12 Free Apps We’ve Put to the Test to Save, Invest and Manage Our Money Every Day
Some of the links in this post are from our sponsors. We’re letting you know because it’s what Honest Abe would do. After all, he is on our favorite coin.
A lot of apps exist to help you manage your finances.
We know — we learn about new ones every day.
And we know you don’t really have time to sift through the App Store and compare them all to find just the right one.
So we decided to save you a little time and tell you which money management apps we’ve actually tried out. They might not all be perfect for you, but at least you know these have been put to the test.
Money Management Apps Penny Hoarders Love
Here are some money management apps we’ve tried — and love:
1. Trick Yourself Into Saving Money
OK, this one isn't just an app; it’s also an online bank account that can help you trick yourself into saving some money. So listen up.
With Chime’s Saving account, you can push 10% of your paycheck into a separate, hands-off account. So you’ll boost your savings every time you get paid.
That's what Penny Hoarder media buyer Kelsey Buxton does.
“It automatically deposits 10% of my paycheck into my savings, so I make a point not to touch that, but you can transfer back and forth between accounts super easily,” she says.
Bonus: When you set up direct deposit, you’ll receive your paycheck into your Chime Spending account up to two days early!
When a portion of your paycheck is automatically shuffled away to your secret stash, well… what you don’t see you won’t miss, right?
2. Invest Your Spare Change
Acorns is a simple savings and investment app that rounds your credit or debit card purchases up to the nearest dollar and invests the digital change.
Acorns rounds your credit or debit card purchases up to the nearest dollar and invests the digital change.
Freelance writer CJ Reid does the latter, accepting roundups of less than $0.50, such as her $3.60 cup of coffee.
“Rounding up 40 cents here and 25 cents there moves me swiftly enough to $5 so that I can begin investing without putting myself into the red,” she says.
Once your round ups reach $5, that amount will be transferred from your bank to your Acorns account and invested into your chosen portfolio.
“Acorns makes it easy to invest by removing the responsibility of choosing individual investments or worrying about trades,” Reid explains. “You don’t need any previous investment knowledge or history.”
And once you get the process automated, Acorns investments make your digital change work for you.
“With a conservative portfolio,” Reid says, “I turned $15 into $19 within a few weeks.”
Plus, Acorns will give you a $5 bonus for making your first investment.
3. Let This App Lower Your Monthly Bills
No matter what, your bills are going to keep coming. But that doesn’t mean you have to keep paying the same amount.
That’s why Penny Hoarder writer Carson Kohler likes Trim. It’s a little bot that lives in Facebook Messenger or your text messages, and it’ll negotiate your cable or internet bills down for you.
It works with Comcast, Time Warner, Charter and other providers.
You can sign up simply with Facebook. Then, upload a PDF of your most recent bill, and Trim’s magic gets to work.
If at first it doesn’t succeed, it’ll keep negotiating until it can save you some money.
4. Protect Your Credit Score
Your credit score is important. The better your score, the better deal you’ll get on a mortgage, car loan or credit card. We’re talking big money here.
Even if you’re not buying a house anytime soon, a lousy credit score means you’ll get hit with a high security deposit whenever you rent a car or move into a new apartment.
But did you know your credit score could be inaccurate? One out of five credit reports have an error, according to a study by the Federal Trade Commission.
To keep a closer eye on your credit, get your credit score and a “credit report card” for free from Credit Sesame. It breaks down exactly what’s on your credit report in layman’s terms, how it affects your score and how to address it.
Because it simplifies everything, you should be able to spot any errors. For instance, if you find an “unpaid” credit card that you know you paid, or a bill in collections you know never existed, you can dispute the incorrect information and raise your credit score.
5. Let This App Optimize Your 401(k)
Got a 401(k)? You’re on the right track.
Now you just need to make sure it’s doing what you need it to. However, tapping into that account and deciphering the information — or lack thereof — can be hard.
Now you can access a virtual guide for that online. Blooom, an SEC-registered investment advisory firm, will optimize and monitor your 401(k) for you.
It gives you an initial 401(k) checkup for free, and you’ll get to know your account a little more intimately. Find out if you’re paying too many hidden fees, have the appropriate amount invested in stocks versus bonds — that kind of fun stuff.
After that, the tool is $10 a month to use to continue to monitor your retirement account. Let Blooom know your target retirement age, and it can help you get there by investing more or less aggressively.
6. Get Rewarded for Paying Your Bills on Time
Your mom probably gave you an allowance for washing the dishes and sweeping the floor when you were a kid. Now all you get for doing it is a kitchen that’s clean for, like, 15 minutes.
As an adult, you don’t typically get rewards for doing things that are expected of you… until now.
