A budget is your income’s best friend. The process of establishing a budget identifies where funds are going. You are then able to isolate areas where the allocation of resources is more efficient. A big piece of financial success is being able to understand and control where income is going, and a budget assists in this process.

With all the benefits provided through budgeting, it is estimated that only 32 percent maintain an active budget, according to Gallop. Unfortunately, this means that the majority of Americans do not have a clear understanding of where their money is going, leaving room for poor money management and overspending. After all, if you don’t know how much you have, it is easy to spend more than is available.

Moving from ‘you know you should’ keep a budget, to successful implementation can be a matter simplifying the process. With a wide range of free apps available, success may be a matter of selecting the most appropriate one for your needs. Apps are often written to be compatible with  both iOS Apple and Android devices as well as Windows and Mac computers and laptops. This added convenience is helping to create an easy system for money management you can consistently follow.

Free apps often include a basic version of the software with additional features and support offered through a monthly fee-based subscription. Apps functioning through synced accounts will capture both debit and credit card purchases and offer manual entry for cash transactions.

Use of a spending tracker may help reduce late fees from missed payments as well as keep you on track with your budget. At a glance, you will be able to view monthly spending in the form of raw data or graphs and charts. Often features allow you to see month to month results as well as quarterly and yearly figures.

Spending Trackers

Spending apps are either automated or manual. Automated trackers sync to your bank account and are the most common form of spending apps. Most allow you to categorize spending, and some add tracking debt reduction as a feature. Automated tracking is convenient because they eliminate most manual entries and give you monthly spending numbers at a glance.

Manual tracking does not require a bank account to be attached, and entries are keyed in as spending occurs. Most offer the same features found in automated apps synced with your bank account.

Set up includes downloading the app, entering account information, and establishing categories that represent spending habits. You then  enter a dollar amount allocated for each category, and the app will track purchases made within each category. You can view spending totals in real time.

Syncing across multiple devices is an added convenience usually offered through a paid subscription and allows you to coordinate spending with someone else or see your account from your phone or laptop.

Envelope System Apps like Mvelopes and Good Budget focus on the budgeting and planning by creating an electronic version of money envelopes. You can track both spending and savings through designated categories from the cost of gas or food to a vacation fund.

 

Manual Entry Apps such as Appxy Pocket Expense and Good Budget, do not require you to sync with a bank account. The Wally app offers the option of manually keying in the expense or scanning the receipt. Manual entry apps are secure because personal account information is not used, but are not as convenient because you must enter expenses manually. Passwords are available but usually not stored with the company, so if the password is forgotten, you will lose access to the account.

Savings and Spending Trackers

One of the biggest benefits to working with a budget is finding savings. Moving ‘found money’ into a dedicated savings account automatically is one of the surest ways to use budget savings for longer term needs. Whether you are looking to build an emergency fund, pay down debt or have money for a vacation, transferring small amounts to a savings account can lead to success.

While each app uses a different strategy, the goal is the same. Transfer small, unnoticeable amounts from checking to savings. Envelope system apps allow you to create a category for savings but do not physically transfer funds, whereas the following savings apps do.

Acorn is synched with both checking and credit card accounts and rounds up all purchases to the nearest dollar, placing funds into low fee ETFs (explain what an ETF is?). The company estimates that app users save between $30 to $180 a month depending on activity, bringing annual savings between $360 to $2,160. Additional lump sum contributions are allowed at any time.

Digit specializes in spending analysis. The app studies your spending patterns and moves small dollar amounts out of your checking into a savings account automatically, based on your habits. When a transfer has occurred, you receive a text notification. Access to savings is available at any time.

Level Money reviews the data you have entered and analyzes the amount of discretionary income you are expected to have and then makes suggestions regarding how much you could add to savings. The app syncs with your checking account but gives you more control over transfers. You may use the autosave feature for automatic transfers.

Investment and Spending Trackers

Mint.com is the industry leader for tracking expenses and investment activity. This app covers every area of your financial life and includes budgeting, saving, and investment portfolios connecting every piece of your financial world in one place. You are required to sync financial accounts to gain access to all activity in one convenient location. The app allows you to develop a budget, monitor spending, get and send alerts, and see progress towards saving and investment goals. A free credit score is available when you enroll.

Fraud and Spending Trackers

Bill Guard tracks spending and has an approval feature that helps to identify fraudulent or unwanted charges almost immediately. Often by the time the credit card or bank statement arrives you are not able to specifically remember where and how much you spent throughout the month. By approving each activity as it happens, you will be able to catch errant charges almost immediately. Whether it is a 30-day trial you forgot to cancel or a charge you did not make, if you see it within 24 hours of making the purchase you are more likely to remember. The app also features a dispute process which makes it easy to correct mistakes.

Credit and Spending Tracker

Credit Karma is the leader in spending and credit tracking. This app tracks spending along with your score and credit report. It offers suggestions on ways to reduce interest rates and improve your credit.

Allowing technological advances to help manage your money can lead t o greater automation and a clearer picture of where your hard earned money is going.

Appxy http://www.appxy.com/pocket-expense/

Good Budget https://goodbudget.com/

Mvelopes https://www.mvelopes.com/

Wally http://wally.me/

Mint https://www.mint.com/

Acorn https://www.acorns.com/

Digit https://digit.co/

Level Money https://www.levelmoney.com/

Bill Guard https://www.billguard.com/

Credit Karma https://www.creditkarma.com/

If you are burdened with high amounts of credit card debt and are struggling to make your payments, or you’re just not seeing your balances go down, call Timberline Financial today for a FREE financial analysis. Our team of highly skilled professionals will evaluate your current situation to see if you may qualify for one of our debt relief programs. You don’t have to struggle with high interest credit card debt any longer. Call (855) 250-8329 or get in touch with us by sending a message through our website here http://timberlinefinancial.com/contact-us/.