Being bogged down by bills seems a commonality among many of our sources of stress. There’s rent to pay, groceries to buy, insurance premiums to cover, utilities to keep on, car payments to satisfy … the list goes on. After throwing your precious money at all of the above, it’s hard not to #treatyoself with what’s left. Then you remember there are savings accounts and retirement funds that you should probably show a little love, as well.
Personally speaking, it wasn’t until I was about 25 when I finally got serious about going beyond the minimum (AKA paying the bills) and made a deliberate effort to save and budget with more rigidity. Though I’m far from perfect, I now contribute monthly to a Roth IRA, have set up a recurring deposit into a separate account allocated for travel, and am all squared away on that oft recommended six-months-plus savings cushion.
One thing I’ve learned along the way is that the best way for me to save money is to do it mindlessly. A prime example: those automated deposits that take place whether I remember to sign into my account or not. Clearly, others find ease in the “mindless saving” technique, too, because numerous apps doing precisely that have cropped up. Whether you’re saving for emergencies, a vacation, a new gadget or you simply want the satisfaction of watching money accumulate in your account, these apps will help you get the job done.
Digit is one of the first apps of its kind: Based on your spending and bank balance, its algorithm predicts how much money it can extract from your primary checking account without you noticing. About three to five times a week, a small sum will be deposited into your Digit account and, in a matter of months, you’ll have a nice sum awaiting you. I’ve found that it takes between $300 and $400 out of my account monthly, which, over time, can add up quickly. Some may ask, “Why not just funnel a set amount into a savings account instead of the incremental saving?” The answer is that Digit takes the thought work out of figuring out just how much you can safely tuck away.
Acorns is different from other apps on this list because it invests your deposits into the market. It’s also very customizable in terms of how much you want to save. A popular feature is to simply invest “round ups” on all your purchases. For example, if you spend $15.75 at the grocery store, it’ll deposit .25 cents into your Acorns account. This, of course, feels like a negligible amount of money at the end of the day. I’ve found that it usually equates to $6 to $15 per week, though. You can also have a recurring deposit made, which would increase the amount you’re investing. The downside: You probably won’t make a ton of money off “round up” investments, but you still have to report any gains or losses at tax time.
I like Qapital because it turns saving money and budgeting into a more interactive and rewarding experience. It works by setting up “rules” you must follow that allow you to save more money. For example, one of their rules is to round up purchases like you do in the Acorns app, and they say the average user saves about $45 a month when they do. Another rule is to “charge yourself for guilty pleasures.” This helps you curb bad spending habits by charging yourself when you do give in to those guilty pleasures. You can also set a rule to spend less than a certain amount in a particular category. If you come in under budget in that category, the leftover money is then funneled toward your goal. Speaking of which, the “goal” aspect sets this savings app apart from others by allowing you to save for something specific, such as that new DSLR or a trip to Mexico.
This app combines saving money with building good lifestyle habits. In a way, watching your savings grow feels doubly as rewarding since each deposit is a reflection of healthy decisions. For example, if you make it to yoga class, hit your 10k step goal, meet an enormous deadline at work or finally deep clean your bathroom, you can give yourself a tip within the app. The tips don’t have to be huge, either. The default options, in fact, are $1, $2, $5 and $10. I do like the feature that allows you to enter your own amount, though. For example, if I decide to make food at home versus eating out, I’ll tip myself the amount I saved in doing so. There’s also a social aspect to this app that allows you to interact with friends and other users.
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