SURPRISES ARE USUALLY pretty delightful. Presents! Parties! But it’s never enjoyable to receive a surprise message from your bank saying that your account is overdrawn. You can avoid financial embarrassment by carefully managing your money using some apps on your phone. These five downloads give you advice, help you budget and invest, and help reduce your overall financial stress.
Budgeting in your head is tough, especially if you haven’t had someone show you the ropes. YNAB (You Need a Budget) makes financial planning manageable. You’ll be able to sync all of your accounts, track your monthly spending, stay on top of your bills, and set aside savings for emergency situations—all in one hub. The company also offers online workshops that can give you the skills you need to break free of that pesky debt. After a free 34-day trial, YNAB will cost you $50 per year—but you can just factor that into your budget.
The free app Mint takes a more passive approach to budgeting than YNAB, showing you the balance of each account, your custom budgets, and how much money you’ve spent recently. You can make your own decisions from there. Mint offers some savings tips, but you won’t get the level of guidance that YNAB provides. But hey, it’s free, so you might walk away with a few more bucks in your pocket.
Credit scores are often hard to understand, but yours is very important. Your score is a reflection of how responsible you are when it comes to fulfilling financial obligations such as bills and auto loans. Your score gets checked by lenders, landlords, insurers, and sometimes employers. The free app Credit Karma makes it easier to navigate the weird justifications for changes in your score by giving you free reports from Transunion and Equifax, then explaining the factors affecting your score.
The world of investments and returns can be obtuse to a newcomer. Skip the appointments with stock brokers and download Acorns instead. It simplifies the investing process by rounding up every purchase you make to the nearest dollar and automatically investing the change into a diversified portfolio. The service costs $1 per month, but you can cash out your investments at any time. Students with a valid .edu email address can get up to four years of the service for free.
If you’re not ready to take the plunge into the risky world of investments, Digit provides a safer way to build your savings. It’s an automated process, just like Acorns, but instead of investments it’s geared toward saving the money you already have. Every day it withdraws money from your account to deposit it into a savings account. Don’t worry—it monitors your spending habits and your income, so it will only withdraw what it thinks you won’t need. You’ll even get a savings bonus every three months for sticking with the service. You can try it out for free for 100 days, after which you’ll have to pay $3 per month.
You’ll still have to be proactive and stay on top of your finances, but these apps can take a lot of the hard work and make it more convenient. Stick with them long enough and you might eventually find yourself getting excited when you check your balance.