Connecting Your Phone With Your Money

financial apps for smartphonesIf you’ve been following the news recently, you’ve probably seen some pretty amazing stories about technology and money coming together.  On a single day, Amazon announced an online-only “Black Friday” in July event, called “Prime Day,” Apple announced a direct person-to-person payment system for your phone, and Mastercard outdid both by announcing a new program that uses selfies as a security feature.  Between Apple Pay, Square, Google Wallet, PayPal, Uber and AirBNB, we can’t go a month without mobile technology changing a major aspect of personal finances.

But change can be scary for many of us.  After all, 15 years ago you wouldn’t have considered connecting your cellphone to your financial institution, yet we now feel comfortable using an Apple Watch to connect through Bluetooth to an iPhone that connects through a coffee shop WiFi, leaving countless security holes between us and our credit union’s server.  With that in mind, if we’re going to be using selfies to make transactions soon, maybe we should take a moment and find out what we can do now.

Here are some frequently asked questions about managing money on a smartphone:

What’s the Best App for Budgeting
For most of the jobs you want to do, one app is as good as another.  If you want to make a to-do list, there are hundreds of apps for that.  If you want a game, there are thousands.  With budgeting, there aren’t as many, and that’s because two apps are far and away the best.

Mint, by Intuit, is a free app that connects with you bank, credit, and investment accounts to give you a clear and updated budget.  It’s easy to use and it provides a good bird’s eye view of your finances.  You can also use it to pay bills directly or setup automated reminders to ensure you don’t forget when you have a due date upcoming.

You Need a Budget (or YNAB) is a more colorful and user-friendly app, but it costs $60 for the software after a free trial.  It also doesn’t sync with credit union or bank accounts directly like Mint does, although some might not find that objectionable.

Mint doesn’t let financial institutions control what’s sent. Instead, it uses you as the middleman, and that can lead to security concerns or connection problems.  YNAB has fewer security hurdles to overcome, since it contains none of your financial information, making it much easier to enter transactions.  The $60 also means you never have to look at ads.

Do I Really Need a Budgeting App?
Both are great solutions, but you can also stick to your old spreadsheet.  As Microsoft, Amazon, Apple, Google, and Dropbox all compete for your cloud storage money, the software to sync cloud-stored data has come along quickly.

All you need to do is move your budget spreadsheet over to Google Docs or a similar online service and you can adjust your budget on the go.  Couple this with our great app to easily reconcile your budget the same way you always have.

What About Tracking Stocks

Most mobile phones come pre-equipped with a stock-tracking app.  And while it’s usually functional, you don’t have to use it just because it’s there.

You probably found a better option for your email client (such as Gmail, Missives, or Dispatch) and your to-do list app (like Trello, Evernote, or Todoist). You can also find a much better app for investing than the one that came with your phone.

Personal Capital is an app from the former CEO of Intuit, and it is one of the best free investment dashboard apps you’ll find. Its service is designed for the “aspiring wealthy,” and exchanges a free investment monitoring service for targeted advertisements for its paid investment advice.

Soon enough, our mobile data will be sending selfies to one another, verifying each others’ purchases by thumbprint, and probably doing our jobs for us while we focus on other things.  For now, we’ve got really great software that makes it easier than ever to watch our spending and see our savings grow.


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