Personal Finance Apps for Christmas

Personal Finance Apps

Do you know someone trying to get control of their finances? How about someone with a strict budget or just beginning to budget? Well, good news! You can give the gift of organization and planning for your personal finance-minded friends and family this year.

Personal Finance Apps as Gifts

A lot of personal finance apps are free, which makes it hard to gift them. However, there are a few great personal finance apps that cost a little money but are GREAT:

LearnVest – You can get started with LearnVest for free. Set up an account, get an assessment of your finances and get a financial plan for yourself. Through LearnVest you can also access a number of online classes and other tools. However, if you want some of the more advanced services offered by LearnVest you will have to pay a $299 initiation fee and $19 a per month after that. If you know someone who would use the services it could make as a great gift though!

Budget Boss – Unlike LearnVest, Budget Boss is not free to download or sign up. The cost of the app is $0.99, however, that is a one-time fee. Much like the name suggests Budget Boss helps you with budgeting and that is about it. It won’t help you with other parts of your finances nor is there a financial team available for advice. It can, however, make a good gift for someone learning to budget.

Stash Invest – Stash Invest helps people start investing with as little as $5. The app only costs $1 per month and you could gift someone an entire year subscription to Stash Invest for only $12. If you know someone interested in investing this would be a perfect and inexpensive gift.

Free Personal Finance Apps

Additionally there are some free personal finance apps out there that you may want to suggest to your finance-minded friends and family. Here are three of the best:

MintMint, like Budget Boss, is a budgeting app. It will take all of your money across all of your accounts and give you a snapshot of your overall finances (including debt). Use the app to budget your monthly expenses as well as entertainment. You can set savings goals and debt-payoff goals within the Mint app. It is truly great for anyone starting to budget!

Level MoneyLevel Money is another budgeting app (sort of). Instead of giving you a snapshot of all of your money Level Money lets you know what money you can really afford to spend. It replaces you account balance with that spendable amount based on your bills and savings goals.

AcornsAcorns is another great investing app for beginners. Like Stash Invest, you can start investing with small amounts of money. The best part about Acorns is that it allowsPersonal Finance Apps you to connect cards to the account and use the “spare change” to invest. For instance, if you spent $4.75 on something with your debit or credit card $0.25 would go to your Acorns investing account. You can also set up monthly withdrawals and investing goals through the app.

How to ‘Package’ an App

There are a few ways you can “package” an app for Christmas (or any other holiday or celebration). Here are a few crafty ways of packaging a personal finance app:

  • Write them a note. If you and the person you are giving the app to are close and you know why they would want this app, write them a note. You can even tell them that they can pick the app themselves (with a cash limit, of course). This makes it more personal. Then you can purchase the app for them.
  • Give them a gift card. You can get gift cards for the PlayStore and iTunes at most stores. Give the gift-receiver a gift card for their phone’s store and tell them what you thought they’d use it for.
  • Package it with some personal finance materials. If you want to aim for free or cheap apps you may want to package your list of recommended personal finance apps with other items. Some good items to package the list with would be personal finance books, subscriptions to personal finance podcasts, a bill calendar, budgeting materials or even a set of money challenge print outs.

Gift-giving isn’t the easiest thing in the world but personal finance apps and personal finance presents can be the gift that keeps on giving, especially if it helps someone save or get better control of their finances. Happy gifting!

Photo: Esther Vargas

Have You Tried a Money Challenge?

Money Challenge
A few years ago 30-day challenges and money challenges became super popular. It was like the internet was trying to challenge everyone to do something to better themselves.

Some challenges had to do with fitness (i.e. the 30-day squat challenge). Others had to do with blogging or writing or other career-specific challenges. And, the most popular had to do with saving money.

The 365 Day Money Challenge

All of the money challenges seemed to have stemmed from the 365 Day Money Challenge. Ultimately this money challenge would challenge you to save a penny a day, increasing by one penny each day. For example, on January 1 you would save $0.01, January 2: $0.02, January 3: $0.03 and so on.

At the end of the year (or 365 days) you will have saved $668. You can see a print out of the money challenge here. The money challenge has been adapted so that you can save nickels, dimes and quarters as well.

