Apps like Mint and Prosper Daily give you power over your financial life.
Tracking your spending is key to knowing where you can cut back and where you could be putting more money away. Sure, you can do it with old-fashioned pencil and paper—no shame in that. But in the digital age, you have other (but still free!) options. Here is a closer look at the old favorite Mint, as well Prosper Daily, a great alternative.
This is the granddaddy of budgeting tools—and it’s no wonder it gets so much love. With Mint, you can safely and securely pull together your checking and savings accounts, as well as credit cards, loans, and investments—including 529 college savings accounts for your kids, your 401(k), or an IRA. Mint’s overview of your finances, neatly displayed in assorted graphs, charts, and lists, is a sight to behold.
Mint can also set up a monthly budget for you. To get you started, there are some preexisting categories, like “groceries,” “rent,” and “mortgage payments.” You can also create custom budgets, which is great for a family vacation, tracking spending at back-to-school time, or holiday gift-giving. As your transactions come in, they’re automatically deducted from these different budgets. When you spend beyond what you’ve allocated, Mint sends you an alert, nudging you back toward frugality other important money goals. to get it done.
While Mint’s strength is its big-picture view of your financial life, Prosper Daily offers the best way to monitor your day-to-day transactions by acting like a kind of email account for your spending.
Here’s how it works: Once you’ve linked your accounts through the app, credit card purchases, bill payments, and bank transactions all feed into your inbox as if each one were an incoming message. You scroll through these transactions (separated into “recurring,” “familiar,” and “new”) and either OK them by swiping right (“Yep, that’s my usual cell phone autopayment”) or flagging them for follow-up by swiping left (“Was my share of dinner out with friends last week really that high?” or “I don’t recognize this charge at all. What did my kid use my card to buy this time?”).
The ritual review of your transactions—each and every one of them—can make you a more mindful spender, and you’ll also catch anything that’s gone amiss, like a duplicate membership charge. When it comes to (eek!) fraudulent charges, the app flags transactions from merchants that other users have flagged or that have recently reported data breaches. (It’s no coincidence that the app was originally named BillGuard.)
Prosper Daily offers some analytics—an interactive graph of your spending by category from month to month—but it doesn’t track budgets or goals. For those tools, and a true bird’s-eye view of your entire financial life, nothing beats Mint.