5 Apps That Actually Helped Me Save Money

by James Hale
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images News/Getty Images

Debt is a major drain on our happiness. On average, millennials who are paying down their student loans have to shell out more than $350 a month, according to Forbes, and for people in entry-level jobs, that's a huge bite out of a small salary. One of the keys to paying down debt — and surviving our capitalist hellscape world in general — is to make and stick to a budget, which is easy to say, but hard to do. Luckily, there are tons of great apps that actually help you save money.

Of all the money-saving methods in the world, I find smartphone apps to be some of the most helpful, since they're with me 24/7 and give me a little twinge of healthy guilt every time I see them. You can also dose yourself with healthy frugal-minded guilt by sticking a picture of Terry Crews in your wallet, but unfortunately Terry Crews isn't able to do everything. (I know, you're shocked.) The functionalities of the best budgeting and finance apps are varied enough to address pretty much any need for any budgeter.

I'm going to pause real quick here and say that while these apps are genuinely helpful, if you're in rough financial trouble, you should also consider chatting with a financial advisor or a debt counselor to help you develop a solid plan for getting back on your feet.

Check out the apps below that can help give your financial health a boost.

1. Your Bank's App

This may sound like cheating, but honestly: If your bank has an app, download it. The No. 1 thing that helped me start being aware of how much money I have in my checking account and how many purchases I'm loading onto my debit card was downloading my bank's app. Though not all banks have apps, many do, and they generally allow you to check your balances, transfer money between accounts, and make mobile deposits. But even if you just use your bank's app for its most basic functionality, it's useful. If you want to budget, regularly checking your balances is vital — to know how to budget, you have to know how much you've got.

2. Daily Budget

Daily Budget is exactly what it says on the tin, but so much more. A friend recommended this app to me after I lamented my constant inability to save for emergencies. In Daily Budget, you enter your regular income, your recurring expenses (Daily Budget has suggestions that include obvious things like rent and gas, but also things like "subscription" — helpful, since I often forget about my Netflix bill), and the percentage of your income you want to save each month.

Then it crunches all these numbers and gives you a daily amount you can spend. And the best part: If you go over your spending limit one day, the app adjusts your entire month, so you'll stay on solid ground.

3. Mint

Mint offers an expanded menu of tools to help you improve your financial health. You link in your bank accounts (checking, savings, retirement, and more), your cards, and your bills, and Mint tracks all of it. It can also track investments, making it a good app in particular for millennials, since we on the whole avoid the stock market like the plague out of fear. Mint also actively searches out financial recommendations for you that "could help save you the most based on your lifestyle and goals." This is great for folks who don't have a lot of financial education and may not even think to consider whether they could find, say, a better checking account with less fees, or a better credit card with more perks.

4. Personal Capital

Like Mint, this app tracks virtually everything, but if you're even more investment- and future-minded, or are looking to have specialized bank accounts instead of your plain ol' checking and savings, Personal Capital pays special attention to retirement accounts and stock investments. It searches out potential hidden fees that commonly come paired with retirement accounts and mutual funds, and compares your stocks against the market in real-time.

Even if you're not into stocks, or if, like me, you barely have enough money to save for emergencies now, let alone enough to even begin thinking about saving for retirement, Personal Capital still has valuable tools for you, like functions that help you budget, help you see trends in your spending and saving habits, and a calculator for your overall net worth.

5. You Need A Budget

OK. So far in this list, we've had a lot of talk of investment, which leads us to You Need A Budget — because the app itself is an investment. Unlike other apps on this list, it costs a petite chunk of change: $6.99 per month, billed as $83.99 per year. However, YNAB is free to all students for 12 months, to avoid adding to their overall debt. If you're wondering what exactly $83.99 per year gets you, it's actually a lot.

Like other apps, YNAB connects to all your accounts, tracking your income, spending, and your debt. However, it also syncs between multiple devices, so if you and your partner(s) share a bank account, you can all keep track of it simultaneously, on separate devices. But its methods for getting and keeping you out of debt are super stark, realistic, and helpful. They're also based on reaching goals and targets. YNAB warns you when you overspend, tells you specifically how much you're increasing your debt when you spend money, and can help you set up debt payment targets. Tell it, "I want to pay off $2,000 of my debt," and it will help you design a personalized plan to do so. On top of all that, YNAB provides free, live workshops, and help from a support team of real people.

Because all of these apps offer the same baseline of money-saving tools, they're all worth trying, especially if you feel like your spending is getting out of hand and don't need functions that track stock investments or tell you what your credit score is. But once you're a little more stable, you'll be able to see things you can do with the money you're saving with your budget, and that's when these apps will become even more helpful, allowing you to not just pay down your debt and save money now, but continue to find new ways to save in the future.