The 52-Week Money Challenge

The 52-Week Money Challenge is another great way to save money as well. Like the 365-Day Money Challenge the 52-Week Money Challenge saves a little bit of money at a time. You save money each week, increasing the amount by $1. The first week you’ll save $1, week two: $2, week three: $3 and so on. By the end of the year you’ll have saved $1,400.

You can print out the 52-Week Money Challenge here. There are also a number of alternative challenges you can try, including doing the challenge in reverse.

The Biweekly Money Challenge

Many people get paid biweekly and not weekly. For those who get paid biweekly, an alternative money challenge has been made. The Biweekly Money Challenge is like the 52-Week Money Challenge except it is only on the span of 26 weeks (half a year or biweekly over the year). You simply increase the amount you save every-other-week by $4. Week one you save $3, week two: $7, week three: $11 and so on. You save $1,378 over the span of the year with this money challenge.

If you want to try the biweekly money challenge you can print it out here. You can also alter the plan to suite your own needs.

Creating Your Own Money Challenge

In fact, you don’t have to go by any of these specific money challenges. You can make your own. Saving isn’t easy by any means, however, making a plan and setting out how much money you’ll save and when can really help.

Whether you want to save a certain amount of money per week, biweekly or per month you can lay out a plan that can really help. The internet also has a huge amount of printable money challenge charts out there for you to create your own or follow someone else’s.

The new year is just around the corner and many people will be pledging to save more money and gain control of their finances. There are plenty of money challenges out there for you to try and aid you through your financial journey.

With a new year comes a new challenge. Will you take the money challenge? 

Photo: 401(K) 2012

Holiday Gas Prices: How to Save

Holiday Gas Prices
The holiday season has begun and many people will be traveling to see friends and family for Christmas. That being said, with the average American spending close to $830 celebrating Christmas every year, you’ll want to trim cost wherever you can.

Holiday gas prices can be ridiculous. Many oil companies and gas stations will bump their prices for gas up around the holidays because more people are traveling (just like they do over the summer). This year gas prices aren’t as high as they have been in recent years but they aren’t extremely low either.

Higher Holiday Gas Prices

Holiday Gas Prices
According to this chart from GasBuddy.com, holiday gas prices last year were just slightly below what they are now. At this time last year gas prices sat right around $2 a gallon nationwide. This year the national average gas price is between $2.14 and $2.25 per gallon.

While holiday gas prices are a bit higher this year, they are much lower than they were a year and a half ago. In June of 2015 gas price peaked at nearly $3 a gallon. Comparably, traveling this year may be more expensive than last but you can cut your holiday gas prices by using the GasBuddy app.

Discovering Holiday Gas Prices With GasBuddy

Approximately 100 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more this Christmas to visit friends or family. Holiday gas prices being a bit higher can hurt your Christmas budget this year. However, there is a tool that can help you save on gas this holiday.

As my boyfriend and I sat down and discussed some holiday-related expenses we thought about the possibility of visiting some of our family over Christmas. His mother lives in Minnesota, grandmother in Tennessee and other family members live in West Virginia. My out-of-town family lives in Florida and Pennsylvania. We both live in North Carolina. We didn’t want to spend money flying so Minnesota was out almost immediately (a 23 hour drive that would take at least two days). That is when I discovered GasBuddy.

GasBuddy is a website and smartphone app that you can use to discover the cheapest gas prices in your area. You can also use it to map out a trip and estimate how much money you’ll need for gas to drive there and back based on average gas prices in the places you’ll drive through.

The app and website will give you average price-per-gallon by state and city. Additionally, the app will also let you map out a trip and give you an estimated overall cost for your trip. The app will also alert you when you are getting close to a gas station with cheaper gas prices.

Safe Holiday Travels

Although saving money on gas when traveling for the holidays is important, it is not more important than your safety. If you want to travel by car to save money on flying be sure that the driving conditions are safe enough for travel. Additionally, check to be sure that fuel stations on your route will be open over the holidays to insure you don’t run out of gas and don’t forget to carry a blanket, flashlight and other emergency items in your car just in case.

Here’s to safe and cheap holiday travels!

Photo:  TORLEY 

Don’t Go Into Debt With Your Holiday Spending

holiday spending
Christmas is just around the corner and many people are beginning to stress about their holiday spending. It is important, however, not to go into debt trying to make everyone happy this holiday season.

