Reinvent Your Personal Finance Routine with These 5 Apps

Budgeting, paying bills, saving money, and investing—these are probably low on your list of fun things to do. But mastering your finances should be high on your list of priorities.

And since the average person checks their phone 80 times a day  we’re going to show you how to turn your smartphone into a budgeting/bill-paying/investing machine. We’ll build a “financial app stack” to conquer your finances once and for all.  

Finance apps are making it easier and easier for people to manage their money. You can now deposit a check, settle group expenses among friends, and get an alert about your monthly VISA payment all from the comfort of your couch. Additional features are getting added so quickly that soon you’ll forget what the inside of a bank looks like.  

We’re going to use finance apps to both speed up and automate this process. The apps I’m going to discuss below will track your accounts, alert you to upcoming bills, and even invest your ‘spare change.’

Get a Clear Picture of Your Finances With Mint

Financial stress is having a significant impact on many of us. Let’s break the cycle and create a solid routine that’s easy to follow—starting with Mint.

Mint is your all-in-one personal finance app. Once you’ve installed it, simply link up your bank accounts, credit cards, and monthly bills. Mint will begin tracking everything while automatically updating and categorizing your information. It lets you set up budgets (and automatically keep tabs on them), set up automatic bill payments, and generally add order to your financial life.

Mint helps you stay on top of your finances.

How it helps

The key to using Mint successfully is to be diligent about categorizing your expenses. It does this automatically, but you’ll want to check it regularly and make sure the categories are accurate.

You’ll also want to set up a budget using the same categories. Once you do this, Mint takes over and makes it easy to stay on top of your money. It will recognize your expenses and automatically add them to your budget. It’ll even sends alerts when you’re getting close to your monthly limit on a budget item.

Mint also lets you schedule payments on the spot or for later. It will remember your payment settings after the first time, so you’ll only need to tap twice the next time you pay a bill.

And, it helps you stay aware of your finances by sending warnings when your accounts are low, when bill payments are due, or if there are large or suspicious transactions.

How to include in your routine

Set up a budget, and get ready to stick to it. Have bill pay reminders sent to your mobile phone or email so you pay on time—avoiding those pesky late fees. Set warning alerts for when your accounts go below a certain dollar amount.

Weekly

Log into Mint and double-check the categories for your expenses that week. This is key to keeping your budget on track.

Pay all of your bills. Yes, all of them. It’s easier to stay on your budget when you’re on top of all your outgoing expenses.

Monthly

Take time to review your budget, and how well you stuck to it. See how well your actual spending lined up with your plan. Then, decide whether you need to adjust your budget or cut out non-essential expenses and unnecessary purchases.

Cost

Mint is free to use—so start using it!

Never Worry About Splitting the Bill With Cash App

Cash is an app created by Square that lets you easily send and receive money between friends and family. You’re able to add funds to the app with just a few taps. Their latest update even lets you use your cash balance to instantly buy and sell Bitcoin.

Cash App is perfect for splitting the bill.

How it helps

With Cash App you cut out the middle person by using direct deposits. The money goes directly to or from your linked bank account without any extra steps involved. It’s the easiest money transferring option amongst friends that’s out there.

How to include it in your routine

Import your personal contacts into the Cash App using either their email address or phone number. Cash has the benefit of already having tons of users in the US—so you can avoid awkward situations when splitting the bill amongst a group of friends.

Daily

The best way to use Cash (or a similar virtual payment app) is to get in the habit of using it on a daily basis. Treat it like, well, always having cash on hand. Settle payments with friends and family, and get “I owe you” out of your vocabulary.

Weekly

At the end of each week, check your Cash balance and transfer funds into your bank accounts as needed. It might be a nice surprise when you find a couple hundred bucks in your Cash app that you forgot about, but it’s certainly not the best way to stay financially organized!

Cost

The app is free, and Square Cash transactions are free for linked debit cards. Credit cards can be used but come with a 3% fee per transaction.

Make That Tropical Christmas Vacation a Reality With YNAB

YNAB is a budget, personal finance, and expense tracker all rolled into one. Once you get used to maintaining a budget with Mint, kick it up a notch with YNAB.

YNAB is the ultimate budgeting tool.

How it helps

With YNAB, you can set goals based on the amount you need to save for future expenses. Sometimes they will be large, one-off expenses, so you’ll plug in a guess as to the projected date and cost of the event.

From there, YNAB will help you find the money for your goals by keeping tabs on every dollar that comes in (and goes out) of your accounts. While Mint lets you have a good view of your overall financial picture, YNAB forces you to get down in the weeds and really see where your money is going.

How to include it in your routine

You have a vacation planned down in Mexico at Christmas. You’ll plug in December 20th as the goal date and enter in your best guess as to the cost. Each time money comes in, you’ll decide what it needs to do in order to stay on top of your goals.

