I’m always trying to save money for my family’s future, but it seems like every time the holidays roll around, I manage to get off track—big time. Of course, I want to get my kids everything they want for the holidays, but I know their college fund is much more of an impending issue. If you’re like me and you need some help sticking to your budget (even during the holidays) then this article is for you.
First, it’s important to know your spending habits so that you can save more. You might find yourself to be a rewards-centric spender, cash-only spender, envelope spender, credit card spender, an E-spender (PayPal, Square, Apple Pay, etc.) or a hybrid spender (a combination of 2 or more of these methods). I know I tend to spend more (or I’m tempted to) when I have credit cards handy. You can read more about these types of spenders here. But regardless of what kind of spender you are—there’s an app that can help you. Here are the top 6 apps that will make sure you keep to your budget this season.
1. You Need a Budget (YNAB) (iOS, Android)
This program includes an app, but it’s much more comprehensive. Baby Center moms swear by it—one mom says it saved her $60 in the first month alone. The YNAB program offers a free 34-day trial, after which it’s a one-time cost of $60 to buy the software (which integrates with the app). The developers state the average user saves $200 after the first month.
- Why it works: The program operates on four simple rules. Give every dollar a job, plan for unanticipated expenses, roll with the punches (when you overspend), and learn to live on last month's income. Plus, the program offers free live classes on topics like budgeting, handling credit cards, and dealing with pay cycles.
- Who should use it: Every spender type, but it will definitely aid cash-only spenders since you have to account for every single dollar you spend every month.
- Where to get it: http://www.youneedabudget.com
2. MVelopes (iOS, Android)
This app-based system is comprehensive to your needs. It offers three levels—free, paid, and paid with coaching—so even if you are totally mystified about how to begin managing your spending, you can find a level that meets your needs. Kiplinger rates it "best for over-spenders" and the Better Business Bureau (BBB) gives it an A+ rating. More importantly, users have reported paying off $1 billion in debt thus far!
- Why it works: This system offers you an app to track your envelope spending digitally. You can set up 25 envelopes and four accounts for free (which is more than enough for most users—if you need more, it costs $95 per year or about $7.92 per month).
- Who should use it: Envelope spenders are likely to love this app!
- Where to get it: http://www.mvelopes.com
3. SavedPlus (iOS, Android)
SavedPlus is an app-based savings plan designed for folks who like to shop online. For it to work, you have to link the accounts you spend from to the app, then set a percentage you wish to save each time you make a purchase (say 10% on each purchase). The SavedPlus method is endorsed by Kiplinger, CNBC, CNN Money, Bloomberg Business Week and other heavy hitters. Best of all, it’s free!
- Why it works: Every time you make a purchase, the linked program transfers a set amount into your savings account, helping you save as effortlessly as you spend.
- Who should use it: E-spenders will do best with this app.
- Where to get it: http://savedplus.com
4. Left to Spend (iOS)
Left to Spend dubs itself as "minimalist money management"—which is perfect for those who like their financial situation to be simple and clear. With this app, you can find out exactly how much you have "left to spend" without having to input spending data or link accounts. Instead, you just click on "Just Spent" and enter how much you spend as you go. There’s a one-time cost of $4.95.
- Why it works: You give yourself a "daily allowance" and the app works off that amount in order to track your spending. It will give you a "left to spend" monthly balance at any time.
- Who should use it: Hybrid spenders—especially those who think "Well, I'm sure everything will work out at the end of the month."
- Where to get it: http://www.unknownartistsapps.com/lefttospend.html
5. BillGuard (iOS, Android)
BillGuard is a system that works by tracking your cards—including purchases, payments, recurring fees and expenses. The app will soon add “Identity Protection” to its menu as well. The app clocks in at 4.5 out of 5 stars in the Apple store.
- Why it works: Not only does this app-based system track your accounts and alert you of suspicious charges, but it will also locate coupons you might like based on your spending habits!
- Who should use it: If you feel like you mostly have your spending in hand, but you want to keep an eye on card activity (especially for any unauthorized or unknown charges) then this is the app for you—and it’s free.
- Where to get it: https://www.billguard.com
6. Wallaby (iOS, Android)
Wallaby is both an app-based financial management system and a smart rewards card (optional). You can load all your rewards credit cards onto Wallaby and tell it which store you are at, and it will automatically select the best card to maximize your rewards while you shop.
- Why it works: The smart card takes all the guesswork out of which card to use to get the most rewards points or perks. Plus, it’s totally free and will even give you alerts about upcoming promotions and payment due dates.
- Who should use it: Rewards-centric spenders and anyone who loves getting more rewards when they spend.
- Where to get it: https://www.walla.by