Saving money may appear like a simple task, but many people fail to do this consistently. Whether you’re looking for tools to help you save money, or just looking to improve your financial situation, this article is for you.
The U.S. Federal Reserve reported that the household debt stood at $14.6 trillion as 2021. As well, around 340 million people are currently in debt. COVID-19 worsened the situation, making it hard for people to find a meaningful livelihood. No employment to speak of made saving money impossible for people with debt. Meanwhile, payments for utilities, student loans, mortgages, and car insurance continue to mount.
Thankfully, people can now avail of tools and apps to help cut costs and enable saving. Specifically, fintech companies have developed various tools to help people manage their money, including an automatic budgeting app and a car insurance calculator.
People don’t have to be finance professionals or accountants to understand and use these tools. Better still, they are bound to find just the app to address a particular need. Below are several money-saving tools people can use.
Tools for Budgeting
Budgeting serves as the foundation for saving money. Budgeting is essential for managing monthly expenses, preparing for emergencies, and avoiding debt. The following tools are great companions for saving money.
People fond of listing down things and at ease with spreadsheets might consider creating a budget using Google Sheets. This software is free to use for all Google account owners. It’s perfect for people who don’t want to use complicated tools and prefer itemized lists.
There are plenty of Google Sheets budget templates available online, but users can create and customize templates easily. They can open their Google Drive account, click on the “New” option, and choose “Google Sheet.” They need to input their income and expenses categories, choose the budget period and use simple formulas. Then, they can type in their numbers.
The key to an effective budget spreadsheet is regularly updating it. There may be instances when the user needs to adjust the budget because of an emergency expense or unplanned income. The accuracy of budget spreadsheets may not always be 100%, but the more you use and update it, the more it becomes more accurate.
There are several apps for those not into spreadsheets and more into mobile devices. One of the most popular free budgeting apps available for download is Mint. The app offers other features like bills payment reminders and credit monitoring services.
Budgeting beginners will find Mint to be a user-friendly app and website. Mint has a daily budget planner that advises setting goals based on spending habits. Users can still create their own saving goals and track their investments via Mint.
The app automatically categorizes and updates expenses, but users may customize them and add new ones. Users can sync Mint with their bank accounts, credit cards, and retirement accounts to track income.
Mint’s monthly bills payment tracker allows users to immediately see what they need to settle to avoid missing payments. The app sends reminders for upcoming due dates and alerts when the funds are insufficient.
Users acquire security through VeriSign scanning for data transfers and multi-factor authentication for accessing their linked accounts. Users must use a 4-digit code or Touch ID to view their accounts.
The mobile app is free to download and use from Google Play Store and Apple App Store. Mint users will have to deal with ads while using the free version, but they can do away with the ads by opting for the premium version instead.
The Android version of the app is rated 4.5 out of 5 stars. And its iOS counterpart enjoys a rating of 4.8 out of 5 stars. Android users will need 109 MB of free space and Android 6.0 or up to use Mint. Meanwhile, iOS users need a storage space of 473.2 MB and iOS 13.0 or later.
An old way of budgeting is the envelope system. People divide their cash into envelopes marked by specific expenses like utilities, groceries, and medicine. It ensures they account for everything and that the remaining money can be saved or invested.
The Goodbudget service is the digital incarnation of this approach. Users may see it as more secure since there’s no risk of losing the envelopes due to carelessness or theft. They can access the service via the website or its Android and iOS deployment. User accounts sync among the platforms, so they’re constantly updated.
People can separate their money into digital envelopes categorized as wants and needs. Pre-labeled envelopes are available, but users can still create their envelopes. These virtual envelopes are not only for recurring expenses but also for annual expenses like property taxes and saving goals like trips abroad.
After choosing or creating envelopes, users must manually input their income, amount of cash available, debts, and balances from bank accounts and other financial accounts. Unlike Mint and the other tools indicated here, users cannot link Goodbudget to bank accounts, so the tool cannot automatically track transactions. Users need to manually log their transactions and compare them to their bank statements.
Goodbudget can be an effective budgeting tool, especially for people who want a hands-on approach despite its limitations. It’s also a viable option for those who aren’t fond of linking their financial accounts to mobile apps.
The Android app is currently rated 4.6 out of 5 stars on the Play Store, while the iOS app has a 4.7 out of 5 stars rating. The Android version needs 5.9 MB of storage space and Android 5.0 and up to run. The iOS app requires 28.9 MB of free space and iOS 12.0 or later.
Many people want to start budgeting but are turned off by the effort needed to input numbers and make regular updates. Digit app tries to address this by automating the entire process of saving and investing. People can use it for both short- and long-term financial goals.
The app uses machine learning to study people’s spending habits every day through their linked bank accounts. This tool helps users save by referring to the collected data to withdraw money automatically and safely transfer and keep it in a specified Digit account. The money can either go to the Digit savings or retirement account. Users can move their saved money back to their linked account anytime they need it.
If saving is already a hassle for some, investing will also be overwhelming. Digit users don’t have to choose the individual stocks they invest in. The app decides where to invest for them by matching their risk tolerance and investing goals with a diversified portfolio of funds. They can also use the app to save for retirement with an IRA and ensure their contributions don’t exceed the allowable amount per year.