Daily/Weekly

Whether you prefer to go into YNAB once a day or once a week, the key is to use it frequently and keep your budget up to date. You’ll need to categorize your income and expenses by hand, which isn’t nearly as tedious or time consuming as you might think. And if you’re thinking, “well Mint does that automatically—that’s easier!” You’re right… but that’s also what makes it easier to ignore.

Cost

Free for 34 days, then $6.99 a month. But they’re quick to point out that a careful budget will make up for that cost many times over. Think of it this way—that $7 a month (and probably more) is already vanishing from your wallet because you’re not being careful with your money. It’s also a good incentive to stick to your budget once you set it—if you want this app to pay for itself, it’s up to you to stay on top of your spending plan!

Invest Your Spare Change With Acorns

So you’ve set up a budget, you’re sticking to it, and you’re using a virtual payment app to settle small debts and payments among friends. Now it’s time to start thinking about your future.

Acorns is an investment platform that automatically invests your spare change. You can link as many debit and credit cards as you like for “Round-Ups.” Acorns will then transfer the difference into your investing account.

The app provides access to exchange-traded funds (ETF) and other low-cost options. So if you spend $4.50 on a cold-brew coffee with a linked debit card, Acorns rounds that up to $5.00 and invests the $0.50 difference in your portfolio.

You’ll answer some questions about age, income and investment goals and Acorns will recommend a diversified portfolio.

Acorns helps your investments grow.

How it helps

This micro-saving and investing app kick-starts your savings by using your spending habits as a way to invest. It’s a great way to dip your toes into investing before you decide to level up to full-blown stock trading. And you’ll be surprised how fast all these micro-investments start to add up.

How to include in your routine

Connect the debit card that you use most often for regular minor purchases, and you’re on your way to building up an investment portfolio!

One of the keys to successful saving is to set it up automatically, and then ignore it. That way you won’t be tempted to pull out money you should be saving. So unlike other apps on this list that require regular attention, you’ll find Acorns works best when you just try to forget that it’s there.

Cost

$1 per month for accounts with a balance of less than $5,000. and 0.25% for accounts over that amount.

Clarity Money Will Help You Unload Your Long-Forgotten Spin Class  

Clarity Money helps you take back control of your finances by discontinuing unused services or getting you deals by re-negotiating for better rates.

After all, the best way to start saving money is to stop spending it—especially on wasteful expenses.

Clarity helps you stop wasting dollars.

How it helps

With Clarity, you’re going to take a long hard look at your monthly expenses. That fancy gym you haven’t been back to in three months? Might be time to hand in your 31-day cancellation notice. That video editing course on Lynda that you thought you’d have completed by now? Maybe pause your account and put that $29.99 monthly payment to better use.

You might be thinking, “Doesn’t Mint already handle most of these tasks?” And isn’t adding on Clarity overkill?”

I say, “Overkill is underrated—.” Especially when it comes to your finances. But Clarity does way more than just let you know when you’re spending unnecessarily. Think of it as a digital financial assistant. It can help you cancel unused subscriptions, suggest better ways to save, and help lead you on the road to financial security.    At the very least, I recommend using Clarity’s spending tracker and their tool to monitor your subscriptions. Try it out for a couple of months.

How to include it in your routine

Like other big-picture management apps, the key to Clarity is to integrate it into your regular routine. These apps will help you get a handle on your finances, but only if you use them!

Weekly

Check in with Clarity Money on a weekly basis, at least when you’re getting used to it. You’ll want to take note of its spending suggestions right away, as the sooner you cut out wasteful spending the more money you’ll have on hand.

Monthly

After your first month or two with Clarity, you should be fine settling into a monthly routine. You’ll have eliminated unnecessary payments, and you’ll be well on your way to more sensible spending. A monthly check in with your virtual advisor at Clarity Money should help you stay on the right track!

Cost

Clarity Money is completely free! So give it a try.

A Day in Your New Financial Life

So what would a day of your new financial routine look like?

6:27 am – your alarm goes off.

7:02 am – you check your iPhone. Mint has sent you an alert that your credit card bill is coming due. You decide to pay it right away to give you peace of mind.

8:06 am – you stop by your favorite local coffee shop before jumping on the bus. Your daily Americano runs you $3.52. You pay by debit and Acorns rounds that up to $4.00 and invests the remaining $0.48 into your portfolio.

12:05 pmMint sends you another alert to warn you that your checking account is running a little low. Time to transfer some funds over from savings with a few taps on your phone.

4:47 pm – You meet up for happy hour with two of your besties. After two rounds of cocktails and some appetizers, the bill shows up. To keep it simple you pay the total. A few hours later both friends deposit their share directly into your account via Cash App.

8.14 pm – You’re sitting at home watching Netflix, and you get distracted reviewing the goals that you set in YNAB. It looks like you’re falling a little short on that planned Memorial Day Weekend trip. Time to make your morning coffee at home for the next few weeks!

Incorporating a budget into your daily life makes everything easier, and these apps help you do it. If you’re ready to take control of your finances, try our routine as a starting point!