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Spending

 
By Savannah Ziegelbauer
MoneyMix Contributor

If you're like most smart-device users, you love your little gadget with a capital L. After all, with your trusty sidekick and its app features, you can do some pretty impressive things. Whether you want to identify the artist of a new song you heard on the radio or find the best deal on your Calc 101 textbook, it's all possible with your smart device.

So, why not hire your device to be your very own financial planner at a cost of next to nothing?

time is money

iPhone user Ben Diliberto, a 28-year-old federal government attorney in Washington, D.C., says he's been using his financial institution's money-management application since he bought his phone more than two years ago.

Any effective money-management app should contain two key elements: automatic messaging and recurring features.

"Mobile accessibility is without a doubt the No. 1 benefit of a personal finance app," Diliberto says. "I don't have access to a computer all the time, and I want to be able to monitor my finances from wherever I may be."

Diliberto explains that, like many other people he knows, he gave up on balancing a checkbook the old-fashioned way a long time ago. Instead of carrying around a slip of paper with his checking-account balance, he relies on an iPhone app to keep track of his purchases and to show they are indeed on-budget.

you check facebook every day, why not your finances?

The easy part is downloading the app. With Internet access and just a few taps, presto! You have yourself a fun new tool. But to get the most out of an app, it's important to use it effectively. And that means adopting new habits.

Eighteen-year-old Scott Gamm, founder of the personal finance Web site HelpSaveMyDollars.com, recommends incorporating the app into your daily routine. For example, when you check the latest sports scores or weather, check your personal finances as well.

"Really, all these different tools are to help you, and it's ultimately up to you to take action to manage your money the right way," Gamm says.

to each their own

Just as we all have our own routines to get ready in the morning, there is no one-size-fits-all personal finance app. But according to Steve Kramer, vice president of electronic payments at Western Union Global Business Payments, New York, users experience more success with a personal-finance app if it is proactive in nature.

Kramer says any effective money-management app should contain two key elements: automatic messaging and recurring features. The message alerts will train you to start managing your finances more diligently, and a recurring option will get you into the habit of knowing when bills are due.

"Mobile accessibility is without a doubt the No. 1 benefit of a personal finance app."

pick of the litter

With more than 200,000 apps available and counting, it's hard to sift the wheat from the chaff, but here are a few money-management gems that stand out from the rest:

  • Mint.com

    This app has been all the rage among those looking to better manage their spending. With features that allow users to access their financial data from multiple sources, it's no wonder users rave about it in reviews. More important, this app comes with an extra layer of device-level security, meaning that users must enter a passcode to access account information. Better yet, if your device is lost or stolen, you can disable its access to your account from the Mint.com Web site.

    Cost: Free
    Works with: iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad, Android devices
  • Bloomberg Mobile

    Companies pay big money to have a Bloomberg data terminal on site, (right around $1,500 a month), so why not take advantage of this free app? It shows up-to-the-minute news, stock quotes, company descriptions, and price chart and market trend analysis.

    Cost: Free
    Works with: iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad, Palm devices
  • Tipulator

    Admit it: At the end of a scrumptious meal, the last thing you feel like doing is figuring out how much to tip your server—even if the math is elementary. So for less than a buck, you can buy an app to do it for you. It's especially handy for the times the sushi dinner check needs to be split five ways between friends.



 Find more money- management apps.

 Protect personal data on your device.

Cost: 99 cents to $1.99
Works with: iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad

  • BillMinder

    Between a job and social life, we all have a lot on our plates. So use this app to remind yourself when each of your bills is due. This is especially useful if you're just starting out in the "real world" and remembering to pay bills is something new to you.

    Cost: 99 cents; the lite version is free
    Works with: iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad
  • iXpenseIt

    This app lets you track and control multiple budgets and stores pictures of all your receipts. It shows you trends about how you're spending your money, which makes it easier for you to trim the fat from your expenses. If it seems like your paychecks are constantly disappearing, this app is for you.

    Cost: $4.99
    Works with: iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad
  • An app from your credit union

    What better way to manage your money than to use an app made by your credit union for members like you? Having access to your financial information directly from your credit union is always the best route to take when you're trying to keep your funds on track. Contact the professionals at your credit union to find out which apps may be available to you.

Published November 3, 2010

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