Advertiser Disclosure

Reviews, Strategies to Save

Review: You Need a Budget (YNAB) — The Budgeting Tool That Makes Every Dollar Count

The editorial content on this page is not provided by any financial institution and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

The Budgeting Tool That Makes Every Dollar Count

You Need a Budget (YNAB) is subscription-based budgeting software available both on desktop and mobile devices. Its trademark mantra is, “Give every dollar a job.” That means as you have money coming in, you assign it a budget category. Once you have one month’s worth of expenses fully funded, you can start budgeting funds for future months.

How Does ‘You Need a Budget’ Work?

When you first sign up for You Need a Budget, you will be asked to link your checking, savings, and credit card accounts. This allows the app to see exactly how much money you have at this very moment.

Next, you’ll add upcoming transactions like rent, utilities, and groceries. As you add these expenses, you’ll also be prioritizing them. The ones that are most important (generally rent or mortgage payments) will go on top, and the ones that are a little more frivolous like entertainment spending will go at the bottom.

After you’ve set up transactions you know are coming, you’ll be able to establish goals. You can set up goals by a date, in which case the app will tell you how much you have to save per month to meet your objective. You can also set them up by how many dollars you’d like to allocate toward them per month, in which case the app will tell you how long it will be until they are fully funded (or in the case of debt repayment goals, paid off).

6 January screen shot 1

You’ve linked accounts. You’ve accounted for bills and upcoming spending. You’ve set goals. Now it’s time to fund all of those things! You start with the money you have, and not a penny more. You assign each dollar to a certain line item, again, starting with the most important items at the top. Once you reach the end of your current funds, you won’t be able to budget any more until you get more cash in your hands.

If you are able to fully fund one whole month, then you can use any excess funds on hand to start funding the next month. The more you do this, the happier the founders of YNAB get. Their entire philosophy is that you should “age your dollars,” meaning the further in advance you can fund a transaction or goal, the more financial stability you will have.

How Much Does ‘You Need a Budget’ Cost?

Currently, You Need a Budget offers a 34-day free trial — no credit card required. After that, you will have to pay either $5 per month or $50 per year. Students get twelve months free, after which they’ll be eligible for a 10% discount for one year. If you have a previous version of YNAB, you’ll be able to score a 10% lifetime discount on the latest version.

Fine Print

 YNAB  Budget App
YNAB is extremely transparent and seemingly ethical in their practices. They do not sell information to third parties, but may give others access to it in the course of business as they work to facilitate the software through companies such as Amazon Web Services and Finicity, which are two trusted names in the Fintech industry as far as security is concerned. Your data is always encrypted, and will be completely and irreversibly deleted upon request should you ever choose to close your account.

Pros and Cons

You Need a Budget is commonly recognized as one of the best budgeting apps around. That doesn’t mean that it’s perfect for everyone, though. Think through the pros and cons before downloading.

Pros

  • Transparent company.
  • Committed to security and positive user experience.
  • Helps you change your financial habits through a simple, yet revolutionary, process.
  • Prioritizes your expenses each month.
  • Forces you to address overspending.
  • Allows you to set goals.
  • Can be used by those who get paid regularly and receive W-2s or by freelancers.
  • There are user guides and lessons accessible to members to deepen your understanding of common personal finance principles and concepts.
  • There is a community where you can get support.

Cons

  • There is a price for your subscription.
  • This won’t be good software for you if you’re a percentage budgeter as the interface makes no allowance for that method.
  • At this point in time, there are no reports or analyses to help you disseminate your habits. They are promised on the horizon, though.

How Does ‘You Need a Budget’ Stack Up against the Competition?

YNAB is an extremely useful and user-friendly app. However, it does come with a fee and is far from the only budgeting software on the market. Here are some other options you may want to check out if the YNAB $50 annual subscription is getting you down:

Mint.com

While it may not use the “give every dollar a job” philosophy, Mint.com solves very similar budgeting problems in a very free way. It allows you to link accounts, plan for upcoming expenses, and set goals. It also provides charts and graphs to analyze your past behavior and provides your FICO score at no charge — two things YNAB doesn’t do. The biggest con to this no-cost application is that it is laden with ads.

Wally

If you don’t like the idea of your financial accounts being linked to a third-party app, another free option is Wally. When you use this app, you’ll have to be a lot more diligent at inputting your income and expense as none of it will be automated, but that’s the price you pay for keeping your bank account info completely separate.

Level Money

Level Money is a free app that allows you to link accounts, gives you insights into how much you have left to spend in any given category on any given day, and comes 100% ad-free. This app isn’t the best for the self-employed or those with variable income, and also isn’t as useful for those who make a lot of cash purchases.

Who Should Use You Need a Budget?

You Need a Budget is great for anyone who wants to get a hold on their money today, but doesn’t necessarily want to analyze their past spending. It’s developed for people who prefer budgeting by dollars rather than percentages, and comes with extra savings for students who are trying to establish good money habits at a younger age. It is time-tested, and is created by a company that has continually shown it cares for its customers.

Advertiser Disclosure: The card offers that appear on this site are from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all card companies or all card offers available in the marketplace.

Brynne Conroy
Brynne Conroy |

Brynne Conroy is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Brynne here

TAGS: , , , ,

Advertiser Disclosure

Reviews

Honeydue App Review: A Way to Help Couples With Their Finances?

The editorial content on this page is not provided by any financial institution and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

iStock

Honeydue is an app intended to help with one of the most common sources of conflict in relationships: money.

According to a study by SunTrust bank, finances are a major point of stress and conflict in relationships. The study goes on to say that couples with different money personalities — spender versus saver, for instance — must grapple with even more stress, but communication can lessen the impact of the differences.

Eugene Park, co-creator of the money management app, found that managing finances with his fiancee after she moved in was painful. The pair were using totally different tools to track and manage their finances from day to day. Eugene’s co-founder, Thien Tran, was going through the exact same thing at the same time with his fiancee.

That’s when the idea for Honeydue was born. It officially launched in August for 2017, and the user base has been growing every since.

Through Honeydue, couples can share information like bank accounts and bills to limit confusion and miscommunication around their finances. The app aggregates information like bill payments and transactions via bank feeds to help couples get a true picture of their combined (or separate) finances in real time.

It’s true that there are a lot of financial apps out there that offer similar services — Mint, YNAB and Personal Capital, to name a few. But Eugene insists that Honeydue isn’t just a financial app.

“We think of ourselves as a collaborative tool first and a financial tool second,” he says. “The goal is to create a collaborative environment for couples to develop both financial habits and literacy together.”

The creators of the app noticed that there’s asymmetry among couples when it comes to money. Usually only one partner manages the finances. When this happens, the other partner may feel as if he or she lacks of firm grasp of where their earnings are going, setting the stage for conflict.

For this review, MagnifyMoney decided to put Honeydue through a true stress test — my husband and I used the app for two weeks straight to see if actually helped us manage our money better.

What I liked about the Honeydue app

After having used the app for some time, what stands out most is the convenience of having all bills and accounts in one place.

If you are the kind of person who likes to stay on top of your entire financial situation at a glance, this app does the job. To me, it’s like having a financial health assistant that scans all your accounts and gives you updates like these:

If you’re a busy person and want to stay on top of your finances, but can’t check every account daily, then Honeydue works. Indeed, it works even for the person not managing money with a significant other.

But once you do add a partner, things get interesting. You both can see everything that’s happening in the world of money that affects you as a couple.

For example, I was able to add a brokerage account that my husband can now see updated daily. Once he sees it, it’s a constant reminder that investing is a worthwhile activity with real returns. It’s more motivation to curb our spending and attempt to save and invest more when the numbers are there, at our disposal and updated in real time.

I also like the idea that we both can see all bank account balances and transactions. If I know that my husband will see my financial life and potentially question my spending or account balances, I’m more apt to “behave” and think a little more about my spending choices. The extra layer of accountability is a welcome change for me.

The alerts, notifications and email updates from the app serve as prompts to help us discuss finances with some regularity. There are many times I want to talk about finances and financial decisions with my husband, but it simply slips my mind. Honeydue reminders help make money discussions happen more frequently.

To me, the app sets the stage for a healthy financial relationship for couples struggling with money: Transparency, collaboration and communication are all improved with use.

What I didn’t like about Honeydue

The concept of the app itself is amazing. The execution is pretty top-notch, too. The app didn’t seem to be buggy or prone to inexplicable crashes.

Still, I noticed a few things.

The first issue: how the app interacts with institutions that use two-factor authentication. Many bank protocols ask different security questions or require you to re-authenticate with security codes if a connection needs to be refreshed.

However, I’ve used other apps with the same issue. So I am not sure there is a way around this. It’s a safety measure that I welcome to keep my data secure. However, it’s usually barely noticeable and just takes a few moments to correct.

Further, the transaction history for all accounts only goes back a couple of months. Again, not a super big deal, but something I did notice.

Finally, the budget categories are not that extensive and you could potentially spend a lot of time recategorizing transactions it does assign. That is to say, right now the budget categories are not “smart.” They don’t “learn” from the updates you make to transactions like most financial softwares and apps. Eugene says that the development road map does include plans to make the budget categories more automatic once you edit them.

The Complete Magnifymoney Honeydue App Review

What is Honeydue?

Honeydue allows couples to share financial information, but the partners can select what that information is and the level of detail that is included. So if one person has a bank account he or she doesn’t want visible to a partner through the app, it’s possible to choose not to share those banking details or give a limited view of them (“balance only”).

Here are some additional capabilities of the app:

Track balances

Couples can see all bank balances in one place in the app. They can track both credit card and bank balances, along with individual transactions related to each account. Transactions and balances are updated in real time so there’s always a complete, accurate snapshot of where these accounts stand.

The nice thing about this feature: that ability to choose which accounts your partner can see and at what level of detail. Eugene says many partners feel like it isn’t necessary to share at the transaction level. In his words, “trust doesn’t always mean transparency.” According to a 2014 poll in the magazine Money, surveying more than 1,000 married adults, 55 percent of respondents said finance arguments in their relationships were over purchases. This is exactly why Honeydue built these privacy features into the app.

Categorized spending

This feature allows a couple to see how all of their money is spent. As transactions are completed and updated in the app, Honeydue gives them a category: cash & checks; family & pets; getting around; gifts & charity; miscellaneous; personal & wellness; home & utilities; food & drink; trips & occasions; shopping & fun. If the app assigns a category incorrectly for a transaction, it can be fixed with a quick edit.

Secure banking

Honeydue uses military-grade encryption.

Share expenses

You can share expenses with your partner using Honeydue. Once a transaction appears in your bank feed, you can mark it for sharing and add comments. The app will send the share notification to the partner, as well as periodic reminders to settle up a balance owed with his/her mate.

Bill reminders

You can enter bill due dates and amounts with Honeydue. It will keep a running log of coming bills, so they are not lost in the shuffle of life. In the Settings areas of the app, you can create push notifications for bills as well.

How do you sign up for Honeydue?

The sign-up process is extremely simple. After downloading the Honeydue app for iOS or Android devices, you’ll open the app and enter information it will use for your account settings. Then, you’ll enter your partner’s information so he/she can receive an invite to join the app and view all of your combined financial information.

The rest of the process involves connecting your bank account and setting up bill reminders. The app connects with most major banks. You can even include a PayPal account in your bank feed.

