One of the best things about technology is what it does to make our lives easier. Don’t like to vacuum your floors? Get a Roomba or a V-bot to do it for you. Too tired to get up and turn off the lights? Just let your smart phone turn them off. Want to know what today’s weather will be? Ask the Amazon Echo. Love to have a hot cup of coffee waiting for you first thing in the morning? Just set the timer on your programmable coffeemaker. And these are just a few of the ways that technology makes life easier.
Make it easier to manage your money
If you’re like most Americans you already take your smart phone pretty much for granted. Sure, it was new and exciting a few years ago but now it’s become just a part of your everyday life like your one-cup coffee maker or your TV remote. Sometimes it’s hard to remember that today’s smart phones are smarter and can do more than the computers that were aboard the Apollo space flights. And one area that’s often overlooked where your smart phone could make your life a lot easier is in managing your money.
Start with Mint
If you’d like to put your finances on autopilot a good place to start would be signing up for Mint. This is a free app from Intuit and might just be the best-known online personal finance tool. When you sign up for Mint it will track your monthly spending, divide it into categories and then send you email alerts anytime you overspend if any of them. It will provide you with an overview of your entire financial picture and will give you real-time information about your credit cards, bank accounts and your 401(k) portfolio. For that matter, Mint will even send you an alert if it finds a financial product that’s better than one you’re currently using.
Automatically save with Acorns
If you have a problem saving money as do many Americans then you should get the app Acorns. You connect it to your checking account and credit cards and then when you buy something, Acorns will automatically round up your purchase to the next dollar and then invest the difference in the ETF (Exchange Traded Find) you’ve chosen. For example, if you were to buy something for $8.49 Acorn would round this up to $9.00 and then deposit $.51 in your ETF. This is a great “set it and forget it” app and a neat way to save money practically painlessly.
Get financial advice from Level Money
Here’s an app that actually gives you financial advice. You connect it to your bank account and it will then calculate your recurring bills and income and tell you what your spending should be daily, weekly and monthly. One of its really sweet features is that Level Money will not only tell you what you should be spending but also what you should be saving. You can also use it to auto-save money, which is a great way to put your financial security on autopilot.
Plan your retirement with RetirePlan
The purpose of this app is to help you determine just how much you need to invest for your retirement. It can help you answer questions such as, “How much money will I need if I live to 90?,” and “when can I retire?” One of its best features of RetirePlan is that it will allow you to play “what if” scenarios. For example, you could plug in a worst-case scenario such as when the stock market crashes and a best-case scenario like when it soars or something in between. You could then play around with the numbers until you find a scenario that meets your expectations and plan accordingly. RetirePlan will also tell you when you should get professional advice.
One of the easiest ways to save money is by saving money you never had. Probably the foremost example of this is to have money taken out of your paycheck to fund your 401K account. Since you don’t actually “see” the money you don’t miss it as much as if you had to write a check. Digit is another way to do this. It reviews your income and spending patterns, determines how much money you can afford to put away and then saves it for you. This is just a very cool way to automatically build a nest egg.
Manage your spending with Goodbudget
Have you ever heard of the envelope method for budgeting? This was an old-school approach where you would take a bunch of envelopes and label them based on your budget categories such as groceries, utilities, clothing, etc. When you got paid you would divide the money into the envelopes based on what you had budgeted for each of your categories. The Goodbudget app is based on this but puts it into digital format. You can use it to set up an “envelope” for each of your budget categories and then deposit a certain amount of money in each of them. It will nag you if you spend more than you had budgeted in any category. While this might seem like a sort of rudimentary approach it is a great way to see how much money you’re spending in certain categories. Plus, it offers a helpful reminder when you spend too much.
Get your credit score free from CreditKarma
One of the most important things this app does is give you your credit score free. Credit Karma will also monitor your credit card accounts and then recommend better cards or loan programs that will save you money – mostly on interest. It includes a suite of services that will advise you about auto insurance and mortgages. It’s a great tool when you want to do some comparison-shopping to save money and do a better job of managing your finances.
You don’t have to do all of these at once
If the idea of downloading and learning to use all seven of these apps seems a bit overwhelming, relax. Start with one of them like Mint, learn to use it until you’re comfortable with it and then add a second app such as Acorns or RetirePlan. In other words, don’t try to do everything at once. In fact, you may find you don’t even need all seven of these apps. The important thing is to give them a try, learn what works best for you and then sit back knowing your personal finances are now resting comfortably on autopilot.