19 Apps To Help Manage Your Money

As we continue to live our lives on the go, it's important that we can find tools to help us manage our money on the go as well. Money Magazine recently came out with a list of the best apps to manage your money. Here is a consolidated summary. I've included links to each site (by clicking their name on the title) to easily get additional information:

Manilla:

This free app helps you to manage your bills. It helps to alert you when bills are almost due and even helps remind you when frequent flyer miles or other reward points are about to expire. 

Walla.by:

Ever found it difficult to compare credit cards to try and get the rewards that work best for you? If you have multiple credit cards and want to know which one will maximize your rewards for a particular purchase (i.e. one card giving 3% back at a gas station, vs. another that may only pay 1%), Wallaby will help by giving you up to date information on your credit cards' rewards to help you choose the one that is best for you. Simply give a purchase location and it will let you know which credit card will maximize your rewards for that particular purchase.

Mint and HelloWallet:

Both of these sites will help you with budgeting and getting your financial data in one location. Mint is free to use and even helps remind you when bills are due and gives you alerts when you've gone over your budget. HelloWallet offers a free 30 day trial, but then costs $8.95/month. It does give you analysis of your accounts and provides advice on saving more and avoiding bank fees. For more comparison, check this out.

BillGuard:

Have you ever had sneaky charges on your credit card and not known about it? For free, BillGuard will help protect up to three of your credit cards from "gray charges" - deceptive charges such as hidden fees, unwanted automatic renewals, and over charges. This app is only on the Apple Passbook, but will save you time from pouring over your monthly credit card statements and they will even help dispute charges.

Wattzon:

For those energy fanatics, this is a great app for you. This free app will analyze the energy usage of your home and let you know how it compares to other homes similar to yours. In addition, it will help give recommendations on how to reduce your energy usage.

Skype and Viber:

Looking to save money on your phone bill? Both of these companies can help to reduce or eliminate costs you have in relation to your home phone. To get more information on the specifics between the two, check this out.

Hukkster:

Do you hate paying full price for you favorite items? By adding Hukkster to your bookmark bar, if you see an item online you would like to buy, you click on this bookmark and it will sent you an alert when it goes on sale. No need to continue to monitor the prices - it will do it for you! You'll never miss a sale again! This also is a free app.

Honey:

If you use Google Chrome, this is a great browser add-on for you. After installing it, on over 100 of your favorite shopping sites (yes, even Amazon), you will see a "find savings" button at checkout. By clicking it, it will automatically scan for discounts or coupon codes and apply them to your order. You will no longer need to search for coupon codes only to find ones that are out of date and no longer work.

RedLaser and InvisibleHand:

Both of these free apps will help you to compare prices on your favorite items by scanning the bar codes of these items. While in the store, you can flip over the box, scan the barcode, and it will let you know of prices other stores are charging for the same item. To see a quick comparison for additional information, check this out. I personally have found RedLaser to be helpful with buying larger ticket items to make sure I'm getting the best price I possibly can considering there is more likely to be a larger price discrepancy on these higher-priced items. 

BillShrink:

We all want smaller bills, right? By going to the website and telling them a little bit about your preferences, they will recommend the best matches for you. You can use this for things such as credit cards, tv service, wireless service, savings accounts, and even look for the cheapest gas. 

Bank Apps:

If you're not using an app that your current bank is providing, you may be missing out on some additional services and conveniences you may not be aware of. You may be able to pay bills, make deposits, and much more, all while on the go with your phone in hand. Check out your banks' app and see what they have to offer.

Decide:

Much like you'd expect from the name, this will give you a chance to help make a decision when making a purchase. You'll be able to see user and expert reviews, retailers that sell the item, and if you pay $30/yr for the premium version, you can even see a price predictor for the item. 

RepairPal:

Anybody feel like they've had a poor experience with a car repair shop? This app will give you expected prices to pay for repairs, help you find reliable local shops, and also track your car's repair history and list your maintenance tasks. 

