The Genius Finance Apps Every Smart Girl Should Use
Illustration by Stephanie DeAngelis
I'm embarrassed to admit that despite interviewing a ton of experts about the importance of managing money, this reporter’s finances are a mess. Every time I research an article that tells me how vital it is to build a backup fund or draft a budget, I get a pang of guilt. But I'm not the only one with avoidance issues. Research shows only 10% of people who are concerned about money check their bank account at least once a month. The ostrich effect is profoundly prevalent among women, says Dr. Kate Levinson, author of Emotional Currency: A Woman's Guide to Building a Healthy Relationship With Money. "Women have been disenfranchised," she tells CNBC. "We've been acculturated to stay dumb about money—legally, and culturally, for generations." Well, that stops now.
To get my finances in check, I didn't turn to a financial adviser but the next best thing: apps. I tested out five leading money apps that promised to be smart, streamlined, and, most importantly, simple. I wanted to discover if they could convert a budgetphobe like myself to a banker in the making (almost). If you've lost control of your spending, sometimes forget to pay your bills, or just want to update the way you manage your money, read on. These are the genius financial apps every smart woman should know about. Best of all, they're free.
The rundown: This app synchs information from your various bank accounts and suggests a monthly spendable budget. It took minutes to set up (I just entered my internet banking username and password), and the app auto-generates past transactions, so you have a ton of financial information at your fingertips from the moment you start using it.
Best feature: The spending tracker. You can customize your own budget categories to find out how much money you spend each month on coffee, transport, or other costs. Every time you make a purchase, the app automatically adds that information to the spending tracker.
Bonus points for: Bringing small, frivolous purchases to my attention. Everything shows up in the feed, so it's hard to ignore recurring costs. Who knew a coffee a day could add up so fast?
Why you'll keep using it: The month-to-month comparison graph is addictive. Once you see an improvement in spending, you'll start to get competitive with yourself.
The rundown: Mint is a one-stop shop for your finances. After you give the app access to your bank accounts, it pulls all the vital information: your savings balance, suggested budget, credit score, cash flow, and spending data.
Top feature: The easy budget feature. Once I entered my bank details, Mint gave me a suggested budget in line with my spending habits. Admittedly, it was a little off ($12 a month on wine? I don't think so), but it was easy to adjust.
Bonus points for: Alerting me about ATM fees. I'd rather put that money toward said wine budget.
Why you'll keep using it: There's a reason why this is one of the most popular free money apps available. It's super easy to use and will hold you accountable to your budget.
The rundown: Wish you could grow your savings without noticing? That's exactly what Digit does. Once linked to your checking account, the app assesses your spending habits and transfers small amounts into a savings account. It updates you via text message and allows you to text back to reverse the transaction or move the savings into a different account. Easy.
Top feature: The simple text message interface. Tinkering in financial apps can be frustrating, but Digit allows you to manage your money via text. Just message withdraw and the money will be moved to an accessible account in one business day.
Bonus points: There are zero fees associated with this app, so you can deposit and withdraw money as often as you like.
Why you'll keep using it: It's easy to set and forget. Effortless savings? Yes, please.
The rundown: This smart app takes a photo of your bill and allows friends to tap on the items they ordered to split the cost (without resorting to math scrawled on a napkin). Link the account up to Venmo to instantly transfer funds.
Top feature: The straightforward interface. Now splitting a check is that much easier. Keep that iPhone calculator in your bag.
Bonus points for: Calculating taxes and the tip, so the costs are distributed evenly throughout your group.
Why you'll keep using it: Because at the end of a meal and two glasses of wine, no one wants to talk math.
The rundown: If you're guilty of missing a deadline Mint Bills (formerly Check) is a savior. After inputting your details, it'll send reminders when bills are due and lets you pay directly through the app.
Top feature: The all-in-one approach. Once you give the app access to your bank and bills, it does the rest. When a payment is due, you can check the statement, see your account balance, and pay the fee in one go.
Bonus points: The credit limit and low fund alert means you’ll never accidentally overdraw your account again.
Why you'll keep using it: It just makes sense. When you start paying bills from one app, the thought of dealing with individual companies and payment methods is baffling. You'll never want to go back.