How do you keep track of your financial life? When I was just starting out, it was a combination of sticky notes, highlighted pages of a notebook, Excel spreadsheets and an unbalanced checkbook. I would make a transaction and then tell myself that I’d record it later, but of course later never came.
In fact, one time I forgot to record that I wrote a check out to support a friends graduate school project and when he cashed it nearly a month later I over drafted on my account. Paying a $35 overdraft fee while your trying to save money is beyond frustrating, but when you’re constantly on the go and juggling several projects at once it can be tough to get a handle on your money.
Since 2008, I’ve been using Mint.com on my smartphone to manage and track my finances. It removed the hassle of recording every single transaction and has even helped me prepare my documents during tax season. In order for me to reach my financial goals I needed to get rid of the paper clutter and have everything all in one place. Now, all my bills, savings, checking, retirement and investment accounts are linked to Mint. The app shows me in real time my current balances, upcoming bills, net worth, alerts for better interest rates, trends in my spending and advice on other ways to save and diversify my investments (also discuss this with your financial planner.)
For example, I opened an account with Ally Bank after Mint alerted me that I could earn a higher interest rate than I had been earning on my Capital One 360 account (formerly ING Direct). The move was worth it. The app also allows you to categorize your bills. I know exactly how much I paid in co-pays for the year without having a manila folder full of receipts that are often washed out by the end of the year; and how much I spent on groceries or health and fitness in any given month.
But what I think is the most beneficial offering is the goal feature. I love setting financial goals, not just for paying bills but for enjoying life as well. This feature gives me a projected date that I will reach my savings goal based on how much I have designated to save per month. I’m currently saving for a trip to Paris in September 2014. I’m behind on that goal by three months because I redirected some of those funds for a smaller trip that I’d like to take this year. But knowing what I need to do to make up for the loss keeps me motivated and shows me that it’s still obtainable although I had to make some minor adjustments along the way.
If you’ve been following #WealthforLife Wednesdays since we launched on May 1st, then you should have already created a budget and identified how much you can save per month. I highly recommend that you download a financial management app to help you stay on task. These apps will notify you of a low balance, overspending and help you make sure that you are getting the best available rate on your savings and more.
If you’re uncomfortable having your bank information in your phone, most apps offer a ”remote data destruct” feature that allows you to wipe the phone clean from your desktop if your phone is lost or stolen.
I realize that Mint.com may not be for everyone (again, this is my personal preference) and this is not a commercial for Mint, it’s just an app that has worked for me. Here are two others that I believe are worth the download:
Check (formerly Pageonce)
Check monitors bank accounts and credit cards all in one place. You can get reminders when bills are due and the new bill pay feature allows you to pay your bills on the spot, or schedule the payment for a later date. (Bill pay is free when you pay using your bank account. When paying bills with your credit card, a transaction fee applies). Members can also enjoy unlimited space in the free file cabinet, which provides access to your statements, payment history and a breakdown of where all your money is going. Check also allows you to link to investment accounts such as your 401(K) or IRA and how your holdings break down within those accounts.
Membership Fee: Free
Mobile OS Platforms: Web, iPhone, Android, Windows Phone 7 and 8, Blackberrry and Desktop
Cool feature/function: File Cabinet stores copies of your past bank statements and utility bills.
Manilla manages all your bills in one secure location. The free service helps consumers manage all of their household accounts, including financial accounts, utilities, subscriptions, daily deals such as Groupon and Living Social and travel rewards programs, all through Manilla.com. In addition to receiving alerts about your bill and account balances, Manilla even reminds customers to get their cars inspected, pay their taxes or make a donation. The custom accounts feature offers customers the ability to add and manage payments to businesses or individuals who do not have an online payment system, such as small local and regional businesses and service providers. These also include personal accounts like rent, babysitters, dog walkers or the local dry cleaner.
Membership Fee: Free
Mobile OS Platforms: iPhone, Android, Desktop
Cool feature/function: You can even add subscriptions to popular services such as Netflix and magazines and keep track of all your points and airline miles in the travel rewards section.
What app(s) do you use to manage your finances and why? Let us know in the comments section below or tweet me @LaToyaReports.
Need a boost? Enter our Financial Fitness Contest for a chance to win $2,000 and a one-hour session with a certified financial planner.