Square Wallet:

Don't want to have to carry cash and credit cards? By linking to your bank account, you can now pay on your phone to more than 250,000 retailers. In addition, you can also use the app to send someone a gift!

PayPal:

I'm sure many of you know of PayPal. However, by downloading the free app, you are now able to pay people on the go. In addition, stores are now adding the ability to pay via PayPal at the register (Home Depot and JC Penny are a couple of the biggies).

Google Wallet:

If you have an Android phone, this is another app that gives you convenience of purchasing at the register. Available at over 200,000 locations, you simply have to tap your phone on a device at the register and it will make the payment. 

I Need Help Getting Out Of Debt!

You don’t have to be a mathematician to know that debt is a major problem in our society. In the United States, consumer debt now totals $2.8 billion. That averages out to $8,800 per person. What types of debt make up that $8,800 per person? 31% of that ($2,728) is revolving debt, typically credit card debt. The other 69% ($6,072) is primarily made up of auto loans and student loans. Did you know that from 1980 to 2011, debt has increased 61.3% faster than our incomes have increased? Yes, we have a problem. What steps can you personally take to resolve your debt problem?

Do Not Take On Any New Debt

Seems simple, right? If you have a problem with debt, step 1 is that you have to stop adding debt. Make the personal commitment to stop now. It is so easy for us to rationalize our purchases. “If I can just buy ______, then I won’t take out any more loans.” The reality is that’s how we get in trouble in the first place. We can tackle the argument of what debt could possibly be “ok” to take on in a later article, but if you have a problem with debt, then the buck has to stop here. The reality about debt is that we have to pay it all back at some point, so make the commitment to that you won’t buy anything more until you’ve saved up for it. If you don’t think you’re strong enough to make this commitment, tell a friend and ask them to keep you accountable. It’s worth it! Stay strong!

Get A “Quick Win”

Let’s face it, debt stinks! Paying down debt doesn’t sound like the sexiest way to spend your money, right? Have you ever heard someone say, “If feels like I’ve been paying off my credit card forever and never seem to be making any progress?” You need to find some “quick wins,” as it will likely make paying off your debt a lot more exciting and keep you committed to it.

A lot of times people ask, should I pay off the highest interest rate or the smallest balance? I feel like the best plan of action is to get some momentum. Yes, you can calculate the cheapest path to pay off your debt, but if you aren’t going to be emotionally invested in it and give up part way down the road, then you’ll end up wasting more money in the long run. Not to mention, Dave Ramsey says that if we had been paying attention to math, we wouldn’t be in debt in the first place.

For those that like achievements and checking things off a list, it's nice to be able to check that debt off your list and move on to the next one. At that point, you have an emotional “win” and you’re excited to get another. That’s always been my personal opinion, but in fact a recent study conducted by Northwestern University confirms that same belief.

Start The Snowball

If you have read articles on getting out of debt, chances are you have heard of the Snowball Method. If that isn’t familiar to you, I’ll explain. The method states that once you pay off a debt, take the monthly payment of the debt you just paid off and add it to the next debt you want to tackle. After that second debt is paid off, you take that total payment and add it to the third debt and so on and so on (hence, like a snowball) until you’re out of debt . Let’s look at an example.

Debt 1: $100/month

Debt 2: $150/month

Debt 2: $200/month

In this scenario, you are paying $450/month total in debt. For the sake of the example, let’s say you make these payments and end up paying off Debt 1 first. What you would do next is take the $100/mo. that you were paying on Debt 1 and add it on to your payment for Debt 2, so that you’re now paying $250/mo. on Debt 2. That extra $100/mo. helps you to pay off Debt 2 much faster. Once Debt 2 is paid off, you take the $250 and apply it to Debt 3. From there on, you pay the $250 you were paying off on Debt 2, plus the $200 you’re already paying on Debt 3 and now you have a $450 snowball to knock out Debt 3 much faster.  Does that make sense?

