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Finance on your phone

I’m obsessed with budgeting. Call me stingy or excessive, but I can’t find anything that even remotely assembles peace of mind unless I’m constantly checking my bank account levels. I can’t remember when the phrase “always spend less than you make” started to haunt every purchase I ever made, but it’s safe to say that it’s been most of my life.

The kicker? It actually worked. Since I got my first job at 14, my savings account steadily grew due to my extremely spendthrift behavior (and the annoyance of family and friends that came with it). I’m talking off-brand all the time, and no extra burger topping at my favorite restaurant.

This is not a bragging story. During my junior year of college, my self-imposed cushion on financial security imploded. I spent ten months abroad with no source of income and an itch to buy as many plane tickets as possible. Granted I had planned for this, and incorrectly budgeted. I tried to divide up my money evenly among the months I would be gone, and used simple subtraction on notebook paper as a way to keep track.

But it didn’t work. With the currency rates constantly shifting among the places I was traveling, and the hidden ATM fees, my personal math did not suffice. Needless to say, when I returned home, I felt physically ill every time I had to withdraw cash from my checking account.

While I now have an income again, it’s not much, so I need to be careful if I want the numbers in my account to get bigger instead of smaller. As any college student knows, the plethora of beer and late night Palermo’s orders that run through this campus quickly add up and I was certain that my money situation would soon become dire again if I didn’t figure out a permanent budget solution.

So, as any good millennial would do, I turned to the app store for a solution and downloaded the finance app Mint. At first, I was concerned about providing the app with all of my bank information, but eventually I gave in. As I poured over the cash flow diagram and pie chart of my spending for the month, the only thing I could think was, “Where was this when I was abroad?” I could physically see whether or not I was spending less than I made. So, if you’re like me and need to have a death-like grip on your finances, here are some apps to check out.

Mint

As explained above, Mint is a favorite of mine. The interface is clean and easy to use, and the app syncs all of your accounts so you can see a full financial picture. It’s also one of the most popular finance apps considering that it’s made by the same corporation as Turbotax and is free– unusual when it comes to these programs. “ I use Mint to budget stuff for study abroad–unsuccessfully because I’m weak–but it still helps me keep track of how I spend money and where I can cut down while I’m here” says Alex Villegas’19. Aaron Rose’18 explained “I use Mint because it is made by Intuit, which makes actual finance and accounting software.”

Although I’d give it top reviews, Mint isn’t perfect. I immediately quit using the budgeting feature of the app because it requires you to divide the budget up into very specific categories. If any of your card payments don’t fall into the specific category or you pay with cash, this spending goes undetected and can really mess your carefully curated budget up.

Acorns 

Although Acorns provides you with information about your accounts and spending, it’s vastly different from Mint in  that it’s an investment app. The app rounds up purchases and invests the spare change for you in different portfolios that you decide upon beforehand. The app costs $1 each month, but many people who stick with the app report a few extra hundred dollars in their accounts each year. However, it helps to have some knowledge of investing before you start the app. Nicholas Shein’19 tried the app but said “I didn’t know what to do with tax and W2, so I got scared [and disabled it].”

Clarity

I actually tried Clarity before Mint, but there was one major problem: it didn’t support my bank. Unlike other finance apps, Clarity seems to work best with bigger financial institutions like Bank of America or Wells Fargo. Besides this hiccup, Clarity is also extremely popular. Similar to many other budget apps, Clarity allows you to have a full picture of your finances. But they go a step further by doing tasks such as recommending new credit cards, cancelling your subscriptions, and giving you your own personal Clarity savings account. Unlike Mint, you can move money to and from accounts, and even between banks, which for many is a plus, but if you’re paranoid about  an app having that much control of your money, it’s terrifying. The app will even negotiate bills for you. If they bring it down, Clarity takes ⅓ of the money you save.

According to their website, “[Clarity] harnesses the power of artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning and data science to personalize your experience, using a combination of Natural Language Processing, Anomaly Detection and Spectral Analysis.” Regardless of how you feel about an app that can literally think for itself, it seems to be the future of money.

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