XY Planning Network advisors and administrators love their apps and tools. And for good reason - as technology continues to exponentially improve, we have more and greater access to helpful programs and applications that make countless aspects of our lives easier and we're able to work more efficiently.
Many of our financial planners make use of a variety of technologies to make their practice better for themselves and their clients. They're able to communicate more effectively with a range of people - regardless of location. They're able to automate less important, back-end tasks so they're free to spend more time doing what really matters: namely, providing relationship-based services to you and me.
With a wide array of helpful tools at our disposal, it's never been easier to manage our financial lives in between meet-ups with our financial planners. Why not take advantage of the tech that's available? Especially if it means we find it easier to...
- Save money
- Track spending
- Create budgets
- Pay bills
- Set financial goals
- Earn cash or rewards
Here are 5 of our favorite, free money management tools that help us track our finances so we can focus on growing our wealth:
For Budgets and the Big-Picture View of Your Finances: Mint
Mint is a free budgeting program that tracks almost every aspect of your finances. It creates a centralized spot so you can see what's going on across bank accounts, credit cards, and more, all in one place.
It's widely known as the best resource for managing your finances via a free account with their website (they also have mobile apps for tablets and smartphones).
The program is simple and easy to use, and visually it can't be beat. Mint will provide a number of graphs and charts for you to review, which makes this a perfect tool for people who learn visually. Sometimes, it's hard to really get it when you're just looking at a mass of numbers. Mint makes it easy to see what's happening, where money is coming from, and where cash is going.
Mint is completely automated, which means once you input your financial information it takes the reins. The app automatically sorts and categorizes all your spending and cash flow.
It can even suggest ways that you can save based off your financial habits, or you can input financial goals you want to reach and Mint will outline a plan for you to use to achieve them.
The only drawback? You do have to sync information like account and card numbers, which not everyone feels comfortable doing. Although Mint is a secure, safe site that encrypts information to protect their customers and accounts, the fact is all your financial information is being stored in one spot. While that's convenient, it is something know about before signing up.
For Organizing Your Financial Life: Check
Feeling stressed about keeping track of all your many bills, statements, and other financial documents? Check has you covered.
Much like Mint, Check works best when you input all your account information into the system so that it can track your big-picture financial situation for you.
It's a perfect tool for those who are a little forgetful and are comfortable using their smartphones to do business. Check reminds you when it's time to pay bills and allows you to pay bills instantly, on the spot. It also allows users to establish scheduled payments for the future.
Check keeps track of things like your checking account, too, and will alert you when funds are low. With this tool, you can stay on top of everything, keep yourself organized, and avoid late fees and overdraft charges.
Link Mint, Check uses a whole lot of security to protect account information. However, it is still everything in one place. That's convenient, but users should remain diligent. Just make sure you're regularly checking what's going on with your accounts (a good habit to practice whether or not you upload information to an app) and you should be set.
For Reaching Savings Goals: Smarty Pig
If you're having trouble tracking multiple savings goals at all once, Smarty Pig may be the money management tool you need.
Smarty Pig provides customers with free online savings accounts. The company encourages "systematically saving for specific purchases." In other words, you're supposed to utilize a Smarty Pig savings account to help you reach one savings goal at a time. If you need to save up to buy a new laptop, to go on a dream vacation, or for a down payment on a home, Smarty Pig
The accounts, while a little different than traditional accounts offered by brick-and-mortar banks, are FDIC insured and fee-free. They're also interest-bearing and require a $25 initial deposit. After that, you need to link up another bank account and set up automatic transfers to your online savings until your goal is met.
Smarty Pig allows you to share your goal via social media. While this might sound like a bit of over-sharing, most people are more likely to stick to a goal if they share it with friends and family (who can then help hold that individual accountable). Your network can even contribute to your account to help you reach your savings goal even faster.
An added benefit of using this tool to help you reach one-time financial goals? When you cash out your account, Smarty Pig offers rewards when you make your purchase (if you were saving up for something tangible) through one of their partners.
For Saving on Purchases: RetailMeNot
Clipping coupons can cost you more in time than it will save you in cents at the store, but RetailMeNot makes it quick and simple to score items below retail price.
With this free app, you can quickly check to see what coupons are available for a particular item or retailer. RetailMeNot can help you save in stores and online, as it shows coupon codes, too.
The app is set up so you can search and browse through their database for something specific, or you can view the day's "hot deals" section to see what's featured.
Make sure you use RetailMeNot with caution - coupons have a funny way of fooling us into thinking we're saving big bucks. But if you never planned to make a particular purchase in the first place, you're just out the cash you blew on buying something you didn't need.
For Keeping Up with Your Rewards: Award Wallet
Do you participate in multiple rewards programs in order to score freebies and save money? Smart consumer move on your part; give yourself a quick pat on the back for taking advantage of the offers some companies put on the table for their customers.
But it can get complicated to keep track of multiple rewards. Enter Award Wallet, an app that helps you organize and track things like airline miles, hotel points, and rewards you racked up for credit card purchases.
Your rewards points and miles can save you big bucks when you accumulate them over time, so use Award Wallet to help you keep up with your balances and what you have available to redeem.
What are your favorite money management tools? Any awesome apps we should know about that help people save, earn, or track money?
Editor's Note: The original version of this post contained information on Manilla as a great organizational service. We updated the content and replaced this tool with another. as Manilla announced they would be closing their doors on July 1, 2014.