The beauty of the Snowball Method is that you never have to pay more each month than when you initially started. But, you have to stay disciplined and see that plan through all the way to the end. That is the approach that I used to pay off multiple school loans after I graduated from college. Once the first loan was paid off, I took what I had been paying on the first loan and applied it to the second loan. Yes, there were days that I wish I had that extra money to make other purchases, but I stayed disciplined and am happy to report that my school debt was paid off much faster than I ever would have imagined. It’s so rewarding to look back on the consistency and discipline and see that IT WORKS. If you’re discouraged, stick with it.

We weren’t made to live our lives dodging creditors and dealing with the added stress that debt brings. Yes, I know that things happen and sometimes those bad circumstances aren’t our choosing. However, we can make the decision to not let our debt continually weigh us down. We can get mad and get even! Tackle that debt with force and see it through to the end. When that debt is all paid off, throw yourself a party because you deserve to celebrate!

If you have a great story about paying off debt, please leave a comment below or contact me and let me know. I'd love to hear them!

The Rule of 72 - The Most Important Rule In How Money Works

If you learned some basic multiplication tables in school, then you have the foundation to understand one of the most important rules in regards to how money works – the Rule of 72. I first heard about the Rule of 72 in a Money Management class that I took back in high school (thanks to Mr. F), and it blew my mind. In the most basic form, if you take the number 72 and divide it by a rate of return, you will have a rough idea of how many periods (usually years) it will take for your money to double. That’s it. That’s all you need to know. Pretty simple, right? Let’s take a look at how it works in real terms:

As an example, let’s say that you were offered an investment that claimed to pay you 6% annual interest. How do you know if it’s good or not? Well, take 72/6 and it will tell you that your money will double in roughly 12 years. If you have $1,000 that you invest in 2013 and don’t touch it until 2025, you will then have $2,000. What’s even better is if you don’t touch it for another 12 years, you will have $4,000 in the year 2037. Sounds pretty good, right?

What if you were only able to find an investment that paid 3% annual interest? If you run the math, that would take 24 years for you to double your money (72/3 = 24). See what happens again with that $1,000:

3% Annual Interest

2013: $1,000

2037: $2,000 (24 years later)

2061: $4,000 (48 years later)

So the difference between 6% interest and 3% interest may not seem like that big of a deal, but it’s the difference between having $4,000 in 2037 (at 6%) and $2,000 in 2037 (at 3%). Ready to really have your mind blown?

What if we went 3% higher and you could get 9%? That means your money would double every 8 years, as you can see from the chart below:

9% Annual Interest

2013: $1,000

2021: $2,000 (8 years later)

2029: $4,000 (16 years later)

2037: $8,000 (24 years later)

So the question to ask is, do you think that the difference between 3%, 6%, and 9% rate of return is significant? If it is a big deal to have $2,000, $4,000 or $8,000 in the year 2037, then you bet it is!

Important Tips for Further Application:

    • Understand that investments come with risk. Higher rates of return usually come with higher volatility or risk. Just because someone is offering you 18% interest on a “sure thing” doesn’t mean that person actually could pay you back. There is a risk/reward balance. Chances they could be offering you 18% interest because they didn’t have any takers at only 12%. Plus, they have to earn more than 18% back on the money you gave them just to be able to pay you back. So look at the risk/reward and only move forward if you’re comfortable knowing the situation.
    • Remember that these numbers also apply for debt. If someone is offering you a rate on your school loans, cars loans, mortgage, etc, take a few moments to plug that number into the rule of 72 and see if you can afford that over time. 1% difference on a mortgage can make a big difference if you are taking 30 years to pay it back.
    • Not to be the bearer of bad news, but there is also a dirty little player in this game called inflation. As you know, the cost of things go up over time. On average, 3-3.5% is a rough number of what inflation has consistently averaged in the past. The reality is that you need your money to average 3-3.5% just to keep up with inflation. I don’t want to end the article on that downer, so I’ll state that while many things do inflate, the cost of other things does drop over time. Think about the cost of TVs and how much cheaper they are now than just a few years ago. Or DVD players? There, we can end on that positive note! Happy trails as you use the Rule of 72 in the future.