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

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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

jerry morgan on the credit sesame app at home
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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. Earn Cash Back for that Extra Bottle of Wine

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Look, it's been a long week, and you just want to unwind with a glass of wine. Or three. We can't promise the clerk won't give you some side eye after your third such shopping trip, but Ibotta most definitely won't. 

In fact, it will even give you some cash back for it.

Here’s how it works:

Before heading to the store, search for items on your shopping list within the Ibotta app. When you get home, snap a photo of your receipt and scan the items’ barcodes.

Bam. Cash back.

Ibotta is free to download. Plus, you’ll get a $10 sign-up bonus after uploading your first receipt.

4. Let This App Find Money for You

woman holding money
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Managing your money is so complicated. It seems like there’s a million ways for the world to reach into your pocket or your purse and drain your wallet.

Everybody could use a little high-tech help.

For that, we found an app called Empower. It’s like having a personal financial assistant in your smartphone, and it has this cool “find free money” feature.

Once you link your bank account, Empower will help you set up a monthly budget and monitor your account to see whether you're paying too much for your bills and look for opportunities to save.

For example, Empower will call your cell phone company on your behalf and negotiate a better rate. It’ll review your coverage and premiums on auto and home insurance and find the best quotes for you. It’ll recommend high-interest savings accounts to stash your money, and ways to consolidate your credit card debt to reduce interest rates.

Did you know you had so much money just lying around?

5. Play the Slots — and Earn More Interest Than at Your Bank

woman using phone
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Are you more of the “sit at home and play video games” type of person but you’re making yourself read this because you’re determined to get this adulting thing down?

The folks who created Long Game have you covered with a game that’s fun and helps you achieve your financial goals.  

As you save and accomplish missions you’ll earn coins to play mini games for cash prizes! We’re talking the classics, like slot machines, scratch-offs and spin-to-win wheels.

Penny Hoarder Carson Kohler uses Long Game to save money. Every two weeks, it sneaks $5 out of her bank account and rewards her with coins.

In two months, she’s saved $35.70, just by playing games on her phone. Plus, her winnings amount to a gain of about 2% — way higher than interest on any other savings account she has.

Once you link your bank account, you’ll earn 300 points, so you can start playing while you wait for payday.

6. Save for Emergencies — Effortlessly

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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 its algorithms will determine small (and safe!) amounts of money to withdraw into a separate, FDIC-insured savings account.

Bonus: Penny Hoarders will get an extra $5 just for signing up! Additionally, savers will receive a 1% bonus every three months.

Using this set-it-and-forget-it strategy, one Penny Hoarder saved $4,300 without noticing — read his Digit review.

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 30 days, then it’s $2.99 per month afterward.

7. Start Investing (Even If You're Not Rich) and Get a $5 Boost

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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.

8. Get Rewards for Paying Your Bills on Time

girl using phone at home
Chris Zuppa/The Penny Hoarder

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.

9. Invest in Yourself — and Other Women

Businesswomen looking at fabric samples on presentation board.
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Traditional investing companies have never really considered the fact that women statistically get paid less, yet live longer. That’s why Sallie Krawcheck, a former Wall Street CEO and an adamant proponent of women’s financial power, founded Ellevest.

It’s an investing platform designed for women, by women and in support of other women. It uses a unique algorithm designed to help you better plan for the future.

Once you sign up for free, Ellevest will issue you a free personalized investment plan. Play around with the numbers. See how much you could save depending on how much you’d contribute each month.

Ellevest’s “digital” plan is designed to be accessible. There’s no minimum balance, and you’ll pay an annual fee of 0.25% of your assets under management to Ellevest. For context, that’s $25 on a $10,000 account.

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

10. Do Your Banking Without Facing a Teller

women hands getting cash in a bank teller
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There’s no law that requires you to bank the old-fashioned way — at a brick-and-mortar bank with a crummy interest rate on your savings.

It’s time to move your money into the 21st century. An iOS app called Varo Money combines traditional banking tools with modern technology to help its customers become financially healthy.

Here’s the best part: Pair your Bank Account with a Varo Savings Account where you’ll earn 1.5% Annual Percentage Yield. That’s more than 20 times — repeat, 20 times — the average savings account.

Varo goes easy on the fees, too. 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 any fees charged by out-of-network ATMs and cash deposit fees if you deposit cash in-store through Green Dot.

11. Set (Gentle) Spending Notifications

String tired around finge
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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.

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

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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.

13. Balance Your 401(k) Without Sass

Senior couple enjoying a drive on a great sunny day.
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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-advisers 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. (P.S. Penny Hoarders get their first month free!)

Bonus: Get an Advance on Payday (Without Begging Your Boss)

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So you don’t have a ton of options when you’re stuck in the paycheck-to-paycheck cycle. But you’re not totally out of luck.

A free app called Earnin allows you to get access to your paycheck anytime you want — without waiting for payday.

Say you clocked five hours today. Whether you’re an hourly, contract or salaried worker, you can log into Earnin and get paid for those five hours. Because Earnin doesn’t want you to overdraft, you can take out up to $100 per day or $500 per pay period.

The service doesn’t charge a fee — or crippling interest rates. Earnin simply asks you to pay what you think is fair.

To use Earnin, you’ll need to meet a few requirements. You should:

  • Receive direct deposits from your employer into your checking account.
  • Have a regular pay schedule (weekly, bi-weekly, semi-monthly, monthly).
  • Work at a fixed location or use an online timekeeping system at work. This helps Earnin confirm that you are, indeed, working.

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

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