12 Cheap (or Free!) Money Apps to Help You Get Your Spending in Check
If the words personal finance make you break out into a cold sweat, you’re probably not managing your money very well. And look, it’s nothing to feel badly about: With so many goals, figures, and habits to keep track of in life, it can be hard to manage things on a day-to-day basis, much less over the long-term.
But at some point—sooner rather than later—you’ve got to organize your finances. Possessing financial savviness could mean the difference between comfortably getting that coffee to go each morning and finding yourself in real trouble during an emergency. Fortunately, with the bevy of digital resources available, it’s easier than ever to track, spend, and save.
You can never be too conscientious with your hard-earned money. Most of the 12 apps below are free (as, well, you’d hope), so what are you waiting for?
1. Level Money
A tracker and analyzer for all of your spending habits, Level is basically the spreadsheet you’ve always been too lazy, and frankly, too confused, to make for yourself. Instead of seeing the number for your bank balance alone, it considers everything you normally would—bills, loans, savings, goals, and non-essentials (like coffee or eating out). With those in mind, it calculates an even better number for you to keep track of: your spendable money. That way, you don’t make any purchases you can’t afford to be making. Best part? It’s visually both stimulating and accessible, so you can get the big picture, literally, of your spending habits.
Never sure how much to save? Luckily, Digit’s here to help you out with that. By tracking your income and spending, the program automatically moves small amounts of money that you can afford to save based on personal financial information you provide into a Digit Account that you can withdraw from any time with no fees.
As a general savings tool, it allows you to configure your settings to save more or less aggressively—giving you freedom to set your own goals. So, whether you’re eyeing an upcoming vacation, you’ve got a loan to repay, or you’re building a simple emergency fund, you’ll always have a reserve set aside. Digit is currently available on iOS and will soon be made available on Android, too.
Mint is the personal finance tracker that you should start using ASAP (if you’re not already, that is). A simple tool that no only monitors your bank accounts, loans, and other assets, Mint also tracks your transactions, warns you about suspicious spending outside your usual behavior (in case it isn’t you who’s swiping your card), and helps you set budgets and saving goals for yourself. If you want to see exactly where your money goes each month, this is the app for you.
It’s OK if you have trouble with your money management skills because, it turns out, Wally can do most of the work for you. The app’s mission is to equip you with the information and understanding of your finances so you can feel comfortable making financial decisions from a fully-informed position. The basic platform uses vibrant colors and simple navigation to boil down the details and help you get a full picture of your money, without any bells and whistles cluttering your view.
A notable perk about Wally is that, unlike Mint, it doesn’t store any of your information on its remote servers. It stores all data on your phone, so you don’t have to be worried about your personal information getting into the wrong hands.
You Need a Budget, or YNAB, is the very specific budgeting tool that you could’ve used years ago when you got your first credit card. It operates with four essential values: give every dollar a job; budget for large, infrequent expenses; roll with the punches; and live on last month’s income. You can sign up for this award-winning program with a 34-day free trial, or purchase the app for $5 per month or $50 per year (it’s always free for college students).
Shopping and Discounts
Yes, Groupon is still around! And still useful! If you’ve ever spent hours researching local activities, shopping, or services, you need it. The global platform offers an inexpensive way to experience new restaurants, find a cool hobby such as kayaking, or take a drawing class. Take advantage of the product while you’re staycationing or put it to the test on your next trip. Save time and money by allowing the app to provide you with a list of any number of affordable things, including haircuts, yoga classes, or weekend trips.
Similar to Groupon, LivingSocial also helps you find discounts locally. Even better? It has a great feature that puts all sorts of great things on your radar. You can easily find hotel offerings and all-inclusive vacation packages, cool products like a cheap bottle of wine or Bluetooth speakers for your next barbecue, and exciting events, such as salsa dancing classes and spirit tastings at the local distillery. Of course, if I had to list a downside it would be the slippery slope of purchasing awesome stuff you never would have known about otherwise.
Named by Apple as the best travel app of 2015, Hopper, which tracks the cheapest flights, will help you stay on-budget without sacrificing your travel needs. This is how it works: Designed with the frequent flyer in mind, its algorithms constantly check for flight prices and alert you the minute costs drop. Unlike other apps that only submit a daily search query and send you a digest, Hopper spends every moment of every day making sure you’re notified of the best deals when they happen—and when it thinks prices might go up soon.
Love road trips but hate budgeting for unpredictable gas prices? GasBuddy’s the trip calculator that can do everything for you that the big green signs on the highway won’t: It tells you where to find the cheapest gas stations nearest you. And that way, you’ll know whether getting off the highway now or later will save you $0.40 per gallon.
There are tons of travel sites and apps out there, but this one stands out for being the best. It allows you to easily book your next hotel or flight, while also tracking the logistical costs of your next trip and notifiying you how the items change with time—meaning it’ll advise you to book now or wait depending on if the price will go up or down. If you’ve always wanted to visit Paris but are forever repelled by the price of flight and decent accommodations, you can sign up to receive price reports to alert you of changes in cost. One day you’re bound to get notice of a price that won’t break your bank.
On the slight chance your friends haven’t made Venmo a verb yet, you should know that it’s a secure money transferring app you can use on your phone. What does that mean? You’re no longer stuck trying to figure out how much your friends owe you for dinner and drinks—you can simply “charge” them and get paid back in less time than it takes the server to split the check.
Speaking of splitting the bill, how annoying is it to try and split a bill more than two ways or divide it according to who had the expensive steak dinner and who only ordered an appetizer? Enter Splitwise, the handy app that does the math for you, so no one over—or under—pays. Instead of stressing about money, you can focus on enjoying the company you’re with.
It can be tough to get a grip on your personal finances when it feels like there are so many different factors to cover. The good news is you don't have to do it on your own.
Photo of man using money app courtesy of Hero Images/Getty Images.
Caroline Liu is a freelance writer, graphic designer, and computer programmer studying at Wesleyan University. She is pursuing majors in Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies and Computer Science in order to bridge her passions for tech, design, and social justice. Learn more about Caroline on her website or follow her on Twitter.More from this Author