A wise old man (okay, my father) once told me: A penny saved is a penny earned. And while that saying isn't exactly music to this super-shopper's ears, it is most definitely true.
But saving money isn't exactly fun, or easy. That's why I've found two apps that ease the pain--at least a little.
Mint might be the most well-known personal finance app, and it's easy to see why. This free (but ad-supported) Web and mobile app shows you an overall picture of your financial health, automatically tracking your balances and bills in one central location. You connect your accounts to Mint (it works with all major U.S. and Canadian financial institutions) and it automatically categorizes your spending and savings.
Mint's interface is sleek and accessible, and setting up the app is easy. As soon as you create an account, Mint asks you to add all of your banking and credit accounts, and doing so is a breeze – as long as you have all of your usernames and passwords handy. Once you enter the necessary information, Mint does all of the work for you, connecting to your financial institutions and pulling in the data it needs. Once that's complete, Mint presents you with an easy-to-understand picture of your overall finances, including small details (such as amounts due and due dates) and the big picture (a comparison of your debt to your savings).
Mint is easy to use and easy to set up. I like that it tracks your credit score and that it includes a new bill-pay feature that lets you make payments from within the app. It really requires very little input from the end-user, which is a nice touch for anyone who's intimidated by the mere thought of a finance app.
You Need a Budget
You know you need a budget, right? That's where You Need a Budget comes in. This Web and mobile app helps you create one, relying on four rules of finance. The first rule is to give every incoming dollar a job, so you won't be tempted to spend your money on anything outside of your plan. Rule number two is to plan for your bigger, less-frequent expenses, by splitting them into monthly chunks so you have the cash ready when you need it. Rule three is to roll with the punches, so you have some flexibility when unexpected expenses occur. And rule four is to learn to live on last month's income, so you have money for bills as they become due.
If your past spending history isn't the best, you'll be relieved to hear that YNAB doesn't look to the past, instead focusing on the present and the future. That's a nice touch for anyone looking to move on from some past financial mistakes. But YNAB does take some time to master, as its breadth of features aren't immediately apparent when you first log on and are presented with its text-heavy interface. Spend some time watching YNAB's getting started videos and clicking through the app's tutorials, and you'll be up to speed quickly, however.
YNAB does cost $5 per month after a free 34-day trial, more than many of its rivals that are available for free. But it is a powerful budgeting tool that offers a lot of information and plenty of help for anyone who is serious about setting up that budget we all need. And spending that money just might help you save a whole lot more in the long run.