The Digit app is available for both Android and iOS users. The Android app is currently rated at 4.5 out of 5 stars on the Google Play Store. It requires 28 MB of storage space and Android 4.4 and up. Meanwhile, the iOS version has a rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars on the Apple App Store. It needs 169.8 MB of storage and iOS 10.3 or later.
Spending Habits Monitoring and Automated Savings
One major challenge to saving money is bad spending habits. Not everyone is self-conscious about spending their money, making it doubly challenging to save. The answer lies within the following tools that help monitoring of expenditures and automated saving features.
Some individuals fail to save because they’re simply unaware of how they spend their money. They are often left clueless about where all their money went at the end of the month. Clarity Money tries to resolve this by helping people become more aware of their spending habits and encouraging them to save more.
Venture capitalist Adam Dell created Clarity Money in 2016, but it is now part of the Marcus by Goldman Sachs line of financial products. People can use the artificial intelligence (AI)-powered app by linking their bank accounts. The tool then categorizes their expenses automatically to show them how they spend their money.
Clarity Money highlights the different aspects of users’ finances by using different tiles. The app shows them how much they spent and the list of their transactions over the last few days. They can even tell how much money they spent at a particular store and time.
Once users understand their spending habits, they can take advantage of Clarity Money’s automated savings feature. They can create a customized savings account by choosing how much to save and automatically transferring the money. They also need to specify from what accounts these transfers will come and indicate the savings.
Clarity Money allows users to upgrade their automated savings accounts to a Marcus by Goldman Sachs savings account. Those who opt for the upgrade will enjoy a higher interest rate.
Another thing that separates Clarity Money from the other apps in this list is that this tool helps users to take action and save money on recurring bills and subscriptions. It features a Bill Negotiation & Lowering service that will negotiate or cancel subscription services on behalf of the users once they grant permission. The service keeps 33% of the savings as payment.
The app is relatively newer than the other entries here, but it’s already available on the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store.
Another app that offers automated savings is Qapital. Unlike Clarity Money’s approach of setting a fixed amount of money it automatically saves every month, Qapital takes the passive saving method and is goal-oriented. The tool helps users save money, little by little through daily activities.
Users can set an unlimited number of savings goals, whether small like a phone purchase or big like a new car. Their daily activities, such as purchasing or posting on social media, can be used as a trigger to save money under Qapital’s unique rules automatically. Savings goals can be personal or joint if several people work towards that goal.
People may set different savings rules to trigger deposits into the accounts for their goals. One of the most used rules is the Roundup Rule, which triggers automated savings whenever the user buys something. Qapital will round up the transaction change and deposit the extra cents to their account.
The rule similar to automatic bank transfers is called the Set & Forget Rule. It automatically transfers a set amount to your account at a specific time interval. Under the Guilty Pleasure Rule, users who give in to their guilty pleasures, such as going to the spa, will have a set amount of money deposited into their savings account. And, I think it’s an excellent way to save money while correcting spending habits.
The Spend Less Rule is for people who challenge themselves to spend below a set amount on a particular store. If they follow the rule, the app will add the excess money to their savings.
Lastly, the If This, Then This or IFTT Savings Rule allows users to set up automatic savings for almost any activity. Things like going to the mall or watching a movie can be a savings trigger. They can also link the Qapital app to their social media accounts to save every time they like or post something.
The Qapital app is available on the Google Play Store and the Apple App Store. The Android app is currently rated at 4.3 stars, while the iOS app has a rating of 4.8 stars. The Android version needs 39 MB of storage space and Android 6.0 and up to run. The iOS app requires 126.8 MB of free space and iOS 14.0 and up.
Many people only save what’s left after accounting for all costs and expenses. This method makes it harder for them to save up for their goals, especially if only a little money remains after expenses. They can probably save more if they can reduce costs even by a small percentage.
Here are some tools people can use to reduce costs and cut expenses to boost their savings.
Commuting to and from work can take a big chunk out of a person’s income because of the cost of gas. It’s significantly more challenging for people living far from their workplaces but doesn’t have the option of renting somewhere closer.
The GasBuddy app tries to help solve this problem by providing information on where to find the best gas prices nearest the user. The GasBuddy tracker allows users to locate nearby gas stations and find out about the prices. They can view which stations are on sale and see how much savings they can get if they choose a particular station.
The app features filtering options that let users trim down the search results based on the fuel type they need or by how far they are willing to drive to get gas. Information on prices is user-generated, allowing them to submit reports whenever they gas up for other people to know about the latest prices.
GasBuddy has another use aside from being a price tracker. It has a Pay with GasBuddy service, which involves a prepaid gas card accepted at different gas stations in the U.S. The card will be linked to a user’s checking account and used to pay for gas.
According to GasBuddy, using the service can get free members up to 25 cents of savings per gallon, while premium members can save up to 40 cents per gallon. The premium subscription costs $9.99 monthly and guarantees at least 20 cents of savings per gallon.
