As a Medicare insurance advisor, I often help individuals who are transitioning into retirement.
This is a tricky time financially for many individuals. It’s scary to make a leap from a steady career income over to living on just Social Security income benefits and any distributions from savings you’ve managed to put away for your golden years.
Even if you’ve already got your financial plan for retirement in place, I’ve found that most individuals are still looking for as many ways as possible to save money and spend less during retirement. The reality is that ordinary living expenses don’t just go away overnight simply because you have now retired.
Day-to-day it can feel like you’re nickeled and dimed from all sides. So, what if instead you learned to nickel and dime your way to a little more savings every month?
You absolutely can.
And you don’t have to be all that tech savvy to start keeping more of your own money in your pocket either.
There is some great technology out there in today’s digital world to help you budget, plan and review your finances. There are ingenious apps and programs that will help you save money when you shop as well as apps that will sweep a few cents into your savings accounts when you aren’t really looking.
Where do you find these apps?
If you’ve got a smartphone, you’re more than halfway there. Just head to your app store or marketplace and download one of these great apps that we are reviewing for you below.
The setup processes are quite simple: simply link a bank account or debit/credit card to the app. If you want to go and step further and budget for monthly expenses, you’ll have to take some time to enter your income and expenses, but it will be well worth it in the long run.
If you’ve ever felt overwhelmed by the process of budgeting, this app will save you. It has been around for a few years and helps you save money by building a budget for you painlessly. The app’s primary theory is that all dollars have a job to do, and it’s up to you to delegate those jobs.
You’ll tell the app which monthly expenses are either truly necessary (think rent and utilities) or most important to you (like gym memberships or dog grooming). This simple system takes all the guesswork out of budgeting and helps you stick to a plan where you live within your means.
You will learn plenty about money and how to spend and save it, but perhaps the app’s most important role is that it teaches you how to prioritize your expenses. With a good handle on where your money is going, you can make adjustments to pay off debts, better save for emergencies and for retirement and take steps to avoid using credit.
You Need a Budget is free for the first 34 days and then $6.99/month. It is the most expensive of the apps we will cover in this article, but it claims that on average new budgeters save $600 by their second month of using the software, and more than $6000 the first year. Students who provide proof of their school enrollment can get 12 extra months free.
Another great budget app is EveryDollar, created by financial expert Dave Ramsey. With this app, you can ditch your Excel spreadsheet, because it supports a zero-based budgeting method.
Basically, you plan ahead and divvy up your income for the month among different budgeting categories. At the end of the month, if anything is leftover you can put it in savings.
The app is incredibly easy to use, and it comes with a desktop version as well. To track your expenses, all you do is enter in the date, your transaction amount, and assign it to a category.
If you stay on top of it, this takes very little time and makes it easy to track your budget and make sure you aren’t overspending. And if you’re a Dave Ramsey fan, the app does integrate with the seven Dave Ramsey baby steps.
Everydollar offers a free version, but this version requires that you manually track your transactions. For $99/year, you can upgrade to the paid version for more automated tracking.
Acorns is a little newer to the marketplace but is a top-notch app that helps you to effortlessly save money. It has helped over 3 million people to save money for the future thus far, and It does this by rounding up your purchases on a linked debit or credit card and investing that money for you.
You choose how much you want to round up and if you want to make a recurring investment, such as $5 a day, you can. You have the option to turn it on or off, which is nice on months when you have more bills than others.
One great new feature of this program is the Acorn Spend checking account and debit card. It sets aside a little bit of money every time you spend on anything with the card. The company has even partnered up with more than 200 various brands and restaurants to automatically give back a percentage (up to 10%) to invest in your future every time you spend money at their place of business. These funds go straight into your Acorns account.
The best part about this last feature is all the great everyday brands that are participating in this program.
Just to name a few: Barnes & Noble, Blue Apron, Directv, Expedia, Groupon, Lyft, Macy’s, and Walmart. Think of how often you could be earning money from these businesses simply by using a designated credit card at these stores or online sites.
Instead of giving cash back, these companies are paying it forward, directly to you. (Desktop users can save in a similar fashion with their free Found Money Chrome extension).
This program reminds me of the piggy bank that my Dad used to keep in his office where he would throw all his change at the end of each business day. At the end of the year, we’d roll it up and take it to the bank and be astounded at just how much money that spare change really was.
