It's time to take that vacation you’ve been dreaming about.
I’ve never been a great saver. But recently I managed to save a few thousand dollars for a Caribbean vacation. How did I do it?
On a whim, I started using an app that “tricked” me into thinking I had less in my checking to spend each month, setting aside that bit of extra money in a separate account. Truth be told? I didn’t even notice.
Today, finding apps to help save cash is easier than ever. Here are three of the top apps in this marketplace, and what we like — and don’t like — about each.
Level Money gives you a daily budget based on an assessment of your monthly expenditures. Connect your bank and credit cards, and after syncing your accounts, you’ll enter your income, expenses, and desired savings for each month. One fancy algorithm later, and you’re given the amount of money you can spend each day.
Pros: Breaking down the numbers to a daily spending limit is tough when you’re on a budget. This app simplifies it, projecting what you can spend in the short term. It also touts its “industry-leading speed,” which helps you see your updated account balance more quickly after you do spend.
Cons: For those with irregular incomes (like freelancers and contractors), this app may not be as helpful, though you can manually enter what you earn each month.
The gist behind this online site and app? Personal Capital provides a one-stop location for all of your accounts, focusing specifically on investments.
Pros: Personal Capital offers what is perhaps the most comprehensive view of your financial life. Jared Franklin, product manager at fintech startup Blispay says, “Personal Capital’s account aggregation service is one of the most important tools a person has the luxury of accessing right now, especially since it’s free.” These aggregation tools include a 401(k) fee advisor, initial investment analysis, and a spending tracker.
Free services also include a breakdown of how your accounts measure up to optimal asset class balances. I like the idea of digging deeper into my investments since I don’t feel my retirement plan’s website offers many useful features.
Cons: If you’re a paying user of Personal Capital’s investment resources, the fees charged are quite high. Clients receive access to personal advisors for a good price, but the 0.49 to 0.89 percent fees mean you may lose out in the long-term.
Franklin weighs in: “Personal Capital’s investment fees are too high compared to relatively similar offerings. You can probably get the same benefits directly with Vanguard for a fraction of the cost.”
Also, the app requires a $25,000 minimum balance for its investment account, which may be out of reach for some of us. (Worth noting: That minimum was reduced from $100,000, the tool’s original requirement.)
Digit is like a chill friend who texts you once a day to “check in.” The tagline on Digit’s simple, minimalist site is: “Save money, without even thinking about it.”
By siphoning off small amounts from your checking account, the savings tool adds to your Digit account, a secure, encrypted bank account. Month by month, your savings account grows in increments. As a mother of two, I used Digit to save a few thousand dollars for our family vacation.
Pros: You can text Digit your requests when you’re in line at the grocery store. You don’t have to use an unwieldy app, using up precious storage on your phone — unless you want to download the app. It is also free to use.
Cons: The first month I began saving, I encountered a few hiccups. Not with the technology, but with my strategy for using it. Digit saves automatically depending on what is in your account (that is, a few dollars here and there if you don’t have much). However, you can manually override and put away extra amounts. The first month, I texted Digit to save a few hundred dollars extra.
At the end of the month, I didn’t have enough money to pay off a bill. Fortunately, I was able to make a withdrawal from Digit to make up the difference in my regular checking account.