If your budget is tight, saving money can feel impossible. It might seem like there’s so little breathing room in your budget that savings will never add up to much. The prospect of giving up small comforts now for some vague future gain might sound too punishing to be worth it. Or maybe you want to save, but you’re not sure how to get started. When your financial situation is less than ideal, just thinking about your finances more than strictly necessary can be a source of serious stress. In fact, for many people, feeling overwhelmed about the need to save often makes doing it tougher than it should be. This is where a good money saving app can work some magic. Money-saving apps are great tools for overcoming the psychological barriers to saving. With these mental hurdles removed, users are often surprised at how successfully they can save. Here are five apps that can help you start saving now by thinking about it less:
Chime offers online and mobile banking, with some nifty features to make saving easy. Sign up for linked Spending and Savings accounts through Chime and you’ll gain access to built-in savings features you can use to stash money aside automatically. For example, you can opt to round up all purchases on your Chime Visa Debit Card to the nearest dollar and sweep that change into your Savings Account. You can also choose to automate savings every time you get paid by designating a percentage of every direct deposit to send to your Savings Account. Other apps offer an automatic round-up savings feature, but Chime integrates this into your banking seamlessly in one simple package. The app and accounts are free with no minimum balances required.
The Acorns app also bases its money-saving power on rounding up your purchases to the nearest dollar. But rather than putting aside the difference into a savings account, Acorns transfers that change from your linked checking account into an Acorns investment account. You set preferences for investing ranging from conservative (likely lower-yield but lower-risk) to aggressive (potentially higher-yield but also higher-risk) and the app will automatically allocate your money accordingly into a portfolio of stocks and bonds. Along with the round-up feature, Acorns also lets you set up regular periodic transfers to your investment account. The Acorns app is free and its basic investment account costs $1 per month. Other account offerings cost $2 or $3 per month, including a retirement investment account option.
Qapital is similar to Chime in offering online and mobile banking with automatic savings tools as built-in options. But what makes Qapital unique is its array of customizable savings “Rules” that can take savings from painless to actually fun. Many of these work by connecting to other apps on your smartphone. For example, you can set a Rule to save money every time you hit your daily Fitbit step goal – celebrating physical health by making a contribution to your financial health. Or you can “punish” yourself (in a good way) for overusing Facebook by setting a Rule to save money every time you create a new post. You can do the same for every time you buy a coffee at Starbucks, and so on. Qapital’s Rules help make saving money feel less like a chore and more like a game for many of its users. Qapital’s app is free but membership is required for online banking. A basic membership costs $3 per month.
4. Tip Yourself
Tip Yourself is similar to Qapital in that the app works to make saving money feel like a fun reward. Tip Yourself is simpler and focused on positivity and goal-setting, with a social media feed to help provide community support. With Tip Yourself, you link a checking account to a Tip Jar, which is essentially a savings account. You decide when you deserve a tip, and anytime you do, you simply open up the app and make a quick contribution. Tip Yourself isn’t automated, so it requires active thought in order to make progress with saving. On the other hand, it can help you think of saving small amounts incrementally as a way to celebrate accomplishments big and small, creating positive psychology around savings and helping you reach your financial goals, too. The app and account are both free.
Digit automates savings in a unique way, using an algorithm to analyze your financial habits in your linked checking account. You set specific financial goals and the algorithm determines how much you can afford to save, then makes transfers automatically into a Digit savings account, two or three times a week. The idea is that you tell the app what you want to accomplish – whether that’s paying off credit cards or saving up for a vacation – and Digit will whisk away transfers you won’t even notice, helping you achieve your goal. The app is free but service costs $5 per month after an initial 30-day trial period.