As someone who recently got into the personal finance game myself (I’m a recent college grad living on her own), I’ve been digging for the best ways to scrimp and save. That’s part of the reason why I’m writing this post in the first place. After stumbling upon Saving For My Family, I decided I wanted to contribute as a means to grow my portfolio and help anyone out in a similar situation or simply in need of assistance with finances. What I found was that there are a lot of ways to track your spending habits through your smartphone or mobile device, but not all of them are worth your time. And after doing the proper research and giving many of them a fair shake, I’ve decided that these five are must-haves for anyone (single or in a family) looking to keep track of their personal finances.
I’m starting out with Mint because it’s likely that you’re already using it and, if not, it’s a great starting point for any person interested in getting his or her finances in check. You can input information from pretty much any account you have student loan, mortgage, checking, etc. and know that you can keep track of them in one place. There are also alerts and reminders available if you have trouble keeping up with bills or need to know when you’re at a certain amount with your checking/savings accounts. Oh, and it’s also free.
To go in a slightly different direction in this post, I’m including SavedPlus. It’s an app that doesn’t necessarily maintain your personal finances in the traditional sense, but it does help with them in the long run. You see, it automatically deposits money into your savings or investment account, IRA, or even a pre-paid card for later. The wait it works is simple: Let’s say you put that you want 10 percent of your grocery shopping spending to go into your IRA. Well, SavedPlus will put whatever that percentage ends up being right into your account. Spent $150? $15 will appear in your IRA from your checking or savings account. You can also set a limit so that you’re not “saving” a percentage on every purchase.
I came across BillGuard when reading about the most useful apps on Investopedia, where writer Jean Folger gave BillGuard attention right at the start. In addition to tracking spending, which you’re probably doing on your own anyway, the app stays true to its name by guarding your credit cards against fraud. If any suspicious spending occurs, you’ll instantly receive an alert so you can handle it. This way, you won’t be locked out of your credit card and be forced to call your company to figure out what happened. BillGuard takes care of that.
If you’re using an iOS device, you’ll have to shell out $5.99 for CoinKeeper it’s free on Android but don’t let the price deter you. This app is great if you are saving for a particular goal, especially a more short-term one like a new car or family vacation. It helps you stay on track by doing more than alerting you that your checking account is low or anything simple like that. It actually tells you where you are spending too much money. Perhaps you’re indulging a bit too much at the market or dining out too frequently and not realizing it. Well, CoinKeeper will be there to let you know.
You Need a Budget (YNAB)
In all of my research, YNAB is the one app that consistently came up in addition to Mint. In articles on both Verizon Wireless and Lifehacker on personal finance tools, the authors pointed to YNAB as incredibly. The only downside? The price. While the app itself is free (hooray!), you are required to purchase software so that the app syncs with your desktop. And it’s around $60. Still, if you’re looking an all-inclusive way to track your family’s spending, YNAB is the way to go. It teaches you how to beat the paycheck-to-paycheck lifestyle, tracks spending on a number of platforms and institutions, and basically keeps everyone in your household in check.
Sara Upton is a recent college graduate who studied English and journalism. When she’s not writing or reading her favorite websites, she enjoys hanging out with her dog, Max, and her boyfriend in parks around her Los Angeles home.