New products, Protecting yourself

4 free apps to help you spend less, save more

Kelly Dilworth

Editor’s note: A lot has changed since this 2016 blog post was published. See the more current 6 free apps to help you spend less, save more.

Over the past four months, I forgot two credit card payments in a row, misplaced receipts I was supposed to file for tax purposes and forgot to inform my financial planner I moved across the country.

Meanwhile, my husband stopped monitoring our expenses for the first time in years and put off reconfiguring our budget for months.

We’ve both been so busy since we moved to California in September that our finances have fallen by the wayside. We used to monitor our expenses every few weeks, pay our bills as soon as we received an invoice and follow a comprehensive budget. Now, we’re lucky if we manage to pay our bills the day they’re due.

We both need help managing our finances, so I’ve been combing through financial apps hoping to find something that will work for us. Many of the apps I found seem promising, but are confusing or cumbersome to set up. Others crashed my phone within hours of downloading them.

Here are four apps that I found especially useful and relatively easy to use. Some are good for tracking expenses and monitoring how much money you have left. Others help you keep track of your monthly bills so you don’t miss any more payments.

Level: A good app for deciding what you can and can’t afford. If, like me, you have trouble deciding how much you can afford to spend when you go shopping, the Level smartphone app could be an ideal companion. Unlike other financial apps that only tell you how much money you have left over in your accounts once you factor in fixed expenses, the Level App calculates in real time what you can afford to spend per day on discretionary items without eating into your budget for necessities.

It also generates a monthly and weekly spending plan that takes into account your anticipated savings and includes a quickly loading transaction feed that makes it easy to spot patterns or zero in on problem spending. Since using the app, I’ve learned most of my discretionary money goes to impulsive book and restaurant purchases and that I have a lot less money to spend than I thought.

Wally: A simpler way to track expenses. The Wally app is also a good choice if you want to track your purchases on your phone and visualize your budget, but don’t want to link your financial accounts. Rather than download data from your credit card and bank accounts, Wally only uses data you enter. Like other expense tracking apps, it makes it easy to track spending, monitor your progress and visualize how close you are to achieving your goals.

In addition, it lets you compare your progress by automatically comparing spending and saving patterns with other users who are your near your age and share a similar income. The biggest downside is you have to manually enter your expenses or scan a receipt, which can be tedious. However, if you make a habit of entering what you spend, you may find yourself becoming more mindful of your purchases.

Prism Bills and Money: Never miss a bill again. Prism is an ideal app for people like me who need help remembering when a bill is due, but don’t want to put all their bills on autopay. Like Level and Wally, the interface is relatively simple to use, but what sets this app apart is its focus on organizing and keeping track of your bills. The app helps you visualize when bills are due and sends reminders so you don’t forget. It also lets you pay bills directly through the app. To get the most out of this app, you’ll have to set aside time to input all your bills, but Prism makes the process relatively painless.

FileThis: Keep your bills in one place. If you need help tracking bills, but don’t want to only use your phone, FileThis may be a good alternative. You can use it on your laptop, desktop, phone or tablet to help organize your statements and keep all your bills in one place. The app automatically downloads your statements for you so you don’t have to waste time digging for them. It also makes it easy to upload receipts as soon as you receive them. In addition, the FileThis app will send you bill reminders so you don’t miss any more bills and unnecessarily ding your credit.

Your bottom-line
No matter which apps you choose, just make sure you follow through. It can be tempting to download a lot of apps and then forget to use them or put off setting them up. But if you’re serious about cleaning up your finances, take the time to set one or two up and really use them. It could make a big difference to your bottom-line.

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