Can a Budget App Help You?

Budgeting can be a challenge for a lot of us.  We, as Americans, don’t save nearly as much as we should and with all of the gadgets available that connect us to the world, these gadgets increase the cost of living.  For instance, could you live without your internet connection?  Could you live without your computer, or your smart phone?  What about your smart phone data plan?  Could you downgrade it to a smaller plan?

Computers, phones, iPads, tablets, etc., and the equipment, software, and data plans that go with them, are necessary for most middle-class individuals to function at work and home.  However, they have increasingly chewed into our budgets and made it difficult to save over the last 20 years.

But we can use these gadgets for good as well.  In today’s world of trackers, we track everything from calories to pounds, our hiking or biking routes, our speed, our gas mileage, our steps, our cholesterol, our heart rates, blood sugar, temperature, and sleeping habits.  But one of the most important things to track to improve our overall quality of life is tracking our spending.  This is the first step to getting out of, and staying out of debt.  It is the key to a brighter financial future.

We will look at three money trackers that we think will suit anyone’s needs who wants to manage their funds better.  These will help you find out where your money is going every month and how you might be able to save a little.

YNAB – You Need A Budget:  We have rated this number one over and above the popular Mint.  Why?  Because YNAB is the best for addressing debt concerns.  In fact, paying down debt and staying out of debt is the primary focus of the app.   It operates on the principle that when you get paid, every dollar you make has a job.  Every dollar must be allocated for a specific purpose BEFORE you get the money in hand.  If a dollar has a job, it is spent for that job.  If a dollar doesn’t have a job, it gets saved.  This in the end helps you take steps to eliminate debt so you can really have and keep an emergency fund.  The app operates on the philosophy that if we can eliminate debt, we can get ahead, start saving, and start achieving some of our financial goals.

Mint – Mint is a money tracker as well, but with less focus on getting out of debt.  This is for the consumer that wants to keep track of their money, their investments, their spending habits and bill paying.  It seems to be a fantastic app, but probably for the “next level” in money tracking after you have really changed your initial habits of overspending and gotten in control of your finances.

It is easy to use and the updates are automatic since it links to your bank account.  It is a nice feature but some beginners say that they get lax over a few months because it is automatic.  Since it is automatic, it is more difficult to be mindful about your spending.   If you are in the beginning stages of trying to get out of debt, the auto-feature is probably not the best option.

Every Dollar – Every Dollar operates on basically the same principal as YNAB.  Every Dollar must be spent with purpose.  However, their website isn’t as extensive and doesn’t explain why tracking expenses in this manner will work to change your spending habits.  The Every Dollar website does not go into detail about how the app is set up and different features on the app.  Since sign up is free, you are expected to take the plunge and try it out without having a lot of information about how it can help you change your life.  There’s nothing wrong with trying to save a few pennies and trying it out.  But if it doesn’t suit your needs, delete it and try one of the others, even if it costs a few dollars.

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