Whether you're digging yourself out of debt, saving for a specific goal or trying to get a better handle on your budget, there's an app to help you reach your financial goals. We scoured the internet to see which apps are winning the most acclaim.
Your Bank's App
Most major banks, credit card companies and investment companies now have them and experts say they're a good place to start. Checking balances, making transfers and paying bills is just the beginning. You can check on your investments, find the nearest branch or bank machine and access a variety of other tools such as mortgage calculators.
Mint.com is the darling of the online budgeting world so it's no surprise that the app has received so much acclaim. Like the online tool, Mint lets you connect all of your accounts in one place to track and categorize your spending, pay bills, check your balances and double-check your budget before you buy. You can also set up reminders for upcoming payments and receive low account balance notifications.
The ability to sync your account with your smart phone, tablet and computer has another bonus: you can go online to disable the app on your devices if you lose them.
Many financial experts advocate using envelopes or jars as visual aids to tame spending -- but perhaps you want to go high tech? EEBA lets you create a budget system using up to 20 virtual Envelopes for regular and irregular expenses. Then, you record your spending and the app keeps a running total. You can check your Envelope balance before spending, and there's no need to connect your bank accounts or put your information at risk.
The app can sync with multiple devices so all members of the household can work with a common budget. If you're worried about data loss, the app automatically backs up data online too.
Widely popular YNAB used to be for desktops only, but now you can extend much of its functionality to your smart phone and tablet too. (You will need the latest version of the software to use the app, however.) You can check your budget and enter transactions on the go, and the app will automatically sync to your desktop when there's an internet connection available.
Want to try it before you buy? The YNAB software is available for a one-month trial (and costs $50 to purchase) and users can download a free version of the app known as YNAB Lite.
Receipts ( iTunes)
Whether you're tracking expenses for work or home, this app makes it easy to manage all those receipts. Using the camera in your device, the app lets you take a picture of the receipt or bill and enter relevant details on the spot. Not only will it record the date and location of your transaction, it will add up expenses in different categories as well. Consider the app a digital archive of receipts that you can search, print, email and export to other programs.
If you don't have an Apple product, there are similar apps available for other devices as well -- such as Smart Receipts Pro (Android).
If you're looking for an expense tracker that's more robust, experts pick this app for the additional features. For example, you can use a variety of currencies, calculate vehicle mileage, track spending trends and see how much room you have left in your budget -- among many other reporting features. When you need to claim expenses, you can export data to a CSV or HTML file -- complete with a digital copy or your receipt.
And good news for your New Year's resolutions: the app is on sale for $1.99 this holiday season.
Debt Manager (iTunes)
This app is one of many that use the "Debt Snowball" method to help you get your debts under control. Simply enter your loans and payment information, set priorities and start playing with the numbers. You can try out some different scenarios -- such as a rise in interest rates or increasing your payments, for example. Debt Manager also lets you see how much time and interest you're saving, plus keeps you motivated by charting your progress.
The app also has tips and instructions to guide you through the process, plus it lets you create customized reports of your payment history.
Borrowed a few bucks from a co-worker to cover lunch, or lent a friend cab fare? This app lets you keep track of debts big and small. You add a contact or "account" and then enter the details of what is owed to you or what you owe to someone. You can keep track of partial payments, and set up email reminders.
This app isn't just about money -- it's a handy way to keep track of items as books, tools and movies that you borrow and lend. (You can even add a picture.) You can also note if you owe someone a phone call or an email, or whose turn it is to bring food to games night.
Canada Taxes & Tip Calculator ( iTunes)
Ever been surprised by the bill at the cash register, or unsure of how much to tip? This app is a step above your usual calculator because it incorporates tax rates for every province -- allowing you to calculate the final cost before you buy. When you're eating out or using a service, you can calculate using a tip using a pre-set amount or enter your own.
There are plenty of publications offering apps that let you track the latest market data and news affecting the markets, but this app goes one step further and helps you track your favourite companies and indices over time.
The content isn't just articles: listen to interviews with experts, watch featured videos and tune in to the 24/7 TV network through your device.
Before you download…
These apps are just a few examples of the hundreds of options available -- there's bound to be something available that suits both your devices and your preferences. Before you buy it or try it, consider:
- Does this app meet your needs? Developers can pile on the features, but the best app for you is one that you'll use on a regular basis. Read the user reviews, consider the screen shots and see if there are any demos or tutorials online.
- Is the app available in your country? Financial apps aren't necessarily universal -- we found many popular apps that weren't available in Canada and didn't mesh with Canadian banking institutions or financial regulations.
- Should you pay or not? Many apps have "free" and "pro" or "deluxe" editions. The upgraded versions often have additional features you may or may not find useful, but they're also free from ads.
- How secure is the app and how much person information are you required to enter? How secure is your device? Beware of any app asking for your account passwords -- they could be fraudulent or could invalidate any protections you have through your bank.
As with any technology or application, not everyone will find these apps useful or helpful. Ultimately, it's important to find a system that works for you -- whether it's a pen and paper or the latest app.
Additional sources: AppAdvice.com, CNN Money, the Globe and Mail
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