Editor’s note: This is a recurring post, regularly updated with new information.
When all you have is a debit card, checking how much you’re spending and how much money you have left is easy. Your bank account balance almost immediately reflects your transactions in one place. But when you add credit cards into the mix — as you should, as soon as you’re able to use them responsibly — things get a little more complicated. Your bank account balance might read $1,000, but if your credit cards have balances of $600 on them, it’s easy to fool yourself into thinking you have more money than you actually do. Throw in balances in apps like Venmo, Apple Pay Cash or even savings in Robinhood or Acorns, and things get even more convoluted.
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But fear not! There are several good ways of helping keep track of your assets and liabilities, or your net worth. Here are a few to help keep your spending in order.
Mint is still one of the most popular spending apps on the marker. Everything is laid out neatly in the app and the desktop versions. Like most other money-organizing apps, Mint keeps track of your account balances by linking all your credit cards, your bank accounts and/or Venmo, loans, investments and even property. At any given time, you can check Mint and see exactly how much money you have across all your accounts.
Mint allows you to personally categorize your transactions across all your accounts to better paint a picture of your spending habits, whereas your credit card statement might only sort transactions into a handful of less-specific categories. This feature also helps when sorting Venmo transactions, as you can differentiate between the $50 you earned helping your friend move and the $50 you were reimbursed after paying for lunch.
From a credit score perspective, Mint helps you stay on top of everything from the factors affecting your score to your outstanding bills, their due dates and your total available credit. The service also advertises cards that fit your credit profile and spending habits.
Related reading: How credit scores work
One of Mint’s most useful features is the budgeting tool. You can use the same categories that filter transactions to create a specific monthly budget. Mint will send you notifications if you go over your budget in certain categories, and it’s easy to log in and see your progress. There’s also a goals feature, which allows you to set specific savings goals and track the progress you’ve made.
PocketGuard is very similar to Mint, offering both an app and a desktop service to help you keep on top of your spending, net worth, budget and goals. While PocketGuard isn’t as well laid-out as Mint, you still can categorize your transactions any way you’d like, and the app will help you stay within your budget by sending notifications and providing visuals to show you how much you’re spending overall and within each category.
On the downside, PocketGuard doesn’t show your credit score and lacks some basic functionality. While it’s still a good option for finding your net worth and keeping track of your spending, there’s nothing that PocketGuard offers that you can’t get using Mint.
Cost: Free (a PocketGuard Plus version with additional features like pocket cash tracking is available for $3.99 a month or $34.99 a year).
Unlike Mint and PocketGuard, Albert is an app with no desktop version. Albert acts somewhat as a personal financial assistant, sending you texts and notifications about your spending habits, budget and bills.
Like with PocketGuard and Mint, you can sort your transactions into customizable categories to help you better budget and track spending. You can easily find your net worth, and the app creates an “Albert Score” to show you how well you’re meeting your budgeting goals.
Albert places a particular emphasis on saving, encouraging you to put aside money in a rainy day fund by automatically depositing set amounts of cash into a savings account on a regular basis.
Cost: Free (Genius membership, which gets you access to personalized advice from a team of financial experts, is available for a small monthly fee that you decide upon sign-up).
YNAB (you Need A budget)
YNAB, one of the most popular personal finance apps, follows the principle that every dollar needs a job. Through their app (available in both the App Store and Google Play), desktop site and Amazon Echo add-on you can manage your budget.
The four rules YNAB enforces are:
- Give every dollar a job
- Embrace your true expenses
- Roll with the punches
- Age your money
Users can link their personal accounts so their available balances can be put into the software’s debt manager. All of their income and account balances are split up into user created create categories to dedicate funds towards expenses such as groceries or transportation.
YNAB recently began to include API to their services to allow users to access more personalized budgeting features.
The service also offers a collection of videos, articles and daily live workshops to help those interested in budgeting to be successful.
YNAB claims that new users save $600 in the first two months and $6,000 in the first year.
Cost: 34 days free then $11.99/month or $83.99/year
Personal Capital is best known for its investment features. However, this app is also great for budgeting as well. The app allows users to access advice from automated and human financial advisors.
The app also tracks all of your income and expenses which are then separated into categories so you can see where you’re spending money. Some features included in Personal Capital are a retirement planner, asset classes. an analysis of your investment fees.
You can see your net worth, bills that you need to pay and your current portfolio through the dashboard.
If using an app seems like too much of a bother, or if you’d rather track your expenses by yourself, it’s easy to create a spreadsheet in Excel or Google Sheets that keeps track of your net worth.
Creating a spreadsheet is relatively simple. All you have to do is make columns for all of your assets and liabilities, and then create a simple algorithm that calculates the difference. You’ll have to update the information yourself, and it doesn’t have a built-in budgeting feature, but it’s a simple way of making sure you know your net worth.
There are several options out there for helping you manage your money, whether you’re a college kid with a tight budget or a professional with a yearly salary. While some of these apps have paid add-ons, they can all be used without spending a dime.
Having a credit card can often be daunting, as keeping track of your expenses is no long as easy as just checking your bank account app. Don’t get bogged down or intimidated, and don’t succumb to accidentally spending more than you can pay back. Using any one of these apps to organize and track your spending will undoubtedly help you stay on top the game.
Featured photo by Raw Pixel/Unsplash