Honeydue fees

At the moment Honeydue is totally free to use for both partners.

There is an “offers” tab in the app where you can apply for credit cards and explore bank new accounts. The app also allows you to look for deals on things like Hulu, Starbucks and Gobble. All the categories in the offers tab include bank accounts, credit cards, loans & insurance, savings and investments and money savers.

According to Park, this monetization model will remain in place to keep the app free to use.

Who should consider using Honeydue?

As my husband and I found, Honeydue gives couples a springboard for constant discussions about money. It gives them practice with communicating, negotiating and saving in money conversations they may not otherwise have.

Final words

Honeydue is another app in the sea of fintech innovation. There are so many tools out there that it might be difficult to add another to the mix for couples already overwhelmed with financial issues.

However, the branding and features that cater to couples can’t be underestimated. When was the last time you were able to stamp bank transactions with a smiley face or a comment for your partner to see? Honeydue let’s you do just that. For the price (free), I think it’s at least worth a try.

Advertiser Disclosure: The card offers that appear on this site are from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all card companies or all card offers available in the marketplace.

Aja McClanahan
Aja McClanahan |

Aja McClanahan is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Aja here

TAGS: , , ,

Advertiser Disclosure

Featured, Reviews

Stash Wealth Financial Planning Review – The Planner for HENRYs

The editorial content on this page is not provided by any financial institution and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Stash Wealth Financial Planning Review - The Planner for HENRYs

Millennials are a lot more interested in their personal financial well-being at a younger age than the members of the two generational cohorts that came before them. But what else would you expect of the kids that came of age during the financial crisis and saddled with an average $30,000 student loan debt?

Luckily, millennials also came of age during the digital revolution, and a number of the cohort’s members have created platforms designed specifically to help millennials handle their finances.

Online financial planner, Stash Wealth, is one of those resources.

What Is Stash Wealth?

Stash Wealth is the online financial planner dedicated to serving the HENRYs (High Earners, Not Rich Yet) of the world. The startup was founded in 2013 by former Wall Street executives Priya Malani and Rob Kovalesky to serve millennial high earners they felt had been ignored by traditional firms or who may be fearful of financial management.

Stash Wealth’s services include personalized financial planning and investment management. Clients can also get personalized advice from Stash’s in-house experts — dubbed “rebels” — on topics like estate planning, investing, taxes, and accounting. For additional assistance, the company provides financial information to the general public through articles on its blog.

This review only covers Stash Wealth’s financial planning offerings, but we briefly touch on their investment management services at the end of this post.

How Do You Know If You’re a HENRY?

Stash Wealth defines a HENRY as an individual — or couple — who’s already earning about six figures annually. That’s a tough bracket to reach considering only 2.7% of millennials earned $100,000 or more in 2015, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau. But becoming a HENRY isn’t all about income.

Stash has created a quiz to help potential clients figure out if they qualify as a HENRY. If you’re not quite there yet, Stash Wealth has a partnership with invibed, which runs a low-cost Wealth Coaching program for about $450.

How Much Does Stash Wealth Cost?

Stash Wealth’s pricing makes it clear HENRYs are their target audience. You — or you and your partner — can complete a Stash Plan for a one-time fee of $997. The Stash Plan is a financial plan for your life that will address how and when you can reach all of your financial goals.

After your plan is created, you’ll graduate to Stash Management, a full wealth management service, which you’ll be charged for based on how much money Stash is investing for you. It has two payment tiers:

  • $50 per month for those with less than $50,000 in assets managed by Stash
  • 1.2% of the assets Stash manages for you annually ($100,000 invested = $1,200 annually) if Stash is managing more than $50,000 worth of assets

If you’re an entrepreneur, you can build a Stash Plan for Entrepreneurs for $1,597, but you’ll need to call to learn more about the entrepreneur’s plan.

What Do You Get for $997?

Stash Wealth will create a customized Stash Plan, which is a financial plan customized to your current and future needs. You’ll be prompted via email to fill out two documents that will help establish your “baseline,” then you’ll have two meetings with a certified financial planning duo who will create your Stash Plan.

Even at close to $1,000 plus ongoing management fees, Stash’s completely digital service is a cheaper alternative to paying $1,100 to $5,600 a year for the average personal financial adviser.

Unlike some other online financial advisory firms, Stash Wealth doesn’t offer a payment plan. In the FAQ on the website, the company explains the reasoning is because they want to be sure they are attracting clients who truly can afford the service and qualify as HENRYs.

Stash Wealth has a particular client in mind, so their pricing isn’t comparable to competitors like LearnVest, which will run you about a third of the cost at $299 for the initial financial planning fee, and they will charge $19 for ongoing financial planning, although the LearnVest program doesn’t include investment brokerage.

How the Stash Wealth Financial Planning Process Works

Every Stash Wealth client will receive a comprehensive financial plan. MagnifyMoney reviewed the process over the course of several weeks.

Your baseline paperwork

Shortly after you make your online payment to get started, you’ll receive an email from Stash asking you to do three things:

  1. Fill out your profile.

This is one of the two PDF forms that will be attached to the email. It will ask you to fill in basic information about yourself like your name, address, employment, and income. It will also have you enter basics related to your finances such as which banks you have relationships with, who you already use for money-related items like taxes, and how much you have in your emergency fund. This form will also ask for the same information about your significant other if you’re completing the Stash Plan as a couple.

  1. Schedule your baseline meeting.

In the email, you’ll see a link to book a meeting using the online scheduler, TimeTrade. Once it’s booked, you’ll get an email confirmation in your inbox.

  1. Complete and return the Baseline Workbook.

The final thing Stash asks of you before your meeting is to fill out your Baseline Workbook. Your workbook is an 8-page document that will dive deep into your financial business. You will trace where your money goes after you get paid, check off whether you use cash or credit more often, explain what your savings are consist of, and list your debts and assets, in addition to providing other information.

Stash understands this may take a while, so they give you some time and ask that you email the document back at least a couple of days before your scheduled baseline meeting.

Your baseline meeting

This will be your very first meeting with your Stash advisers. It will take place over video chat and recap all of the information you entered into your Baseline paperwork. The meeting should take no longer than an hour. Your planners will share a screen with you during the call to show you a Baseline Results document, which was created from your information. It will show, with charts and diagrams, how you spend your money, what your money map should look like, and how you’re doing so far saving for retirement.

screen shot 1

The Stash program is intended to be educational as well, so your advisers may sound very similar to your finance professors in college. They will spend a good portion of the time explaining things like a money map (see above) or how different kinds of retirement accounts work. They’ll also make sure to ask if you understood everything and will re-explain if necessary.

The “reverse budget”

Stash will create what they call a “reverse budget.” The reverse budget calculates how much you can spend guilt-free each month after subtracting your fixed and flexible expenses. They will show you a budget with and without debt, so you’ll be able to imagine how much extra cash you’ll have on hand once your debts are settled.

The homework assignments

After this call, you’ll get some more homework to complete before your second meeting. The second meeting is meant to help align your life to your reverse budget. I was advised to open up an online savings account with Capital One 360 and nickname it “emergency fund” and to keep a checking account open at a brick-and-mortar bank. I had just closed my checking and savings account with my brick-and-mortar bank, Wells Fargo, and opened checking and savings accounts with Ally, so I didn’t take this advice. I was earning 1% on my savings account with Ally anyway, which was slightly more than the 0.75% I would have earned at Capital One.

I did, however, set up multiple savings accounts for emergency, travel, and moving costs to correspond with my savings goals.

My other homework was to find my most-recent monthly statements for my credit card, my retirement accounts, and student loans and send this information to them as soon as I could.

The follow-up email includes a link to schedule your second call, which should take place in about three weeks, and will have a final workbook attached to it. A PDF copy of your Baseline Results will be attached to the email for your use.

Your Stash Plan Workbook: goal setting

Your Stash Plan Workbook will come attached to the follow-up email for your first call. It’s intended to make you think about your financial goals and how you’ll reach them. A major part of this workbook requires you to think of what you want your life to look like in retirement.

You might already keep a few basic goals in mind like saving for retirement (check) or an emergency fund (double check), but your workbook will force you to consider savings goals to which you may not have given any thought. Some examples: traveling twice a year, returning to school for a post-bachelor’s degree, taking a six-month hiatus from work in Europe, remodeling your home, or saving to care for your parents in their old age.

screen shot 2

You’ll rate each goal from 1 to 10 based on its importance to you, and make note of how much you think you’ll need and when you’ll need the money. For example, going back to school for a graduate or doctorate degree is about a 7 in importance to me, and I want to have about $25,000 saved for it and (ideally) start my post-college education in 2020. I also want to travel to see family members, who live in Ghana, every few years. I set that travel goal at about a 9 and allocated about $2,000 for a trip every two years.

The workbook continues to a section called “Retirement Lifestyle Goals,” which addresses any big dreams or goals you have for your life in retirement (think: buy a yacht) and asks you to put them down even if you’re not sure if you’ll be able to afford them. You’ll move on to a “Retirement Living Expense” section that asks you important questions like when you plan to retire, what your retirement income will be, and if you’re willing to delay retirement to reach all of your goals.

You’ll finish the workbook by filling out detailed information about all of your current assets, investments, and liabilities. While you’re doing all of this, be sure to gather any supplemental financial documents to send back digitally with your completed workbook. Examples include:

  • Bank and investment statements
  • Retirement account statements
  • College fund account statements
  • Employer benefits
  • Social Security Administration Statement
  • Liability statements
  • Insurance policies

Stash asks that you send in your completed Stash Plan Workbook and documents via email 10 to 14 days before your second call.

Filling out the workbook was a lot of work, but it was worth it. It took about an hour for me, and I only use one bank and one credit card and my only other debt is in student loans. Most of my time went to setting financial goals for the long life ahead of me. It was eye-opening as there were a lot of things I knew I wanted in life — like rental property — that I had yet to set a deadline or budget to. Completing the workbook helped me realize I should start saving now for almost any larger purchases I wanted to make within the next decade like a possible wedding or owning rental property. I was a little confused when it came to the investing and retirement parts of the document like retirement income but was able to complete the form using context clues.

I did have to fill out the form three times, as it had trouble saving some of the information I had input. I’m still unsure whether the problem was the way I was saving it to my computer or the form itself. In the end, it was no big deal. I typed up some of my goals in an email to supplement what the form had held onto.

Your Stash Plan meeting: how to execute your Stash Plan

Your final meeting with your advisers will explain to you exactly how to make your Stash Plan a success. During this meeting, your advisers will first check in with you to ask if anything about your financial situation has changed since you sent in your workbook. For example, I decided within the month to move to a significantly cheaper apartment, so my monthly budget had to be adjusted. My planner made note of that and sent me an updated Stash Plan with the follow-up email at no additional charge.

After your touch base, your advisers should walk you through the details of your new financial plan, which they will have up on a shared screen for you to see. They’ll speak with you about how you should budget for your savings goals and when you’ll likely reach them.

Your Stash Plan meeting: how to execute your Stash Plan

My advisers emphasized making the most of automation for my savings goals and any recurring expenses. This takes some element of human error out of the picture. I’d used automation before and found it would bite me in the ass when I forgot which date I’d set a service to credit my checking accounts. To avoid my unfortunate recurring lapse of memory, I set my automated payments for the day right after payday, and if I couldn’t change the due date, I used the budgeting app Mint which has a bill reminder feature.

