Personal finance takes discipline. Many people have the delusion they can control their spending and maximize the use of their income without tracking anything. If they take time to write down and add up all their expenses vs. their income, people usually realize they are overspending and not working efficiently toward their goals.
To get control of spending and reach financial goals, a budget can be a great tool. The mother of all digital budgeting platforms is Mint. It's free, has a website and apps for Android and iPhone.
Users can link their investment accounts, bank accounts and credit cards to Mint to sync their balances in one place. Users also can track their credit score and home value. The app automatically categorizes spending and creates a budget. Users can tweak these.
Mint compares portfolio performance to benchmarks and alerts users to upcoming bill due dates. The drawback of Mint is it is very automated, so users don't have to think about their budget much. The app does so much, users are likely to ignore many of its features and focus on their favorite.
For personal finance enthusiasts to focus on all the important aspects of spending and income, many need separate apps. Several of the ideas stated in the book “Your Money or Your Life” have been repeated and renamed since its publication in 1992. One of the main ideas of the book is to physically writing down and looking at spending and financial goals on a daily basis. The book promotes the idea of carrying a notebook for tracking.
Since 1992, concept of cash envelops appeared. Now, smart phones have replaced everything. The concepts are the same, but instead of pencils and paper, people now use cellphones and tablets.
For those who are tired of or burned out on Mint, the apps below may be help to increase motivation, discipline and focus for reaching personal finance goals.
Mint Bills – free for Android and iPhone
Keeping track of bills and account balances can be a pain. Even using a regular Mint account to do it can be confusing and time-consuming. Mint Bills focuses on accounts and bills, not budgeting or planning. By syncing expense accounts such as utilities, banks and credit cards in Mint Bills, users don't have to worry about every-changing due dates. The app automatically updates them.
With Mint Bills, users won't have to remember to pay companies that don't have auto-pay, and they won't have to visit a bunch of payment sites every month. Mint Bills links directly to the billing accounts, which is more accurate and faster than using a bank account billing service.
Goodbudget – $15 for three months on Android and iPhone
The cash envelop budgeting system is popular. It expands on the idea of tracking every penny spent and forces individuals to think about how much they are spending in each budget category. To buy gas, they must take cash out of the gas envelop. After the envelop is empty, spending stops.
The Goodbudget app forces users to manually record their spending, so they have to think about it. This is the same psychological tactic as keeping a notebook or pulling money from a real envelop.
Besides avoiding paper cuts, Goodbudget allows two users to sync their spending and income. Users can set up the app to use credit or debit cards instead of just cash.
PayPal – free for Android and iPhone
Besides switching to cash-only, personal finance enthusiasts can curb their addiction to credit cards by using an online payment system. In the electronic money transfer market, PayPal has a strong foothold. It's popularity means most people have an account, so transferring between accounts only takes a phone number or an email address.
The ability to make payments at brick-and-mortar stores is still limited. Paying at online stores and per-to-per transfers are easy with services such as PayPal.
Transfers to and from the user's linked back account or PayPal account are free. Sending or receiving payments from a debit or credit card incur a fee. Merchants definitely have to pay a fee just like they would when accepting credit card payments.
Qapital – free for Android and iPhone
Saving can be fun with Qapital. The app uses gamification to encourage users to save. It also works in connection with IFTTT (if this, then that.) technology. Users can set up rules to match savings goals with rewards. Qapital also has a social aspect allowing users to connect with their friends and receive referral bonuses.
The catch of the app is users have to open a Qapital savings account with Wells Fargo. Users have to use a checking account to fund the Qapital account. There are no fees. Withdraws from the Qapital must go to the user's funding account. Withdrawals are free. Users earn 0.1 percent interest from their Qapital savings account. The company also earns interest from the savings account.
Personal Capital – free for Android and iPhone
This app comes with a bunch of free tools including an investment checkup, 401(k) fee analyzer, retirement planner and budgeting. Users can link their bank, brokerage and credit card accounts. There is a dashboard to view everything at once. Automatic rebalancing is free and uses a set of asset allocation models. Personal Capital is much better for investment planning than Mint. Budgeting is what Mint does better than Personal Capital.
Personal Capital offers financial advisory service for a 0.89 percent management fee. The minimum investment portfolio is $25,000. This is a robo-adviser service. The service uses algorithm-based portfolio management software. Included in the service is access to a real adviser who can answer questions by phone, email, video chat or at a company office in Denver or San Francisco.
Personal finance apps make tracking spending and reaching goals easier because of convenience. By organizing the basic aspects of budgeting and investing into separate apps, users can avoid feeling overwhelmed or discouraged in their efforts to succeed. Sticking to a plan can be more challenging than making one.