If you’re old enough to remember the days you’d have to head to the bank to cash a cheque or find out your balance, then this new world of online banking, PayPal and personal finance apps might seem more than a little strange.
Nowadays, everything from your bank balance to your transaction history is available with the swipe of a finger across your phone screen. You can even use your phone to make contactless payments now.
So, as technology makes it easier and easier to spend money, it helps to use technology to stay on top of your spending and saving.
One of the dangers of card payments – especially contactless ones – is that it’s very easy to lose track of what you’re spending where and when. And when you lose track of what you’re spending, it’s very difficult to save or tuck money away.
That’s where personal finance apps come in. They break down where and when you’re spending money and give you an overview of your money habits. That way, you can see where you can trim the fat or find out why things get a little tight at the end of the month.
So, we thought we’d break down the best personal finance apps that you can download for free onto your Android device or iPhone. There are a lot of choices available – from the very basic to the in-depth – so we thought we’d choose the best three.
The 3 Best (Free) Personal Finance Apps
OnTrees Personal Finance: the Money Supermarket spending tracker (iOS and Android)
The OnTrees app is your one-stop-shop for all your budgeting needs. Once you’ve signed up for an account, it lets you see – at a glance – how much you’ve got coming in and going out. It also lets you drill deeper into your spending habits to see how much you’re spending on bills, leisure activities and travel – letting you make informed decisions about where you might be able to save some money.
In short, it’s the must-have budgeting app. (And it’s free forever, so what are you waiting for?)
Moneybox – Save and Invest (iOS and Android)
Have you ever considered investing money? Or maybe you’ve dreamed of owning shares in a big country and cashing them in (just like you see in the movies)? Moneybox makes that a reality – an incredibly-easy-to-achieve reality. Taking away all the complicated terminology surrounding investing, the MoneyBox app lets you invest small amounts of money.
The app rounds up every purchase to the nearest pound and invests the difference – a £2.40 coffee is rounded up to £3.00 and the 60p is invested in companies like Apple, Netflix and Disney. You can choose how much risk you want involved in your investment too – higher risk portfolios have the potential for a much bigger return, but at a higher risk. (Don’t worry – Moneybox talk you through all of this, and it’s not half as scary as it sounds.)
To make you feel even safer, Moneybox is FCA authorised and covered by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme up to a limit of £50,000. The app also uses bank-level encryption software to keep all of your information locked up tight.
(For more information on Moneybox, check out this in-depth This Is Money article.)
Squirrel (iOS and Android)
This personal finance app is by far and away the most unusual of the three we’ve chosen. For a start, it’s an unconventional idea; controlling your money and drip feeding you an allowance to spend each week.
Basically, Squirrel splits your incoming wages into three groups: commitments (that includes bills, mortgage or loan repayments, rent, etc…), savings (you can tell it how much you’d like to save a month and it’ll do this for you) and spending money (what’s left over after your commitments and savings).
Your spending money is then divided up into weekly instalments and sent back to your account at the start of each week. (Although, if you need cash in a hurry, you can request a transfer of more.)
Admittedly, this isn’t for everyone. Most people like being in control of their own money or – at the very least – not feeling like children being given pocket money. However, there is one way that we can see Squirrel being really useful:
Fixing bad habits.
Squirrel is free for three months (after that, it’s £3.99 a month). However, if you can use Squirrel for three months to get yourself out of bad spending habits and used to living on a budget, then when it comes to paying your monthly fees, you can simply cancel the account and rely on your new healthy money habits. It’s a bit like stabilisers for your savings – it’ll help you learn the ropes, then you can ditch them and move on.
If you’re looking for more great personal finance apps, we put together a list of money management apps a few months ago. Be sure to check it out.