Level Money: Free, But Not Ideal for Variable Income

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Gone are the days of the pen and paper budgets that require manual updates and re-writing of your entire spending plan each time you make a new purchase. These days there are quite a few different options for budgeting software and apps available that can help you track your spending and update your budget as your needs change throughout the month. But with so many options out there, it can be hard to find one that fits all of your needs.

One popular budgeting app option is Level Money.

What is Level Money?

LevelMoneyLevel Money is a budgeting app that launched in 2013 in San Francisco, California. It was acquired by Capital One in 2015 and became part of Capital One’s Digital Innovation Team to reinforce Capital One’s commitment to digital banking technologies. According to Level Money’s website, the app has over 800,000 downloads to date. Level Money’s motto is “Spend smarter. Do more. Live better.” But how exactly does it work?

How Does Level Money Work?

The Level Money app allows you to easily connect your bank account(s) and any credit cards to the app. It currently works with over 18,000 financial institutions, so hopefully your bank account and credit cards will be available to connect to the app.

Next you enter your income, your monthly bills, and how much you want to save each month. Level Money crunches all those numbers for you and comes up with your “Spendable” cash each day.

Another part of the app, called “Insights”, allows you to keep track of your spending in certain categories, like dining out or transportation, so you can see how these expenses change over time. You can also see your bank balance history and some projections going forward based on your spending and income habits.

The third way to view your finances in Level Money is on the tab called “Plan”. This shows a pie chart and a summarized number for your income, bills, savings goal, and total “spendable” income left over.

Security Features Offered by Level Money

One of the biggest concerns many people have about using a budgeting app is security. The Level Money app does require you to enter your financial account information to use all of its services. According to its website, Level Money uses the same 128-bit Encryption as banks and other financial institutions.

Who Should Use Level Money?

Budgeting apps, like Level Money, are a great tool for those who like to check their finances on the go. Having access to your income numbers, bills, and spendable income at any time on your smartphone could be a good deterrent to overspending your budget. With just a few taps on your phone, you can see whether or not a purchase you are about to make is within your budget or not.

It has been reported that the app is not as user friendly for those with a variable income or expenses that only come up every few months. However, a new version of the app is supposed to help combat these issues by allowing you to select how often you pay your bills.

Another potential downside of the app is for those who use primarily cash for their purchases. The Level Money app doesn’t have a system in place to keep track of transactions made outside of your linked bank accounts and credit cards.

What Does Level Money Cost?

One of the best things about Level Money is that it’s free to use. The app also doesn’t rely on advertisements, which is a nice feature. Many budgeting apps that are free to use, like Mint.com, use advertisements to help pay for the app since users don’t have to pay to use the services.

Pros and Cons of Level Money

Pros

  • 100% free to use with no advertisements
  • Simple to set up and use
  • Links to multiple bank accounts and credit cards
  • Provides insight into how much money you have left to spend per day and per month

Cons

  • Doesn’t provide advice for how to use your money to improve your finances, other than encouraging you to meet the savings goal you set up within the app.
  • May not be the best fit for those with a variable income (such as freelancers).
  • No easy way to account for cash purchases, which can be a big downside for those who like to budget with cash.

How Does Level Money Stack Up?

As mentioned, Level Money is far from the only budgeting app available. Every Dollar and Mint.com also offer budgeting apps to help your personal finances.

Every Dollar

EveryDollarEvery Dollar is the budgeting app designed by Dave Ramsey’s team to help people with their zero sum budgeting strategy. It’s easy to set up and use, but in order to get a complete picture of your finances by linking your bank accounts and credit cards, you have to pay for the Every Dollar Plus version of the app for $99 a year. It also doesn’t have charts and graphs that many people find helpful in analyzing their spending.

Mint.com

MintMint.com is very similar to Level Money in that it’s 100% free to use, even if you link you bank accounts and credit cards. However, there are ads from financial institutions and products that may look like helpful advice. You need to be aware that these products and services may not be the right fit for you. Mint.com does profit from these advertisements and recommendations.

Should You Use Level Money?

