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Six apps to help you develop great saving habits

21st August 2019

The Author: Craig Gardner

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Craig works in the Madrid office as a Client Relationship Manager and is responsible for meeting the needs of new clients.

Helping people budget effectively and make the best use of their money they have has been the bread and butter of the financial industries world. To support advisers in their mission there is now a raft of technology-based solutions to help people budget. These range from simple spending trackers to full-blown financial applications linking accounts, credit cards, income and spending. To save you time we have reviewed the most popular apps and have shortlisted the 6 best for expats looking to save more.

Forming new habits is at the heart of developing a first-rate savings regime and, given it apparently takes around sixty-six days to develop a new habit, using mobile technology is an excellent tool because, for better or for worse, we tend to nearly always have our phones with us, making mobile apps the obvious choice.

Good budget

Goodbudget presents a way to plan your spending instead of just tracking it. The software is based on the ‘envelope’ method.  You create ‘envelopes’ for all your budgeting categories, like rent, groceries, eating out, then you allocate money to each envelope.

Goodbudget enables you to share with your partner, housemates and family members by syncing your household budget across all your iOS and Android devices so that when you deduct money from an envelope, those you’re sharing with know what has been spent.

Planning and saving for larger expenses like a holiday, a new car, or Christmas, is better done in advance, rather than just hoping you’ll have sufficient in your account when the expense comes around. You can use Goodbudget to plan savings for larger expenses months before you need it, reducing the stress of worrying whether you’ll have enough money when the time comes.

Having a budget that works, and that you have immediate and continued shared access to, gives you the tools you need to pay off debt.  Within Goodbudget, you can use ‘Debt Accounts’ to pay off debt, track your progress, and see when you’ll be debt-free.

Goodbudget has a free version that includes ten regular ‘envelopes’ and a further ten ‘spare’ envelopes. The free version includes one account over two devices, with a year of history, debt tracking, and community support.  The paid version ($6 per month, or $50 a year at the time of writing) offers unlimited envelopes, five devices, seven years of history and email support. The app is available on iOS and Android devices.

You need a budget (YNAB)

YNAB is a proactive system that will teach you how to prioritise and plan, so you have money for the things that are most important to you. The app requires you to be aware of where your money is and what it should be doing.  It encourages better decision making using a forward-looking, intentional, mindset about your spending, and gives you total control of your finances and, by doing so, your life.

Before you spend, YNAB helps you think through, and allocate money to, your immediate, short-term, and long-term priorities. It teaches you how to use your budget to make spending decisions and easily adjust your budget throughout the month.

The video below gives you the low down on the tasty features jam-packed into this award-winning app and why it may even help you fall in love with budgeting.

There are a whole slew of apps built on the premise of doing everything for you, and at first glance, this may seem appealing, but if the main selling point is “you won’t ever have to think about it” your habits around your finances will probably never change. By using a hands-on decision-making process, YNAB lets you feel in control and teaches you how to make better decisions so that you decide what is important to you and make sure you have money for those things.

Budgeting with YNAB means finally facing your finances with eyes wide open. Even if you don’t like what you see, you will have the information you need to take the next step, and then the next one. Once you experience the peace that comes with being in control of your finances, you’ll never look back.

Using YNAB means you are always operating with current information, it’s simple to adjust, update, or change your budget and, with a phone, you have continual access.

According to a 2017 YNAB customer survey, users save an average of $6000 in the first year of using their system.

YNAB is available for the web, iOS and Android phones, for iPad, Apple Watch, and Alexa. With all that connectivity, your budget will be available to you on all your devices, will go where you go, giving you no excuses to budget effectively, reduce your debt, and lose the associated stress, and who wouldn’t want that?

You can try YNAB free for 34 days. After that, at the time of writing, it will cost you $84 a year (around $7 a month).

Wallet

Wallet, from Budget Bakers, helps you flexibly plan your budget and track spending, so you stay in control and achieve your future goals. Actively plan and manage your finances, across multiple currencies, banks, and financial institutions. Being able to set up a budget for each currency makes it perfect if you need to manage budgets in multiple currencies, for instance, if you receive rental or business income from another country.

Wallet is constantly developing both design and functionality to help you keep full control of your finances. As well as providing regular new features and improvements, the Wallet blog and social media channels are loaded with interesting and practical financial advice.

The application has a stylish, easy to use interface, and helps with saving and keeping track of expenses. However, it’s not just an expense tracker or budgeting app. Wallet focusses on getting things under control from day one, so you can make informed decisions and plan for your short, medium, and long-term future.

Wallet is available as a web app as well as on iOS and Android devices.  It is free to start with and offers in-app purchases for a premium version at varying prices ranging from a Monthly subscription of €1.99 + VAT and a Yearly plan of €14.99 + VAT at the time of writing. There is also a lifetime subscription available on the app store.

