Ten years ago, I don’t know that I could have told you exactly what an app was.
I didn’t own a smartphone, and if you had started talking to me about clouds I would have thought of storms or sunshine rather than data stored on the internet.
But it’s 2020 now, and for all the ills of our collective internet addiction, financial apps have quickly helped us simplify and streamline many aspects of our lives.
That includes our personal finances. In fact, apps and services can help us get further in our financial journeys faster.
Here are ten of the best apps for every step in your financial journey—whether you’re a financial whiz or have yet to write the first budget to which you actually adhere.
Budgeting Apps and Tools
The very first step in every financial journey is budgeting. You need to know how much money you have, where it’s going and where you’d like it to go instead before you can reach any financial goals.
Here at Tiller, we take the pain out of all things budgeting.
You can use our spreadsheets, which can be set up to automatically download transaction data from your bank, to track your expenses, budget, estimate your quarterly taxes if you are a small business owner, track your net worth and so much more.
If you would like a clear picture of your financial situation but don’t necessarily want to do all of the work that goes into painting that picture by yourself, our web-based platform is for you.
- How much does Tiller cost? The first 30 days of Tiller are free. After that, you pay $79/year.
- How Tiller Works: When you sign up with Tiller, you’ll gain access to our powerful spreadsheets via Google Sheets.
Then, you’ll link your financial accounts. We import all your financial data with bank-grade security, allowing you to import all that data into the preformatted spreadsheets.
You’ll gain a good picture of your spending, net worth or even how you should set up your budget moving forward given your past spending habits and expenses.
Mint is one of the oldest budgeting apps around.
It also links to your financial accounts and creates reports for you, allowing you to track your spending, build budgets and more. While we prefer the flexibility and customization of our spreadsheets, Mint has been popular for a long time because it gets the job done.
How much does Mint cost? Using Mint is free, which in this case means it’s funded by ads in the app and your email.
How Mint Works To get started with Mint, you’ll link your financial accounts to the program. Then, you’ll be able to access reports covering things like your spending by category, your budget, your net worth and more. You can access these reports on your PC or on your phone.
Saving Apps and Tools
After you’ve got your budget set up, you’re likely going to want to work on your saving habits.
Whether you’re talking about saving on your everyday purchases or the act of putting money into a savings account, there’s an app for that.
Ibotta is an app which allows you to save money at the places you already shop.
If clipping coupons isn’t your thing, this app can step in and help you save money without all the work that comes with busting out the scissors and Sunday circulars.
How much does Ibotta cost? Ibotta is free to use. However, if your account is inactive for six months, you will be charged a $3.99 inactivity fee monthly. This fee is only credited against your account balance. If you don’t have a balance, you won’t be charged the fee.
How Ibotta Works – Ibotta has deals with the top retailers in the country. Before you go shopping, check the Ibotta deals for the store you’re visiting.
As with traditional couponing, it’s best to only use coupons for things you were going to buy anyways. Otherwise, your risk spending money in order to “save” it.
Select the deals you’d like to use, then go shopping as you normally would. When you’re done, upload your receipt in the app, and you will be rewarded with cash back for the deals you applied.
Saving money when you’re shopping is one thing, but having the discipline to put money into your savings account is another.
Apps like Chime are making that easier. When you bank with Chime, you’ll be able to set up the round-up feature if you so desire.
This feature rounds your purchases up to the nearest dollar, automatically depositing the difference into your savings account.
How much does Chime cost? Chime is a banking account that comes with very few fees. Minimum balance requirements are $0, and there are no monthly maintenance fees or even overdraft fees.
How Chime Works – Chime is a bank account. You can set up your paychecks to be deposited into this account, and then complete financial tasks like paying your bills or making purchases with the app or with the associated VISA debit card.
You can use the app to set up the round-up feature. You can also use the app to set up automatic transfers into savings, which is a smart way to set up a big-dollar, routine savings habit.
Tools and Apps for Paying off Debt
Once you’ve got a little bit of money saved up for emergencies, it’s time to assess your debt situation.
Don’t feel like you’re alone; debt has become the norm of American households. But there are ways out from under its thumb. From visualization to specialized budgeting methods, you can escape debt’s stronghold.
You Need a Budget (YNAB)
You Need a Budget—or YNAB for short—is a budgeting app which has helped hundreds of thousands of people get out of debt. While it’s great for people who are paying off debt, don’t let a lack of credit card bills stop you. This is a great app for anyone trying to get control of their money.
How much does You Need a Budget cost? YNAB costs $6.99/month, though it does come with a free, 34-day trial for those just getting started.
How You Need a Budget Works Essentially, YNAB helps you save enough money so that you’re a month ahead. On January 1, you would have enough money to cover your expenses until February 1. On February 1, you would have enough money to cover expenses until March 1. And so on.
By “aging” your money in this way, as YNAB refers to it, you’re better able to give each dollar a job rather than flying by the seat of your pants from paycheck to paycheck. One of those jobs can be paying down your debt, and the app has a track record of successfully helping people reach that goal.