They will also give you a few suggestions for managing your new financial plan. My advisers suggested I open up a 0% intro balance transfer card (they recommended I use Chase Slate® or Citi Simplicity® Card - No Late Fees Ever) to help pay down my credit faster. They also recommended an app called Debitize, that lets you use your credit card like a debit card. The app pays off charges to your credit card with money from your checking account so you can build credit without overspending.

They also advised me to channel any extra funds I had to paying down my credit card debt faster, as it’s the highest interest debt I have. After my credit card was paid down, I was to use the extra money to build up my emergency fund.

In addition, the advisers suggested I consider adding a disability insurance policy and some estate planning documents to my life. I was told to ask my employer’s human resources department about disability insurance. For estate planning documents, they included a recommendation to a Stash Expert in the follow-up email. Finally, they explained to me what my next steps would be should I choose to graduate to Stash Management.

Next Steps: Investing with Stash Management

Once you have your financial plan set up, you’ll make the decision to either stop there or continue to Stash Management. This review only covers Stash Wealth’s financial planning offerings, but we did dig a bit deeper to look into their investment management services.

After your plan is created, you can choose to graduate to Stash Management, a full wealth management service, which you’ll be charged for based on how much money Stash is investing for you.

It has two payment tiers:

  • $50 per month for those with less than $50,000 in assets managed by Stash
  • 1.2% of the assets Stash manages for you annually ($100,000 invested = $1,200 annually) if Stash is managing more than $50,000 worth of assets

With Management, you’ll get ongoing help with financial planning. That includes your taxes, purchases, budgeting, combining finances with a significant other, planning for a baby, buying your first home, or anything else. You’ll have access to monitor your accounts and investments through an online portal, but you likely won’t have to do anything.

Stash gives you a unique ID so you can log on to the company’s online platform. You’ll grant Stash’s team permission to implement their suggestions for you like automating your savings and investing your money in the stock market. When you have a question, you can call, email, text, or even use Facebook’s messenger 24/7 to communicate with Stash.

Stash isn’t a robo-adviser like Hedgeable, Wealthfront, or Betterment. A human being will actually invest your money and communicate with you as needed.

screen shot 5

Pros and Cons of Stash Wealth for Financial Planning

Pro: Quick responses

I was impressed with Stash’s response time. If I had any problems filling out the PDFs or any questions, I could expect an answer to my email on the same day or within 24 hours at the latest.

Pro: Some face time

Both meetings with your financial planner will take place over a video chat, which adds a personal layer to the totally digital process. You won’t awkwardly stare at your adviser the entire time since they’ll be showing you your results or plan for most of the conversation, but I thought it was nice to put a face (and a smile) to who was handling my sensitive information.

Con: No mobile app

Stash Wealth is only accessible to you on a desktop, which can present an issue if you want to check on your plan or investment on the go. However, you do have the option to download your plan as a PDF, which most smartphones will allow you to pull up without cellular data or Wi-Fi.

Con: No budgeting software

Your Stash plan will lay out what you need to do, but it’s up to you to implement and track your progress — unless you pay for Stash Management. You can use other platforms such as the free version of competitor LearnVest or budgeting services YNAB or Mint to manage your financial information, goals, and more, but it would be convenient to have a budgeting platform to show you your awesome new plan right away.

Con: No credit score information

You’ll need to download a separate app it you want to monitor your credit score. Unlike other popular budgeting apps like Mint, or a credit monitoring service like Credit Karma, you won’t be able to see any information related to credit score or credit report information with Stash Wealth.

Other Financial Planning Platforms to Consider

There are a host of other robo-advisers and online financial planning tools that target millennials cropping up to choose from that you may prefer over Stash Wealth.

LearnVest

LearnVest Premium is a more-affordable alternative for those looking for personalized financial advice from an expert. If you sign up for LearnVest’s premium service, you’ll complete a process similar to Stash’s, where you’ll meet twice with an adviser who will create a plan for you and then have the option to pay for ongoing support. LearnVest costs $299 for the initial setup, then $19 a month for email access to a personal financial planner, in addition to the budgeting and goal setting features online dashboard features. With LearnVest, you won’t get investment advice.

XY Planning Network

The XY Planning Network is a network of fee-only financial advisers who focus specifically on Gen X and Gen Y clients. There are no minimums required to get started as a client, and advisers in the XY Planning Network are not permitted to accept commissions, referral fees, or kickbacks. In other words, no high-pressure sales pitches or hidden agendas. Just practical financial advice doled out at a flat monthly rate. The organization is location independent, offering virtual services that enable any client to connect with any adviser regardless of where the client resides.

Garrett Planning Network

A national network featuring hundreds of financial planners, the Garrett Planning Network checks many key boxes for millennials. All members of the Garrett Planning Network charge for their services by the hour on a fee-only basis. They do not accept commissions, and clients pay only for the time spent working with their adviser. Just as important for millennials, advisers in the Garrett Planning Network require no income or investment account minimums for their hourly services.

Mvelopes

Mvelopes is an app that provides a spinoff of the cash envelope budgeting system popularized by Dave Ramsey. Like Stash Wealth, its basic version is free and allows you to link up to four bank accounts or credit cards. Mvelopes has a second tier called Mvelopes Premier. It costs $95 a year, and you can link an unlimited number of bank accounts and credit cards, among other features. Mvelopes’ top tier, Money4Life Coaching, adds one-on-one coaching tailored to your financial needs, as Stash Wealth Premier does. However, there is no price for this tier specified on the website.

The Final Verdict

Stash Wealth is a great deal if you’re a HENRY, but it’s definitely not a program for everyone. It forces you, as a young high earner, to swiftly exit any present hedonist mindset you may have and consider your future seriously.

For me, it demonstrates how important it is to take advantage of extra funds and invest them into your future while you’re young, handsome, wealthy, and only have yourself to think about. But if you’re not making enough to have an extra $1,000 stashed away for financial planning, there are less-expensive alternatives you can use on your way to HENRY status.

Advertiser Disclosure: The card offers that appear on this site are from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all card companies or all card offers available in the marketplace.

Brittney Laryea
Brittney Laryea |

Brittney Laryea is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Brittney at brittney@magnifymoney.com

TAGS: ,

Advertiser Disclosure

Featured, Reviews

The Ultimate LearnVest Premium Review — Online Financial Planning for $299 Upfront, $19/Month

The editorial content on this page is not provided by any financial institution and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

The Ultimate LearnVest Premium Review

If you’re young, or simply don’t have an extra $1,100 to $5,600 a year on average lying around waiting to pay a financial planner, it can be difficult to know where to turn for financial guidance. Fortunately, several online financial planning companies have made financial planning more affordable. LearnVest is one of many such companies that have cropped up in recent years to provide the service at a lower cost.

What Is LearnVest?

LearnVest is an online financial planning company that was founded in 2009 with a mission to give young professionals access to affordable financial planning services. The platform combines budgeting tools with resources for financial information and the opportunity to gain access to an online financial planner if you upgrade your package. The startup went on to raise $75 million in venture capital until it was finally acquired in 2015 by Northwestern Mutual. The merger allowed LearnVest to develop and expand its offerings. Since its founding, the platform has developed into a more affordable way for members of either gender to gain access to a financial planner and to create and manage a personal financial plan.

How It Works

LearnVest offers both a paid and unpaid version of its services. The free version gives you access to the company’s online budgeting tool and dashboard to help you manage your budget, similar to popular budgeting platforms like Mint and YNAB.

You can also peruse LearnVest’s Knowledge Center, where you’ll find a wealth of articles and videos with information about several financial topics.

If you are looking for personalized financial advice from an expert, you’ll need to sign up for the paid version, called LearnVest Premium. For an initial payment of $299 plus $19/month, the premium service comes with access to a personal financial planner in addition to the online dashboard features.

MagnifyMoney tapped staff writer Brittney Laryea to test out LearnVest’s financial planning service, LearnVest Premium, and review it here. Find out more about LearnVest and Brittney’s review below.

The LearnVest Premium Review

As a 22-year-old recent college graduate, I am in that important stage in life. I reviewed LearnVest from the perspective of someone who has never gotten professional financial advice before and is looking to get her financial life in order as she starts her career. My experience will certainly be different from, say, a single mother or an elderly couple facing retirement. But I tried to demonstrate how each element of the LearnVest experience works so anyone reading will get a sense of what they offer.

The LearnVest Premium Review

The Fees

For $299 up front, you’ll get access to a personal financial planner who will set up a time to speak with you on two separate occasions and work with you to create a personal financial plan. You can split the $299 payment into two payments of $149 or three payments of $99. After the two initial phone calls, you’ll pay LearnVest $19 each month for “ongoing support” from your planner via email.

At $299, LearnVest is certainly delivering when it promises to offer affordable financial planning services. The average financial planner charges an initial fee of $500 to $2,000 and then about $50 to $300 monthly for ongoing service.

$19 per month for ongoing financial planning is only a little more than Spotify premium customers pay for monthly subscriptions.

So far so good. But what are you really getting for that money?

Creating My “Smart Profile”

The first thing you’re prompted to do when you sign up for LearnVest Premium is to fill out your financial profile, which is called your “Smart Profile.”

Creating My “Smart Profile”

You’ll enter basic financial information for your planner such as your annual income, goals, and current budget if you have one. This is also when you would link all of your accounts — checking, savings, credit card, retirement, student loans, etc. — to your profile if you haven’t already done so. In addition to prepping your information for your planner, filling out the financial profile helps put your current finances in perspective in relation to your financial goals. This part was intuitive and took less than 15 minutes for me complete.

After that, I was eager to schedule my call with my planner, which I was prompted to do after filling out the Smart Profile.

The First Call: Strategy Session

The goal of the first call is to lay the foundation for what will become your complete financial action plan with your planner. But you won’t receive the actual plan until your second call. During the first call the planner gets an idea of your financial situation. Your final plan takes all of the details that you discuss with your planner in this first conversation and shows the smaller steps you’ll need to follow to reach your financial goals. For me, those were things like paying off my student loans and saving up for retirement, but for others it could be things like saving up to buy a new home or for your kid’s college education.

The First Call: Strategy Session

During the call, you’ll speak with your planner over the phone, while you both look at the plan-to-be in your LearnVest dashboard. The first thing my planner did was verify all of the information that I entered into my Smart Profile. He then asked if there were any other accounts or information that I needed to add or clarify. Your planner may also ask about your current insurance policies and important financial documents such as a regular or living will or power of attorney.

At the end of the call, you should have a general idea of the plan-to-be, and your planner may assign some follow-up homework for you to complete before your next call (ideally, about a week later) such as sending additional information that will help them create your action plan. Your planner may also assign you a challenge — which you can see when you log in to your dashboard. The challenge may be to practice a budget for the week or to create a bank account.

My experience:

My first call was enjoyable, and we spoke for about an hour. My planner was patient as I clarified and adjusted information I entered into my Smart Profile.

