Affiliate Disclosure: By buying the products we recommend, you help keep the lights on at MakeUseOf. Read more.
Technology is a vital tool for every part of our lives. If used correctly, the device in your hand or on your desk right now can help you save money, budget better, and invest more wisely. With the right app, you can jumpstart your savings from $0 to $500 or more per month.
There are many great apps and programs available to save money, but not all are user-friendly or quick to use. You don’t want to spend an hour or two a week using an app if it only saves you an extra $10 to $20. These apps and sites will help you save money fast while meeting your financial goals.
Many make the assumption that a bigger paycheck will lead to a fatter savings account. That is not always the case, considering that most people will increase their spending when their income increases. No matter how big your paycheck is, you need to be intentional about spending and saving, which is where a budget can keep you in line.
Easy-to-use budgeting apps, such as Mint or You Need a Budget, are both helpful for tracking expenses. It will be easy to see how much you are spending in each category and quickly cut $50–100 in certain areas.
For example, if you spend $550–600 a month on groceries, just becoming aware of the expense through a budgeting app can help you cut out wasteful spending. Setting a stricter budget of $400 a month for groceries will mean that you have to plan your meals, forego the best cuts of beef, and get creative with food you already have in the pantry or freezer. The end result is an instant $150–200 in savings at the end of the month.
However, if you have trouble with overspending, then a zero-based budget might work better for you. With a zero-based budget, every dollar gets a job. The goal is to end up with a $0 baseline, when all of your bills will be paid and your saving and investment goals will be met. Don’t think that a budget means being put in a no-spend jail. If you have room in your budget, then you can designate funds to whatever you would like.
Designating a category for your savings means that you will save that money first and foremost. Depending on how much you set aside for your monthly savings, this can boost your savings quickly to $300–500 a month. Coin Keeper (iOS, Android) and Mvelopes (iOS, Android) are virtual ways to use the “envelopes” method for zero-based budgeting. Use these apps to set 10% of your take-home pay for savings, and then control spending in other spending areas throughout the month so that you do not dip into that savings.
Monitor Your Accounts
Prosper Daily [Broken URL Removed] (iOS Android) is a great way to monitor your account and get alerts if there’s a suspicious charge. The app syncs with your bank accounts and notifies you in the case of fraudulent activity or double charges.
Most credit cards excel in account monitoring, but banks are still slightly behind in technology. If you or your bank do not catch fraudulent charges in time, your account could be drained, and it might take a week or two for the bank to recoup the money that was in your account.
This app is nice to have as an extra piece of security. Prosper Daily can also be used for budgeting, and it does come with a unique competitive edge: you can compete with yourself to see if you can budget better than the month before.
Know Your Advisor Fees
It is hard to save for retirement when there are so many other things to pay for each month. Since employer retirement accounts are set-up and managed through an employer, many employees might not know what is going on with their 401k account. My husband has money taken out each month automatically, but we only get statements once a year. It can be hard to know if we are on track or even how much money is in our account.
Personal Capital (iOS, Android) solves that by serving as an all-in-one budgeting app that links and analyzes your retirement account. You get an up-to-date picture of your retirement account, and the app assesses the fees you pay your advisor.
Since advisors charge a small percentage for their fees, a one-half percent difference in fees might seem insignificant. However, that small difference can cost you a lot of money over the course of 40 years.
For my husband’s 401k account, we would have never known the fees were higher than other options available. However, as illustrated by Personal Capital’s chart, we would be losing 30% of our retirement funds to fees by the time we reach 65. Making a simple change could save us over $100,000 in the duration of 40 years.
Setting up Personal Capital and switching advisors is surprisingly fast: it will take less than an hour of your time. You will start seeing the savings reflected in your 401k account quickly, since eliminating excess fees will mean more of your money is earning interest.
Continually Siphon Money to Your Savings
Don’t wait until the end of the month to think about savings. If your savings plan is to save whatever is left over from your budget, then you will most likely never have anything left over. Two apps that make saving painless are Digit (iOS) and Acorns (iOS, Android).
These apps basically save you money in the background of your life. Both allow for scheduled deposits, and they also round up your purchases to put a few extra cents in your account. If you make an average of 20 purchases a week, that’s 80 opportunities to save each month. If the average amount of change that is rounded up is $0.50, you will have saved an extra $40 a month, without even feeling it. Keep the same pattern all year long, and you will be happy to have an extra $480 in your account.
Ditch your daily coffee trip or lunch out and have that money taken out of your account each day instead. Refraining from spending $4 each day and having it deposited into your Digit or Acorns account will add up to a quick $120 a month. By the end of the year, you will have $1,440.
Listen to Saving Advice Weekly
The best way to stay motivated and on top of your financial goals is to increase your knowledge. Money-wise podcasts, such as The Dave Ramsey Show and Radical Personal Finance, will help you master your money once and for all. Depending on which financial advice you hear and apply to your life, you could save anywhere from $100 to $1,000 by shifting your thinking and actions.
Feel like you don’t have time to listen to podcasts? Try fitting in 5 to 10 minutes of listening into each day, which will equal one to two podcasts a week. Listen to a podcast while getting ready for the day, during your commute, or during your workout.
Most people want to save money fast, but don’t know how to do it. The right tech tools can transform your budget, savings, and financial knowledge.
What are your favorite tools, apps, or sites for saving, investing, or budgeting? Have you any experience with one of the tech tools listed above? Share your experience below in the comments.