The free version, which does not require any payments or credit card information, includes three accounts.

Premium features include automatic secure transaction syncing with your bank account and smart categorisation. This gives you an overview of your spending as well as actionable insights about the state of your finances across bank accounts, credit and debit cards, debts, and cash. You can also add your bank accounts, vouchers, club cards, money in your pocket and track your expenses based on each account.

With 2.5 million downloads and an overall 4.5-star rating, the Wallet app has a strong following backed by flexibility, a good degree of personalisation, and robust functionality.

Joy

The Joy app takes a different route to budgeting success.  It purports to change the way you spend and save money to help you find more happiness in your life. Indeed, after using ‘Joy’, you’ll never look at your spending the same way again.

Joy offers money coaching, a savings strategy, a unique way to track your spending, and shareable reads on finances and happiness, giving you a place to get organised, get on track, and get inspired.

After asking you a few easy questions, this one-of-a-kind assessment, created by clinical psychologists, data analysts, and neuroscientists, creates your financial profile and matches you with a money coach to help you reach your goals.

Your coach is crazy smart with finances, easy to chat with and cares about your happiness. When you spend, you rate your purchases against whether you loved it – a ‘Happy Spend’; or hated it – a ‘Sad Spend’.

By breaking down purchases into “happy spends” and “sad spends” you tap into the psychology behind your buying, which can help you can spend happier and save more.

To build your savings, your Money Coach calculates what you can safely save every day based on several criteria, including what you make and spend; you then save daily with a simple tap.

‘Joy’ is free, and currently available on iOS in the US where it has a 4.6-star rating. Joy is also being developed for Android, which should be available soon.

Joy needs a US phone number to open an account and includes a free saving account. You can also easily connect all major US banks and credit card accounts. This is the biggest limitation of the app as it restricts the user base.

Even if you can’t download Joy, you can find useful content, complete with brilliant money saving strategies, and tons of juicy spending diaries, at www.findjoy.com.

Mint

Mint is one of the most popular free money management apps out there to help you to get ahead and stay ahead.  This savings app brings bank accounts, credit cards, bills, and investments together in one place to give you a complete picture of your financial life including account balances, spending, your free credit score, net worth, and more, so you can see what you’re spending and where you can save money.

Mint has recently undergone a facelift to improve the user experience, simplify navigation, and make money management simpler and more seamless.  Another new introduction to the app is ‘Mintsights’; personalized money-saving insight features based on your real financial information.

Mint helps you on keep top of your financial life by analysing your spending to provide smart budgets and savings opportunities as well as giving bill pay reminders, so you know what’s due, and when.  On signing in, you’ll see your free credit score, and the app provides fraud and identity alerts when appropriate.

Mint is available for iOS and Android, and has a desktop version at mint.com.  Currently, Mint only supports banks and financial institutions in the US and Canada, but they say they may support financial institutions based outside of the US in the future, although they do not have a timeline for when that may be.

Albert

Albert is touted as the world’s most intelligent financial app, combining human expertise with cutting-edge technology to build savings, meet bills, end the overspending cycle and develop your financial IQ. Indeed, Forbes, Fortune, Huffington Post, The New York Times and others have recommended Albert.

Albert is more than just a personal finance assistant. By intelligently identifying the money you won’t miss throughout the week, and setting this aside to finance what’s important, essentially automating savings, Albert puts your goals in reach. In this regard, Albert purports to have saved over $100 million to finance customer goals.

Even if you have no investment experience, you can put your money to work with ‘Albert Investments’, a commission-free investment platform you can use to explore popular funds spanning countries, industries and technologies. With Albert you can mix and match to build your own portfolios, or let Albert customize an automatic, diversified portfolio for you.

Albert ‘Genius’ is a feature offering text-based guidance from a human team of financial experts or ‘geniuses’ who aim to improve your financial health. The ‘Geniuses’ work alongside the app providing knowledge around most financial areas including Budgeting, credit cards, college savings, financial planning, car, home & life insurance, Investments, paying off debt, retirement planning, saving for goals, and student loans.

Albert from Albert Goodspend on Vimeo.

Albert is a free app on both iOS and Android platforms.  The functionality you can access depends on what you connect to (Albert currently supports thousands of U.S. financial institutions).  Whether you can access Albert’s full functionality or not, it can still help get good habits in place.

In Conclusion

Whatever you use to help you manage your finances the main objective is developing and establishing good habits related to money management and savings so that your behaviours become automatic.

Rather than trying to change everything in one fell swoop, if you want success, pick one app, one system, and use your chosen tools to work consistently on one habit.

Before you start, really give some thought to what it is you really want to change, then look for the app that best helps you do this.

If you’d like to talk to someone about savings, investments, and developing a personalised financial plan, please get in contact.