After we sorted out my personal accounts and debts, my planner asked about my short- and long-term financial goals such as saving for an emergency fund or for travel. I’d given some thought to retirement before. I actually already started contributing to a 401(k) through my employer. I think of travel as more of a luxury, and definitely not a necessity. If I had extra money and the ability to travel, then I would, but everything else comes first. This would be the first time I’d specifically set aside funds to travel in the future. Keeping my savings goals in mind helped to inform the budget he would create for me. The planner made sure to factor in the monthly $19 for LearnVest’s ongoing support into my overall expenses.

Then he calculated a tentative weekly spending budget based on my outlined plan. The weekly spending number was the amount I could spend each week and still accomplish all of my monthly goals. It’s determined by splitting up what was left of my flexible spending over the number of weeks left in the month.

One aspect I appreciated was that my planner gave me three different budgets with varying levels of spending flexibility. I chose the budget that gave me the tightest weekly spending allowance, meaning more of my money was going toward my goals each month.

budget strategy

He also gave me a few financial tips during the first call. I’ve listed a few below, although there were many more.

  • Freezing (in a bag of water, in my freezer) or hiding my credit card to trick myself into not using it to help with paying down the balance.
  • Opening high-yield checking and savings accounts with an online bank. My planner recommended Ally Bank, where I could earn 1% on my savings, versus the 0.01% I earned at Wells Fargo. Luckily, I was already in the middle of switching to Ally from Wells Fargo. His encouragement gave me the extra boost I needed to get it done.
  • Setting up two checking accounts — one as a regular checking account but without a physical debit card linked to it, the other a “spending” account that was linked to my debit card. Then I was to set up an automatic weekly transfer of my weekly budget into the spending account to use. This way, it would be impossible to go over my budget without deliberately transferring funds over to my spending account.
  • Think about insurance options. He also explained to me the importance of having different types of insurance plans that many don’t get through an employer such as renters insurance or life and disability insurance. The explanation was helpful, and easy enough to understand. But I have to admit, I didn’t follow the advice. I hadn’t yet considered paying for what I see as “extras” like renters insurance or life and disability insurance. I rent, but I don’t own anything of substantial value so, for me, renters insurance is a waste. I figure I’ll just get it when I have something more valuable than my rice cooker to protect. One of my parents pays for a small life insurance policy that I’ve had since high school, and I’m young so here’s hoping I don’t suddenly become disabled while I look into it. I’ll likely start paying for disability insurance in February 2017.

After we covered those details, we scheduled a follow-up call, which would take place about a month later.

The Homework

After our talk, my planner sent me a follow-up email with my homework for the week. I had two assignments: to open new checking and savings accounts and to double-check my existing insurance policies and coverage amounts.

He also assigned me a “challenge,” which are little tasks your adviser sets up for you on the LearnVest website. You can see your challenges when you are logged in to your LearnVest dashboard, and you’ll get email reminders when the deadline for the challenges are close. You can check off your challenges as you complete them, or mark them as missed. Be honest; your adviser will ask you about them in the follow-up call.

action program

My first challenge was to practice the weekly spending budget he created for me during the initial call. The added challenge was to use cash only (so that I could physically see what I would be spending). Having the challenge helped me to keep my budget in mind; however, I didn’t complete it. My 22nd birthday was that week, and I take my birthday celebrations pretty seriously.

Since my weekly budget was determined by splitting up what was left of my flexible spending over the remaining weeks of the month, I just subtracted what I used up on my birthday celebrations and determined a new weekly budget for the rest of the month.

The Second Call: Getting My Action Plan

This is the call that solidifies your financial action plan. During the second call, your planner will explain to you all of the ins and outs of following the plan they have created for you to follow based on information from the first call.

The second call will be about a week or two later, depending on your scheduling availability and that of your planner. I scheduled my follow-up call at the end of our previous conversation for two weeks later, but I had to reschedule via email because I had other obligations come up. Rescheduling was painless and completed in less than 24 hours. My planner responded to my initial email with the times he would have available coming up, I emailed back with the time that worked for me best, and I was booked.

My experience:

Because I had to reschedule our initial follow-up call, our second call was about a month later. By then, I was used to my new weekly budget and felt good and ready to begin my new action plan. Before we got to my actual action plan, my planner checked in with me to see how I did with my suggested weekly budget.

He even gave me the option to switch to one of the other versions he created with a little more flexible spending, but a longer road to my savings goals. I struggled a bit with my birthday spending and a few emergencies, but I knew those were outliers and I could easily stick to the weekly allotment in a regular week.

I chose to stick with my budget. He also asked me if anything about my financial situation had changed since we’d last spoken. One thing did change: I planned to move into a cheaper apartment the following month. My planner made a note to adjust my action plan accordingly and said the final plan would include the update. Afterward, he talked me through how to implement the action plan he created for me.

Toward the end of our conversation, he explained important financial documents I should have at any age such as a living will and where I could look for resources to complete them in my dashboard. In the dashboard, under the “Program” tab is a section called “Planner Picks” that has the company’s approved recommended resources.

Action Plan and a $2.5 Million Surprise

My planner delivered my action plan to me via my LearnVest dashboard. It was a PDF file of about 20 pages that I could download to my computer if I wanted. It was super simple to understand and split into three parts:

  1. A recap of my current financial situation
  2. My financial goals
  3. The action steps that would help me to reach my goals over time

The Recap

The recap restated my weekly spending number (that’s the amount I was allowed to spend each week) and still accomplish all of my monthly goals.

The Goals Summary

The goals part broke down each of my stated savings and debt goals and showed how I would go about reaching them over five years.

The Goals Summary

The goals changed over time to reflect when smaller goals like my emergency fund and credit card payoff would be complete. Of course, this part also included my retirement needs.

I was shocked at his calculation: I would need to save more than $2.5 million to maintain my current income in retirement. To get there, I would need to continue contributing 10% towards my 401(k) and bump that contribution up by 2% every year or any time I get a raise. The idea here is that I would save more as I earned more over time. Sounds doable enough. Finally, it listed what estate documents I needed, such as a living will and beneficiary forms. To be honest, I haven’t completed my living will yet. You can upload these documents to your dashboard once they are completed.

The Action Steps

The final part outlined the action steps that I would take monthly to reach my goals. It briefly reviewed my monthly budget and showed how I should set up my accounts so that each month of successful budgeting would contribute to my overall goals.

I had a few more challenges assigned to me, such as learning to categorize my purchases and create goals in the dashboard. My planner sent a follow-up email after both calls recapping what we discussed. Moving forward, I would have ongoing support from him via email and had a copy of my plan available to me in my LearnVest dashboard.

For now, I’m following the plan as best as I can. The first month was rough with moving expenses and holiday expenses, but I’m confident I’ll be able to beat my weekly spending target and pay down my debts even faster when life settles down a bit.

What Is Meant by “Ongoing Support”?

Ongoing support from LearnVest means that you can reach out to your planner for help or advice via email, anytime. Your planner will also continue setting up challenges for you in your dashboard and may, on occasion or when you email them, ask you about your progress.

I follow up with the challenges when they are assigned to me, but I’ve only had to contact my planner once via email to clarify my insurance needs. Other than those little questions, I don’t have much of a reason to contact the planner since my entire plan is on my dashboard, and I have a feeling I’ll be following the same plan for a while.

Pros and Cons

Pro: Quick Responses

Having email access to your planner actually works out pretty well. I was impressed when I emailed my planner late in the day with a question and he got back to me via email in less than 24 hours.

Pro: Online and Mobile

LearnVest is accessible to you on the computer and in an app for your mobile device. Having both platforms makes it easy and convenient to check your progress toward your goals or edit your budget whenever or wherever.

Pro: Challenges

Each time your planner sets up a new challenge for you, you’ll get an email. They will be challenges such as watching an educational video, practicing a shopping fast for a month, or automating contributions to one of your savings accounts. The challenges help in a couple of ways. They are a reminder to log in to your dashboard if you aren’t prone to doing so on your own. The challenges also serve as a way for your planner to contact you and keep you motivated with creative short-term financial goals.

Con: No Face Time

Both meetings with your financial planner will take place over the phone. You can’t video chat or otherwise see the person to whom you are giving your financial information face to face, which may make some feel cautious or uncomfortable. Your planner may do as mine did and exchange some polite banter or offer to answer any questions you may have about LearnVest or the process to help you feel more comfortable.

Con: No Credit Score Information

You’ll need to download a separate app it you want to monitor your credit score. Unlike other popular budgeting apps, such as Mint, you won’t be able to see any information related to credit score or credit report information with LearnVest.

Con: Can’t Split Transactions on Mobile

The LearnVest mobile app’s budgeting software doesn’t allow you split up one transaction into multiple categories. So if you spent money on both clothes and food in one location, you’ll have to log in at a desktop computer to split the transaction.

Con: No Investment Management

Unlike the robo-advisers out there and some other financial planning platforms, LearnVest doesn’t manage your investments. You can check out this article for a few robo-advisers if investment management interests you.

Other Financial Planning Platforms to Consider

There are a host of other robo-advisers and online financial planning tools that target millennials cropping up to choose from that you may prefer over LearnVest.

Stash Wealth

A newer online financial planning platform, Stash Wealth, operates very similarly to LearnVest, but is aimed at what it calls H.E.N.R.Ys (High Earners Not Rich Yet). It costs $997 to get started, then $50/month to continue the service. Stash Wealth does do more of the work for you — like setting up automation for your savings and checking your tax information — so you don’t pay any taxes that you don’t have to pay. Once you’re ready, they start investing your money for you in accordance with your goals.

XY Planning Network

The XY Planning Network is a network of fee-only financial advisers who focus specifically on Gen X and Gen Y clients. There are no minimums required to get started as a client, and advisers in the XY Planning Network are not permitted to accept commissions, referral fees, or kickbacks. In other words, no high-pressure sales pitches or hidden agendas. Just practical financial advice doled out at a flat monthly rate. The organization is location independent, offering virtual services that enable any client to connect with any adviser regardless of where they reside.

Garrett Planning Network

A national network featuring hundreds of financial planners, the Garrett Planning Network checks many key boxes for millennials. All members of the Garrett Planning Network charge for their services by the hour on a fee-only basis. They do not accept commissions, and clients pay only for the time spent working with their adviser. Just as important for millennials, advisers in the Garrett Planning Network require no income or investment account minimums for their hourly services.

Mvelopes

Mvelopes is an app that provides a spinoff of the cash envelope budgeting system popularized by Dave Ramsey. Like LearnVest, its basic version is free and allows you to link up to four bank accounts or credit cards. Mvelopes has a second tier called Mvelopes Premier. It costs $95 a year, and you can link an unlimited number of bank accounts and credit cards, among other features. Mvelopes’ top tier, Money4Life Coaching, adds one-on-one coaching tailored to your financial needs as LearnVest Premier does. However, there is no price for this tier specified on the website.

The Final Verdict

LearnVest Premium is a convenient and cheap alternative to an in-person financial adviser if you need a little additional help planning your finances or a convenient reminder to stick to your budget, but it’s not worth the $299 + $19 a month if you just want to keep an eye on your spending. For the latter, stick to the apps that do it better, like Mint and YNAB.

Advertiser Disclosure: The card offers that appear on this site are from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all card companies or all card offers available in the marketplace.

