These Super Helpful Money Tools Will Never Judge You by Your Finances

Lisa Gilmore works remotely from apps on her phone in St. Petersburg, Fla.
Carmen Mandato/The Penny Hoarder

No one likes being judged. Especially when it comes to personal finance.

I’m keenly aware of my budgetary state, so having someone totally judge me for it — and not offer constructive advice — is the worst.

Yes, I understand I need to stash more into my emergency savings. And I know I shouldn’t have spent $5 on that latte. And investing… that makes me nervous.

But just help me; don’t chastise me.

That’s why I’ve rounded up some personal finance advisers — and some money management apps  — that’ll help you get your money in order.

And they’ll do it without a single shred of judgment.

And, perhaps even better, without an ounce of conversation.

1. Get a Little Personal… Loan

If you have debt, you definitely aren’t in the mood for criticism.

But you’ll need to open up, just a little bit, if you want to consider some options — like refinancing or consolidating — to help you pay that sum down faster.

Don’t worry. Find the right personal loan to meet your needs with Even Financial.

To sign up for this consumer financial technology platform, complete three simple steps. Then Even searches the top online lenders to match you with a personalized loan offer. Even’s platform can help you borrow up to $100,000 (no collateral needed) with fixed rates starting at 4.99% and terms from 24 to 84 months.

2. Take a Deep Breath and Check Your Credit Score

One of the judgiest parts of personal finance comes with that three-digit numeral.

It’s called a credit score, and the mere mention of it might send you spiraling back to high school when your worth was measured on a 4.0 scale. But with a credit score, it’s different. You can actually make large strides to improve it — without having to become the teacher’s pet.

Credit Sesame can help you get there. It will provide you a free credit report card — including your credit score. It breaks your score down and grades different aspects of your credit profile.

But don’t worry. If you see a big fat “D” or “F,” Credit Sesame gives you personalized reasoning and recommendations on how to improve your grade.

Jerry Morgan signed up for Credit Sesame, and in about six months he was able to increase his credit score 120 points, thanks to the platform’s suggestions and resources. You can read his Credit Sesame review here.

No extra credit required.

3. Save for Emergencies — Effortlessly

Digit saves your money without you having to lift a finger. Simply link it to your checking account, and its algorithms 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, one writer put more than two months’ rent into her emergency fund.

If you need that money sooner than expected, you’ll always have access to it within one business day.

Digit is free to use for the first 100 days, then it’s $2.99 per month afterward.

Sign up for Digit today, then, the next time you’re desperate for money, you’ll hopefully already have it stashed away.

4. Do Your Banking Without Facing a Teller

So you can't make it to the bank before 5 p.m., and you don't want to wake up early on a Saturday. You shouldn't have to.

It’s time to move your money into the 21st century.

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!)

5. Play These Games to Boost Your Savings Plan

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.

There’s a new app on the market, though, that combines playing slots and saving money. Right — it seems 100% counterintuitive, but it’s really cool.

We’re talking about Long Game Savings. Download it for free for iOS or Android.

You’ll create an account, verify your identity and connect your bank account. Set how much you’d like to automatically save each pay day, as little as $5. Once you link your bank account, you’ll earn 300 points, 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.

If you run out of coins to play with, you can opt to deposit more money into your savings or you can wait until next pay day when your auto-savings will kick in.

If you need to tap into the money that’s in your account, you can withdraw at any time. So think of it this way: It’s costing you money to play games, but you’re not losing it — it’s all going into your Long Game Savings account. Rather than saying you gambled away money this weekend, you can say you saved it away!

6. Use Your Money in a Way That Makes You Happy

They say money can’t buy happiness. And sure, that’s true. Even we can concede that.

But shouldn’t you get the most happiness you can from your money?

Enter Joy, a free iPhone app that helps you save money and spend in a way that makes you happier.

It takes a psychology-based approach to daily financial decisions and bills, and it calls itself, “the first and only money app that won't judge you for how you spend your money.”

Its features include:

  • Personalized Money Coach: Based on what it calls your “financial personality,” you’ll be assigned one of four in-app money coaches tailored to fit your specific needs.
  • Buying More Happiness: The app prompts you to rate purchases, helping you recognize spending habits and focus more on what brings you long-term happiness.

Savings Account and Daily Saves: The app identifies a daily savings amount based on your income data and spending habits, then prompts you to make that save via your free Joy Savings Account. This should help decrease overall stress, increase happiness and promote a sense of ownership over your financial future.

7. Start Saving While This App Holds Your Hand

Not to be a total pessimist here, but many of us aren’t the savviest of savers. We’re almost convinced this is just part of the human condition — that maybe we’re born with it.

We’ve got good news, though. Some simple tricks can help you gradually build a stash of cash.

That’s where micro-savings apps come into the picture — like Stash.

With its Smart-Save feature, Stash users can automatically tuck money into an emergency fund (or a vacation reserve) without thinking.

