Best Apps to Save Money
As intimidating as it can be, we all know that at some point we’re going to need to take control of our finances. Fortunately, these days we can do our research and download apps that will guide us through this process. Whether you’re looking for a mobile bank, a better way to budget, or support as you build your savings and investments, there’s something out there for you. Here are some of the top money-saving apps on the market today to help you get started.
Overview of the best money-saving apps
|Acorns||Offering an inexpensive way for beginners to invest|
|Chime||Offering no-fee banking services|
|Clarity Money||Notifying users about important financial changes and due dates|
|Digit||Helping people build their savings in small amounts and using it to pay off debts|
|Mint||Ongoing personal financial support|
|You Need a Budget (YNAB)||Helping restructure people’s approach to budgeting and making each dollar count|
Best Money-Saving Apps
Acorns is a financial product that I like to call a great “baby step” to investing. The concept is pretty simple — you connect your debit card or credit card to your Acorns account and let the app do the work for you. Every time you make a purchase, Acorns will round that purchase up to the nearest dollar. The extra change will get added to your Acorns investment account.
So now you have money set aside to invest, but then what? Once your account balance reaches $5, you’ll be able to start investing your money. The app has five investment tiers to choose from, so you can decide what level of risk you’re willing to take with your money. Acorns will invest your money into a variety of exchange-traded funds (ETFs) based on the investment tier you choose.
Acorns also allows you to choose the plan that best fits your needs.
This base plan is only $1 per month and gives you the basic investing structure that Acorns is known for. There is no minimum balance to open the account, and you can begin investing once your account balance reaches $5 from the spare change that you’ve accumulated. You won’t be charged any additional fees for this plan unless your account balance reaches $1 million. At that point, Acorns would start charging an annual fee of 0.25% of your portfolio.
The next level plan gives you the basic investment structure of Acorns Lite, as well as an IRA account called Acorns Later and a checking account called Acorns Spend.
With this plan, you can use Acorns’ Smart Deposit feature to invest more than just your spare change. This allows you to put money into your account directly from your paychecks so you can take your investing one step further.
Acorns Personal costs $3 per month.
For just $5 per month, you can have everything from the Acorns Lite and Personal plans, as well as an investment account for your kids. Acorns Early allows you to channel your investment strategy into saving for your child’s college or other expenses.
With Acorns Early, you can add multiple kids at no additional cost to ensure that everyone is covered. You’ll also have access to family financial advice to be sure that you’re on the right track.
Chime is an online bank that aims to make it easier for you to manage your finances on-the-go. This bank offers all of its services through the mobile app, eliminating the need for physical bank locations. Even better, it offers some services and features that you’re unlikely to find from a traditional bank.
The first thing you can expect from Chime is no hidden fees. That means no minimum amount to open an account, no minimum balance fees, and no monthly fees. Chime also offers SpotMe to eligible account holders, This feature will give you extra protection if you make a purchase that exceeds the amount of money in your account. Chime will “spot” you the money instead of charging you an overdraft fee. Then when your next direct deposit arrives in your Chime account, Chime will apply that deposit to the negative balance of your account. Chime will notify you of your eligibility to enroll in SpotMe after your account has qualifying total monthly direct deposits of $500 or more.
Chime also offers a savings account with a strategy that is similar to Acorns. The Save When You Spend feature automatically rounds up transactions from your Chime checking account to the nearest dollar. This extra change from purchases you make at the grocery store, retailers, Amazon, and, well, anywhere, is put into your Automatic Savings Account. If you use direct deposits, you can set up automatic transfers of a certain percentage of each direct deposit to go into your Savings account. Since your money is being transferred into a savings account, you’ll have access to the money whenever you need it. What's even better is Chime offers one of the best high-yield interest rates with an APY at 1.00% and if FDIC-insured up to $250,000.