Brittney Laryea
Brittney Laryea |

Brittney Laryea is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Brittney at brittney@magnifymoney.com

TAGS: , ,

Advertiser Disclosure

Banking Apps, Strategies to Save

Review: Toshl Finance Budgeting App

The editorial content on this page is not provided by any financial institution and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Toshl Finance Budgeting App

When you’re looking for a budgeting app, you’ll find no shortage of options on the market. Yet few mix pragmatic finances with pure fun as successfully as Toshl Finance. As you move through its interface, you’ll be greeted by the Toshl monsters, who will guide and cheer you on.

What is Toshl Finance?

Toshl Finance
Toshl Finance is a budgeting app that is accessible both via a web-based app and on virtually any mobile device. Toshl’s goal is to make money fun, so they’ve set up a friendly user interface to help you evaluate past spending habits, get a snapshot of your current finances, build realistic budgets for the future, and even remind you when bills are due.

How does Toshl Finance work?

When you sign up for Toshl Finance, you’ll be asked to open up your wallet to record your cash reserve. After you have your current cash status uploaded, you’ll have the option of linking your financial accounts.

Using the information from your financial institution, Toshl Finance will give you easy-to-understand charts displaying your spending habits and your current money situation. Using this information, you’ll then be able to build a budget based on your actual, recorded spending habits rather than guesses and assumptions.

What security features does Toshl Finance offer?

Toshl is big on encryption. The web app comes with SSL encryption. All data stored in the database is encrypted, as is all data exchanged between your devices. Passwords are even stored using a one-way hashing algorithm, meaning that even tech support won’t be able to hack your secret code.

What does it cost?

For many, using Toshl is free. However, if you have three or more financial accounts you want to link to your profile, you will need to upgrade. Also, if you want to create more than two budgets, you’ll have to switch to Toshl Pro, too.

Pro comes in at $2.99 per month or $19.99 per year. Along with being able to link unlimited accounts and create unlimited budgets, you’ll also be able to upload pictures of your receipts with this membership level.

If you upgrade and hate it, you can cancel and get a refund within the first 30 days.

Who is Toshl best for?

If you’re looking for a budgeting app that isn’t boring, Toshl is your best bet. The user interface is engaging without sacrificing any functionality. In fact, the ability to both look back and towards the future of your finances is something that’s not found in all budgeting apps, making this a great option for nearly everyone.

Toshl Pro presents interesting possibilities for freelancers or those that want to keep their business and personal finance budgets separate. Because you can add unlimited accounts and create separate budgets, you can simultaneously view your current big picture financial situation while still allotting your dollars to definitively separate endeavors (i.e. rent and groceries versus business cards and automation services.) The added bonus of being able to upload receipts is also great for record keeping.

What are the pros and cons of using Toshl Finance?

There are some amazing pros and a few cons to contemplate before deciding if Toshl Finance is the budgeting app for you.

Pros

  • Allows you to analyze past spending behaviors while also enabling you to budget for the future.
  • Encourages saving.
  • Reminds you when bills are due.
  • Free option is available for those with two or less financial accounts.
  • No ads.
  • Fun and functional interface

Cons

  • Marginal fee for those with 3+ financial accounts or the need for 3+ budgets.
  • Functionality on mobile is good, but limited. You will need to use the web app at least some of the time.
  • Focused on investing? If so, there are better options on the market.

How does Toshl Finance stack up against the competition?

If you find yourself uncomfortable with any of those negatives about the app, then you may want to look at another budgeting app. Here are three alternatives that may better fit your goals:

Personal Capital

 

Personal Capital

Personal Capital has a roughly similar business structure to Toshl. There are no ads; it makes money through subscription memberships. With Personal Capital, though, you can invest directly through the app. If you’re less concerned about basic budgeting and more concerned about managing your investments, this may be the way to go.

Mint.com

Mint Budgeting
Dislike the idea of paying a subscription fee? Mint.com is an absolutely free budgeting app, regardless of how many accounts you want to link. While there won’t be fun little monsters to greet you, there will be tons of user-friendly charts to help you evaluate past spending and budget for the future. Because they don’t charge a fee for use, you will be inundated with ads.

YNAB

 YNAB  Budget
If you’re looking to completely revamp your financial situation, you may need more help than the Toshl monsters can provide. You Need a Budget (or YNAB) is more about helping you change your lifestyle than simply helping you track your cash. It’s intensive, and won’t have cute little monsters along the way. It also won’t be as big of a help when you’re looking back at your finances retroactively. What it will do is whip you into shape for a better tomorrow, forcing you to reevaluate the way you think about and spend your paycheck. Fees are higher than Toshl at $6.99/month or $83.99/year, but may be worth it if you find yourself living paycheck to paycheck even though you’re making a comfortable income.

Overall, we like Toshl. If you’re looking for a comprehensive app that brings some levity into a traditionally boring chore, you won’t find too many other options that are able to meet Toshl’s combination of spirit and practicality.

Advertiser Disclosure: The card offers that appear on this site are from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all card companies or all card offers available in the marketplace.

Brynne Conroy
Brynne Conroy |

Brynne Conroy is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Brynne here

TAGS: ,

Advertiser Disclosure

News

27 Easy Ways You Can Save More Money in 2018

The editorial content on this page is not provided by any financial institution and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Resolving to finally pay off a massive pile of debt at the beginning of the new year can seem like a good idea at the time. But then, you may find yourself back where you started months later, having barely made a dent in your goal.

Often, if resolutions are too broad or too lofty (read: unrealistic) from the start, it can actually hurt your chances of seeing them through.

Instead of setting a broad resolution like becoming a money expert, or eliminating a debt worth half your annual income, try starting small.

Making small behavioral changes — or, microresolutions — may help you inch toward financial freedom without taking on too much at once.

A microresolution, as defined by author Caroline Arnold in her book, “Small Move, Big Change,” is a commitment to a limited, specific, and measurable change in behavior or attitude that produces an immediate and observable benefit.

Arnold argues making small behavior changes that can be incorporated into your daily habits — for example, resolving to take a few seconds to check your bank account balance during a lull in your day — can help establish lasting changes.

The following are 20+ small changes you can make to save more and pay down debt this year.

1. Cut one subscription service right now.

 

List all of the subscription services you pay for and cross out one or two that you can stand to lose. Using an app like Mint or a service like Trim can help you identify services more easily — Trim will even cancel them for you. A $10.99 standard Netflix account adds up to over $100 per year and a $14.99 Spotify family plan is nearly $200 per year.

2. Ditch your big bank savings account for an online savings account.

Savings accounts at online banks almost always offer a higher annual yield than those at brick-and-mortar institutions. If you put $1,000 in an Ally online savings account today, you’d earn $12.50 in interest after one year. That same $1,000 in a Bank of America account would only earn $0.10.

Check here to compare the best online savings accounts.

3. While you’re at it, set up a checking account with an online bank, too.

Online banks notoriously carry fewer fees and often reimburse for out-of-network ATM use.  Big banks often charge maintenance fees or require minimum balances to avoid them. Ally Bank, for example, uses ATMs on the Allpoint network, available in most drugstores. Ally also reimburses ATM fees paid during each month up to $10.

Check here to compare the best checking account offers today.

4. Ask payroll to set up a recurring deposit to your savings account.

Automate your savings so you don’t have to think about it. If your employer allows you to split your direct deposit, speak with your human resources department to send a portion of your direct deposit directly to your savings account.

“Commit to make saving money happen without you doing anything,” said Dan Andrews, a Greenwood Village, Colo.-based financial planner. “This makes your lazy behavior happy because you don’t have to do anything after you set up this system.”

5. Don’t withdraw money from ATMs that charge a fee.

Try to pay less money to access your cash reserves this year. Do your best to avoid ATMs that charge a fee. Often, you are charged twice — by both the owner of the out-of-network ATM and your bank just to take out your cash. For example, Bank of America charges its members $2.50 to use out-of-network ATMs and non-members $3.00. Now let’s say the out-of-network ATM you’re using also charges its own $2 fee. You could pay a nearly 10% premium to take out $50 or more if you’re taking out less money.

6. Identify your guilty pleasure and vow to only use cash to pay for it.

If you’re having trouble controlling your spending in a certain area, like restaurants or new clothes, Monterey, Calif.-based financial planner Catherine Hawley recommends limiting yourself to a cash-only budget in that spending category.

“This strategy helps create awareness of how much one’s spending in specific categories. Using cash makes spending tangible,” Hawley said.

For example, take out $50 for the week to spend dining out. If you spend $50 the first day then there’s no more spending in this category until the next week. But, if you can hold on to the cash, you can add it to what you’ll have to spend the following week.

7. Make a list of what you need before you go to the grocery store.

Making a list saves you time and money — preventing impulse purchases once you get to the store and stopping you from buying more food than you need.

8. Call one service provider and ask for a better rate.

If you pay recurring service bills like a cellphone bill, cable bill or wireless internet service, there’s likely somewhere you can save money. Take a few minutes to call up one of these servicers to see if you can negotiate savings.

If you don’t want to risk waiting on the phone for hours or getting bounced around from department to department in the process, you can try a service called BillFixers, that’ll negotiate your bills with your providers for you. The service costs 50% of the amount you save on your bills in the first year, paid to BillFixers upfront or monthly.

9. Aim to bring lunch to work once this week.

According to a 2015 survey commissioned by Visa, Americans spend $2,746 a year on lunch alone. Take the opportunity to redirect that money elsewhere in your budget. For a more challenging task, try setting aside some time once a week to prepare your lunches for work for a day or two in advance.

10. Sign up for a no-brainer savings app like Digit.

A savings app can take the work out of saving money. Digit watches your spending, then uses an algorithm to calculate how much money to transfer to your Digit savings account periodically. In addition, you earn 1% on the fund in your Digit savings account. Transfer your Digit savings to your bank account anytime, for free. Digit is free to start but after the 100-day trial period ends, you’ll be charged $2.99 monthly. You can easily get a better return on your savings by opening an high-rate online savings account. But if you’re not a good saver historically and you think you could benefit from the automation that Digit offers, that fee might be worth it.

Qapital helps you set savings goals and rules to match them. The app goes ahead and transfers money toward your savings goal when the rule, like rounding all of your debit card purchases to the nearest dollar and saving the difference, applies. Qapital does not charge any fee for its service.

11. Carry a reusable water bottle.

According to the Beverage Marketing Corporation, Americans spent nearly $16 billion on bottled water in 2016. If you’re even spending just $3 on water a week, you could still save around $150 this year carrying a reusable water bottle (if you buy the bottle for $6).

12. Increase your retirement contribution by 1%.

Adding even 1% more to your retirement account a year can have a huge impact down the line. According to the Economic Policy Institute, “nearly half of working-age families have nothing saved in retirement accounts.”
Your employer’s 401(k) administrator might offer a way to automatically increase your contributions by 1-2% each year. Or you can do it yourself in about five minutes by logging in to your account.

“This is a great way to increase savings consistently without any hassle,” said Hawley. “If you are not maxing out your 401(k) already increasing contributions is important.”

13. Check your retirement allocations.

Take a peek at how your retirement money is being invested. Resolve to take a few minutes this year to check your retirement allocations to make sure they still make sense for your age. A common rule of thumb for making sure the investment risk you’re taking matches your age is holding a percentage of stocks equal to 100 minus your age.

The remainder should be invested in lower-risk investments like bonds and government debt. For example, someone who is 60 years old should have 60% of his investment in the stock market, and 40% invested in safer investments.  If you’re more aggressive, subtract your age from 110.

