Personal finance apps can make your life so much easier by doing some of the heavy lifting of money management and financial planning, but it is important to select the right apps for your specific financial needs and preferences.
Selecting the Right Apps
Identify What You Want From the App
Your goals: Start by clarifying your financial goals. I am a spreadsheet type of person, so I knew that I didn't need an app to help me track my budget, but I knew I wanted one place to go where I could see my entire financial picture in one place and in real-time.
Whether you aim to budget effectively, save for specific goals, invest, or track your net worth, understanding your priorities will guide your choice of personal finance app.
Cost: Free or paid? Some personal finance apps are free, while others may have subscription fees. In my case, a free app was all I needed. Paid apps often come with additional features and enhanced security, so it's up to you to decide on the features you want from an app, and which ones you are willing to pay for.
Assess Features and Security
Features: You have already decided on the features you want, but some apps may offer those features better than others. Some apps specialize in budgeting, while others focus on investment tracking or overall financial planning, and all apps have different formats, displays, and options. Choose an app that offers the features you want in the way that you want.
Automation: Automation can simplify your financial tasks by automatically categorizing expenses, scheduling bill payments, and allocating investment contributions. This feature can save time and help you stay on top of your financial goals effortlessly. It is important to consider your comfort level with automation and how much automation you want.
Security: Security is an important aspect when selecting a personal finance app. Ensure that the app has a strong reputation for protecting user data and uses encryption and other secure authentication methods, Look for apps that display certifications that indicate they are compliant with financial industry regulations.
T00ls: In addition to tracking and planning, personal finance apps provide valuable insights into your financial habits with reporting and analysis tools. For example, I like to look at my weekly spending habits so that I can make changes before the month ends, but you might prefer monthly insights instead. Look for apps that generate reports that you find useful and can help you make informed decisions about your money.
Consider Convenience, Ease of Use, and Support
User-friendly: How user-friendly an app is plays a big role in how useful you find it. A user-friendly interface, with an intuitive design that makes navigation and data input straightforward, will make it more useful. Consider trying out demo versions or free trials to assess ease of use.
Convenience: Apps that integrate seamlessly with your bank accounts, credit cards, and other financial institutions make it easier to get real-time information and make timely adjustments. Automatic transaction syncing can save time and ensure accurate tracking of your financial activities, but make sure you are comfortable doing so. I am comfortable connecting my accounts to my app so I don't have to make manual entries.
Customer Support: Ensure the app offers some customer support in case you encounter issues or have questions. Note that you are more likely to get customer support from a paid app than a free one, but even free apps offer some customer help.
Put Your Apps to Work
Automate Spending and Budget Tracking Use personal finance apps to set up budget categories, allocate spending limits, and track your spending automatically. Apps to Explore: YNAB (You Need A Budget) and PocketGuard
Track Goals and Investments Use personal finance apps to set and track financial goals. From emergency funds to vacation or retirement planning, these apps often provide goal-setting and investment functionalities. Apps to Explore: Acorns, Wealthfront, and Betterment.
Get Insights on Spending Habits and More Personal finance apps have awesome data analytics capabilities that you can use to gain insights into your spending patterns and financial behaviors. Apps to Explore: Personal Capital and PocketGuard
Selecting the right personal finance apps that meet your financial needs, and using them to do the heavy lifting of routine and time-consuming tasks, is a savvy move you can't afford to ignore!