This app kind of rules them all: MoneyLion, a free all-in-one app for managing your personal finances.
MoneyLion offers rewards to help you develop healthy financial habits and will literally pay you for logging onto the app.
You can earn points in the rewards program by paying bills on time, connecting your bank account or downloading the mobile app.
You can redeem those points for gift cards to retailers like Amazon, Apple and Walmart.
If credit cards aren’t your thing, MoneyLion is like having a rewards credit card without the temptation to overspend.
The app also connects with all your bank, credit card, student loan and other financial accounts. Based on your income and spending patterns, it offers personalized advice to help you save money, reduce your debt and improve your credit.
7. Make Saving (Kind of, Sort of) Fun
Saving and fun don’t typically mesh, but Qapital is an automated savings app that makes the process, well, fun.
First, you’ll set a goal: next month’s rent, a vacation or a new phone, for example. Then set some rules. When they’re triggered, money will transfer into your Qapital account.
For example, set your purchases to round up to the nearest dollar. Or set it so if you meet your daily fitness goal, you’ll bank $2.
One Penny Hoarder used the free app to save toward a trip and was able to put away $700 in five months — without really thinking about it.
8. Play the Slots — and Save Money
There’s something so titillating about playing digital slot machines. You watch the columns go ’round and ’round as you hold out hope that you’ll hit the money bags and win big.
Of course, you never do win, and you end up spending way more than you’d planned.
We found an app that combines playing slots and saving money. Right, it seems 100% counterintuitive — but it’s really cool.
We’re talking about Long Game Savings. Here’s how it works:
You’ll create an account, verify your identity and connect your bank account. Set how much you’d like to automatically save each payday, as little as $5. Once you link your bank account, you’ll earn 300 points (“coins”), so you can start playing while you wait for payday.
You’ve got tons of options — from slot machines to scratch-offs to spin-to-win wheels. Your deposits earn you coins you’ll use to play and hopefully win more coins to play more games or even cash prizes, which will automatically go into your Long Game Savings account.
9. Start Investing (Even if You’re Not Wealthy)
It’s no brilliant secret that investing can be a smart way to make money.
Sometimes though, it feels restricted to a few wealthy elite.
But Stash is different. This app lets you start investing with as little as $5 and for just a $1 monthly fee for balances under $5,000.
Stash curates investments from professional fund managers and investors and lets you choose where to put your money — but it leaves the complicated investment terms out of it.
You just choose from a set of simple portfolios reflecting your beliefs, interests and goals.
Bonus: Right now, The Penny Hoarder is teaming up with Stash to fund your first investment — so you’ll get a $5 bonus to get started!
10. See How Your Finances Stack up to Your Peers
We’ve been taught to focus on ourselves, and that’s great. But sometimes it helps to zoom out and see what’s happening around you, especially when it comes to personal finance.
Two data scientists are hoping to make that easier through a service called Status.
When you sign up for Status, you’ll be able to compare your financial choices with your peers’ (anonymously). You can compare everything — from your spending and income to your debts and investments. Even check out how your net worth and credit score compare.
By doing that, you’ll be able to see, for example, whether you’re paying an insane interest rate on a loan, earning way below average or spending a little too much.
In about three minutes, you’ll be able to start crunching numbers to see where you’re killin’ it — or where you need to take some time to improve.
11. Take the Stress out of Saving
Saving money is tough. So what if you could do it in a way where you wouldn't even notice?
Digit makes that possible.
This innovative app automates saving for you. Simply link it to your checking account, and it will determine small (and safe!) amounts of money to withdraw into a separate, FDIC-insured savings account.
Using this set-it-and-forget-it strategy, Penny Hoarder Matt Wiley saved $4,300 without noticing — read his Digit review.
Digit is free to use for the first 100 days, then it’s $2.99 per month afterward.
12. Put Your Savings to Work
Varo Money has combined traditional banking tools with modern technology to help its customers become financially healthy. Its big selling points include:
- All-in-one: In addition to a bank account, you can open a Varo Savings Account, earning 1.35% Annual Percentage Yield.
- No fees: With Varo, as long as you use one of its 55,000 ATMs across the world, you’ll never pay fees. Additionally, you’ll pay no monthly service fees, no minimum balance fees, no foreign transaction fees and no cash replacement fees. You’ll just pay out-of-network ATM fees and cash deposit fees if you deposit cash in-store through Green Dot.
- Early access to your paycheck: Get paid up to two days before your check is typically posted when you set up direct deposit with Varo.
- Varo Forecast: Varo keeps tabs on how much you spend across all your accounts so you can better analyze and project your cash flow. It also allows you to set spending caps.
To sign up for Varo, you’ll have to download its free iOS app. (Sorry Android users and desktop traditionalists!)