Managing money used to be a tedious task. Now, I’m no expert, but pre-digital era budgeting likely involved lots of receipts, writing things down, and meticulousness. But now, thanks to smartphones, everything has changed. There’s no excuse not to keep track of your finances when all of your records are in the palm of your hand. There are a few apps that can simplify the task, making budgeting a painless process.
Mint is a popular user-friendly financial tracking and budgeting app. It links up to your debit or credit card, displaying each transaction both chronologically and categorically. Mint also allows you to input transactions for items you buy with cash. The app also provides a budgeting tool, so you can set a weekly allotment for items like groceries, coffee, and transportation. Category view makes it easy to see how much you’re spending on each group in a given week, and Mint’s graphic interface splices everything up into easy-to-read charts, letting you know what’s up with your money with just a quick glance. Optional email alerts and push notifications tell you when you’re approaching your budget ceiling, and a weekly summary provides a snapshot of your spending habits over time. Mint also makes it easy to start saving, providing tips that can help you develop a rainy day fund. It’s a great tool for easily checking how much money you’re using and evaluating how your habits have developed. You can’t make any transactions with Mint, but that’s not the point of the app. Plus, there’s no password needed on login, making it quick and painless to check. Mint is one of the simplest ways to take charge of your spending.
Your bank probably has its own app to help you manage spending. Bank of America, Capital One, US Bank, Chase, Wells Fargo, Citi Bank, and many more have developed applications with more advanced functions. They often include ATM Finders (avoid those pesky ATM fees!) and allow you to make transfers between accounts. If you ever find that money in your checking account is running low (perhaps with the help of a Mint alert), you can add money from your savings account right then and there. And, because your bank accounts need to be kept secure, these apps require passwords and security questions. Perhaps the coolest feature of a mobile banking app, though, is the ability to deposit checks with a photo. Simply open up the app, take a picture of the front and back of your check, and submit. The deposit will appear in a day or so, and you can just rip up the check. Gone are the days of running to the bank with money to deposit—it can all be done in an instant, any time, any place.
Part of being a responsible spender is paying people back—and it’s never before been easier. The most popular app on this front is Venmo, which makes it easy to send money to anyone else with a Venmo account. It syncs up with your contacts to make paying the right person effortless. Interestingly, Venmo has a social element, displaying who pays who in a feed. You can change your privacy settings easily if this doesn’t appeal to you. Though Venmo is free when money comes from your Venmo balance, bank account, or major debit card, it’s possible that you could incur some fees. Still, its popularity make it easiest to use in most cases.
As an alternative to Venmo, I prefer SquareCash. Square is a mobile payment company started by Jack Dorsey, cofounder of Twitter. SquareCash is an offshoot of their main product, and it allows you to send money to anyone. To register, just input your debit card number and email address. From there, you can send money to anyone via email. Then they input their debit card number and voilà! You’ve just payed them back—without any fees. If it were up to me, SquareCash would be the standard among students. Until then, however, a combination of SquareCash and Venmo will make it easy to get by.
It’s never been easier to be responsible with your money. Between Mint, your own banking app, and easy ways to pay your friends back, there’s no better time to start acting like an adult (at least when it comes to finances). Gone are the days of diligent record keeping—it’s all on your phone now. You’ve earned that money, now spend it*!
*Responsibly, of course.