For anyone that’s ever felt like they’re buried in debt, Unbury.me might just be the tool for you. This web-based app helps you visualize your debt payoff, helping you see that getting out from under all of it is, indeed, possible.
How much does – Unbury.me cost? Unbury.me is free to use.
How Unbury.me Works – When you visit Unbury.me, you will enter all of your debts. From there, you’ll be able to select the debt avalanche method of paying off debt or the debt snowball method.
The debt snowball method has you pay off your smallest debts first, while the debt avalanche method has you pay off the debts with the highest interest rates first.
Mathematically, the debt avalanche method will save you more money on interest over the course of your debt payoff journey, but studies have shown that more people are successful when they use the debt snowball method.
Those quick wins can be encouraging and keep you on the right track.
Whichever method you decide to use, Unbury.me will generate a chart showing you how much you’ll pay over the course of payoff, how much interest you’ll pay over the course of payoff and your debt freedom date.
Investing Apps and Tools
You’re saving on the regular. You’ve got a plan to handle the debt situation.
Now it’s time to look towards your future. Investing is the best way to save for your golden years, as historically the market has returned far more than your basic savings account would. If you’re just getting started on this part of your journey, these two apps can help.
Similar to Chime’s round-up program, Acorns got its start rounding up your purchases to the nearest dollar and then investing the difference rather than putting it into a basic savings account. Its services have since grown, and now include traditional retirement accounts which come with tax advantages.
How much does Acorns cost? Acorns Core, the program which includes the round-up feature, is $1/month. If you want to upgrade your account to include Acorns Later, which allows you to open a tax-advantaged retirement account, you will pay $2/month.
How Acorns Works – Acorns Core will round up your purchases to the nearest dollar. This money will be put into a taxable investment account. Acorns Later, on the other hand, allows you to set up a tax-advantaged investment account.
With either account, you can easily set up automatic transfers, which will help ensure that the money you want to invest actually makes it to that investment account.
Stash is similar to Acorns in that it’s an app facilitating investing. While it doesn’t have the round-up program, it does allow you to invest either in a taxable or tax-advantaged investment account.
Stash is different in that it has categories of investments50 to match your values, like “Clean & Green” and “Defending America.”
How much does Stash cost? – A taxable account costs $1/month, while a tax-advantaged retirement account comes with a $2 fee per month for balances under $5,000 or 0.25% annual fee if you have more than $5,000 in your account.
How Stash Works – You can start investing with stash with as little as $5. You’ll be able to pick your investments to align with your values or interests, which can be a fun way to engage with your investment accounts, but isn’t always going to be the best financial decision mathematically.
As with Acorns, you can set up automatic transfers to make sure this account is getting funded rather than asking where the money you meant to put in it went.
Apps and Tools Insurance & Wills
Once you have something, you want to take care of it. You want to make sure the wealth you’ve built is not at risk, and that the items you own—such as a house or a vehicle—are insured. Innovative applications make finding affordable yet sufficient insurance easier, and can even help you plan for what will happen to your assets after you’re gone.
Comparison shopping for insurance can often feel complex if you don’t have a background in the industry.
This is true of an especially common policy: Auto insurance. The Zebra is a web-based tool that allows you to easily compare auto insurance offers from a slew of companies, enabling you to get the best possible deal.
How much does The Zebra cost? Using The Zebra is free.
How The Zebra Works – To get started, you simply input some basic information about your car, where you live and the drivers you’d like to see listed on your policy. The Zebra will also screen for any discounts you may be eligible for. Then, you’ll be presented with offers.
If you’re not loving what you’re seeing, you can also check your “insurability score” for free. This score helps you identify why your rates are as high as they are, and what you may be able to do to make yourself more attractive to insurers, potentially lowering your rates over the long haul.
It’s hard to think about, but an essential part of having your finances together is knowing what will happen to your money after you’re gone.
The thing is, it’s not just you who has to know about it. You need legal documents to tell your state where your money should go, who should take care of your children in your absence, etc.
Tomorrow is an app that provides free wills to any user. Also available free to any user is a feature which allows you to calculate your net worth, another which allows you to catalog and dole out your belongings and yet another that keeps track of job benefits such as 401(k)s and life insurance.
You can upgrade to Tomorrow Plus to get a living trust drafted up, along with a pour-over will the courts allocate your estate after it’s come out of the probate process.
How much does Tomorrow cost? Many of Tomorrow’s services are free, though you can upgrade to Tomorrow Plus for $39.99/year.
How Tomorrow Works Tomorrow prompts you with a bunch of questions.
You may have to think on some of them, but altogether, you can get through the process of creating your will from start to finish within 20 minutes.
If you need to collaborate with others, like asking your brother to be your children’s guardian if you pass away, Tomorrow gets in touch with them to confirm they’re on board. Everything happens on the app, and the streamlined process makes it all easy.