wife’s merged finances. He says the app does “a fairly decent job of
looking at your spending, suggesting a budget based on your past
spending and alerting you when you go over that budget.”
One downside of Mint is its boring graphics, says Anderson,
the grad student in Chicago, who tried the app before turning to
LearnVest. “For me, I need things — and I think my generation is
this way — to be bright and fun; Mint didn’t quite have it,” she says.
• LearnVest (Available on the Web and iOS only)
Four-year-old LearnVest touts itself as being designed by
and for women. Along with account tracking and budget
planning, the free version of LearnVest features a library of
personal finance articles. Users can also connect one-on-one
with financial advisors for a $19 monthly fee, plus set-up fees
ranging from $89 to $399, depending on how much contact
you want with the advisor.
Anderson likes LearnVest for its artsy appeal, financial articles
and accessibility via her iPad. “I can read interesting financial news
and check my balances and transactions, all while I’m waiting in
line somewhere or between meetings at work,” she says.
• You Need a Budget (YNAB) (Available on iOS and Android)
Some of Gresham’s clients find this app to be very user-friendly, she says. The mobile app is free but works in conjunction
with a Web-based program that costs $60 to download. The app
requires you to enter and categorize transactions yourself, which
can force you to participate more fully in the budgeting process
and recognize how much you are spending.
• Buxfer (Available on the Web)
This free Web-based app is aimed at 20-somethings and gives
the option of signing up via Facebook,
Yahoo or Google. It tracks transactions
and sends notifications but does not store
your account numbers or passwords. You
can use it to track shared expenses, such as
household costs split among roommates.
No mobile app is available, but there are
customized Web interfaces for mobile
• Mvelopes (Available on the Web,
iOS and Android)
This app is based on the “envelope”
theory of budgeting, where you set aside
money in expense categories. It features a
debt payoff planning tool, which is good
for student loans, and online bill payment.
It’s free, as long as you have no more than
four “envelopes.” Otherwise, an upgrade is
available for $8 to $13 per month.
Of course, just because you use an
online budgeting app doesn’t mean
you will automatically be able to cut
spending and keep your finances in better
order. Moira Somers, PhD, a financial
psychologist in Winnipeg, Canada, points
out that most online budgeting apps “only
tell you where things have gone — they
don’t really set things up for you to be
thoughtful about where you want your
money to go.”
It’s also important to be proactive
about your finances, as limited as they
may be, to avoid future difficulties.
Nonetheless, she adds, “having a
regular way of tracking where things have
gone is a very good first step.” n
Lorna Collier is a writer in Chicago.
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