Adulthood comes with certain freedoms and financial responsibilities.
Not only do you have car insurance, car payments and groceries to pay, but you may have student loans, health insurance, credit card bills, rent or mortgage and what seems like an endless list of monthly expenses, not to mention other spending habits like shopping and eating out.
Our hectic lives often leave little time for scribbling a budget or reviewing your checkbook, but there’s a convenient tool tucked in your back pocket or purse that takes care of all that for you – your smartphone.
Hundreds of apps available on different platforms effortlessly help keep you financially smart, tracking and monitoring finances. Since these mobile tools are increasingly becoming virtual vaults of personal and financial information, it’s a good idea to learn how to protect your data.
Most U.S. smartphone owners use a multitude of apps on their devices from playing games to finding the best shopping deals in town or on the Internet. The least used apps among users across the globe are from news organizations or those developed to aggregate news stories.
Convenient Personal Finance Apps
The Nielsen 2013 Mobile Consumer Report shows 53 percent of Americans who own a mobile phone use a smartphone. These devices have brought nearly every aspect of a desktop computer to the palms of your hands.
Smartphone owners mostly use their devices for texting, web browsing, emailing, social networking and downloading applications. Banking and finance apps are the sixth most popular applications downloaded by American smartphone users, the report shows.
Personal finance apps have many different uses and tools to help you stay on track. Here is a selection of popular apps:
- Banking Apps: Most banks offer free apps for quickly accessing your accounts. These apps let you deposit checks, monitor latest transactions, pay bills and transfer money, among other services.
- Mint: Personal finance website, Mint.com, offers its own free app that tracks your spending, sends alerts about bills and budgeting, and also monitors your savings goals. Mint pulls all of your financial information from your bank accounts into one app and categories your spending habits for you. Financial software giant Intuit, known for its secure suite of programs, including Quicken, TurboTax and QuickBooks, runs Mint. Available for Android and iOS.
- Easy Envelope Budget Aid (EEBA): A free virtual version of the envelope budgeting system. The app creates envelopes for your spending categories on your device. You enter the monthly budget for each envelope at the start of the month. Every time you purchase something, you enter the amount and it’s deducted from that envelope. You can also create just one envelope for the month, instead of assigning categories. This app can sync up to two devices, making it ideal for a couple trying to stay on top of their finances. Available for Android and iOS.
- SaleQ: Shoppers can use this free app to calculate the final price of an item on sale. You simply enter the store price of the item in the virtual keypad, set the sale to the correct percentage and change the sales tax percentage, if needed. Additional discounts can also be applied. Staying within your budget is much easier with this app. Available only for iOS.
- RetailMeNot: If shopping is your budget weakness, this app allows you to browse top coupons for the most popular stores and receive alerts when your favorite stores have a new deal. It also lets you store the coupons you’ve found for when you have more spending money. No more cutting and shuffling around paper coupons in the checkout line. Available for Android and iOS.
Dangers of Carrying Virtual Vaults of Personal Information
Since most of these personal finance tools that access sensitive information require a password and other security measures to log in, banking and budgeting on your phone or a computer can be risky.
The 2013 Mobile Consumer Habits survey shows 65 percent of American smartphone users are concerned with theft of personal information. That’s why nearly half of American smartphone owners protect access to their phones with passwords, according to the study.
If you use any financial apps, don’t forget to log out when you’re done with your session. Although most financial apps shut off access after some minutes of inactivity, not logging off could put your information at risk if someone else uses your device.
Some budgeting apps can’t access personal banking information, but they might show unauthorized users how and where you spend your money, making you more susceptible to fraud and identity theft.
Always remember to not save any personal information on your device, including passwords to accounts. It’s always a good idea to use a password to access your smartphone, even after a few seconds of inactivity.
Another responsibility of adulthood in a time of technological advances is spotting the differences between what’s legitimate and what isn’t. While iTunes and Google Play feature thousands of apps for your devices, some of these reliable ones have been pulled because they accessed users’ information without permission.
There are plenty of app reviews available on the Internet through iTunes, Google Play and other third-party websites dedicated to reviewing apps.
As the popularity of smartphones increases, so will the use of personal financing on mobile devices. If you take the right precautions, mobile banking can be convenient, easy and free. However, without the right precautions, you may be putting yourself and finances at risk. Be smart and mobile on.
Kaitlyn Fusco fell in love with writing in elementary school, and that love never abated. She graduated Magna Cum Laude with a journalism degree from the University of Central Florida and is all too experienced in the subject of student loan debt.