Speaking of direct deposits, Chime offers a feature that will allow you to access funds from your direct deposits up to two days earlier than if you deposited your money into a traditional bank account. Chime makes it easy to set this up, providing you with a pre-filled direct deposit form that you can give to your employer. When your direct deposit is available, Chime will send you a notification from the mobile app.
Chime’s Pay Friends feature can take the place of Venmo and other money transfer services, as well. You can transfer up to $2,000.00 per month from your Chime account to friends and family. Your friends and family do not need to be Chime members to receive the money transferred using this feature.
Clarity Money is a budgeting app that can help you get a clearer picture of your finances as well as find strategies to help you save. To use Clarity Money, you need to have at least one account from a financial institution that you can connect to your Clarity Money account. Once you’ve connected your account(s), Clarity Money will show you an account summary of each connected account, including your transactions and available balances. You can connect as many accounts as you want or need.
Like many budgeting apps, Clarity Money can break down your transactions into categories such as entertainment, groceries, and bills. You’ll also have the ability to track your spending based on the company or merchants that you purchase from. One of the unique features of this budgeting app, though, is that it can help you find and manage your recurring subscription payments, such as Netflix and Spotify. This can be a huge asset if you (like many of us) tend to sign up for free trials and then forget all about them once they roll into paying subscriptions! You can even cancel some of these subscriptions in the Clarity Money app itself.
Clarity Money can help you keep track of your personal finances in other ways, too. Instead of passively taking up space on your phone, Clarity Money can give you notifications to make sure that you’re keeping your finances top-of-mind. It can let you know if your spending is trending differently than normal, or if your balance is running low. You can also set up notifications to remind you when you have a credit card payment due to help you avoid getting charged a late fee by the credit card company.
Clarity Money is a relatively risk-free budget app. There are no monthly fees or usage fees, so you can count on it remaining completely free to use. All you need to do to open it is have a qualified bank or credit card account to link to it. There are no minimum deposits or account balances required to open an account.
Digit is an app that aims to help you save money and reach your financial goals. The Digit algorithm takes your micro-savings a little further than some of its competitors. Instead of pulling your spare change into a separate account, Digit uses an algorithm to figure out how much money it can safely transfer from your checking account to your savings account in a personalized account. Even though the algorithm is different, the concept is the same — the app transfers the money for you, so you don’t even have to think about it.
So how does it work? You’ll start by connecting your bank account(s) with Digit. Then Digit will track and analyze your spending habits to figure out how much money you can afford to put into savings. Every few days or so, Digit will pull out the amount of money that it has calculated from your checking account to deposit into your Digit account. If it doesn’t seem like there’s any room to pull money out for your Digit account, Digit won’t make any withdrawals until it seems safe to do so again.
If you have any particular financial or savings goals, you can add those to your Digit account. Then when Digit pulls the money into your account, it can divide it among your goals You can set target dates for your goals if there’s a certain deadline you have in mind. You can also “boost” your goals to let Digit know that you want to add more savings to that goal than to the other goals.
Digit also offers additional help if you’re building your savings in order to pay off debts. For example, if you’re trying to save up to pay off your student loans, you can set this as a goal in your Digit account. You can then connect your student loan servicer account to your Digit account. Digit can then send the money that it has saved toward your goal of paying off your student loan directly to your student loan servicer.
The Digit app is free for your first 30 days, after which you will be charged $5 per month.
Mint is another popular budgeting app that can help you understand your finances and work toward improving them. One of the nice things about Mint is that it’s not solely an app, so you can manage and review your Mint account from your computer as well.
Like many of its competitors, Mint works by connecting with your already existing accounts with financial institutions. As it gathers information from your connected accounts, Mint will show you exactly how much you’re spending and where it’s all going. Mint can even keep track of your student loans, mortgage, and even investment accounts. You can also use Mint to help you manage your bills. Mint can show you a timeline of when your bills are due and how much is due throughout the month. If you’d like to, you can even pay some of your bills directly through Mint.