14. Dedicate 5 minutes to reviewing your finances at the end of the day.

Pick a time of the day when you’ll know you have a few minutes to spare (after work when you’re catching up on Netflix?) and review your recent spending. Use your bank’s mobile app or money-tracking apps like Mint or YNAB. Regularly going over your recent transactions helps you stay on top of your spending and savings goals, and give you the opportunity to evaluate your spending decisions.

15. Calculate your net worth.

Your net worth is one of the most important numbers to know in life because it’s is the best way to understand your financial health. Knowing how much you are worth helps you track your debt paydown progress and keeps your debt-to-income ratio in check.

Your net worth is easy to calculate. Your net worth is the number you end up with when you add up how much you own — assets like your 401(k), or investments in the stock market, or the current value of your home — and subtract how much you owe —  like credit card debt, student loan debt, an auto loan, or what you owe on your mortgage.

16. Automate your monthly credit card payments.

Out of sight, out of mind isn’t always a great approach to take with your finances. That being said, taking a few minutes to automate your credit card payments may help you avoid the sting of paying your debts each month. It also helps to avoid late payments, if they have been an issue for you in the past.

17. Set reminders to pay your bills on time.

It can be tough to keep all of your due dates straight when you have several bills due at different points throughout the month. Do yourself a favor and look up the due dates of all of your recurring bills, then put them into your phone’s calendar and set a notification to alert you when the bill is due. This task should take all of about 30 minutes if you decide to do all of your bills at once.

18. Pay more than the minimum on one of your debts each month.

Debt can be overwhelming. Start small. Choose one of your debts and vow to pay more than the minimum amount due to your lender.

The average American household carries about $6,416.15 of credit card debt. Using MagnifyMoney’s credit payoff calculator, we found that if the household were to a pay minimum $143 per month, it would take more than five years to pay off the debt. In that time, they would also pay $2,967 in interest, assuming the card charges 15% APR.

19. Check your credit score.

Take a minute or two to check up on your credit health this year. Try any of these online and mobile resources you can use to check your credit score for free.

Keeping up with your credit score on a regular basis helps give an idea of where you stand as a borrower, which is important when it comes time to apply apply for a new credit card or other loans. It also helps you stay on top of signs of fraud, like unexpected changes to your credit history.

The stronger your credit score is, the better terms you’ll get the next time you apply for a loan, like an auto loan or mortgage. And scoring a lower rate can mean huge savings on interest over time.

20. Choose one debt to pay down first.

Prioritize your debt by choosing specific debt to tackle first. Here are two ways to do that:

  • Prioritize the debt with the lowest balance and work to pay it down first — achieving small wins early on will help build the momentum you need to tackle bigger debts.
  • Prioritize the debt with the highest APR and work to pay it off first — you’ll save money in the long term by attacking the costliest debts first.

Once you’ve chosen your top priority debt, throw everything you have at it while making minimum balances on the rest.

21. Apply for a 0% promo intro APR balance transfer credit card offer.

If you’re working to pay off a substantial amount of credit debt, take a few minutes and apply for a 0% promo intro APR balance transfer credit card. If you get approved, you could avoid paying a high interest rate on some or all of your debts for the promotional 0% period the card offers. Beware: The lender may charge a fee, usually 3-5% of the amount you transfer, for the service.

For example, if you avoid paying interest on a $2,000 debt on a card that charges a 15% APR for 12 months, you avoid paying back nearly $180 in interest charges.

22. Shop for auto loan refinance offers.

Take 10 minutes to see if you can save money on your auto loan this year. Refinance your auto loan on more favorable terms to get your payment under control. You could get a loan with a lower interest rate or a longer loan term to reduce your monthly payment.

23. Call at least one lender to negotiate your interest rate.

If you are stretched paying student loans, an auto loan, or even credit card debt, and have a good track record as a borrower, it may behoove you to call your lender and ask to negotiate a lower interest rate. The longer you carry debt, the more it earns in interest. If you are currently carrying debt month to month, lowering your interest rate may help you get out of debt faster by reducing how much interest you are charged on the remaining balance.

24. If you’re badly behind your debts, call to see if they’ll negotiate.

If any of your debts are outstanding, prioritize eliminating one of them today. You have much more flexibility in paying off long-outstanding debts than you may believe. Few know they can negotiate debts in collections, and by doing so they can save as much as 75%.

Those are significant savings. Set aside half an hour one day soon to call up the collections agency, or any business where you may have debt outstanding, and see if you can negotiate down the amount owed. At the very least, you’ll get the opportunity to work out a payment plan to pay off the debt.

25. Unsubscribe from promotional emails.

If you’re always tempted to follow the links on promotional emails you receive each week from your favorite retailers learn to delete the emails right away or, even better, unsubscribe from them all together.

“The less you look, the less you may click the “purchase” button,” said  Rose Swanger, a Knoxville, Tenn.-based financial planner.

26. Download a budgeting app.

If tracking your spending seems a little overwhelming, download an app that will do it for you. You Need a Budget is a longtime favorite for not just tracking spending but aligning your spending with your savings goals; and we recently reviewed the Honeydue app for couples looking for an easy way to track their household spending. If you don’t have a smartphone, many of these services have a web version.

27. Read one personal finance book.

Commit to reading just one book on personal finance this year. Browse your local library, the personal finance section on Amazon, or your local bookstore to find a book that stands out to you. If reading isn’t your thing, you may be able to purchase an audio version to listen to during your commute.

Some options:

Advertiser Disclosure: The card offers that appear on this site are from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all card companies or all card offers available in the marketplace.

Brittney Laryea
Brittney Laryea |

Brittney Laryea is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Brittney at brittney@magnifymoney.com

TAGS:

Advertiser Disclosure

Featured, Strategies to Save

Why Everyone Loves the Zero-Sum Budget

The editorial content on this page is not provided by any financial institution and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Why Everyone Loves the Zero-Sum Budget

How would you like a budget that lets you spend literally every single dollar you have? That’s exactly how the zero-based budget operates, and it’s growing increasingly popular as a tool to help people save more and spend less.

The concept of zero-based budgeting has actually been around for several decades. It was developed in the 1970s by Peter A. Pyhrr, who worked as a manager at calculator-maker Texas Instruments in Dallas, Texas. At the time, the budgeting method caught on as a popular way for businesses to budget but eventually went out of fashion.

Today, zero-based budgeting is having something of a renaissance, not as a business accounting tool but for helping people manage their personal finances.

How Zero-based Budgeting Works

The goal of zero-based budgeting is to ensure you don’t spend any money that you don’t have to spend. The method gives you an opportunity to review each dollar in your budget and assign amounts to spending categories so that you can get a picture of where all of your money goes each month.

“There should never be any money ‘left over’ because a zero-based budget includes expenses such as ‘investments’ and ‘savings’,” says Scottsdale, Ariz.-based Certified Financial Planner Alexander Koury.

The goal is simple: income – spending = 0

How to Follow a Zero-based Budget

List all of your net monthly income

To kick off your zero-based budget, figure out exactly how many after-tax dollars you have coming in every month (you could track your earnings biweekly, as well).

If you’re a salaried worker with a steady income, it’s fairly simply to predict your earnings. If you do contract work or your income is irregular, you may want to average your income for the past three months to create a starting point, then adjust it accordingly.

List all of your sources of income to get your total income for the budgeting period. That number will be your starting point.

Track your past spending

A benefit of the zero-sum budget is that it “helps create awareness of all outflows and expenses,” says San Francisco-based financial planner Catherine Hawley.

In short, you’ve got to know where your money is disappearing to every month.

When you become fully aware of where all of your money goes, you can discover where you’ll need to control your spending.

Start by listing all of your fixed expenses for each period. Those are expenses that you know you will need to make each period. For example, in a monthly budget you may have rent, utilities, and subscription services listed as your fixed expenses.

Next figure out where you spend your flexible dollars. Try an app like Mint to easily categorize your expenses. Or do it the old-fashioned way with a spreadsheet or pen and paper. Koury recommends pulling your past 12 months of expenses to locate and categorize your purchases.

Create your budget

Once you have your income and expenses calculated, it’s time to throw it all together and zero out your budget.

“Budgeting is the foundation on which financial planning is built. Without having a budget, it is difficult if not impossible to grow and create wealth,” says Koury.

Take your income for the budgeting period and subtract your fixed expenses. Hopefully, you’ll still have money to play with, because next you’ll need to decide how much you want to “spend” on savings and long-term goals like retirement.

“When you list out your expenses, put yourself at the top of the expense list. You are the most important, and you always want to pay yourself first,” says Koury.

Fixed expenses and savings (paying yourself) should always come first on your budget. If you still have money left over, don’t let it sit in your account without a purpose. With a zero-sum budget, every dollar you earn should have a job. Otherwise, it’s easy to lose track of those dollars. Go back to the beginning, when you listed out your spending categories. A trend probably emerged, showing you where you spend the most. Maybe it’s eating out with friends, or buying toys for the kids. Designate a certain amount you’re allowed to spend out of your total budget to those categories. Once you set a limit for spending there, you’re less likely to go overboard.

If you get paid bimonthly or biweekly, you may want to create two versions of a budget — one for the first half of the month and another for the second half of the month to accommodate for bills for fixed expenses due at different times in the month.

Pros and Cons of Zero-based Budgeting

Pro: You know where your money is going.

The best part about a zero-based budget is that you’ll know exactly what you are spending you hard-earned money on. At first, your spending habits may surprise you. You may be shocked that you spent more on dining out than on groceries last night, or that your shopping habit has gone a bit overboard.

“The main reason people use zero-based budgeting is to control their spending habits in the face of impulsive behavior,” says Dr. Constantine Yannelis, an assistant professor of finance at NYU Leonard N. Stern School of Business.

When every dollar you earn is assigned to a task, you are able to visualize and rationalize your budget each period. You can see how cutting back in certain spending categories will help you to reach your financial goals.

Con: A zero balance requires a lot of discipline.

If this is your first attempt at budgeting, you may want to ease into it, as it requires you to be very disciplined.

“[The budget] may become too strict, just like a diet, and if one gets off track even for a bit, they may stray from using it and they may go back to their old ways,” warns Koury.

Unfortunately, the budget that creates a place for every dollar doesn’t leave much room for error.

“The chief pitfall of zero-sum budgeting is that it can decrease flexibility, and if adhered to strictly, it can lead to artificial constraints on what individuals may purchase,” says Hawley.

Don’t be too hard on yourself. It may take a couple of budget cycles for you to get used to your new budget and to adapt it to your lifestyle.

Pro: If you stick to it, you’ll see results.

This budget is not for the commitment-phobic. The zero-balance budget is an exercise.

“It is a very results-based approach to creating great results,” says Koury. “The more disciplined you are in your approach, the more effective the results can be. If you have specific goals, then you would want to use this approach.”

Dr. Yannelis says the zero-balance method is also good for new budgeters because “it provides a commitment device for individuals with difficulty meeting their spending and savings objectives.”

Con: This may not work well for emergencies.

The zero-balanced budget is pretty strict, so “it may not work well if people have unpredictable spending needs due to health issues, children, or other life events,” says Dr. Yannelis.

