NEW YORK (MainStreet) —While consumer debt is more pervasive than ever in our society, there are innovative apps that provide a new framework for regaining control of personal finances.
“When it comes to consumer finance...contemporaneous reporting is key, and that’s easiest to accomplish using mobile apps," said Robert Green, CEO of GreenTraderTax.com. "Most spending takes place on the go, so make your contemporaneous accounting mobile, too.”
Mobile apps for managing your finances are providing empowering new tools to stay on track with your budget, in real time and on the move. Their arrival is certainly timely, amid the skyrocketing consumer debt in the United States.
Consumer debt in America has increased by a massive 1700% since 1971, and more than ever, Americans are feeling the strain of financial liabilities.
According to the Federal Reserve, total U.S. credit card debt amounts to $793 billion, with the average credit card debt per household at more than $15,000.
Even more staggering are the numbers relating to student loans.
There are approximately 37 million student loan borrowers with outstanding student loans in the United States today. Total outstanding student loan debt stands between $902 billion and $1 trillion.
Among the thousands of financial iPhone apps available, these six stood out for their creativity and innovation in tackling debt and budgeting.
Reaching over 10 million users, Credit Karma allows you to check your credit score whenever you want from your smartphone. The app shows how your credit score ranks in relation to other consumers and how much it has changed since your last update.
The app also provides free credit monitoring alerts which can help protect your identity and credit score. Users are notified immediately and can take quick action if something important has appeared in their credit report.
Credit Karma gives you a greater understanding of your credit score by breaking down each factor contributing to the number in its "Credit Report Card" interface. The app also shows your credit score history, charting how your credit score has changed over time.
Another blockbuster app boasting over 10 million users, Mint allows you to centralize and easily manage your finances in one place, highlighting where you are spending and how you can potentially save money.
On opening an account, you can add your bank, credit, loan, investment and retirement accounts. Mint will automatically pull in and categorize your transactions, enabling you to get a broad overview of your finances with one log-in.
The software automatically organizes your spending into categories and illustrates where your money is being spent with graphs.
It highlights you how much you have left to spend and creates a customized budget based on your actual spending. It is possible to add manual transactions at the time of purchase so you can track cash spending on the go.
Bill reminders, alerts and advice can be sent directly to your iPhone keeping you up to date with your budget and helping you avoid late fees.
The iPhone and iPad apps sync with Mint.com on the web, so you always have your latest data available.
Accounting software giant Intuit acquired Mint in 2009 at a valuation of approximately $170 million.
Shoeboxed is a searchable online filing cabinet that allows you to easily process and archive your documents such as receipts, business cards and bills.
When you sign up for Shoeboxed, you are sent a prepaid envelope which you can fill with receipts, business cards, bills or any documents you want organized and archived.
Once the documents are received by Shoeboxed, they undergo high accuracy scanning, OCR (optical character recognition), and human data verification before being posted to your account. User data is secured by SSL encryption and backed up on multiple servers.
When the documents are ready you receive an email notification and a new envelope is sent out.
Alternatively, receipts can be sent from anywhere using the iPhone or iPad app. You can also drag and drop documents into Shoeboxed from your computer using their desktop uploader.
Shoeboxed facilitates the creation and sending of expense reports, with receipt images from your computer or mobile device. It also integrates with major accounting software such as Quickbooks.
Debt Free helps you organize, monitor and eliminate your debt. The app allows you to input the basic data relating to your debts and then analyze and model repayments.
Debt Free provides multiple debt payoff strategies and calculates your overall debt free date and payoff dates for each debt. By choosing a strategy you can see how the total debt, interest amount and debt payoff date are affected.
The app also calculates interest and time savings with extra payment and allows you to set up notifications for payment due dates.
A visually rich app, Debt Free features percent progress bars for each debt and 2D pie chart views of the debts.
A built-in payoff calculator shows how the monthly payment amount will affect the payoff date and total interest paid.
You Need a Budget, also referred to as YNAB, combines budgeting software with a methodology designed to free people from living paycheck to paycheck, get out of debt and save money more efficiently.
The software, which syncs between the computer and mobile apps helps the user to make informed spending decisions in real time based on their budget. The app allows quick entry of transactions on the go, the ability to check category balances before making a purchase and the ability to view all historical transactions.
Multiple devices can cloud sync with one budget, making it possible for an entire household to stay on the same budget.
BillTracker is a simple and popular app for staying organized and on top of your upcoming bills.
The app allows you to enter information about each of your bills, including the due date, amount due, whether or not the bill is automatically paid and confirmation numbers for payments.
BillTracker compiles all your bills into one list, clearly showing which bills are becoming due for payment. You can enter repeating bills and their frequency and also set reminders for when a bill is due soon or overdue.
These apps bring clarity, control and even an element of fun to subjects often considered dull and intimidatingly complex. With the exception of YNAB, the apps are either free or cost about the price of a cup of coffee, making a low barrier to entry for smartphone owners. Like going on a diet to lose weight, the apps are most effective with consistent usage over time, but when properly employed, the results can be genuinely life changing.