New year, new decade, and new confidence in your financial security. While the 2010s brought plenty of new ways to spend money — smartphone games and contactless payments via smartwatch come to mind — the last decade also brought new ways to take control of your financial life. From smarter budget websites to instant payment apps like Venmo, today’s tools can help even the most disorganized spenders stay on track.
Even when you have good intentions and a solid budget, money can slip away. Research from NerdWallet found that nearly half of American adults overspend for emotional reasons. The same study also found that, while 86% of Americans agree that credit card debt is acceptable in certain circumstances, 87% would be embarrassed to take on credit card debt. It’s one thing to acknowledge the issue — it’s another thing to arm yourself with the resources you need to make a change.
Whether you incurred unlucky medical debt, bought a Tesla you couldn’t really afford, or just want to get your life on track, there’s a tool to help you feel better about your budget. Ring in the new year with these finance tools to start feeling more confident about your financial future.
1. Budgeting Apps
Everyone needs a budget. Start by using a budgeting app to get a better overall picture of your financial life. This can be the hardest part, especially if looking at your card balances or bank accounts makes you anxious. Once you know where you stand, though, you can start to make progress toward the financial life you deserve.
Mint and You Need a Budget both work well for general budgeting. Mint takes a jack-of-all-trades approach to help you manage all your finances from one place. The app even categorizes your transactions automatically to identify spending trends. YNAB is a great option for people who enjoy details. By giving every dollar a “job,” YNAB empowers you to spend what you have while saving what you can.
2. Savings Helpers
Federal research shows that 40% of Americans can’t afford $400 for an emergency. Some columnists have attempted to debunk the startling number, but their arguments don’t hold water. Just because most people in that 40% category could “afford” an emergency by selling belongings or taking on high-interest debt doesn’t mean they qualify as financially stable. People with limited options in an emergency only suffer more by taking on additional debt.
Fortunately, savvy savers can avoid the worst by using smart financial tools to save more. Acorns, for example, helps users save their extra cash by setting aside leftover change from everyday purchases. Those cents may not look like much, but over time, small deposits can create a comfortable cushion.
3. Smart Spenders
Traditional banks love their fees, and all users hate paying those fees. Get rid of account maintenance fees and minimum balance nonsense by moving to a bank with an intuitive app, helpful products, and smart alerts for balances and transactions.
Chime provides great options for anyone looking to ditch a fee-happy bank or move toward a prepaid debit card option. With no fees and a wide network of free ATMs, Chime helps people escape the cycle of giving the bank a cut. For people looking to spend wisely, customer-centric online banks can provide a welcome respite from the daily struggle against hidden charges.
4. Trading Assistants
Have most of your financial ducks in a row and looking to grow your money? There’s an app for that, too. Robinhood, for example, offers a seamless user experience and charges zero fees for users to trade stocks — a rarity in the investment world. For a bit of money, TD Ameritrade provides a clean, helpful experience for experienced traders and newbies alike.
Before you download and start firing off trades, think carefully about your financial situation. Never look to day trading as a viable way to dig yourself out of a hole. Investments like stocks cost what they do for good reason, and if you think you can outsmart Wall Street’s multibillion-dollar advantage, think again.
Bonus: DIY Tools
Eager to take control of your finances, but not feeling the options available? Do it yourself by using Google Sheets to track your expenses and manage your savings. If you don’t know where to begin, you can find plenty of helpful budgeting templates online. Going from nothing to total oversight is a big leap, though, so make sure you’re up for the challenge. If you don’t enjoy manual entry, stick to the other tools mentioned instead.
You shouldn’t have to live in fear of your money. Plenty of tools offer all the functionality you need to manage your income, understand your expenses, and plan for the future. Use this opportunity to take charge of your finances so you can live your life confident in the knowledge that you know where your money is going.