If you’re the C.F.O. of your household, then you’ve probably wondered if there isn't a techie solution for managing your finances.
The problem is that there are probably too many options out there. The onslaught of offerings that you'll find when you visit the app store can be overwhelming--but we’re here to help!
We’ve scouted six free apps (including ours!) that are easy to use and work wonders to streamline your life and your wallet. Then we asked Jennifer Jolly, a tech expert and blogger behind Tech’s Appeal, to fill us in on what makes these apps so helpful—as well as some things to consider before you download.
Get started with a free financial assessment.
Get started with a free financial assessment.
Best for: Organizing bills
How it works: Get rid of that accordion file busting at the seams in favor of Manilla, a digital filing cabinet for your bills that keeps track of due dates and statements for accounts ranging from credit cards to your Netflix subscription. You can even create custom accounts for things that you might not be able to link to online, like your rent or dog-walking services. Added perk: The app organizes loyalty rewards and online coupons.
What the pro thinks: “Manilla is organized so simply that it’s easy to go paperless,” Jolly says. “It’s super simple to sign up, it lets you consolidate every single bill and you can use one password for everything.” Added plus: Document storage, so you can look up your old statements. “This means that you can forget about keeping paper copies for your records and just access them via the app,” Jolly adds.
2. Google Wallet
Best for: Streamlining shopping
How it works: We all knew it was coming soon—the day that you could go shopping and leave your wallet behind ... or at least the physical one. With Google Wallet, you store your debit card, credit card and loyalty card information in one place, and then use your smartphone to tap-and-pay at any merchant who accepts such payments. And if you don’t have a phone with the necessary NFC technology, you can get a Google Wallet Card that acts as a debit card that's linked to your wallet balance. You can also use the money in your Google Wallet account to pay for online purchases, and Gmail users can send money to people as an attachment.
What the pro thinks: “This app offers lots when it comes to simple convenience,” Jolly says, adding that there are some caveats. “You have to sign up for a Gmail account first. You’ll also pay for each and every debit and credit card transaction (Google charges a 2.9% fee per transaction), and you currently can only send money in the U.S.”
3. Square Cash
Best for: Transferring money
How it works: Square Cash is an easy way to send money to friends and family sans fees. Let's say that you left your cash at home, your friend covers your share at dinner and you want to pay her back right away. Simply draft an email, write the amount that you’re transferring in the subject line and CC: email@example.com. Next, you’ll receive a reply from Square asking you to link to a debit card. The recipient will then be emailed a link that lets the person deposit the amount into her bank account.
What the pro thinks: “I like that there’s no need to install software, nor do you need to link to social networks or keep track of a new username and password,” Jolly says. The only downside? “There’s no support for credit card accounts," she says. "And the weekly limit is $250, unless you link a mobile phone number or verify your name, part of your Social Security number and date of birth. Then [the limit is] raised to $2,500.”
Best for: Online shopping
How it works: Slice is essentially a personal online shopping assistant that tracks packages, manages receipts and even provides customer service numbers for retailers where you purchased items. It’s also like that friend who knows when all of the sales happen: Slice alerts you when those shoes you just bought suddenly get a price cut, in case you can ask for a price adjustment. It also tracks your online spending, showing which categories you spend the most money on, and it alerts you when a delivery is waiting on your doorstep.
What the pro thinks: “I like that Slice includes an image of the product I purchased,” says Jolly. “This way, I know [if a package contains] a book or a hardware accessory from Amazon or iTunes.” Jolly says that there is one main downside: only receipts received via email are ‘Sliceable’ because that’s where the app gets its data. “The app scans your incoming emails, finds your receipts and parses relevant information about the items that you bought,” she says.
Best for: Tabulating shared costs
How it works: How many times have you tried to figure out the best way to split costs for a meal or a trip when several people are involved? What usually ensues is a drawn out discussion to determine who owes what to whom. With Tricount, you can create a group expense report on your phone that tracks spending by person, and then splits up how much each individual owes or is owed from the total balance. When you’re ready to share the final breakdown, the app sends each person a link to Tricount's site to review the data.
What the pro thinks: “Letting technology do the job of divvying up costs, and making sure people pay their part, is nothing but a positive,” Jolly says. She also sees other ways the app could be used, like when you expect to have a laundry list of expenses to track. “When there are several teacher and classroom gifts to tally every year, this app would be super helpful,” she says. “It’s also great for office gifts.”
Best for: Budgeting
How it works: Okay, maybe we’re a little biased, but we would be remiss if we didn’t mention our own app. The LearnVest iPhone and iPad apps let you take a big picture view of your finances, wherever and whenever. Once you consolidate all of your financial accounts, you can folder expenses by category to track your spending, as well as set up special folders for specific goals, like building up an emergency fund or saving for a trip. And if you’ve signed up to work with a LearnVest Planning expert, you’ll also get challenges to help keep you accountable for your personal money goals.
What the pro thinks: “The fact that this app is free blows my mind,” Jolly says. “As a small business owner, I usually pay $60 per hour for this sort of advice, and it’s easy to spend way more. Anyone who's feeling overwhelmed by the thought of creating and managing a budget should consider this app.”
LearnVest Planning Services is a registered investment adviser and subsidiary of LearnVest, Inc. that provides financial plans for its clients. Information shown is for illustrative purposes only and is not intended as investment, legal or tax planning advice. Please consult a financial adviser, attorney or tax specialist for advice specific to your financial situation. Unless specifically identified as such, the people interviewed in this piece are neither clients, employees nor affiliates of LearnVest Planning Services. LearnVest Planning Services and any third parties listed in this message are separate and unaffiliated and are not responsible for each other’s products, services or policies.