With a new year comes new goals. At the beginning of the year, money is at the top of the list; by the end of the year, we’re not thinking about saving until we’re practically counting out dimes to make it to the next payday. But it doesn’t have to be this way; make your finances a part of your spring-cleaning. Financial goals require discipline, sacrifice and knowledge. Admittedly, the discipline and sacrifice parts are much easier said than done, but finding the right resources…not so much. Below are a few tools that can help you clean up your act and eventually navigate your journey to fiscal freedom.
None of us need to be told that we spend too much money and we certainly know we need to cut back, but we could use some help figuring out exactly where our money goes. After all, you can’t fix what you can’t measure. In comes Mint.com. Most of you have probably heard of Mint through friends and colleagues, but you won’t understand its amazingness until you try it. Mint does an excellent job of tracking and categorizing your spending, and allows you to create monthly budgets for different items such as groceries, entertainment, rent, etc. It also sends you alerts when you overspend in different categories, which helps keep your finances in check. Consistency in finances in key, and this budgeting tool is a terrific place to start.
LearnVest is another robust tool to first bring some order to your finances, and then help you reach your financial goals. Many of you have probably already found some value from LearnVest’s popular articles on Levo League. In addition to their advice blog, LearnVest has a number of different features. Much like Mint.com, LearnVest allows you to link your accounts, track your spending, make budgets and set goals. But it goes one step further by offering access to Certified Financial Planners with three reasonably priced programs: a Budget Starter, the 5-Year Planner, and the Portfolio Builder—each of which is customized to your current financial situation. Whether you prefer to work independently or with an expert, LearnVest was designed to set you up for success.
Even with the right resources, personal finance can be intimidating, so it may be easier to start small. If you’re someone who wants to know how much you have to spend and how much you have to save, Level was made for you. It automatically detects your income and your bills, and from there it tells you how much you have to spend each day so that you don’t deplete your funds. It also estimates how much you will have left over at the end of every month–what we call the “extra” fund. Level makes for a smooth introduction to personal finance.
Once you have managed to control your spending and actually start saving money, you will start to think about taking it a step further—investing. Many of us want to invest, but have no idea where to start, and Betterment is the perfect solution. Betterment does the heavy lifting for you as it walks you through the processes involved with investing. It gets you started as an investor by teaching you about the markets and all of their components with just a few simple steps. First, create your account. Then set a goal. From there, you decide how you to allocate your money (stocks or bonds). Finally, make a deposit and you’re on your way. Betterment also sends you regular updates on your account’s activity, such as receiving dividends or rebalancing your portfolio. If you want help down the road, the app also has and advice blog and activity tracker, which lets you see how your investments are doing.
There are plenty of different apps out there to help you manage your money. With all the options available, it’s hard to settle on just one to suit all your needs. You may also find that you get the most out of these apps by using them together. Ultimately, it’s up to you to choose which system is best. These apps give you the information, tools, and options you need to make sound decisions; the discipline and sacrifice required to act on them is on you.
Here’s to the road to fiscal freedom.