Many people go into debt trying to live up to Christmases past.

Many people go into debt purchasing gifts for Christmas, myself included. Usually the reason for this is because they are trying to live up to Christmases past. If you had a great year financially and it is followed by a tough financial year you may feel like you are lacking when it comes to gifts for Christmas. Do what you can, don’t stress about living up to last Christmas or the Christmas before.

Don’t overdo it… Buy what you can afford.

If you can’t pay cash for (or pay off in full) what you want to buy this Christmas, don’t buy it. There are plenty of programs, like Layaway at Walmart and Kmart, that can help you make payments on items if you really want them. This is a much better alternative than racking up credit card debt celebrating Christmas. Remember, the gifts you buy will bring joy to others, however, if you ruin your credit buying them you will resent having purchased it in the first place.

Don’t max out any credit cards you can’t pay off in full in January.

I am totally guilty of doing this. I was a 20-year-old who absolutely LOVED Christmas and had been approved for a Discover credit card, Amazon.com credit card and a PayPal credit card. All three of which were maxed out the first Christmas I had them. I bought my boyfriend at the time an Xbox, games and a number of other items. My grandmothers and grandfathers, brothers, mother, dad and dad’s wife all got great presents as well. However, I was not able to pay all of that off for almost a year (with interest) and it ended up dinging my credit score more than it helped it.

Christmas can help your credit score… If you do it right.

A few days ago I heard a friend of mine say that she takes out a loan for holiday spending every year. To me this was astounding (and it may seem odd to bring up in a posting about not accruing debt this Christmas)! How could someone take a loan out and repay it every single year just for Christmas. She says that taking the loan out insures that her family, including her three children, get what they want every year for Christmas.

The loan, as she explained to me, is relatively small $2,000 to $3,000 each year. It has actually helped her credit score tremendously and she is able to “do” Christmas to the fullest.

Whatever your plans for holiday spending are this year, make sure that you are fully aware of your finances and don’t overspend/rack up debt to have a nice Christmas. After all, the season is about enjoying friends and family, not gifts.

Photo: Jim Lukach

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Personal Finance Apps for Christmas

Personal Finance Apps

Do you know someone trying to get control of their finances? How about someone with a strict budget or just beginning to budget? Well, good news! You can give the gift of organization and planning for your personal finance-minded friends and family this year.

Personal Finance Apps as Gifts

A lot of personal finance apps are free, which makes it hard to gift them. However, there are a few great personal finance apps that cost a little money but are GREAT:

LearnVest – You can get started with LearnVest for free. Set up an account, get an assessment of your finances and get a financial plan for yourself. Through LearnVest you can also access a number of online classes and other tools. However, if you want some of the more advanced services offered by LearnVest you will have to pay a $299 initiation fee and $19 a per month after that. If you know someone who would use the services it could make as a great gift though!

Budget Boss – Unlike LearnVest, Budget Boss is not free to download or sign up. The cost of the app is $0.99, however, that is a one-time fee. Much like the name suggests Budget Boss helps you with budgeting and that is about it. It won’t help you with other parts of your finances nor is there a financial team available for advice. It can, however, make a good gift for someone learning to budget.

Stash Invest – Stash Invest helps people start investing with as little as $5. The app only costs $1 per month and you could gift someone an entire year subscription to Stash Invest for only $12. If you know someone interested in investing this would be a perfect and inexpensive gift.

Free Personal Finance Apps

Additionally there are some free personal finance apps out there that you may want to suggest to your finance-minded friends and family. Here are three of the best:

MintMint, like Budget Boss, is a budgeting app. It will take all of your money across all of your accounts and give you a snapshot of your overall finances (including debt). Use the app to budget your monthly expenses as well as entertainment. You can set savings goals and debt-payoff goals within the Mint app. It is truly great for anyone starting to budget!

Level MoneyLevel Money is another budgeting app (sort of). Instead of giving you a snapshot of all of your money Level Money lets you know what money you can really afford to spend. It replaces you account balance with that spendable amount based on your bills and savings goals.

