I’ve talked about budgeting and money on this blog on several occasions, mostly exclaiming how I’m bad at it. While I’m good at saying, “Hey Lauren… maybe you don’t need three bridles…” I lack the overall budgeting discipline that many of my friends seem to be born with.
Before 2014, I’m pretty sure my checking account only existed so I could check out how much shit I could afford to buy. My credit cards existed in a constant state of a significant but not exactly alarming balance, and let’s not even talk about my 401k. In case you’re doing the math – no, I was not fresh out of college. Yes, I was too old to be treating my money like this.
Towards the middle of last year, I decided it was time to get my shit together. I buckled down and paid off my credit card, and started doing this crazy phenomenon called “saving.” This paid off in a great way, because I faced my life crisis over the summer with my baseline in the green instead of the struggle bus I had been driving for years.
However, recently I realized that for the first time in my life I’m facing a financial future by myself. Despite my attempts to convince the dogs they need to get a part-time job, efforts remain futile at this time. I went straight from a privileged college student getting help from her parents to a person co-habituating and sharing expenses with their life partner. By the time we were married, my husband made a decent salary and my financial responsibilities lifted even more.
Though I am anxious a lot, not much scares me about my new life… with this one exception. I know I have my parents as a safety net, but looking out to an unknown horizon with my financial landscape moving and shaking on a daily basis is a daunting task.
So naturally I start scurrying around pulling change out of the couch and thinking to myself, How will I do this? Since selling my #1 financial drain (looking at you nerd horse) isn’t an option, I did the next best logical thing – turn to the internet.
I’ve turned to two financial apps that I really like. While I’m not a financial guru and this isn’t a financial blog, I know I’m not the only one out there struggling with trying to adult properly. I consider these tools to keep in my back pocket to help me out in the background while I pick up another Venti Black Iced Tea at Starbucks or a Likit for Simon.
Digit gets a five star review from me… and then some. This is actually a a web service versus an app, but it’s smartly integrated with your phone. To use Digit, you connect your checking account (I did the research and they are safe/legit/blah blah) to the online service. This takes a minute, and works with most biggish banks. Then Digit will basically data mine your spending habits through your checking account. It will try to determine your spending habits, and squirrel away small amounts of money into a savings account.
The amounts range, but my personal average deposit is $15. Digit takes a deposit every 3-5 days (my average is 2.25 days), and they promise a “No Overdraft Guarantee.” If Digit causes you to overdraft your checking account, they will pay your overdraft fee. The service updates you via text message. Every day I get a text from Digit saying how much is in my checking account, and it also alerts me when large payments or transfers have cleared. You can text it simple commands like “Savings” to get an exact number on what it has saved for you. There’s no app to install, so it doesn’t hog space on your device.
There’s no fee to use Digit, but the “catch” is that they keep the interest on your savings account in order to pay for the service. Since my bank’s savings account interest is .01%, I definitely don’t mind “paying” the few cents to Digit for this service. You can move the money back to your checking anytime you need it. If you’re interested, sign-up for Digit here! Yes, that’s a referral link but I also genuinely find this super helpful for a rainy day fund.
Unlike Digit, Acorns is an actual app to install on your device or you can choose to just use the web platform. While Digit is for saving, Acorns is for investing. Their gimic is that the app, once connected to your checking account, automatically rounds up on all of your debit expenses. The $2.49 I spend at Starbucks turns into $3.00, and Acorns sets aside the excess for investing. I did a lot of research before signing up for this, and suggest you do the same on a real financial site. Here are my takeaways in plain English:
- Acorns is a great “intro to investing” or starter 401k
- Unlike a 401k you may use through work, Acorns is not pre-tax… you will pay taxes on what you earn through this
- Acorns charges $1 per month to manage your investments
- This is probably not going to make you rich or settle your retirement, but it’s better than doing no investing
When I set Acorns up, I decided to throw $20 a month at it plus all the round ups from my debit card purchases. I use my debit card a lot, so that added up to about an additional ~$40 invested. Acorns will ask you some questions to determine how you’d like to use the funds, and they’ll suggest a portfolio for you. Acorns wanted me to be “Moderate” but I was all, “Hell no my husband died and I need to not be poor!” I upped it to “Moderate Aggressive” and now obsessively watch the line chart on a daily basis. To be honest, the interface is a little confusing to me and I’m in the hole $2 right now with the ups and downs. My favorite part is a predictive chart that shows you how much your account may earn in 10-20 years. Sure, no investing platform will ever be able to predict huge market recessions… but in reality I’m investing such small amounts of money that I don’t miss it. Who knows, maybe one day it’ll blow up and I’ll get to buy a pony? 😉 If you want to sign-up for Acorns, you can do so here (and yes, that’s a referral link too).
So that’s where I’m at now. Moderately crazy with my money, but trying to be proactive. Have you tried either of these apps or have a financial trick that you really enjoy?