Let us walk you through how it works:

  1. Sign up for Stash in about two minutes, tops. Plus, you’ll get a $5 bonus just for opening your account!
  2. Connect your checking account to the app.
  3. Smart-Save does the rest, analyzing your available funds, spending and income to calculate exactly how much you can afford to save.
  4. Watch the automated savings build.

If you’re tight on money one week, you can easily turn off the automated feature. Or if you need to tap into your savings, you can withdraw at any time.

Plus, it’s nice knowing Stash will never cause you to spin into overdraft. If your balance is low, Smart-Save won’t initiate a transfer.

Sneak a peek at Stash’s Smart-Save feature — then try to say that five times fast…

Please note, the Smart-Save feature is not a savings account offered by a bank. Smart-Save is a feature that may be turned on and connected to the checking account that is linked to your Stash Invest account.

8. Get Some Personalized Advice

This app kind of rules them all: MoneyLion is an all-in-one app for managing your personal finances.

Basically, it offers the financial services you’d typically get from three or four different banks or providers, and they’re all bundled into one place.

MoneyLion connects with all of 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.

One of our favorite things about this app is the rewards feature.

Targeted at the financial middle class, MoneyLion offers rewards to help you develop healthy financial habits. The rewards program gives you points for taking actions like:

  • Connecting a bank account.
  • Signing up for credit monitoring.
  • Paying your bills on time.
  • Keeping your credit utilization low.

The points can be redeemed for gift cards to retailers like Amazon, Apple and Walmart. It’s like giving American Express-style rewards to middle-class customers who may not have a points-earning credit card.

9. Set (Gentle) Spending Notifications

Not being judged is great and all, but sometimes when spending gets out of hand, you need a little slap of the wrist. A gentle one. A tap, really.

That’s where my buddy Trim can help you. Trim is a personal-finance bot that automates a number of tasks for you — including personalized account alerts.

Set Trim to notify you when you’re charged an overdraft or late fee. You can also set it up to let you know when you’ve just completed a large transaction or when it’s payday! Yay!

Set other reminders about upcoming bills including, rent, cable or water.

Then, Trim sends you a text or Facebook Message with reminders.

Bonus: It scavenges your subscriptions for you, so that gym membership you haven’t used in years? Trim’s not judging you. In fact, it’ll just cancel it for you.

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 (though 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.

OK, but you’re asking: How is this going to help me? Won’t it just make me feel bad about myself and my wallet?

The purpose of Status is to help consumers make smarter decisions — to add a layer of transparency. By doing that, you’ll be able to see if you’re paying an insane interest rate on a loan, if you’re earning way below average (time to negotiate with your boss!), or if you’re spending a little too much.

To get started, create an account and link your credit file and bank account. 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. Set Your Savings and Investing to Autopilot

Siphoning a chunk of your paycheck into a seperate savings account isn’t the easiest personal finance move, especially if you’re already crunched on funds. Plus, unexpected expenses always pop up; it never fails.

This is where setting your savings to autopilot can save you — and your money.

Lots of apps on the market allow you to create a set-it-and-forget-it savings plan. One we can recommend is Rize.

Rize is a pay-what-you-want, 256-bit-encrypted (bank-level security) web app that’ll help get your savings on track. You’ll create a goal and set a deadline. Goals and deadlines always help kick your booty in gear, right?

These could be short-term goals, like saving for a weekend road trip or meeting your monthly student loan payment. You’ll even earn 1.16% interest on your balance. (For some context, that’s 19 times higher than the national average for savings accounts.)

If you have a longer-term goal, have Rize invest the money for you and help you maximize returns. It asks you contribute at least $2 a month for that service and will take a 0.25% fee of assets invested (comparatively low for investor fees).

Like with any savings plan, you might need time to figure out what you realistically set aside, but you can easily tweak your settings in Rize. Plus, Rize has some fun automated features like “accelerate,” which automatically increases your savings by 1% each month, or “boost,” which triggers Rize to squirrel away money when it makes the most sense.

12. Balance Your 401(k) Without Sass

If you have a 401(k), you’re already on the right financial track — so go, you! If you haven’t looked at it — or even know what to do with it — that’s OK, too.

The world of 401(k)s is a tricky one, but there are robo-advisors out there that’ll help you and prevent you from having to read a textbook-worth of investing definitions.

Try Blooom. I use it to make sure my money is working hard for me. Blooom gives you a free 401(k) health report.

Warning: This part might make you feel a little judged. Blooom uses a flower to represent your 401(k).

For example, it told me I had the wrong mix of stocks and bonds, and that I could have better diversification. So my account flower was wilted.

But the best part about flowers is they, well, “Blooom.” I opted in for the $10-per-month service, and now Blooom lets me know when it’s optimized my retirement savings.

I feel good about my future — and not so judged.

Carson Kohler ([email protected]) is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. She’s a big fan of gentle reminders.

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