AcornsAcorns is another great investing app for beginners. Like Stash Invest, you can start investing with small amounts of money. The best part about Acorns is that it allowsPersonal Finance Apps you to connect cards to the account and use the “spare change” to invest. For instance, if you spent $4.75 on something with your debit or credit card $0.25 would go to your Acorns investing account. You can also set up monthly withdrawals and investing goals through the app.

How to ‘Package’ an App

There are a few ways you can “package” an app for Christmas (or any other holiday or celebration). Here are a few crafty ways of packaging a personal finance app:

  • Write them a note. If you and the person you are giving the app to are close and you know why they would want this app, write them a note. You can even tell them that they can pick the app themselves (with a cash limit, of course). This makes it more personal. Then you can purchase the app for them.
  • Give them a gift card. You can get gift cards for the PlayStore and iTunes at most stores. Give the gift-receiver a gift card for their phone’s store and tell them what you thought they’d use it for.
  • Package it with some personal finance materials. If you want to aim for free or cheap apps you may want to package your list of recommended personal finance apps with other items. Some good items to package the list with would be personal finance books, subscriptions to personal finance podcasts, a bill calendar, budgeting materials or even a set of money challenge print outs.

Gift-giving isn’t the easiest thing in the world but personal finance apps and personal finance presents can be the gift that keeps on giving, especially if it helps someone save or get better control of their finances. Happy gifting!

Photo: Esther Vargas

Have You Tried a Money Challenge?

Money Challenge
A few years ago 30-day challenges and money challenges became super popular. It was like the internet was trying to challenge everyone to do something to better themselves.

Some challenges had to do with fitness (i.e. the 30-day squat challenge). Others had to do with blogging or writing or other career-specific challenges. And, the most popular had to do with saving money.

The 365 Day Money Challenge

All of the money challenges seemed to have stemmed from the 365 Day Money Challenge. Ultimately this money challenge would challenge you to save a penny a day, increasing by one penny each day. For example, on January 1 you would save $0.01, January 2: $0.02, January 3: $0.03 and so on.

At the end of the year (or 365 days) you will have saved $668. You can see a print out of the money challenge here. The money challenge has been adapted so that you can save nickels, dimes and quarters as well.

The 52-Week Money Challenge

The 52-Week Money Challenge is another great way to save money as well. Like the 365-Day Money Challenge the 52-Week Money Challenge saves a little bit of money at a time. You save money each week, increasing the amount by $1. The first week you’ll save $1, week two: $2, week three: $3 and so on. By the end of the year you’ll have saved $1,400.

You can print out the 52-Week Money Challenge here. There are also a number of alternative challenges you can try, including doing the challenge in reverse.

The Biweekly Money Challenge

Many people get paid biweekly and not weekly. For those who get paid biweekly, an alternative money challenge has been made. The Biweekly Money Challenge is like the 52-Week Money Challenge except it is only on the span of 26 weeks (half a year or biweekly over the year). You simply increase the amount you save every-other-week by $4. Week one you save $3, week two: $7, week three: $11 and so on. You save $1,378 over the span of the year with this money challenge.

If you want to try the biweekly money challenge you can print it out here. You can also alter the plan to suite your own needs.

Creating Your Own Money Challenge

In fact, you don’t have to go by any of these specific money challenges. You can make your own. Saving isn’t easy by any means, however, making a plan and setting out how much money you’ll save and when can really help.

Whether you want to save a certain amount of money per week, biweekly or per month you can lay out a plan that can really help. The internet also has a huge amount of printable money challenge charts out there for you to create your own or follow someone else’s.

The new year is just around the corner and many people will be pledging to save more money and gain control of their finances. There are plenty of money challenges out there for you to try and aid you through your financial journey.

With a new year comes a new challenge. Will you take the money challenge? 

Photo: 401(K) 2012

Holiday Gas Prices: How to Save

Holiday Gas Prices
The holiday season has begun and many people will be traveling to see friends and family for Christmas. That being said, with the average American spending close to $830 celebrating Christmas every year, you’ll want to trim cost wherever you can.

Holiday gas prices can be ridiculous. Many oil companies and gas stations will bump their prices for gas up around the holidays because more people are traveling (just like they do over the summer). This year gas prices aren’t as high as they have been in recent years but they aren’t extremely low either.

