Personal Finance App (if you start fresh)?

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acegolfer
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Personal Finance App (if you start fresh)?

Post by acegolfer »

I was asked to discuss personal budgeting to college students. I thought students will benefit from using personal finance app so that they can track of their spending/income/debt/investment/NWT etc.

Imagine you are a recent graduate and just started your first job. What app/program would you start to use today? Obviously, free option is better but not required. If possible, can you provide the pros/cons of your suggestion as well?
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drizzle
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Re: Personal Finance App (if you start fresh)?

Post by drizzle »

I love YNAB (You Need a Budget) it's a great way to start and helps people live on last month's income and be mindful with their money.
Also college students get a year free, https://www.youneedabudget.com/college/
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yangtui
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Re: Personal Finance App (if you start fresh)?

Post by yangtui »

Google Sheets
iLikeYams
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Re: Personal Finance App (if you start fresh)?

Post by iLikeYams »

I've enjoyed Mint by Intuit. Lets you combine your various accounts (most checking, savings, credit cards, retirements) to see them all in one place. It has an overview of total cash, credit card debt, and investments, cash flow and pi chart for the month's spend.
RyeBourbon
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Re: Personal Finance App (if you start fresh)?

Post by RyeBourbon »

I use Mint. I liked it better when it had Bill Pay so I'm in the market for a new app.
jpelder
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Re: Personal Finance App (if you start fresh)?

Post by jpelder »

I use Mint, personally.

Pros
Made by Intuit, so it's a company that has budget for data security, and a track record of protecting user data
Syncs fairly automatically with bank, loan, and credit card accounts from almost any institution
Automatic capture and categorizing for most transactions, so you only have to hand-sort a few
Free
Web-hosted, so you can access data from any device (OS-neutral)
The Android and iPhone apps are pretty full-featured (the only thing they can't do is go back to previous months' budgets)
Very flexible budget categorizing
Can plan for irregular expenses through scheduling and roll-over funds

Cons
Ad-Supported (doesn't bother me, but might bother some)
Does not do well with irregular paychecks (not a problem for me, as I'm on salary paid once per month)
Occasionally has trouble with automatic download
Occasionally doesn't play well with certain financial institutions
Investment tracking is pretty worthless for anything besides seeing balances over time
The goal feature only allows one goal per account, even though one might use a single savings/brokerage account to save for more than one goal. I overcome this by building the budget in Google sheets and using Mint to track.

Overall, it's served me well for the 9 years I've been using it. I give it a lot of credit for keeping my financial ship in order.
muffins14
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Re: Personal Finance App (if you start fresh)?

Post by muffins14 »

I like "Daily Budget".

It's a very lightweight app that gives you a daily total and you manually enter your purchases, which are deducted. Over time you see if you are running on track or not, and you can also see purchase summaries by category at month-end.

No need to attach any external accounts to it. You need to enter the transactions manually, but I think that is a good thing because it forces you to acknowledge your spending.
stan1
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Re: Personal Finance App (if you start fresh)?

Post by stan1 »

acegolfer wrote: Tue Sep 22, 2020 12:35 pm Imagine you are a recent graduate and just started your first job. What app/program would you start to use today? Obviously, free option is better but not required. If possible, can you provide the pros/cons of your suggestion as well?
I think Mint is a good choice and especially for that audience (young and not wealthy). It is easily accessible online and on phones, links to major bank and credit card accounts, and relatively simple. YNAB is another choice if there is a focus on budgeting and debt reduction for those recent graduates who have a lot of student loan debt.
Surfinfan
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Re: Personal Finance App (if you start fresh)?

Post by Surfinfan »

I’m actually quite surprised to see so many suggestions on here for Mint. I have to agree that you should go with YNAB.

I actually started using Mint in high school (2008) for budgeting until last year. It got me no where except watching my net worth decrease while I was living on credit card float. I finally switched to YNAB this year and even despite a pandemic I’m still in the best fiscal shape of my entire life because of it.

Mint does a horrible job at projecting what to do with your money. There’s nothing wrong with it from a historical perspective to track your accounts. But for college students who most likely will be budgeting real money for the first time in their life, they need a zero based budget system.

I’ll also throw out personal capital. I use that for tracking my net worth and it has a nice interface.
enclee
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Re: Personal Finance App (if you start fresh)?

Post by enclee »

acegolfer wrote: Tue Sep 22, 2020 12:35 pm I was asked to discuss personal budgeting to college students. I thought students will benefit from using personal finance app so that they can track of their spending/income/debt/investment/NWT etc.

Imagine you are a recent graduate and just started your first job. What app/program would you start to use today? Obviously, free option is better but not required. If possible, can you provide the pros/cons of your suggestion as well?
Excel, who doesn't love a good looking Excel spreadsheet? Mint and YNAB are nice, but I prefer crafting my own as it makes it feel more personal. Also, it's almost a guarantee that in their future jobs they'll have to work with Excel.
onourway
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Re: Personal Finance App (if you start fresh)?

Post by onourway »

I also say YNAB.

It has a very ‘current’ interface, so it will resonate with college students, and more importantly, in order to actually use it, it practically requires a complete shift in how most people view money.
Topic Author
acegolfer
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Re: Personal Finance App (if you start fresh)?

Post by acegolfer »

onourway wrote: Tue Sep 22, 2020 4:11 pm I also say YNAB.

It has a very ‘current’ interface, so it will resonate with college students, and more importantly, in order to actually use it, it practically requires a complete shift in how most people view money.
Interesting. Can you elaborate the shift in view?
KlangFool
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Re: Personal Finance App (if you start fresh)?

Post by KlangFool »

OP,

None.


Do "Pay Yourself First" and contribute to the Trad 401K and Roth IRA up to the amount that you are willing to save. Then, spend the rest. No budgeting is needed.

You just need to look at your credit card charges and bank statement and add up the expenses.


KlangFool
adestefan
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Re: Personal Finance App (if you start fresh)?

Post by adestefan »

acegolfer wrote: Tue Sep 22, 2020 4:30 pm
onourway wrote: Tue Sep 22, 2020 4:11 pm I also say YNAB.

It has a very ‘current’ interface, so it will resonate with college students, and more importantly, in order to actually use it, it practically requires a complete shift in how most people view money.
Interesting. Can you elaborate the shift in view?
YNAB is a budget app and philosophy and not a personal finance app. Their view is that every dollar has a purpose and is fully tracked in its lifecycle. They are also very big in always being in the green. One of the first goals they set for you is to be one month ahead on your income versus your expenses. It’s very powerful for people that have lived paycheck to paycheck, but it’s not for everyone.

They have a lot of free videos and information on their website about the program and philosophy. I recommend you check them out for more information.
onourway
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Re: Personal Finance App (if you start fresh)?

Post by onourway »

acegolfer wrote: Tue Sep 22, 2020 4:30 pm
onourway wrote: Tue Sep 22, 2020 4:11 pm I also say YNAB.

It has a very ‘current’ interface, so it will resonate with college students, and more importantly, in order to actually use it, it practically requires a complete shift in how most people view money.
Interesting. Can you elaborate the shift in view?
Sure. YNAB works by only allowing you to spend the money you actually have right now. This causes many/most new users to realize that they have almost no money at all - they are living on the float of their credit cards from one month to the next - not just paycheck to paycheck, but the paycheck is spent before they even have it.

You start each month by budgeting the money you have available right this minute. If that’s one week’s worth, you can only budget one week in advance. This can be a very tough period to get through for many users - both because the software doesn’t work at its best until you can budget a full month at a time (although I think this is just a nature of how budgets work, rather than a flaw in the software), and also because it’s really stressful to confront the fact that you have no money.

As a zero based budget system, it also requires you to budget every dollar. At first users tend to really obsess over this, which is great because it makes them realize how much money they are spending on frivolous stuff - and forces them to come to terms with the trade offs required of living on a budget (I’ve spent $300 eating out this month, which is all the money I budgeted, if I want to go out to eat again, I have to pull money from another category to do so - or - if I have no categories with surplus - I won’t have money to pay the rent or mortgage next month). Over time, as your buffer grows, users tend to become less obsessed with tracking dollars and just make sure everything balances at the end of the month, regardless of how those dollars were actually spent.

The short way to explain it is that YNAB is forward looking whereas Mint and many other programs are looking backwards at what you did spend, which seems to be less effective at shaping behavior. It works fine for many Bogleheads who already have good money management habits, but less so for people just learning them.
onourway
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Re: Personal Finance App (if you start fresh)?

Post by onourway »

adestefan wrote: Tue Sep 22, 2020 4:38 pm
YNAB is a budget app and philosophy and not a personal finance app.
I’m curious what the distinction is here?
senex
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Re: Personal Finance App (if you start fresh)?

Post by senex »

YNAB sounds intriguing.

In college I did an older, simpler version of it. I withdrew $X cash every Thursday night. When the cash was gone, I stopped buying stuff and started eating beans from the pantry.

No receipts, no calculations. Good for someone who likes simplicity. For people who love to micro-manage and create reports, maybe not so good.
mptfan
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Re: Personal Finance App (if you start fresh)?

Post by mptfan »

Google Sheets.
tashnewbie
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Re: Personal Finance App (if you start fresh)?

Post by tashnewbie »

senex wrote: Tue Sep 22, 2020 5:08 pm YNAB sounds intriguing.

In college I did an older, simpler version of it. I withdrew $X cash every Thursday night. When the cash was gone, I stopped buying stuff and started eating beans from the pantry.

No receipts, no calculations. Good for someone who likes simplicity. For people who love to micro-manage and create reports, maybe not so good.
:twisted: :P

I prefer simplicity. I kinda follow Klangfool's advice -- I save what I want first, and then I spend the rest, if desired.

Probably not the best system for college students. I think the key for them is to learn to spend less than they make.
iLikeYams
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Re: Personal Finance App (if you start fresh)?

Post by iLikeYams »

Looking further into it, YNAB has a free 12 month trial for college students (they'll need to verify via email + transcripts) followed by a 10% coupon. Otherwise it's $84 a year.
Topic Author
acegolfer
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Re: Personal Finance App (if you start fresh)?

Post by acegolfer »

onourway wrote: Tue Sep 22, 2020 4:40 pm
Sure. YNAB works by only allowing you to spend the money you actually have right now. This causes many/most new users to realize that they have almost no money at all - they are living on the float of their credit cards from one month to the next - not just paycheck to paycheck, but the paycheck is spent before they even have it.

You start each month by budgeting the money you have available right this minute. If that’s one week’s worth, you can only budget one week in advance. This can be a very tough period to get through for many users - both because the software doesn’t work at its best until you can budget a full month at a time (although I think this is just a nature of how budgets work, rather than a flaw in the software), and also because it’s really stressful to confront the fact that you have no money.

As a zero based budget system, it also requires you to budget every dollar. At first users tend to really obsess over this, which is great because it makes them realize how much money they are spending on frivolous stuff - and forces them to come to terms with the trade offs required of living on a budget (I’ve spent $300 eating out this month, which is all the money I budgeted, if I want to go out to eat again, I have to pull money from another category to do so - or - if I have no categories with surplus - I won’t have money to pay the rent or mortgage next month). Over time, as your buffer grows, users tend to become less obsessed with tracking dollars and just make sure everything balances at the end of the month, regardless of how those dollars were actually spent.

The short way to explain it is that YNAB is forward looking whereas Mint and many other programs are looking backwards at what you did spend, which seems to be less effective at shaping behavior. It works fine for many Bogleheads who already have good money management habits, but less so for people just learning them.
Thanks for an excellent write up. It seems YNAB proactively forces one to save. People who are not native savers will probably benefit more from YNAB than from mint.

I'll present both YNAB and Mint to the students and explain the pros/cons of each and also who will benefit from each.
muffins14
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Re: Personal Finance App (if you start fresh)?

Post by muffins14 »

Given that YNAB has a monthly fee, that must be another point against it. In my view, Budgeting should be simple enough that it is free
Dottie57
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Re: Personal Finance App (if you start fresh)?

Post by Dottie57 »

KlangFool wrote: Tue Sep 22, 2020 4:34 pm OP,

None.


Do "Pay Yourself First" and contribute to the Trad 401K and Roth IRA up to the amount that you are willing to save. Then, spend the rest. No budgeting is needed.

You just need to look at your credit card charges and bank statement and add up the expenses.


KlangFool

This. I never budgeted. I kept track of my expenses ( weekly amounts). If I didn’t spend it all, it went to savings/investments.
Dottie57
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Re: Personal Finance App (if you start fresh)?

Post by Dottie57 »

KlangFool wrote: Tue Sep 22, 2020 4:34 pm OP,

None.


Do "Pay Yourself First" and contribute to the Trad 401K and Roth IRA up to the amount that you are willing to save. Then, spend the rest. No budgeting is needed.

You just need to look at your credit card charges and bank statement and add up the expenses.


KlangFool
+1
KlangFool
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Re: Personal Finance App (if you start fresh)?

Post by KlangFool »

Folks,

There are fundamentally two different ways of looking at money.

A) Spend first and save later.


B) Save first and spend later.


And, for most people, the big 3 in expenses are house, car, and college education. If you keep the big 3 expenses under control, the rest does not matter that much.


KlangFool
pasadena
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Re: Personal Finance App (if you start fresh)?

Post by pasadena »

I also recommend YNAB. It's free for a year for students, and it actually teaches you how to think about your money. It does have a learning curve, but the philosophy is great. It's based on the enveloppe budgeting method.

I would also discuss automation. When I started getting serious about money, that is the one thing that set me up for success. Pay Yourself First is great, but it only works if you do it, and for me, like many people I guess, automating it removes emotions, discipline and mistakes from the equation. Automate transfers and payments, but more importantly, automate savings. Most of my savings are gone before I ever see the money (DD from my paycheck to Vanguard), so I never miss it, and I'm never tempted to use it.
onourway wrote: Tue Sep 22, 2020 4:49 pm
adestefan wrote: Tue Sep 22, 2020 4:38 pm
YNAB is a budget app and philosophy and not a personal finance app.
I’m curious what the distinction is here?
Apps like Mint or Personal Capital are looking back (what did you spend your money for). Budget apps like YNAB, are looking forward (how will you allocate the money you have today).
sheepla
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Re: Personal Finance App (if you start fresh)?

Post by sheepla »

Another plug for YNAB. It completely changed my husband and my financial lives!
runner540
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Re: Personal Finance App (if you start fresh)?

Post by runner540 »

acegolfer wrote: Wed Sep 23, 2020 6:22 am
onourway wrote: Tue Sep 22, 2020 4:40 pm
Sure. YNAB works by only allowing you to spend the money you actually have right now. This causes many/most new users to realize that they have almost no money at all - they are living on the float of their credit cards from one month to the next - not just paycheck to paycheck, but the paycheck is spent before they even have it.

You start each month by budgeting the money you have available right this minute. If that’s one week’s worth, you can only budget one week in advance. This can be a very tough period to get through for many users - both because the software doesn’t work at its best until you can budget a full month at a time (although I think this is just a nature of how budgets work, rather than a flaw in the software), and also because it’s really stressful to confront the fact that you have no money.

As a zero based budget system, it also requires you to budget every dollar. At first users tend to really obsess over this, which is great because it makes them realize how much money they are spending on frivolous stuff - and forces them to come to terms with the trade offs required of living on a budget (I’ve spent $300 eating out this month, which is all the money I budgeted, if I want to go out to eat again, I have to pull money from another category to do so - or - if I have no categories with surplus - I won’t have money to pay the rent or mortgage next month). Over time, as your buffer grows, users tend to become less obsessed with tracking dollars and just make sure everything balances at the end of the month, regardless of how those dollars were actually spent.

The short way to explain it is that YNAB is forward looking whereas Mint and many other programs are looking backwards at what you did spend, which seems to be less effective at shaping behavior. It works fine for many Bogleheads who already have good money management habits, but less so for people just learning them.
Thanks for an excellent write up. It seems YNAB proactively forces one to save. People who are not native savers will probably benefit more from YNAB than from mint.

I'll present both YNAB and Mint to the students and explain the pros/cons of each and also who will benefit from each.
I am a natural saver and had my own complex budget spreadsheet BUT YNAB is awesome because it looks forward and forces you to make choices, rather than just looking back and saying I spent $X. It also keeps track of sinking funds for things like semiannual insurance premiums. A lot of posters here say “I just pay them out of cash flow” but most college students need to plan ahead to pay a $500 or $1000 bill. YNAB does that and helps you not spend insurance money on clothes, for example.

Ace golfer, I suggest you look at the apps and try them and watch the YNAB videos - very accessible for people at all stages of learning about budgeting and personal finance.
Last edited by runner540 on Wed Sep 23, 2020 9:45 am, edited 2 times in total.
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drizzle
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Re: Personal Finance App (if you start fresh)?

Post by drizzle »

sheepla wrote: Wed Sep 23, 2020 9:30 am Another plug for YNAB. It completely changed my husband and my financial lives!
Same here, when my wife and I first got married over a decade ago, I had this nagging feeling about credit cards, and I later realized we were riding the credit card float. I wasn't able to put it into words at the time, but it just didn't feel right. It's been night and day since we started tracking and aging money better. I bought one of YNAB's first spreadsheets in '09. :)
soccerbogle
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Re: Personal Finance App (if you start fresh)?

Post by soccerbogle »

KlangFool wrote: Tue Sep 22, 2020 4:34 pm OP,

None.


Do "Pay Yourself First" and contribute to the Trad 401K and Roth IRA up to the amount that you are willing to save. Then, spend the rest. No budgeting is needed.

You just need to look at your credit card charges and bank statement and add up the expenses.


KlangFool
This is what I do as well. Then as my checking account grows (because I don't spend all of my "leftover" money after retirement savings), 1-2x per year I put a lump sum into taxable investments.

However, I think this process is best for people that are naturally "saves". A "spender" recent college graduate could easily run through all their money and more "enjoying life" because they have money to spend for the first time.
mrb09
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Re: Personal Finance App (if you start fresh)?

Post by mrb09 »

For a personal budget app, another vote for YNAB. It really shines for budgeting things like annual expenses or periodic replacement of phones.

For tracking investments, I use a spreadsheet and update every couple of months. I don't change anything unless it is more than a few digits out of wack with my preferred asset allocation.
Topic Author
acegolfer
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Re: Personal Finance App (if you start fresh)?

Post by acegolfer »

mrb09 wrote: Wed Sep 23, 2020 10:04 am For a personal budget app, another vote for YNAB. It really shines for budgeting things like annual expenses or periodic replacement of phones.

For tracking investments, I use a spreadsheet and update every couple of months. I don't change anything unless it is more than a few digits out of wack with my preferred asset allocation.
From what I read, YNAB is excellent for "budgeting". But not good for other personal finance stuffs such as tracking investments. Obviously, it's not for everyone but certain students (who are not natural savers) will greatly benefit from it.
KlangFool
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Re: Personal Finance App (if you start fresh)?

Post by KlangFool »

soccerbogle wrote: Wed Sep 23, 2020 9:59 am
KlangFool wrote: Tue Sep 22, 2020 4:34 pm OP,

None.


Do "Pay Yourself First" and contribute to the Trad 401K and Roth IRA up to the amount that you are willing to save. Then, spend the rest. No budgeting is needed.

You just need to look at your credit card charges and bank statement and add up the expenses.


KlangFool
This is what I do as well. Then as my checking account grows (because I don't spend all of my "leftover" money after retirement savings), 1-2x per year I put a lump sum into taxable investments.

However, I think this process is best for people that are naturally "saves". A "spender" recent college graduate could easily run through all their money and more "enjoying life" because they have money to spend for the first time.

soccerbogle,


I have to partially disagreed with you. A "spender" need the discipline of "Pay Yourself First" saving method in order to save any money first. Or else, they would save close to nothing. Budgeting would not help them at all.


KlangFool
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