In just a few short months, I’ll be making the shift from full-time student to working professional. While there will be many things I miss about the college experience and BC, I’m ready to get out of the classroom and start a new chapter of my life. As I prepare to make some big changes – including moving to Boston permanently and renting my first apartment – I want to make sure that I’m being smart financially.
Thanks to our smartphones, money management has never been easier. Gone are the days when managing finances meant using pen and paper or even Excel workbooks – the future is digital. As we heard in Lindsay Sutton’s guest lecture, even banking institutions as old as John Hancock are jumping on the personal finance app bandwagon with the launch of Twine. Recently, I’ve been doing a bit more research on the various apps out today, and I thought I’d share my findings in this week’s post in case some of my classmates are in positions similar to mine.
A lot of apps promise to help users take the guesswork out of saving, budgeting, and investing, however, not all are worth downloading. Below, I’ve rounded up some information on three of the most popular apps:
Mint is a free app from Intuit Inc., the company behind TurboTax and QuickBooks. The app is advertised as an all-in-one resource for budgeting, paying bills, and tracking payments. Set up is easy: users can connect their savings and checking accounts and monthly bills to the app so that all their finances are in one convenient place. With this information entered, Mint will help you schedule payments and remind you when it’s time to pay the bills. The budget function in the app lets you track how much you’ve spent on different categories (ex. groceries, clothing) and even offers suggestions based on your spending habits. The last notable feature of the Mint app is a free credit score checker, which allows you to access your score and learn ways to improve it. Overall, it seems like Mint lives up to the expectation of a way to manage your finances in one place and it also comes with the backing of a company that has proved trustworthy with sensitive data.
Voted a “Featured App” 131 times by Apple, Wally is an app that focuses on the tracking of expenses (so the what, where, when, why). One of the coolest features of the app is the ability to scan receipts. Instead of manually entering your expenses at the end of each day (or week), you can easily track your purchases with the snap of a photo. And, as an added bonus, if you have location services turned on, the app will automatically identify and categorize the expense, which means even less work for you. Like Mint, Wally is available for free download, however the app’s website indicates that they plan to launch optional premium features in the near future that could cost up to $5. According to some reviews, one of Wally’s pitfalls is that it may be too minimalistic. While there is a budget history section in the app, it doesn’t offer very detailed analysis. Moreover, there’s currently no way to link your bank accounts. However, if you’re looking for a simple app to help keep your spending organized, this one may just fit the bill (no pun intended).
You Need a Budget (YNAB) is different than Mint or Wally for a couple of reasons First, YNAB goes beyond basic budgeting and expense tracking to offer specific tools for goals like debt paydown. Second, YNAB requires a paid subscription of $6.99/month. But this fee isn’t without good reason. YNAB offers unparalleled support comprised of community forums, podcasts, and live, interactive workshops taught by subject matter experts. Of course, there’s also the ability to set goals, sync your bank accounts, view detailed spending reports, and a host of other features that I won’t bore you with. The outcome: an app with a cult-like following and the opportunity to get hands-on with your hard-earned money.
Of course, the effectiveness of these apps is limited to the extent to which users make and stick to realistic goals. That said, I think an app with this function will help me build good money-spending habits and stop me from spending my entire paycheck on iced coffees. If anyone has heard of or used the apps I discussed above (or others!), I’d love to get your feedback.