPhone users or only to Android users, while many are available to both.
Personal finance apps connect to your various accounts and provide an overview of your finances. Some use algorithms to help you stay within a budget, save money automatically, or make debt payments. The newest apps send you texts with simple reminders and eye-opening statistics.
You may need more than one app, depending on your needs and goals. The most basic apps give you an overview of your finances, showing all of your transactions in bank accounts and on credit cards on one screen. These apps, such as Mint and LearnVest, show your net worth, allow you to set financial goals and then track your progress. Some of these apps will send you a warning when you approach your budgeted limit in a spending category, such as entertainment or clothing.
Dozens of new apps go beyond the basics and offer more specialized automation services. For instance, Qapital helps you save money by transferring small amounts from your checking account to a savings account, based on guidelines that you set. You can fix a daily or weekly amount to transfer, or you can get creative and tell the app to contribute a certain amount every time you reach a fitness goal (by connecting to a health tracker app) or every time you make a payment on a credit card debt.
For people struggling to get out of debt, apps such as You Need a Budget can help. The app, which charges a small fee, tracks your spending and nudges you to make changes designed to help you pay off your debts. It also offers online classes to learn basic budgeting techniques.
Other popular apps include Trim, a savings app that will find recurring charges and root out unnecessary expenses, and Digit, a savings app that analyses your finances and takes out small amounts of money every few days to transfer to a savings account.
There are many more personal finance apps out there, and I am not endorsing any particular app by naming them in this column. My purpose is to introduce you to the wide world of mobile apps for basic financial planning. I would encourage you to research different apps and choose the ones that suit you best.