As evidenced by Scout and Andy a few weeks ago, money is hard. As evidenced by the ten hours it took me yesterday to do my taxes, money is REALLY hard. And just…there has to be a better way, ya know? There has to be a better way to money than the way I (and probably a lot of us) are moneying right now.
Hear me out — queer people can and should discuss money. Where it comes from, how to manage it when you have it and how best to go about getting it when you don’t. Like it or not, we (or at least the American readers) live in a society that prioritizes material wealth. When we refuse to mindfully engage in that system, or when we ignore it because we wish we didn’t have to, our inclination to not talk about money becomes a tool in our own oppression. I was really fortunate in that my family was really good; they taught me a lot about money so that I wouldn’t have to find out the hard way later. But y’all know — money is hard. Money is hard whether or not you’ve been inducted into the ways of financial literacy. So how to money? How to money better?
Turns out, technology to the rescue. Here are a few apps I’ve found while researching how to money better, split into categories for exactly what kind of moneying they help with.
Ah, the juggernaut. Mint is the one everyone knows about, and there’s a reason. It’s suite of tools is unparalleled and free, and it’s all powered by Intuit (the trusted company behind Quicken and TurboTax, although I have a bone to pick with them for the way they charge people who’ve moved states within a tax year it’s enough to make you want to move on January 1st whenever one must move BUT I DIGRESS). The major pros involved in using Mint is the ease, of course — everything in one place, allows you to make a budget considering all your your accounts, and everything’s automatic! They even have a credit score checker and will alert you if anything weird happens on any of your accounts.
The cons: one must ask why this is free. And here it is — though Intuit won’t sell information that is identifiable to or as you, personally, it does sell aggregate information. In other words, the sensitive data that Mint has is probably being used to psychologically manipulate us in some way (as with literally all other data we’re putting on the internet). There’s also the fact that all your sensitive banking information is in one place; though one might take comfort in the fact that their security is awesome, it’s still one more entry point for baddies out there looking to steal your information and money. In the end, it’s up to you — I’ve certainly used this in the past because I thought the ability to visualize my money and my goals for my money was worth the minimal increase in risk.
Try Mint. Available for iOS, Android, Windows Phone and as a web app.
You Need A Budget
This is about more than software — You Need a Budget (called YNAB for short) is about their four step approach to managing money. They even have free online classes that teach financial literacy (their way, of course). And the personal accounting software is pretty robus — YNAB has desktop software for Mac and Windows and an app that syncs to it for both iOS and Android (that’s how you enter purchases). You don’t enter your bank account, so there’s not a worry of sharing banking information with third parties.
But there starts the con list — since you don’t enter your bank account, that leaves you entering every transaction (much like a checkbook). If you aren’t going to do that, well, this one might not be for you because software only works if you use it. It’s also pricey — while the mobile app is free, the actual computer software is $60. But! That might be worth it to you because you don’t have to wonder exactly how they can afford not to charge you.
The good news: they have a 34-day free trial so you can decide before you buy. Because it’s not a subscription, there’s nothing to cancel if you don’t like it — the software just stops working. And if you do like it, you just buy it and keep using it without losing any work you’ve already done.
Would it be great if, like zeroing out our inbox, we zeroed down our debt? Made specifically for people with a bit of debt on their hands, ReadyForZero helps you build a plan to pay down that debt (whether it’s student loans or credit cards) and then stick to that plan using data visualization and handy reminder notifications. The most important features are free, but one can upgrade to a premium account to pay bills, get live time and interest savings calculations and monitor your credit score. The only major con is that this app does one thing—but honestly? That could be a pro, too. This app does one thing, and it does it well. I guess I’ll have to move the con to their team — can’t they hire a woman for their dev team?
Try ReadyForZero, available for iOS and Android (and on the web).
Saving and Investing
Acorns helps you invest the spare change from purchases you already make — it rounds up and puts that change into a portfolio for you based on your risk tolerance (are you conservative? Moderate? Aggressive?). This beautifully designed app can make change grow without you even really feeling it — it’s almost like growing money with money you didn’t know you had. The major pro to this is that you have to know less about investing than if you were investing by yourself. And the fees are low, too: $1 per month on accounts with under $5k, .25% on accounts over $5k. There’s no minimum — and they never charge fees on a $0 account. You can withdraw any time, and they don’t charge trade commissions.