To combat this, you’ll want to make sure to contribute to an emergency fund each period and to make sure you have insurance coverage for all of the important things — health care, disability, life, home, auto, etc. You can’t predict when an emergency will cost you financially, but it’s better to have cash stashed so a small emergency with the kids won’t interrupt your budgeting goals.

Pro: You can track progress toward your goals.Using this budget — especially when you use it with a budget-tracking tool— can help you see the progress you are making toward your savings and debt repayment goals. If you can stick to the contribution you make each month, you can more easily predict when you will reach your goals.

Mark that date, and stay as close to your budget as possible to reach your goal by it. If you happen not to spend all of your money in a particular category, it has to go somewhere. You can contribute the extra funds to your savings or debt payment goals to beat your target date.

Con: You may be “overdoing” your needs.

The zero-balanced method can get very detailed since you need to track the route of each and every penny.

“It can be more detail than some people need. For some it’s enough to carve out long-term savings and live off the rest,” says Hawley.

Koury says the method works better “for those that are diligent about their finances and are analytical.”

If you make more than enough money, you might not care or feel the need to make a super-detailed budget.

“Some people just like knowing they put a certain amount of money in their savings account monthly, and they spend the rest,” says Koury.

Tools to Help You Master Your Zero Balance

EveryDollar and EveryDollar Plus

EveryDollar is the budgeting app created by personal finance guru Dave Ramsey, who popularized the zero-based budget for personal use. You can use it on your desktop or smartphone.

The app automatically creates eight spending categories that cover the basics of most budgets, but you can create budget-specific custom categories, too. It also lets you set up “funds,” which are saving accounts. This lets you set aside money for an emergency fund or other savings goal. The app also sends you tons of reminders to stay on top of your goals.

In addition to the basic version of EveryDollar, there is a premium version called EveryDollar Plus that can be connected with your bank account to pull in your transactions automatically.

You Need a Budget (YNAB)

You Need a Budget — aka YNAB — is budgeting software that’s also available for desktop and mobile devices. The company’s mantra, “Give every dollar a job,” describes its zero-balance foundation.

It prompts you to assign the money you have to a budget category. When you have one month’s worth of expenses fully funded, you can start budgeting funds for future months.

YNAB will cost some money to use. The platform offers a 34-day free trial, after which you will have to pay either $5 a month or $50 a year. Students can get 12 months of YNAB budgeting for free, after which they’ll be eligible for a 10% discount for one year.

Advertiser Disclosure: The card offers that appear on this site are from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all card companies or all card offers available in the marketplace.

Brittney Laryea
Brittney Laryea |

Brittney Laryea is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Brittney at brittney@magnifymoney.com

TAGS: , ,

Advertiser Disclosure

Featured

The One Financial Resolution You Need in 2017: Automation

The editorial content on this page is not provided by any financial institution and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

The One Financial Resolution You Need in 2017: Automation

“Out of sight, out of mind” isn’t typically the kind of advice you get from a financial professional. However, taking some financial decisions off of your mind and out of your hands can be one of the smartest money decisions you’ll ever make. We’re talking about the power of automation. Automating most or all of your recurring financial decisions can be a huge help when it comes to saving, investing, and digging yourself out of debt.

Even better, many popular financial resolutions for the new year — paying off debt, building an emergency fund, investing, saving for a large purchase, and building your credit score — are easy to automate.

What Is Automation?

Dr. Barry Schwartz, a behavioral economist and author of The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less, says we may be naturally programmed to live in the here and now and think about the future when we get there. By learning to use tools and life hacks to automatically make choices for our financial well-being, we’re removing one of the biggest barriers toward financial health: ourselves.

“People have a hard time thinking accurately about risk, and they have a very hard time giving adequate weight to the future,” says Dr. Schwartz. “Automated investment would address both of these problems. But, of course, the software would have to be doing the right thing for the client rather than the company.”

When you automate, you eliminate the opportunity for that negative feeling to affect your decisions because you won’t be actively making that payment.

7 Ways Automation Can Help You Keep Your 2017 Resolutions

If your goal this year is to learn budgeting, save up for a large purchase, or simply try to better manage your finances, automation can be a huge help.

  1. Automate Your Budget

Creating a budget is the easy part. Following it becomes the real challenge.Try these two automation hacks to stick with your budget in 2017.

Create a bank account for your allowance

  1. Open up a secondary checking account with your bank, but don’t get a debit card for this one. The account will act as your “reserve” account. You’ll keep your fixed and flexible spending money there and schedule bills to be paid from this account.
  2. Figure out how much money you can freely spend each week (after your bills are paid).
  3. Set up an automatic weekly transfer from your reserve account to your “spending” account (main checking account) for that amount.

It will be like getting a weekly allowance to spend on whatever you want, just like in middle school.

Use apps that do the math for you

Sometimes all we need is a little nudge to follow through with our goals. Budgeting apps like Level Money, Budgt, or Daily Budget can be the reminder you need to keep to your budget each day. The apps take into account your income, fixed expenses, and savings goal to come up with a daily spending number.

Level Money will connect to your bank accounts and generate the number automatically, while Budgt and Daily Budget require you to enter your spending manually, then generate what you have left to spend for the day. The apps will notify you daily with how much cash you can spend each day and still stick to your budget.

  1. Automate Routine Expenses

This one is for anyone who has ever walked into a grocery store to buy a gallon of milk but walked out with bags full of things they didn’t really need.

You can save time and money on groceries by avoiding the grocery store. That doesn’t mean you have to stop buying groceries and splurge on dining out. Automate your grocery shopping with services such as AmazonFresh or Fresh Direct. The services cost about $150 to $200 annually. With these services, you are able to compare prices and add and subtract items from your cart to stay on budget, then schedule your delivery time.

You could also try a meal delivery service like HelloFresh or Plated to deliver fresh ingredients coupled with recipes for meals weekly. Using these services, dinner for two costs about $10 to $15 a person. If you’re a couple that dines out often, scheduling weekly meal delivery and cooking could help you cut back significantly on spending.

If you live in an urban area like New York or Los Angeles, you may have several other options for grocery delivery available to you.

  1. Automate Your Savings

Automation makes it easy to set aside funds for an emergency fund or a large purchase such as a down payment for a home.

….at work

If you get paid via direct deposit, check with the human resources department at your place of employment to see if you can split your paycheck into different accounts. If you can, send the amount you want to save from each check into your savings account. If your pay is inconsistent, you may be able to set this amount as a percentage of your pay.

If your human resources department doesn’t offer that option or you simply want to handle it on your own, you can set up an automatic transfer to your savings account and schedule it for the dates you get paid.

…on your smartphone

You can also try automated savings software such as Digit, Qapital, or Simple.

Digit, backed by Google’s venture arm, analyzes your spending habits then uses an algorithm to determine how much it can transfer to your Digit savings account and how often to make transfers. When you need the money, you can have it transferred in one business day by sending a text.

Qapital lets you set savings goals and rules to match them, then automatically transfers money toward your goal when the rule applies. For example, you can set a savings goal to purchase $200 tickets to a music festival, then set a rule to round up all purchases you make with your debit card to the next dollar and save the difference. Qapital will transfer the difference to the account designated for your festival tickets.

Some new digital banks have added budgeting tools. Simple, for example, calculates a “safe-to-spend” number so you know how much you can spend freely.

  1. Automate Your Investments

You don’t have to be a financial whiz to invest your money. If you plan to start investing this year, you can do so passively with automation.

An important and easy way to do this is to automate savings to your retirement account(s). If you contribute to a 401(k) or an IRA through your employer, you can set a contribution as a percentage of each paycheck. Some plan providers allow you to automate annual contribution increases. This way, you’re automatically saving more each year without having to do any extra legwork. Even an annual increase of 1% or 2% can drastically improve your savings outlook.

If you use robo-adviser services like Betterment or Stash, set up auto deposits for your accounts and let them grow. Acorns is a great tool for beginners to automate investing. Acorns rounds up each of your transactions to the nearest dollar, then invests the difference.

You can find more details about these apps, such as what fees they might charge to manage your investments, here.

  1. Automate Your Student Loan Payments

If you resolved to stay on top of your student loan payments this year, setting up automatic payments could be tremendously helpful. Automating your payment can help ensure you pay on time each month. With most servicers, you’ll get the added benefit of .25% off interest on your loans.

If you want to pay back your loans faster, you can automate an additional payment to all of your accounts when you set up direct debit. If you can’t set up an automatic additional payment to a specific loan, you can set alerts with a calendar or a budgeting app to remind you to make an additional payment to your loans on payday.

  1. Automate All Your Bills

You can automate most recurring bills like your rent, credit card payment, auto loan payment, utilities, and subscription services to avoid missed payments. This tactic can also help time your payments to ensure you have enough money in your accounts to cover them. There are several options to help schedule bills you know need to be paid each month.

Choose whichever of the following methods work best for you:

  • Set up automatic bill pay through your bank’s online banking platform.
  • Use a budgeting app like Mint, Level Money, or YNAB to link to your accounts and schedule automatic payments.
  • Set up an automatic debit with each individual service provider through their online platform or over the phone.

If you pay an individual each month for something like rent or shared utilities, you can pay them via automatic bill pay to their bank account, or set up automatic payments using a tool like PayPal.

  1. Automate Your Credit Makeover

If your goal is to improve your credit, paying bills on time and lowering your utilization rate are the two most powerful things you can do.

Debitize lets you use your credit card like a debit card. The app automatically transfers money from your checking account to pay off charges to your credit card with money. You’ll be using your credit card, then paying it off in full each month. Even better, it’s more difficult to overspend, since you’ll be using up the funds in your checking account.

If you’re building or rebuilding your score with a secured card or a new credit card, you can try this “set it and forget it” method:

  1. Figure out what 20% of your credit limit is. Example: 20% of $200 is $40.
  2. Find something that you pay for each month that costs less than that. This might be a payment for a streaming service such as Hulu, Netflix, or Spotify.
  3. Set up your account to take the payment from your credit card each month.
  4. Set up your checking account to pay your credit card balance each month.
  5. Watch your score grow with a credit monitoring service like Mint or Credit Karma.

When your score reaches the high 600s or mid-700s, you’ll have an easier time qualifying to borrow large amounts for an auto loan or a mortgage.

Advertiser Disclosure: The card offers that appear on this site are from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all card companies or all card offers available in the marketplace.

Brittney Laryea
Brittney Laryea |

Brittney Laryea is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Brittney at brittney@magnifymoney.com

TAGS: ,

Advertiser Disclosure

Best of

The 10 Best Budgeting Apps – MagnifyMoney’s Favorites

The editorial content on this page is not provided by any financial institution and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

The 10 Best Budgeting Apps

There are a myriad of different reasons you might want to use a budgeting app, and, luckily, in the age of digital technology, there’s no shortage of options to meet the consumer demand. You may want to track your expenses, but pen and paper haven’t been doing it for you. You may want to get to a point where you’re not living paycheck to paycheck. You may even want to get an app that’s going to help you determine your net worth.

We’ve taken a look at some of the best options on the market to help you figure out which will best suit your needs.

Mint Budgeting

Mint is one of the oldest and most celebrated names in the budgeting app game. It allows you to link all of your financial accounts, giving you detailed analytics for your spending habits, net worth, and current budget, though it does not allow you to set budgets for future months.

