This is part II of my Whys, Hows, and Please-Don'ts of Budgeting and Planning for 2017 series. As promised in my last post:
FAVORITE BUDGETING APPS and SOLUTIONS
All the apps below got high marks on most of the criteria I outlined in part I:
1. Designed for tracking and planning - most apps below have planning features, some better than others.
2. Clean, beautiful interface - some, I dare say, are even fun and engaging. Then again, I’m an analytics nerd, so my idea of fun may sound weird. Please don’t hold it against me.
3. Easy to navigate and find information
4. Easy to make changes
5. Great for specific purposes - these apps are not, strictly speaking, "budgeting". But I found them useful for their stated purposes.
All tools are web-based and sync across your computer, tablet, and phone.
This is probably the most established personal finance tool out there. Mint allows you to track expenses by category and to set budgeting goals for every category in your spending. Graphic interface, easy bill-pay feature.
It has Alerts! This is especially great for those of us who have trouble remembering to pay bills. The setup is very easy and intuitive.
Caveat - depending on your setup, Mint might send so many alerts and notifications they naturally get ignored.
Goal-setting feature is OK, but I prefer YNAB’s interface for that - to me, it feels more intuitive.
Cost: Mint is free to use, they make their money (mostly) from ads. However - these ads are not necessarily a bad thing - Mint tries to customize the offers to your spending habits, so the stuff Mints suggest could be actually useful.
2. YNAB (You Need A Budget)
Awesome, wonderful, and great!
The only reason I’m not on YNAB is because we started with Mint, and transferring everything will be a hassle. Talk about being first on the market.
I love YNAB's philosophy, their 4 rules (https://www.youneedabudget.com/method/). My favorite feature - the age of money. YNAB allows you to see how long a specific sum is sitting in your account. Why is it great? Because it helps you pay this month bills with money from last month or older. This feature allows you to create a buffer, and avoid the “I’m flush! Let’s spend!” trap.
The interface is sleek and flexible, in the best sense of the word.
Cost: YNAB is not free, but I’d say it’s more than pays for the $5 a month.
This solution uses a classic idea of dividing your expenses into envelopes** ahead of time: an envelope for groceries, an envelope for gas, an envelope for dining out, and so on. When the money in an envelope is out, that's it. The basic principle is very similar to Dave Ramsey’s system, with electronic envelopes instead of physical ones.
The apps, both iOS and Androids, have great design. The desktop version is a bit old school.
Speaking of design - I heard complaints that MVELOPES isn’t as sleek and intuitive as Mint and YNAB. I would agree. However! Some people do better when a bit more of a conscious effort is required. MVELOPES forces you to be more intentional and involved, precisely because the framework is more rigid than Mint or YNAB.
So if you know that about yourself - go with MVELOPES.
Cost: - free basic level, $9.95 for Premium (pro - they have a community forum. Con - there are cheaper solutions that work better for most people). You can even get financial Coaching, starting from $59.95 per month.
**Note - if you a tactile person that functions better using physical objects - just go with real paper envelops. Here is the best explanation of the method, again.
4. APPS for SPECIFIC PURPOSES
Trim - a free app that cancels subscriptions you don’t really need! Trim will scan your accounts for subscriptions, and offer to cancel whichever ones you’d like. They’d do the dirty work of emailing the companies, and will even have a robot talk to Comcast for you!
Great for investing if you are a DIY/beginner investor OR a high-worth investor (starting $1M in assets) who want a financial adviser at a really great fee.
Tracking is free, adviser fees depend on portfolio size.
Prosper Daily (used to be called BillGuard) - their philosophy says it takes a village to guard against fraud. This free app allows you to view your recent credit card transactions, and either approve them or mark them as suspicious. The kicker - this app will tell you if any other members flagged a similar transaction as suspicious.
Oh, and the interface is drop-dead gorgeous.
So there you have it. Now I’m really curious what are your favorite budgeting methods, what are the most annoying challenges. Write me! I might answer the your question on the blog!)
Next post - what the missing piece these apps DO NOT PROVIDE, and how to solve this part of your financial puzzle.
In the next few days, I’m going to talk about the missing pieces for business financial planning, about reducing anxiety when dealing with money, and about reviewing your financial goals for 2017.