The cons are, of course, the total lack of control. It’s nice not to have to think about where things are invested but…do we really not want to choose where our money goes? Also you currently need to have a smartphone (either iOS or Android) to use Acorns (though they’re working on a web app, coming soon). As with any investment (even ETFs, which aren’t quite stocks), risk is inherent.
Try Acorns (must have an iOS or Android device).
From their about page: “Our mission is to democratize access to the financial markets.” If you want to buy and sell stock but can’t imagine paying a fee simply to purchase a thing and then sell a thing that you own, Robinhood might be for you. Pay just for stock and not anything else. It’s a well-designed app that notifies you of impending changes and provides you with realtime market data. Since Robinhood doesn’t charge fees for sales, they make money by accruing interest on customers’ uninvested cash balances.
However, the major con for this app is that it’s iOS only as of right now, though they’re working on Android and web versions. And of course, the other cons come with the territory of trading in stocks — there’s an inherent risk, one must already know a little bit about the market to succeed (and even knowledge isn’t a guarantee of success).
Sock away cash without thinking about it. The major pro of this is that Digit is automated —every day it checks your spending habits and, if the robots think you can afford it, siphons a couple dollars into your Digit account. Basically, Digit is there for people who really suck at saving (*raises hand*). It’s a lot like Acorns, but for the more risk-averse among us (*raises hand again*). If you’re worried about the automated nature of it, don’t worry — they have an overdraft guarantee, and if Digit overdrafts your account, they’ll pay the fee (that’s how confident they are that their algorithm will never do that). This is also designed to work mainly through text messages, so you don’t even need a smartphone to see what’s up.
The major con is, though this service is “free,” it keeps the interest accrued on all the Digit accounts as its fee. Now that might not be so bad, frankly — you can withdraw your money, fee free, any time to put it in a savings account that does earn interest and there’s no minimum to how much you have to leave in your Digit account. They’re also eventually planning to share some of that interest back with their customers.
Try Digit. Available for your browser and your text messages, it’s super lightweight.
Just Plain Automated Transfers
Does the idea of a company keeping your interest really get your goat? Never fear — you can always set up a savings account (there are some good options out there, and rarely are they attached to your actual brick-and-mortar bank) and then use your checking account’s online hub to set up regular transfers to that account. It’s as simple as that. The pros are — it’s as simple as that. You don’t need to trust a third party with your banking information, just your bank(s). You just move money. The cons are it can be a lot harder to watch that money vanish from your account, and of course the bank is happy enough to overdraft and then charge you (most of the time — speak with your bank about options for automated transfers). In other words, no algorithm watching out for you.
Ugh, Wave has saved my bacon more times than I can count — so many of Wave’s features are free. Create estimates, make and send invoices, do ALL THE ACCOUNTING all in one place. Wave specifically makes its online (web app) software for single person businesses (freelancers) and companies with nine employees or under (they even have payroll for $9 per month). I feel like so many queers are starting businesses or freelancing — is that a queer community trend, or an everyone in a post 2008-world trend? Anywho, Wave makes their money when you take credit cards as a method of payment, when you use the service for payroll or when you upgrade to a premium account where you can call for advice. I have not found a downside to Wave yet — I suppose the same as above would apply if you enter your banking information with them, as they do have Mint-esque bank account tracking component, but since I only use them to keep track of my freelance invoices and payments because entering bank account information isn’t required, nope. Not a downside.
I’ve recommended it, like, 60 times, but KEEP TRACK OF YOUR BUSINESS-RELATED RECEIPTS. Keep track of them. I spent an hour yesterday looking for a receipt that I swore was in a safe place. That’s all you need to know. An hour of my day, gone. And all for a stupid tax deductible car rental.
They have a free version, as well as a full-featured version for $6.99. There is no excuse.
So what did I miss — what are you using? Happy Moneying, everyone!