I love a good latte, butter croissant, magazine, leisurely ramen meal, lunch delivery, best seller, or any other yummy item I can get on a whim at work or on my way home. And I love these so much that I can find myself giving me little “treats” 1-3 times a day. But then the end of the week and month comes and I track my spending and well, except for the $200 a month that goes automatically into savings, this is the largest place I see my money leak away. In this weekly and monthly analysis I see what financial value I put into instant gratification. One month I spent $1000 on food/eating out/entertainment with a $400 budget. But is that what I truly value? A few bites or sips of something ephemeral? And what about our family dreams ang long-term goals? What about retirement?
Every time we spend money two things are happening- First, we are casting a vote. Whoever we pass that dollar onto we give the gift of profitability, help them succeed and we are essentially “voting for them.” The second thing that happens is the exchange of our life energy for that item. In the book, “You Money or Your Life,” the authors explain how we are giving hours of our lives for our wages that in turn we spend on goods and services. If we make, say $30 an hour and spend it on a meal, we worked an hour of our life for that meal. So when I look back at the instant gratification I had been spending my literal life energy on, I started seriously thinking about my “whys.” Does this spending live up to my values?
If you are in the same place with spending and want to get a grip on your finances, I have played around with many different budget apps and have found these 4 to be my favorite: YNAB, Mint, Personal Capital and Pocketguard. Let me know what you think.
YNAB: Best for Serious Budgeters
YNAB was my first adventure into budgeting. We had it when we were married and C enjoyed manually entering each purchase and categorizing it. I was inconsistent at best but it was a simple, easy to use and robust app and website that we were able to begin our journey with. The big difference with YNAB is that they help you get ahead of your money, planning for life before it happens instead of scrambling to pay for life as it happens. Their site states,
“With YNAB, we’re focused on what is in front of you, what you still have the ability to influence. Before you spend a single dollar, we’ll help you think through your priorities—immediate, short-term, and long-term—and allocate your money accordingly. Better yet, we will teach you how to use your budget to make spending decisions and how easy it is to adjust your budget throughout the month, because life.-YNAB
YNAB, in my experience is much more hands on and for those who have tried a few other things and are serious about taking the leap into financial savviness.
Mint: Best for Budgeting Newbies
Mint is the granddaddy of personal finance budgeting apps. It is streamlined and as automatic as possible. Entering the accounts takes a while, but once it is all entered, Mint takes over. They categorize every dollar spent for you automatically and make nifty pie charts to review. Alerts are sent when your accounts are low and this may be the very best place to start if you’ve never tracked a dollar in your life. In a quick snapshot, you can review all of your bills, debt and if you feel so inclined, set long-term goals. They also update your credit score monthly and offer tips for raising it.
Personal Capital: Best for Investment Tracking
Personal Capital is great for investors, even if you’re new to the game. It was the first place I ever saw my net worth and was able to see it was very, very negative. I was able to track my various investment accounts as well as make budgets, savings goals and track expenses. The app and website were easy to use and less cluttered than the interface of mint. Overall, I felt it was too hands off for me but my investments are of the sort that should be left alone for a very long time so I am not sure I was the target market.
Pocket Guard: Best for Impulse Spenders
Pocket Guard has a very cool/interesting premise. They offer you a daily and weekly spend amount the moment you open the app. How do they come up with this? Well you set up your accounts and begin labeling the transactions that are bills and set the frequency that you pay them. This is followed by labeling the income and frequency of You then add any savings goals or spending limits you’d like, I have eating out, clothing and groceries limits. Every day, the amount will fluctuate depending on the previous day’s spend and the