The app can be downloaded from Google Play Store and is currently rated 4.4 out of 5 stars. It needs 51 MB of storage space, and your device should run Android 6.0 and up. Meanwhile, GasBuddy is also available on Apple App Store and has a rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars. It requires 189.1 MB of free space and an Apple device running iOS 11.0 or later.
Trim is a cost-cutting tool that focuses on analyzing a person’s spending pattern that helps find ways to save money. It works like an automated personal financial advisor, combing through people’s finances to find ways to cut costs and increase their savings.
Unlike most budgeting tools, Trim plays an active role in helping users manage their finances and save money using AI. The service has various features, but it gained popularity for its automated bill negotiation and unwanted subscription cancellation tools.
People who want to use Trim Bill Negotiation will need to sign up and then link their service provider or upload their latest bill if the company does not exist in the system. The service will then use a chatbot; failing that, a company representative will call to negotiate the user’s bill.
Trim can negotiate a broad scope of bills, including internet, cable, and cellphone providers. Users may even negotiate their medical bills and banking fees, such as credit card annual percentage rate (APR) and overdraft fees.
The service can also help with cost savings by identifying and canceling unwanted and unused subscriptions. Users need to link their bank accounts for Trim to track their spending and identify recurring and frequent transactions.
Trim will alert the user about these transactions and ask whether they want to cancel them. They can cancel unwanted subscriptions by replying with a simple message, “Cancel name of service,” and Trim will do the rest.
Aside from these two features, Trim also provides other ways for users to improve their financial decision-making. They can use Trim to do spending analysis and budgeting. It can also serve as a financial monitoring tool for alerting users when certain transactions are made, like paychecks being deposited or late fees being charged.
The company gets its revenue from a portion of the user’s savings. It takes 15% of the annual savings it could generate for the user following successful negotiations. According to Trim, it saves around $626 yearly for the average user.
Saving and Investing Tools
Many people want to save money and invest whatever they can save – and the following tools can help. Some fintech companies developed tools to allow beginners to get their feet wet as investors. Below are some of these saving and investing tools.
Developers of the Acorns app designed it with new investors in mind. Many people know it for its micro-investing feature that enables beginners to invest little by little. The app uses micro-savings to collect money from users’ daily transactions and uses the fund to create an investment account.
Users need to connect the app with their bank accounts to track each purchase. Its Round-Ups feature allows the app to round the payments up to the nearest dollar. After they pay for the transaction, the spare change will go to savings. If the savings amount reaches $5, Acorns will put it in an investment fund.
The app chooses the fund based on the user’s answers to a financial goals survey, risk tolerance, and investing timeline. The Acorns app and website also offer money tips and tricks that CNBC developed. People who want to use automated saving tools and turn their savings into income-generating investments may consider this app.
The Acorns app can be downloaded from the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store, enjoying ratings of 4.7 and 4.6 out of 5 stars, respectively. The iOS version needs 194.4 MB of storage space and iOS 14.0 or later to function. Meanwhile, the Android version’s requirements will depend on the device used.
People consider Personal Capital an all-around finance app to track a variety of things. These include spending, income, home value, retirement investment accounts, and even cryptocurrency. This data shows up on a dashboard that offers a snapshot of a person’s financial situation.
The app also has Cash Flow and Budgeting tools that are very helpful for saving money. Since cash flow deals with income and expenses, Personal Capital automatically categorizes revenue and expenses so users can get a detailed picture of their finances.
The budgeting tool helps users to see how much money they spend (or save) by category and set an overall monthly spending goal. Meanwhile, its Bills feature takes note of bill due dates to avoid missed or late payments. Although these features may already impress some people, Personal Capital’s most popular features are related to investing.
Users can connect just about any of their financial accounts, from loans to investment accounts, as long as they have online access to them. Once they have linked their retirement and investment accounts, Personal Capital can analyze and present any user’s portfolio information. They can use the app to analyze their asset allocation, determine their investing costs, and keep tabs on their progress toward retirement.
It has a Fee Analyzer feature, which presents the weighted average cost of the users’ investments and how these costs impact their wealth down the line. Personal Capital also has an Investment Analyzer feature that does a portfolio evaluation and provides recommendations based on the user’s risk tolerance.
The app has kept up with the times and can track cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, Ethereum, and Litecoin. Users don’t have to worry about security as they don’t need to give access to their crypto wallets for the app to track them. It just needs the symbol, exchange, and amount for each token they own.
The service may benefit both beginner and high-net-worth investors. Novice investors can take advantage of the app’s free tools to get a sense of what their portfolio looks like. Meanwhile, big-time investors can gain access to Personal Capital’s dedicated financial advisors.
The Personal Capital app is downloadable from the Google Play Store and the Apple App Store. They are rated 4.4 and 4.7 out of 5 stars, respectively. The Android app requires 18 MB of free space and Android 4.4 and up to run correctly. On the other hand, the iOS version needs 74 MB of storage and iOS 12.0 or later.
People work hard for their money, so it’s only natural for them to want to understand where everything goes. It’s also not a bad idea for them to use all the tools at their disposal to make sure that they save some of the money they earn for whatever goal they want to set. Whichever of these tools they choose to help them save money, the important thing is they learn the importance of understanding their spending habits and knowing how to save and invest.