The importance of budgeting and saving money never changes, but the methods for doing so are always evolving. The growing availability and widening range of apps and online programs for handheld devices, tablets, laptops and PCs provide something for everyone – everyone who wants to develop a sound financial future, that is.
The Forbes Lifetime Financial Planning app
According to Forbes magazine, the Forbes Lifetime Financial Planning app “focuses on your living standards and spending so that you can live comfortably now while saving for retirement.”
To do so, this app generates current and lifetime financial snapshots to help users better understand their financial status, both present and future. Additionally, the app features a calculator that can help users make lifestyle decisions by demonstrating how various changes – new jobs, retirement, raising children – would affect one’s budget.
Usability: iOS 4.3 or later
What began as a free online program is now also a free app, and the experts laud its ability to help consumers track their spending across multiple accounts.
At Mint.com, and through the Mint smartphone app, users can safely monitor all their checking and savings accounts, loans, and more.
“Mint will put all of the information in a very user friendly fashion so that you, the consumer, can manage all of your finances with just a glimpse of your computer screen,” explains GoodFinancialCents.com. “Now the great part about Mint is you can access this info on the move through your Mint app on your phone, so next time you’re standing in line debating on whether to use a check card or credit, you can turn to Mint for the proper solution.”
Usability: iOS and Android
While SplashMoney’s version of a financial planning app costs money, paying for it might be worthwhile due to its ability to set a budget and analyze spending with online charts.
According to StartUpChimp.com, SplashMoney is “one of the most amazing apps…It’s easy to use and acts as your Personal Finance Manager. It is designed to help you monitor your finances on the go, and takes a different approach, and is desktop independent!”
Usability: iPhone, Mac OS and Windows
Users of HelloWallet might think of the service as a friend performing an intervention. Employing GPS technology, HelloWallet recognizes when a user has entered a particular kind of store – a clothing store or a café, for example – and then automatically generates information about the user’s past spending on the type of product sold in that store, as well as the person’s overall budget at the moment.
As reported by the Wall Street Journal, HelloWallet user Adam Zuckerman became aware of the $40-$50 he was spending on coffee a week – and then promptly stopped.
"I completely cut myself off for a whole month," he told the Journal, which noted that Zuckerman “now allows himself three or four cups of store-bought coffee each week” but normally drinks the coffee provided for free at work.
Cost: $8.95 per month
Usability: Android, iOS and desktops
If simply being told about one’s budget and spending habits isn’t enough, Stickk.com gives users the option of signing a contract that applies to any aspect of their lives, including not just finances but also exercise and other habits.
“Some 30% of the site’s more than 150,000 users elect to pay a financial penalty – often, in the form of a donation to a friend or even to an organization whose views they oppose – in the event they fall short of their goals,” notes the Wall Street Journal.
How does it work? When a goal is set, users have the option of committing money to it. If they fall short of that goal, Stickk.com transfers a customizable dollar amount to a friend’s bank account or a charitable organization.