Are you member of “Generation Procrastination”? If your savings account and retirement plan are gathering virtual cobwebs, you probably are.
But saving money doesn’t have to be an ordeal. Vince Maniago, group product manager at Mint, gave Mashable some simple advice for getting your personal finances into gear.
“An emergency fund is the cornerstone of having a good personal finance portfolio,” Maniago says. “It can isolate you from financial catastrophe in the event of a medical emergency or needing to quickly change your housing situation. Know what you’re going to do in the event of an emergency and figure out how much you have to get going toward an emergency fund. ”
Next, Maniago says, “Start to get an idea of where your money is going,” from necessities like rent and food to “discretionary categories” like clothing and entertainment. Then, “set up actionable goals,” like financing a wedding or saving for retirement, “and start saving toward those goals.”
“One thing that a young person needs to weigh is how much money they are able to put towards their retirement, especially if they’re able to take advantage of a 401(k),” Maniago says. With compounding interest, the more you can afford to put toward your retirement now, the more you’ll have to spend later. “Can you make a small sacrifice, like not going out every weekend night, and trade that for more retirement savings?”
We can’t forcibly get you to kickstart your 401(k), but we can offer you this list of money-saving apps and digital tools for quick and easy penny-pinching.
Image: Flickr, OTA Photos
- Mint: Securely consolidate your accounts, track how much money you’re spending and receive alerts when bills are due. You can also set reminders and personal finance goals, tag expenditures by category, and view your financial data as simple charts or Excel spreadsheets. According to Maniago, in the last three years Mint users have collectively set more than 6 million financial goals and saved more than $40 billion.
SEE ALSO: 10 Things You Didn’t Know Mint Could Do
- USA Today Portfolio Tracker: For the seasoned investor, consolidate your IRA, 401(k), stocks and mutual funds into a single dashboard. Portfolio Tracker also sends detailed analytics and emails the closing prices of your stocks, mutual funds and ETFs.
- BillGuard: Protect yourself against “grey charges,” such as hidden fees, billing errors, free-to-paid charges, scams and credit card fraud. Verify and flag charges to your accounts directly through the app. BillGuard will also alert you when a user has flagged a charge similar to one in your account. The app also functions as a dashboard where you can track your spending patterns.
Available for: Web and iOS. Price: Free. Premium service costs $4.99/month.
- SavedPlus: Save money every time you spend. Connect your accounts to SavedPlus and select the percentage of every purchase you’d like to save. Every time you buy something, a dollar value will be transferred to your savings account. So for example, if you set your savings percentage to 10% and you make a $75 purchase, $7.50 will transfer from your checking account to your savings account.
- Guide Financial: Every week, Guide Financial scans your transactions and sends you a report on your expenditures. You will also receive personalized financial advice and coupons and deals based on your spending patterns.
Available for: Web. Price: Free.
- FlexScore: FlexScore assigns you a ranking based on an assessment of your financial health. You can compare your score to that of your peers. The site will also show you ways to improve your score, such as paying off debt, setting up recurring deposits or increasing 401(k) contributions.
Available for: Web. Price: Free.
Image: Flickr, Eddie Welker
- RedLaser: RedLaser is a barcode-scanning app for price comparisons. Scan a product to find out what it costs at nearby retailers; you can also buy items directly from the app and pick them up in-store.
- ShopSavvy: This barcode and QR scanner shows you product details and price comparisons so you can decide whether to buy in-store or online. Create lists of items you might want to buy later and set price alerts to find when a product has been marked down.
- TheFind: Connect to TheFind with Facebook to set up a personalized shopping hub. Save your favorite stores and brands to your account and receive alerts when your favorite products go on sale. Use the mobile app to scan barcodes and receive price alerts, plus share scanned and searched items with friends.
- Price Check by Amazon: Online retail behemoth Amazon has its own barcode scanning app that compares in-store pricing with the prices offered on Amazon.com, plus product descriptions and customer reviews.
- GasBuddy: Find the cheapest gas prices in your area, both online and on the road.
Deals, Coupons and Loyalty Cards
Image: Flickr, Joe Loong
- Groupon: Use Groupon to find daily deals of 50-90% off on activities, venues and restaurants in more than 500 cities — you’ll find discounts on everything from dance classes to dinner to laser hair removal. Use the mobile app to buy and redeem vouchers on the go.
- LivingSocial: Another deal-of-the-day website, LivingSocial offers discounts of 50-90% on local establishments, products and activities, ranging from comedy club admission to vacation rentals and children’s books.
- RetailMeNot: Receive coupons and discounts from retailers like Macy’s, Walgreens and H&M. Use the mobile app to take your deals on the go and see what’s trending; you’ll also get automatic alerts when there are promotions nearby.
- ShopKick: Earn points, or “kicks,” just by walking into stores like Target and Best Buy, and earn more points by scanning and purchasing products. The kicks are redeemable for gift cards and merchandise, such as a free latte from Starbucks or a download from the iTunes store. The app will also show you discounts and deals you might enjoy.
- Key Ring: Store all of your loyalty cards on your mobile device and enroll in new loyalty programs directly through the app. You’ll also receive coupons exclusive to Key Ring.
- CardStar: Another way to consolidate your loyalty cards in one app, CardStar also gives you access to daily deals, sales, special offers and coupons from your favorite retailers.
- Appsfire: Hate paying for apps? Use this curated service to find the best app deals, receive personalized recommendations, and set up price alerts for paid apps you’d like to purchase.
Image: Flickr, Vox Efx
- Trivago: Trivago compares the cost of hotel rooms on booking sites like hotels.com and Expedia and lets you know which site offers the best deals. Browse user reviews and photos and filter search results according to price, amenities, distance and star category.
- HotelTonight: Hotels offer steep last-minute discounts on unfilled rooms, and HotelTonight helps you score those savings in 150 locations.
- Skyscanner: Skyscanner compiles prices from more than 1,000 airlines for the best deals on flights, hotels and car rentals.
- Kayak: Like Skyscanner, Kayak compares hundreds of travel sites for deals on flights, hotels and car rentals. Upgrade to Kayak Pro for airport terminal maps.
- WhatsApp: If you don’t have unlimited texting or you’re traveling abroad, use WhatsApp to text your friends for free. WhatsApp sends messages over your Internet connection or data plan, so make sure Wi-Fi or data roaming capabilities are enabled when you travel. Watch out for the exorbitant roaming fees that phone companies charge, though!
- Skype: Skype‘s free calling, messaging and video service is perfect for traveling abroad or keeping in touch with a long-distance sweetheart. You’ll need a broadband connection and a webcam to make video calls.
Image: Flickr, epSos.de