Acorn’s Core program is just $1/per month and you upgrade to more features at a maximum of $3/month, which includes the Acorns Spend card.
Mint is owned by financial giant Intuit (makers of Turbo Tax and Quickbooks) and was one of the first online budgeting tools to hit the digital marketplace. It’s been sort of a gold standard in the budgeting app arena for some time. Now it’s an app as well, and it helps you to create a realistic budget, monitor your spending, and stay on top of your bills.
This app works best for beginner budgeters as well as hands-off budgeters who will never sit down and put a pen to paper. It pulls all of your financial data into one central location for you to oversee, including bank account balances, personal credit scores and even the value of your home.
With more than 15 million users today, perhaps Mint’s claim to fame is that it gives you a snapshot of your bills and your available money at the same time so that you have a complete picture of your financial health at any given moment. Their bill tracking feature is unique in that you can sign up for alerts when it’s time to pay these bills so you can pay on time and avoid any late fees. You can set the program to give you alerts as well if your funds are running low so that you don’t bounce a check.
Mint also gives you some nice features such as alerts for unusual account activity, tips for reducing monthly fees and charges, as well as how to save money. The free look at your credit score is especially important so that you can work towards maintaining or improving it.
Signing up for Mint is free but beware that this means you’ll have to put up with ads on the platform. Mint makes money by referring you to various financial services.
If the bill tracking features of Mint appeal to you, then you’ll probably also like Truebill. While we all have bills related to rent and utilities, many of us also pay for extras like internet service, a gym membership, life insurance, televisions and more. Unfortunately, we sometimes sign up for these services and then forget all about them.
Truebill helps you track your spending and will pinpoint subscriptions that you are paying for that you don’t even realize you are still paying for. It will also negotiate directly with your service providers to lower your existing bills.
Truebill is free to sign up for, but there’s a catch. The app claims to save you about 20% on your existing bills. However, it will also charge you 40% of your annual savings. For example, if they help you save $100, they’ll charge you $40 of that. All the same, it’s still $60 saved.
Digit is a great tool for saving for specific goals. It uses its own sophisticated algorithms to help you budget for goals that you set such as a vacation, paying off a debt, or for a savings goal like a rainy-day fund or a cool new piece of technology you’ve been wanting to buy. Based on your income and your spending,
Digit calculates what you should realistically be able to save and then automatically puts that money into a Digit account for you. The amount is usually low enough that you don’t even notice it. Sounds like the perfect savings vehicle, right?
While Digit is similar to Acorns, the money you save with Digit can’t be put into an investment account. If you want your money to be earning more money long-term, this could be a drawback. However, if you want quick access to the money you’ve saved, there is no wait time with Digit while your investments are cashed out.
In case you were worried about all your personal data being on file, Digit uses a state-of-the-art encryption tool to keep all your personal data safe. The company brags that it has already helped consumers save $1 Billion. The app is free for 30 days and then $2.99/month thereafter.
Personal Capital is a free wealth management app and is one of the latest ones I’ve enrolled in. I have to say, it’s pretty impressive. When you sign up, the software walks you through a very easy interface in which you’ll link all your financial accounts so that you can see your net worth. An investment checkup tool can help you analyze your investments and identify hidden fees you may be paying unnecessarily.
A variety of other financial tools within the app provide insights to assist you in planning for your goals. It also offers you a free consultation with a registered financial advisor to get advice that is tailored to your goals. If you choose to invest through the advisor, Personal Capital charges .89% of the first $1 million you invest, and fees go down if your investment grows beyond that amount.
They claim to have no other hidden fees or commissions, so at under 1%, it’s a pretty good deal.
This last app is a fun one because it involves shopping. If you do a lot of online shopping, then you have got to check out Ebates. Ebates partnered with over 2,000 eCommerce stores to form an affiliate relationship with each one.
Every time you buy something from a store through Ebates, that company will then send Ebates a commission check. The good news for you is that Ebates will split it with you.
Setting up an account is free and once you’ve signed up, you can shop online just like you always do. Only now, you can earn cashback rewards. Plus, in addition to earning cash back, you can also use promo codes and save even more.
However, you’ll want to pay attention to the payment schedule. Ebates pays out the cashback rewards four times a year and they will either mail you a paper check or pay you via PayPal.
Technology has certainly changed the way we think about money, investing, and saving.
So, give one of these apps a try to change how you think about your money today.