Level Money is a good way to track your budget, expenses, and available cash on the go. It seems to be particularly handy for those who are always wondering how much they have available for spending on any given day of the month as the app provides that information with just a glance. Plus if you start using Level Money and decide it’s not for you, you can always cancel without losing any money as it’s 100% free to use the app.

The post Level Money: Free, But Not Ideal for Variable Income appeared first on MagnifyMoney.

EveryDollar and EveryDollar Plus: a Budgeting App to Keep You On Track

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With so many budgeting apps and options available on the market, it can be hard to decide which tool will work the best for your personal financial situation. One of the newest options that just came out last spring is EveryDollar.

EveryDollar is the budgeting app created by personal finance guru Dave Ramsey. No matter if you agree with all of Mr. Ramsey’s financial advice or not, his “Total Money Makeover” program has helped scores of families get out of debt and gain control of their money.

“I’ve been using the EveryDollar budgeting app for about 6 months now and I initially found out about it by listening to Dave Ramsey’s podcast,” said Allison Haffner, a money conscious millennial from Colby, Kansas. “If I hadn’t heard about it on his show, I probably wouldn’t have started using it.”

EveryDollar is a budgeting app that can be used on your computer or your smartphone. There are two versions of the program – one is free and the other is a paid option that offers more features for it’s users.

How it Works

EveryDollarThe first step to using EveryDollar is going to the EveryDollar website to create an account and set up your zero-based budget. This process should be quick and easy. The website claims that you can create a budget in ten minutes or less, and it’s probably true if you don’t have a complicated budget.

The EveryDollar website creates eight different spending categories that cover the basics of most peoples’ budgets, but you also have the option to create custom categories for your budget if needed.

In addition to creating spending categories, you can also create and set up “funds” which is their term for different savings accounts, like an emergency fund, a vehicle maintenance fund, and more.

After you’ve finished the initial set-up of your budget and financial goals on the website, you can easily maintain your budget by updating it with your day-to-day expenses and purchases with the app.

As you add your expenses to your budget in EveryDollar, it will help you ensure whether or not your spending is in line with your planned budget by showing you graphs of your spending. This is a good reminder for you to make adjustments to your spending as needed throughout the month.

Pros of EveryDollar

Track in real time: Because EveryDollar is a budgeting app that’s available on your iPhone, it’s easy to put in your spending in real time throughout the day. This gives you plenty of reminders to make sure you are staying on track with your goals.

Split transactions: Another feature that’s great is the ability to “split” transactions when you put them in with your iPhone. For instance, your next trip to the grocery store might include more than just food for your family. If this is the case, you can easily split up the transaction to reflect the money you spent on pet food or other items besides just groceries.

Utilize Dave Ramsey’s Method for current followers: EveryDollar also helps you set financial goals and follow Dave Ramsey’s famous “Baby Steps” with a special tool just for those seven steps of your financial journey.

Sync with your bank accounts: In addition to the basic version of EveryDollar, there is a premium version called EveryDollar Plus that can be connected with your bank account to pull in your transactions automatically. This process occurs overnight and then you’ll have to categorize your expenses with a drag and drop system. You can connect multiple bank accounts and major credit cards to your EveryDollar Plus account, which makes it easy to track all of your spending.

EveryDollar makes it easy to keep track of your budget and have confidence that the information is correct because it does sync across multiple devices. This is a great feature for married couples that will both be accessing their budget on different iPhones or computers.

Cons of EveryDollar

Only iOS enabled: Unfortunately, the EveryDollar budgeting app is only available for iPhone users in the AppStore. Although it is not available for Android users at this time, you can still use the program on your computer. But this option may require you to keep better track of your spending as you are out and about so you can input it into your budget later when you get home and have access to your computer.

Can only sync to bank accounts if you pay: another downside of EveryDollar’s free version is that it can’t be connected to your bank account to automatically pull in your transactions every night as they hit your account. If you don’t want to pay for EveryDollar Plus, you will have to input all of your expenses manually. Although if you’ve been using a handwritten budget or even a spreadsheet of your own making, you’ve likely been doing this anyway.