Pros and Cons

While this may be the historical Cadillac of budgeting apps, it’s certainly not perfect. Depending on your needs, Mint can either be the best thing on earth, or a frustrating find. We’ll start with the positives:

  • It’s free
  • You can link up with accounts from almost any financial institution
  • The features and analytics can’t be beat. Mint gives you a detailed profile, looking at your money in many different ways

There are a couple negatives, though:

  • Mint has ads, often disguised as helpful hints. You’ve spent too much money on ATM fees, so why not switch to an account that returns all ATM fees at the end of the month? Or why don’t you switch to a lower-interest credit card? When you act on any of these suggestions, Mint collects a commission for suggesting the product
  • In the past year, users have reported consistent, and often unresolved, issues with syncing accounts regularly. This is a major problem, as without up-to-date data from your financial institution, all of Mint’s great charts and analytics won’t be accurate

 YNAB  Budget

You Need a Budget, or YNAB, ranks as one of Mint’s oldest and strongest competitors, though in reality the apps perform different tasks altogether. Where Mint analyzes the present and the past, YNAB is all about funding the future.

The newest version of the app allows you to import data from your financial institution, or you can choose to enter your income and expenses manually. Every time you receive income, YNAB will have you assign each dollar a job. That job may be rent, it may be grocery money, or it may be a night out on the town. It encourages you to think of far-off, or annual expenses as goals that should receive a little funding each month, and to not spend money until it has “aged” for at least 30 days, which means you’ll be at least a month ahead with your finances. This gets you out of the paycheck-to-paycheck cycle, and on to financial peace.

Pros and Cons

YNAB is as much a lifestyle change as it is an app. That means for all its wonderfulness, it may not meet every last person’s needs.

Here are the wonderful things:

  • It encourages healthy financial habits in its very structure
  • User interface is simple and easy to navigate
  • Can share same account information across multiple devices
  • No ads

These are the things that may mean it’s not a match made in heaven:

  • If you’re looking for analysis and trend data, this may not be the app for you
  • Cost is $5 per month, or $50 a year. If you’re a college student, you can get YNAB4 for free, but the newest version with the option to link bank accounts, rather than use manual entry, does not yet have this discount option
  • The phone app must be used in conjunction with the desktop app, where you’ll find more features than on the small screen

Level Money

Level Money prides itself on being a simplistic budgeting app that gets the job done. It allows you to import your account data from your financial institutions, but with its newest update, it may have gone too simplistic. Features users loved like Budgeting Goals and Daily Spend have been eliminated in the name of minimalism.

Pros and Cons

Though some features have been removed, Level Money may still be the app for you depending on your budgeting goals. It does have some great qualities:

  • It’s free
  • There are no ads or product pushes, even since Level Money was acquired by Capital One last year
  • Because this app pulls your data from your financial institution, it is a lot less time consuming than manually entering each paycheck and expense
  • Simple user interface that is easy to navigate

There are those cons, however:

  • Decreased features since last update
  • Newest update has also led to some user issues with bill entry, login, and saving entered data

Toshl Finance

Toshl Finance puts a fun spin on your traditional budgeting app while still integrating analytics. Friendly Toshl monsters greet you as you enter expenses, log income, or import data from your financial institution. It takes the best of both worlds by taking a hard look at your data from past and current months, and presenting it to you in easy-to-understand graphs. Simultaneously, it uses that data to help you make plans for future months.

Pros and Cons

If you have more than two accounts you would like to link with Toshl Finance, or want to create more than two budgets, you will have to upgrade from the free account to Toshl Pro. Pro costs $1.99 per month or $19.99 a year. It’s not the highest price we’ve seen for premium level service, and you may be able to get away with the free version depending on where you keep your money.

Not all aspects of Toshl Finance are valued on a case-by-case basis. Here are some of the straight-up positives:

  • Fun interface
  • Free option that is likely viable for many users
  • Ability to analyze the past while still aiding in future planning
  • No ads

There are potential negatives, as well:

  • Most of the analysis is done wholly on the web-based app, but it does link to your phone where it has more limited features
  • Toshl Pro comes with a fee, which may be inconvenient for users with multiple financial accounts, or a need for multiple budgets
  • The newest update created some problems with syncing between the web- and phone-based interfaces, but Toshl has proven extremely responsive, and quickly provided a fix

EveryDollar

EveryDollar is Dave Ramsey’s budgeting app. It operates with many of the same goals as Mint, with a few, key differences. The first is that Ramsey’s app allows you to budget for future months and events. However, another difference is that while the app is marketed as free, it only remains so if you manually enter you income, and all transactions. To link to your accounts at financial institutions, you must pay a $99 a year fee. The user interface is cleaner, though, and arguably easier to use.

Pros and Cons

There are a lot of things we like about EveryDollar. Here are some of the major selling points:

  • Free option if you’re okay with manually entering all of your transactions
  • Ability to budget for future months
  • Clean interface
  • Much like YNAB, you give “every dollar” a job, which is where the name comes from
  • If you are a Dave Ramsey fan, this app also allows you to track your progress in each of his 7 Baby Steps

This app may not be for you if you find any of the following cumbersome:

  • $99 annual fee if you want to link accounts from your financial institutions
  • While there are no ads, you are encouraged to seek help in specific financial situations from Ramsey’s Endorsed Local Providers (or ELPs.)

Mvelopes

If you’re a Dave Ramsey fan, you’ve likely heard of the envelope budgeting system in which you put cash into designated envelopes for the month. When your envelope is empty, you aren’t allowed to spend more on that line-item in your budget.

Mvelopes takes that idea, and makes it digital. They believe in the system, but recognize that an increasing amount of people have eliminated cash from their monetary repertoire.

Pros and Cons

The envelope system has been applauded by many, and taking it digital only makes sense in our digital age. This app definitely has some advantages:

  • The basic app is free with up to four linked accounts from your financial institutions and 25 spending envelopes
  • Can help you make a mental shift to reduce overspending in problem categories
  • Makes budgeting for future goals a breeze
  • Few problems reported with syncing of accounts
  • Net worth tracking available

It also comes with its own set of disadvantages:

  • User interface is not always intuitive
  • No historical data provided
  • You will be enticed to buy additional products. Mvelopes Premier allows you unlimited bank accounts and envelopes, along with live chat assistance, but will cost you $95 a year. Mvelopes also actively markets Money4Life Coaching products through the app, which lack a transparent pricing structure

Prosper Daily

Prosper Daily(formerly BillGuard) is an identity protection platform disguised as a budgeting app. While it handles the budgeting part of its job well, and is easy to navigate, it’s not as pretty as some of the other apps that make the list. Where its real power lies is in its ability to keep you posted on potential fraudulent charges, which are aggregated from flagged transactions from other users’ accounts. If a transaction is flagged, and Prosper Daily finds a similar charge on any of your cards or accounts, you’ll be notified, giving you the ability to take proper action before things get out of hand.

The budgeting and general alerts all come as a part of its free package, but more advanced features like 3-bureau credit monitoring, and black market surveillance will run you $9.99 a month, or $83.99 a year.

Pros and Cons

While its unique features are one-of-a-kind for our list, Prosper Daily’s budgeting app has a lot to offer if you’re looking for something simple that allows you to import data from your financial institution:

  • It’s free, unless you want upgraded identity protection products
  • Clean interface, though not as detailed as something like Mint
  • Consistent reliability in functionality
  • No ads

There are but few drawbacks:

  • Additional identity protection features will cost you more money; research what you’re purchasing so you fully understand what exactly is protected
  • Analytics are not as in-depth as other budgeting apps that made our list

Wally

Wally is a basic budgeting app that allows you to record your expenses, and income, along with a savings goal. It does not have the capability to link bank accounts, but that may be an advantage to those with concerns about the privacy of their financial data. While all of the apps listed are generally known to be secure, the public as a whole does still have some apprehension about putting all of their banking data in one place on their phone. This app circumvents that concern by only allowing manual entries.

For this roundup, we tried Wally+, which is still in Beta. This version of the app allows you to take pictures of your receipt, uploading them directly into the app, and linking them to specific expenses. You can also use Foursquare to log the location of your purchase.

Pros and Cons

Wally has a lot going for it if you are looking for a bare-bones budgeting app:

  • It’s free with no ads, and no pressure to spend on an upgraded product
  • Ability to set savings goals
  • Basic tracking available
  • Easily upload and access pictures of your receipts
  • Ability to enter future expenses

If you’re looking for something beyond the basics, you may want to look somewhere else, as Wally does have its limitations:

  • Because it is manual entry, the app is only going to be accurate if you are recording every last expense and portion of your income
  • Tracking and analytics are not advanced
  • While the app is pretty, navigation is not always intuitive. We had to play around a lot to figure out how to bring up future expenses, and appropriately categorize expenses. This may be fixed as it goes through the Beta process

Spendbook

Spendbook is a budgeting app that makes the entire process simple. You manually log expenses and income into a beautiful, easy-to-use app, and keep track of your money through easy-to-understand graphs and basic analytics. While all of your data stays on your iPhone exclusively, Spendbook has tapped into the same visual pleasures as social media networks like Snapchat and Instagram, allowing you to upload pictures accompanying your purchases.

Pros and Cons

This beautiful app has some good things going for it:

  • Ease of use is second to none
  • Basic analytics are provided for a big picture view of your month-to-month financial health.
  • Can budget for future events
  • Manual entry, which can be a plus for those hyper-concerned about security
  • No ads or prompts to upgrade

It also has some pretty significant restrictions:

  • Costs $1.99
  • Only available for iPhones
  • Cannot link bank accounts, or sync data between devices. What you manually enter on your phone stays on your phone, and cannot be edited or accessed elsewhere

BUDGT

BUDGT is similar to Spendbook in that you can’t link bank accounts or sync data between devices. It is also only available in iTunes, but it does have some features that its competitor does not. On top of basic, day-to-day budgeting, you are able to export your data as a CSV file. You can use multiple currencies, and set reminders to log your daily expenses.

Pros and Cons

BUDGT is a basic budgeting app that goes a little beyond the basic. If you’re looking for something in between super simplistic and extremely analytical, this may be the app for you. Here’s why:

  • It will help you keep on top of tracking your spending habits with its daily reminders
  • You can export your data to run your own analytics if you so desire
  • User interface is easy to navigate
  • End-of-month projections are provided to help keep you on track as you make your daily purchases
  • No ads

BUDGT does have its own set of limitations:

  • It’s only available in iTunes
  • Cost is $1.99
  • Cannot sync your data with other devices aside from CSV export, or import data from your financial institution
  • Because BUDGT is very much focused on helping you with your day-to-day finances, big picture analytics and planning may be insufficient for some users

Ultimately, picking the app that’s right for you boils down to identifying your own, unique needs. If you want an app that is going to revolutionize your financial habits, consider YNAB. If you want an app that will help you track your expenses without asking for all of your banking data, Spendbook may be for you. For those looking for a combination of analytics and the ability to plan for future expenses, Toshl Finance has a lot of potential.

Personal finance is above all else personal. When you’re considering budgeting apps, the same sentiment will hold true.

Advertiser Disclosure: The card offers that appear on this site are from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all card companies or all card offers available in the marketplace.

Brynne Conroy
Brynne Conroy |

Brynne Conroy is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Brynne here

TAGS: