By Katie Brown
With smartphone apps that deposit checks at the click of a button and websites that handle everything from budgeting to financial planning, it’s evident that the future of money management lies in a virtual world. Even stepping foot inside a bank is becoming an increasingly rare task, as ATMs and banking apps are more prevalent than ever. In fact, the last time I went inside a bank (which was at least six months ago) was not because I needed to, but because the drive-thru ATM was out of commission.
Whether you’re looking to manage your own personal finances or those of your practice or business, here are a few online money management tools to get your finances in order, all on the screen of your computer or smartphone.
Websites for the Wary
Unsure where to get started? There are plenty of websites that will help anyone—from the tech-savvy college student to the Internet-inexperienced retiree—gain control of their finances online.
One of the most popular money management sites is Mint. By pulling all of its users’ financial information—from investments and insurance to checking and savings accounts—into one secure location, more than 7 million Mint users have benefited from seeing the “big picture” when it comes to their financial position. Whether you’re looking to set budgets, need suggestions on how to save money or simply want an easy-to-comprehend overview of your finances, Mint has a variety of tools to help sort out any financial situation.
For women interested in taking control of their finances, LearnVest created its own method of money management: “Get informed. Get organized. Get support.” Users are able to take advantage of personalized support, daily newsletters with tips and encouragement and the My Money Center, which tracks and budgets spending. LearnVest also has a variety of bootcamps for users to kick-start their financial progress. Ranging from five- to 10-day programs, topics include “Build Your Career,” “Getting Hitched,” “Get Out of Debt,” “Priceless Style” and more.
Mvelopes applies a 21st-century version of the envelope budgeting system, which uses cash envelopes to control money spending for the various costs in your life like rent, groceries, shopping, etc. Basically, when the envelope is empty, you’re done spending. Depending on the type of subscription, Mvelopes costs $8–$13 a month; however, users are able to learn to live within their incomes with support from features like online bill pay, tools to reduce debt and a community of mentors and forums to encourage sharing of financial experiences and expertise.
Known for its organizational capabilities, the relatively new Manilla makes it simple to keep up with everything from bills and account balances to magazine subscriptions and travel rewards. Receive email or text message alerts and reminders when bills are due, and for those overwhelmed with stacks of paper documents like bills and statements, Manilla retrieves and files these documents to help reduce the clutter.
While these money management websites have drastically changed how many people organize and control their finances, the advent of the smartphone has made on-the-go money management possible. Most of these money management sites have their own free, downloadable apps, so users can quickly access or alter any financial information at the click of a button on their iPhone, Android, tablet or other compatible device.
Banks are also taking advantage of the ease and convenience mobile apps provide their customers. Most of these apps let users perform many of the basic banking functions, like checking available balances, transferring funds and searching for the nearest ATM or bank location.
However, one of the newest, and perhaps most impressive, additions to banking apps is the capability to deposit checks. Simply photograph the check, and the app will deposit it instantly. Currently, only a few banks have this feature, including Chase Bank, Charles Schwab, PNC Bank, State Farm Bank, USAA Bank and a few others. However, this feature, which is free of any additional charge, is sure to become a mainstay for banking apps of the future.
Does your bank not have the mobile check deposit feature? PayPal’s free app lets you deposit your check into a PayPal account, which can then be transferred to your own personal bank account. While this task could take a few days to complete, its existence and popularity is proof that people favor its convenience and accessibility.
Using bank-grade security measures, Venmo allows users to transfer funds to other users without a fee. New to the scene, it is compatible with iPhone, Android and BlackBerry. This app is marketed as a tool to help friends transfer money among themselves, whether it’s to pay a friend back for a cab ride or to give your roommate your portion of the water bill.
Creating Convenience, Banking with Ease
Like many other areas of life, convenience reigns supreme. Now, with websites that manage everything from budgets to investments and smartphone apps that handle money transfers and check deposits, heading to the bank seems like a daunting process when, in reality, all of these tasks can be done from your office desk computer or while waiting in line for coffee at Starbucks.
With the e-book craze, consumers appreciate the ability to download the newest bestseller within a few moments, as opposed to searching through a local bookstore or waiting for the book to be delivered in the mail. Likewise, people are making the transition from visiting a physical bank to handling their banking needs through the Internet.
So whether you’re looking for ways to consolidate your finances into one easy-to-manage location or simply want to avoid mundane trips to the bank to deposit a check, try one of these money management sites or apps, which are sure to bring an added convenience and benefit to your life. If you’re wary about the security of managing your finances online, take note of some security measures on page 60.