Takes awhile to adapt: Haffner said the biggest downside she experienced with the EveryDollar app was that it took a little getting used to before she could easily use it for all of her budgeting needs.

“It did take me a little while to learn how to use the app to track my spending. I kept using my old spreadsheet alongside the app for a while until I got the hang of it,” she said.

Misnamed transactions: Another thing to watch out for if you decide to try EveryDollar Plus is the translation of merchant names on your transactions. When the app pulls in the transactions from your bank account or credit card, it converts the merchant names from an abbreviated version to the longer version to make it easier for you to drag and drop your expenses into categories. However, the translations are sometimes incorrect.

EveryDollar Plus Costs

EveryDollar Plus is offered for free for 15 days so you can try it out and see if it will work for your financial needs. During this trial period you will have access to all of the premium features, the most popular of which seems to be the automation between the app and your bank account. After the trial period, the cost for the premium version of the app is $99 per year. However, even if you decide to stick with the free version, the EveryDollar budgeting app offers a lot of features and benefits.

How Does EveryDollar Stack Up?

As mentioned, there are lots of options for budgeting apps. In fact, we even put together a list of the 10 best budgeting apps available.

MintMint is one the most popular budgeting apps because it’s 100% free for users. It also offers free transaction syncing between your bank account the app to help you keep track of your expenses. This is a feature you’d have to pay for with EveryDollar Plus. But budgeting with EveryDollar is actually faster and more user-friendly than Mint. Some of the “helpful hints” on Mint are actually ads, and users have been reporting more problems with Mint’s account syncing feature over the past year.

Screen Shot 2016-03-02 at 11.44.03 AMAnother popular budgeting app is You Need a Budget, or YNAB. This app is actually quite different from Mint and EveryDollar because it focuses more on budgeting into the future instead of analyzing the past and present. The YNAB program is based on living off last month’s income, encouraging you not to spend the income you’ve earned until 30 days later once you’ve built up a savings buffer. YNAB is $50 per year and if you are a data lover, this may not be the best option for you, as it doesn’t provide much in the way of analysis and trend data for your spending.

Who Will Benefit Most

Overall, EveryDollar has a very user-friendly interface that should make it easy for budgeting beginners to get the hang of creating and sticking to their first zero based budget. It’s also a good option to consider if you are on-the-go and want to refer back to your budget before making a purchase that could make or break your category for the month.

EveryDollar is a budgeting app that will likely be very popular due to it’s association with popular personal finance guru, Dave Ramsey.

That said, it might be hard to convince people to switch to EveryDollar since there are other budgeting apps, like Mint, that allow users to connect their bank accounts and sync transactions for free.

The post EveryDollar and EveryDollar Plus: a Budgeting App to Keep You On Track appeared first on MagnifyMoney.

Does Mint.com Fit All Your Budgeting App Needs?

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There are so many online financial tools in 2016 that it’s hard to keep track of all of them. One of the most widely known tools is Mint.com. Started in 2006, Mint.com now has over 16 million users.

What is Mint.com?

MintMint.com is a website that provides you with an online software for 1) budgeting, 2) setting financial goals and 3) credit score reporting.

Budgeting: Through Mint.com’s budgeting software, you can connect their bank accounts, loans, credit cards, and other financial accounts, and Mint.com will track all transactions from the accounts (i.e. spending). Not only does Mint.com track spending and saving, but you can also see all transactions in charts and graphs, which makes visualizing budgets easier.

Goal Setting: You can set financial goals, and Mint.com will show the progress over time.

Credit Score Monitoring: Mint.com shows you your credit right on the dashboard of your account. While this is a credit score based off the Equifax credit-scoring model, it is still a credit score nonetheless and likely a close estimate to your FICO score.

How does Mint.com work?

After you signup for an account with Mint.com, you can connect your financial accounts very easily by entering in your financial account information (usernames and passwords). Your accounts will sync with Mint.com and your data will be updated automatically each time you log in to Mint.com. For these reasons, Mint.com is very user friendly and easy to use.

