A great goal to strive for these days is to use your smartphone to keep on top off your finances versus spending hours in front of the computer each week. Doing so not only provides convenience and time savings, it ensures you never miss a beat when it comes to managing your spending, paying bills and even being a good tipper when dining at your favorite restaurant.
So, what's the simplest way to "go mobile"? Here are five ways to get started:
Budgeting & Spending
Make sure you're using your mobile device to track spending against the most important categories of your budget each month. You're out on the town and trying to decide what to do for the evening. Before picking your next destination for entertainment, consider how much money is left in the entertainment category by looking at your favorite personal finance app. You can get the latest balance as long as you've been tracking your spending either by assigning transactions manually or letting the program do it for you.
Did you spend too much money last weekend at dinner and the movies? No problem! Opt to meet friends for coffee and a stroll in the park instead. Personal finance apps help us make smarter spending decisions that in turn allow us to meet our financial goals each month.
There's no excuse for not making a payment on time these days. Either set up automatic payments for bills via your bank's bill payment feature, or receive alerts and notifications directly to your smartphone. Most financial institutions have apps; download the ones you use the most.
Still, some bills require payment each month, so why not do it as you're eating your sandwich at lunch or waiting in line at the coffee shop. Also, check to see if your personal finance software aggregates the accounts and allows you to see the account balances, statements and due dates all from one dashboard. Some personal finance software offers bill payment features so you don't have to log into each individual account if you pay the bill manually.
Banking (Transfer Money, Bill Pay)
Most major banks have their own apps. This is a must-have for your smartphone because it provides you the ability to see what's going in and out of your accounts as well as perform banking features such as transferring money in-between accounts when necessary. Another nice feature that you may discover is the ability to locate ATMs for your bank. Advanced apps provide person-to-person payment features. "I'll pay for the entire dinner bill, and you just send me $15 via your bank app and we'll call it even." Don't forget about apps that allow you to see your credit card transactions, too!
Not only can your smartphone help you stay on top of the management of your finances, it can help you save money and control expenses in your monthly budget. Apps such as GasBuddy help you locate gas closest to you at the cheapest prices. According to GasBuddy, I can buy gas at Costco near where I work 15 cents per gallon cheaper than by my house. Score! Also, don't forget about using deal apps if you're looking for entertainment options! Don't ever pay full price when you can use apps such as AmazonLocal and Groupon. Just make sure the option you choose fits your budget! Finally, don't forget about simple calculators that make life easier. QuickTip ensures you're a good tipper when you receive great service and you want to make sure you're tipping adequately.
Credit Monitoring & Alerts
Finally, whether we like it or not, paying attention to our credit scores is important. Paying bills on time and watching your debt-to-credit ration is smart money management, but alerts and more frequent management of your score is important, too. Make sure you check your credit report once per year at AnnualCreditReport.com, but check to see if your personal finance software offers a credit score monitoring service, or perhaps download an app from one of many credit score monitoring companies. Many of these services cost extra per month, so it's important to evaluate whether or not alerts and extra monitoring makes sense for your situation.
It's a mobile world out there, and it will only become more so. Stop spending time in front of your laptop at home each night trying to reconcile your spending and managing your finances. Rather, stay on top of your finances as your life happens by using your smartphone. Apps save time, money and increase your financial savvy all while standing in line at the grocery store.
Jason Price is passionate about personal finance stewardship, soccer and the Pacific sun. Check out Jason's personal finance website and blog at OneMoneyDesign.com and follow his tweets @onemoneydesign.