Higher Holiday Gas Prices

Holiday Gas Prices
According to this chart from GasBuddy.com, holiday gas prices last year were just slightly below what they are now. At this time last year gas prices sat right around $2 a gallon nationwide. This year the national average gas price is between $2.14 and $2.25 per gallon.

While holiday gas prices are a bit higher this year, they are much lower than they were a year and a half ago. In June of 2015 gas price peaked at nearly $3 a gallon. Comparably, traveling this year may be more expensive than last but you can cut your holiday gas prices by using the GasBuddy app.

Discovering Holiday Gas Prices With GasBuddy

Approximately 100 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more this Christmas to visit friends or family. Holiday gas prices being a bit higher can hurt your Christmas budget this year. However, there is a tool that can help you save on gas this holiday.

As my boyfriend and I sat down and discussed some holiday-related expenses we thought about the possibility of visiting some of our family over Christmas. His mother lives in Minnesota, grandmother in Tennessee and other family members live in West Virginia. My out-of-town family lives in Florida and Pennsylvania. We both live in North Carolina. We didn’t want to spend money flying so Minnesota was out almost immediately (a 23 hour drive that would take at least two days). That is when I discovered GasBuddy.

GasBuddy is a website and smartphone app that you can use to discover the cheapest gas prices in your area. You can also use it to map out a trip and estimate how much money you’ll need for gas to drive there and back based on average gas prices in the places you’ll drive through.

The app and website will give you average price-per-gallon by state and city. Additionally, the app will also let you map out a trip and give you an estimated overall cost for your trip. The app will also alert you when you are getting close to a gas station with cheaper gas prices.

Safe Holiday Travels

Although saving money on gas when traveling for the holidays is important, it is not more important than your safety. If you want to travel by car to save money on flying be sure that the driving conditions are safe enough for travel. Additionally, check to be sure that fuel stations on your route will be open over the holidays to insure you don’t run out of gas and don’t forget to carry a blanket, flashlight and other emergency items in your car just in case.

Here’s to safe and cheap holiday travels!

Photo:  TORLEY 

Don’t Go Into Debt With Your Holiday Spending

holiday spending
Christmas is just around the corner and many people are beginning to stress about their holiday spending. It is important, however, not to go into debt trying to make everyone happy this holiday season.

Many people go into debt trying to live up to Christmases past.

Many people go into debt purchasing gifts for Christmas, myself included. Usually the reason for this is because they are trying to live up to Christmases past. If you had a great year financially and it is followed by a tough financial year you may feel like you are lacking when it comes to gifts for Christmas. Do what you can, don’t stress about living up to last Christmas or the Christmas before.

Don’t overdo it… Buy what you can afford.

If you can’t pay cash for (or pay off in full) what you want to buy this Christmas, don’t buy it. There are plenty of programs, like Layaway at Walmart and Kmart, that can help you make payments on items if you really want them. This is a much better alternative than racking up credit card debt celebrating Christmas. Remember, the gifts you buy will bring joy to others, however, if you ruin your credit buying them you will resent having purchased it in the first place.

Don’t max out any credit cards you can’t pay off in full in January.

I am totally guilty of doing this. I was a 20-year-old who absolutely LOVED Christmas and had been approved for a Discover credit card, Amazon.com credit card and a PayPal credit card. All three of which were maxed out the first Christmas I had them. I bought my boyfriend at the time an Xbox, games and a number of other items. My grandmothers and grandfathers, brothers, mother, dad and dad’s wife all got great presents as well. However, I was not able to pay all of that off for almost a year (with interest) and it ended up dinging my credit score more than it helped it.

Christmas can help your credit score… If you do it right.

A few days ago I heard a friend of mine say that she takes out a loan for holiday spending every year. To me this was astounding (and it may seem odd to bring up in a posting about not accruing debt this Christmas)! How could someone take a loan out and repay it every single year just for Christmas. She says that taking the loan out insures that her family, including her three children, get what they want every year for Christmas.

The loan, as she explained to me, is relatively small $2,000 to $3,000 each year. It has actually helped her credit score tremendously and she is able to “do” Christmas to the fullest.

Whatever your plans for holiday spending are this year, make sure that you are fully aware of your finances and don’t overspend/rack up debt to have a nice Christmas. After all, the season is about enjoying friends and family, not gifts.

Photo: Jim Lukach