Have you noticed that there seems to be a sudden wave of financial tools and apps making their way into mainstream finances? We have and like everything else, some of these tools are better than others. You might be surprised to know that three out of four people who use online tools say their spending behaviors have actually changed. We test drove several of them recently and have put together a list of those we think might be able to weather the online saving and spending competition. Take a look –
Mint.com is still a powerful choice for consumers. It offers up categories to allocate budgets each month, such as dining out, utilities and other expenses. It’s a fine way to see exactly where your money’s going each month. And with our new money-disciplined lifestyles, Mint fits in nicely.
Another recent choice is Simple. It’s a newer tool, but it offers a lot of features its competition can’t. It’s heavy on the technology and it relies on its iOS platform and smartphones to ensure consumers are making the most of the program. It’s so forward-thinking, you can even use your phone’s GPS to “tag” your purchases. Use hashtags as reminders as to where money was spent or to explain a deposit – think #grandma for that transfer from her account to yours on your birthday. The Simple Visa debit card is used at no cost at more than 40,000 ATMs around the country and you can take a picture of a traditional check, click “deposit” and then immediately withdraw the cash from an ATM. It’s truly one of the more all inclusive offers out there.
Geezeo is going through a bit of transition. At one time, its focus was on individual banking and credit union members. Now, though, its working with the banks and credit unions instead. It’s worth considering, but frankly, we’re just not sure where it will ultimately “land” in terms of who its focus will be on.
Another relatively new option is Pennyminder. This is often the first choice for families with teens or college students. It’s all about transparency – it allows users to see other family members’ spending while also allowing a jointly managed budget. For now, it only services credit unions.
Live by the calendar? Then check out Pocketsmith. You can schedule all of your financial expenses, set alerts, tools that can help you live by your budget and a convenient catalog that lets you search your purchases from as far back as you wish. It’s a free service, but it also allows a paid subscription with more features.
There’s also a great new platform for those wishing to take advantage of the stock market. It’s simple, has no fees and you can do it all from your Facebook page. Loyal3 designed a platform, Customer Stock Ownership Plan, and it allows companies to incorporate that into their Facebook fan pages. Fans (or website visitors) can then buy a stock or two (or a hundred or more) of that company. Also, stocks are broken down into fractional shares, which means consumers can actually buy less than one share if a share is worth hundreds. It’s being touted as a turning point for the American company and benefits the companies, the customers and the economy as a whole. The company’s mission is to make trading on the stock market easy and available to the 80% of Americans who don’t have access to it now. The customer loyalty it builds is priceless for the company, too.
You Need a Budget was designed for those whose budgets are tight but are still trying to pay down their debt (think college graduates with a lot of student loan debt). Many financial tools are in place that allow customers to budget right down to the last penny. It’s a popular choice for its ease of use and versatility.
Finally, don’t underestimate your credit card‘s or bank’s tools offered on their websites. They too have many financial helpers available for their respective customers. It’s generally free and not only can you better budget your money, but you’ll have easy access to breaking news, press releases and other important information relevant to the company’s customers.
Keep in mind, these are just a few of the hundreds of websites carving their place out on the web. Some are better than others, some are free and some have monthly fees. Treat your search the same way you would if it was a credit card you were in the market for. Research, ask questions, check the site’s security and you might even want to check the Better Business Bureau. Those we found were above board, but you never know- especially when it comes to financial trends. Better to be proactive than reactive.
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