Two Personal Financial Apps that Changed our Finances
When my wife and I began carefully budgeting four years ago, we sat down and developed a budget and a system for tracking our spending. In the old days, we may have handwritten a list to track our purchases or put cash in envelopes to use throughout the month, but this is 2022, and there are now more options available than ever for tracking your finances.
As it is with everything else now, your phone is really all you need to make and track your budget. There are some great apps out there, and after trying a few, we ultimately settled on using a combination of two: EveryDollar for budgeting and tracking our spending and Mint for tracking our net worth and overall financial health. These apps have saved us thousands, and on top of that they are both completely free!
EveryDollar is the budgeting app put out by Dave Ramsey and his team at Ramsey Solutions. You may know Dave as the author of The Total Money Makeover, creator of Financial Peace University, or just the guy who cuts up credit cards. EveryDollar is a straight to the point, no frills budgeting app. The free version of the app enables you to set up a custom budget each month and manually input transactions throughout the month into your budget categories.
My wife and I use the free version of the app, and it has been transformational to our finances. The budget can be fully customized within categories such as income, housing, transportation, food, etc. The set up of the first month’s budget takes a little more time, but each month after that is extremely quick to set up as you can copy the prior month’s budget as a starting point and simply make minor changes specific to the new month. You can even refer to previous budgets from prior years to help remember any yearly recurring items.
After setting up your budget, the app makes it simple to track your spending throughout the month. Using the free version, whenever we make a purchase we just pull out our phone and manually input the transaction into the correct category. It literally takes just a few seconds! You can access your budget in real time across multiple devices (including from a computer), so my wife and I can see our progress throughout the month and easily input transactions whenever we spend. This app makes budgeting seamless!
As is true for budgeting in general, it takes a lot of time and attention initially and the first three months or so is a learning curve. One of the things we love about EveryDollar is that our budget is easily “tweakable” in real time. My wife’s income is largely unpredictable, so at the beginning of the month, we put in a base income, and then as she gets paid, we can adjust her earnings and reallocate the extra money wherever it’s needed. Sometimes an unexpected school event requires an extra expense, and again, with just a couple finger taps, we can put it in and readjust the budget to reflect it. As with anything, after learning how to use its very user-friendly interface, it just becomes a habit like checking social media or tracking a package on Amazon. Sure, budgeting and following through takes a lot of discipline, but the tools that are available take a lot of the burden off.
The other app that has become crucial to our financial plan is Mint by Intuit, the makers of TurboTax. Mint is designed to link with all of your financial accounts in real time and provide a broad picture of your finances. You can instantly see the real time balances of various cash accounts, credit cards, loans, investment accounts, and property in one place. There are budgeting features, spending goals, and bill payment tracking all built into the app. And it’s free!
One of the most powerful tools included with Mint is the ability to see your real time net worth instantly. Net worth is a financial metric that is simply defined as what you own minus what you owe. Put another way, it is the value of your property/assets minus your debts. This is an important number for tracking your overall financial health and progress. Since all of your accounts and property are included within Mint, it can calculate this number accurately, in real time, automatically.
I use Mint every day to monitor recent transactions throughout all of my accounts, see the balances of our checking and savings accounts, follow our investments, and check our net worth progress over time, all in one place! It provides a complete picture of your finances that will give you the information required to empower you to stay on track and meet your goals.
Simply put, we use it as the backbone of understanding our overall financial picture to keep us motivated and on track with budgeting.
Check it out!
These are just a couple of examples of some free tools that we personally use every day. There are, however, many other apps available that have great reviews and could be great options for tracking your finances and budgets. Apps like Personal Capital, YNAB (You Need a Budget) and several others come highly recommended and might be a good option for you depending on your specific preferences and needs.
Most of all, I would encourage you to do a monthly budget and track your spending – no matter what you use to do it. Doing a budget every month has been foundational for us, and I’m sure it will be for you as well. Find an app or two that will help you on this journey, and it will change your finances for the better.
If you need assistance with budgeting or would like to speak with one of our Financial Advocates, give us a call at (800) 642-2227. We also offer free webinars that can help kickstart your budgeting journey!