Although Mint can’t automatically pull money into savings accounts for you, you can set up financial goals within the app and track your progress toward those goals. As Mint learns more about your money and your goals, it can help you by providing recommendations for credit cards, investment accounts, and more. Mint also offers a free credit report summary so you can keep track of your credit score and what it means.
Mint is entirely free to use, and the recommendations it provides can help you save money for years to come.
You Need a Budget (YNAB)
You Need a Budget (YNAB) is budgeting software that has gained a huge, devoted following over the last few years. Instead of focusing on analyzing the money that you’ve already spent, YNAB focuses on helping you properly allocate your money moving forward.
Like other budgeting apps and software, you’ll start by connecting your financial accounts to your YNAB account. Once your accounts have been added, you can start creating your budget. YNAB will give you some suggested categories to start with, but you can customize the categories to fit your needs. You can also add goals to your categories to help you reach financial goals such as making a large purchase or saving up to pay off a debt.
After you’ve set up your accounts and categories, the next step is to assign your dollars. YNAB encourages you to think about what your immediate needs are, meaning the things that you must pay for before your next paycheck comes in. Then, you can start budgeting for other, less immediate expenses that you know will come up later in the month or somewhere else down the line.
Now that you’ve set up your YNAB account, the hard part is to stick to the plan. YNAB offers plenty of resources to help you rethink how you approach money and budgeting to help you succeed in money management. There are videos, podcasts, free workshops, and even an online community that you can use to support your journey as you make your way into a higher net worth and save for a rainy day.
YNAB is available for iPhones, Androids, iPads, Apple Watches, Alexa, and web browsers. It offers a generous free 34-day trial, after which you’ll join a subscription plan.
- The monthly plan is $11.99 per month, billed monthly.
- The annual plan is $84 per year, billed annually.
- Both plans can be cancelled at any time.
|Acorns||$1/mo, $3/mo, or $5/mo depending on plan level||Investing|
|Digit||$5/month after a free 30-day trial period||Savings|
|You Need a Budget (YNAB)||$11.99/mo or $84/yr after a free 34-day trial period||Budgeting|
I’m worried about connecting my bank accounts to random apps. How do I know that it’s safe?
Data privacy is a huge concern in our tech-heavy world, so it’s completely normal to be concerned about this. Most of the apps (like Mint) are transparent about their security practices to help put your mind at ease.
How do I know which app is best for me?
The best way to figure out what you need is to think about the problems that you need to solve. For example, if you’re frustrated by the fees charged by your traditional bank, you may want to look for a mobile banking app like Chime. If you want to start investing but you don’t think you can afford it, Acorns might be something fun to try out. The best app for you is the one that will best help you achieve your financial goals, whatever they may be.
Why should I use an app to save money?
Using budgeting and savings apps can be a great resource if you’re looking for free or inexpensive ways to save money and improve your finances. There are plenty of apps out there to choose from, and while it may seem overwhelming, most offer free trials so you can see which ones offer the features that are most beneficial to you.
These free apps, which work on iOS and Android, can also be a great way to get started if you’re interested in building up your savings or in investing, but you’re not sure how to do it. Apps such as Acorns make it relatively painless to start that journey, and you most likely won’t even miss the “spare change” that is pulled from your account in the round-up platform.
The bottom line
Long gone are the days of sitting in stuffy offices and paying hundreds of dollars for an hour-long financial support session. While you can still do that if you’d like to, there are plenty of apps available today that can help you get control of your finances on your own time. These apps can not only help you assess where your finances are now but also help you create a plan for the future to help you achieve your goals.
When choosing which app to download, it’s important to consider what sort of financial support you’re looking for. Do you need help budgeting your money? Or are you just sick of banks that charge you monthly fees just for having an account? No matter what your pain point is, the chances are that there’s an app out there that can help you feel more at ease.
Arguably, the best part of these apps is that most of them are either free or very inexpensive. At the very least, most of them offer free trials before you need to start paying a subscription fee. Even if it’s not something that you stick with long-term, you could most likely benefit from giving one or more of these apps a try.