What security features does Mint.com offer?

To use Mint.com, you must provide their names and login information for all of the accounts that they will link to Mint.com. According to its website, Mint.com keeps login information “stored securely in a separate database using multi-layered hardware and software encryption to protect users” (read more about Mint.com’s security here).

Mint.com requires a two-step authentication before allowing you to access your account. This means that when you try to log in, they will first be asked to verify their identity through email or text messages.

Who is Mint.com best for?

Mint.com is best for you if you are just starting to budget, you want to have software do most of the work for you (versus paper budgets), and you want access to your information on mobile friendly devices.

Mint.com is great if you are a beginner who needs to get organized and if you are learning how to manage money and want to create a budget to track spending and meet financial goals. The web-design and features make Mint.com simple to use on any device, which means financial information is easily accessible on mobile devices.

What does Mint.com cost?

You can signup for Mint.com for free and continue to use Mint.com completely free of any charges.

Mint.com makes money not through users paying for the service, but through offering users financial products for which Mint.com gets a referral fee. So, you can use Mint.com completely free and clear, but you will find advertisements and offerings of financial products throughout the software. Be aware that products pushed to you on Mint are based on the fact the company gets a referral fee, so it doesn’t necessarily mean the product is the best fit for you.

What are the pros and cons of using Mint.com?

If you are deciding whether to use Mint.com, consider the following pros and cons.

Pros

  • Simple to use.
  • Goal-setting tools provided to help you meet your goals.
  • Provides a complete budgeting software system that links all accounts.
  • It’s completely free.
  • You have access to a free credit score.
  • You can visualize their saving and spending through graphs and charts.

Cons

  • Mint.com has a lot of advertisements and aims to get you to buy financial products, which may or may not be the best fit for you.
  • For advanced investors or budgeting experts, Mint.com may be too basic. There is no trading or actual investing through Mint.com.
  • Like any online tool, there is always a security risk of a hack and your data being compromised.

How does Mint Stack up Against the Competition?

Mint.com is not the only web-based program that offers budgeting. LevelMoney, EveryDollar, and Personal Capital are three alternatives to Mint.com.

LevelMoneyLevel Money is a simple program that makes budgeting very easy (by categorizing your spending as income, bills, save, and spendable). Level Money gives you a dollar amount that you can spend per day (this is helpful if you’re a big spender). Unlike Mint.com, which gives you a complete overview of your finances at any given time, Level Money aims to help you control your money and spend less. It’s like a moral compass for your money.

EveryDollarEveryDollar is a budgeting software system developed by Dave Ramsey’s team that allows users to track saving and spending under the zero sum budget strategy. Budgeting in EveryDollar is super fast and easy (even easier than Mint.com), but it costs. If you want the ability to link all your accounts to the app like you can with Mint, then you’ll need to pay $99 annually. There is less clicking and refreshing – everything you need to complete your budget is done on one page. However, EveryDollar doesn’t have the graphs and charts that Mint.com does with respect to reporting on your historical spending. For that reason, if you would like a more in depth tool, Mint.com may be better.

Personal CapitalPersonal Capital is similar to Mint.com with the additional feature of actual investing and no advertisements. You can actually invest your money with Personal Capital, unlike with Mint.com (read more about Personal Capital here). Otherwise, the features of Mint.com and Personal Capital are very similar – both use charts and graphs to show your financial snapshot and historical spending. One feature about Personal Capital that is nice is that it doesn’t have any advertisements because it makes money through people paying them for their services (i.e. investing with them). However, both services are free to use, so you can’t go wrong with either.

Should You Use Mint.com?

You should decide whether to use Mint.com by identifying whether it will help you.

Ask yourself the following questions to help you decide weather to use Mint.com.

  1. Are you just getting started budgeting?
  2. Do you need an online tool to help you track your saving and spending?
  3. Do you need encouragement and tracking software to achieve financial goals?
  4. Do you wish you had access to a free credit score?

If the answer is yes to these questions, then Mint.com may be a valuable tool for you to use. The bonus is that Mint.com is completely free and you can deactivate it at any time.

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