Fire & Finance Blog

Fire & Finance Blog

Connecting Your Phone And Your Money

If you’ve been following the news recently, you’ve probably seen some pretty amazing stories about technology and money coming together.  On a single day, Amazon announced an online-only “Black Friday” in July event, called “Prime Day,” Apple announced a direct person-to-person payment system for your phone, and Mastercard outdid both by announcing a new program that uses selfies as a security feature.  Between Apple Pay, Square, Google Wallet, PayPal, Uber and AirBNB, we can’t go a month without mobile technology changing a major aspect of personal finances.

But change can be scary for many of us.  After all, 15 years ago you wouldn’t have considered connecting your cellphone to your financial institution, yet we now feel comfortable using an Apple Watch to connect through Bluetooth to an iPhone that connects through a coffee shop WiFi, leaving countless security holes between us and our credit union’s server.  With that in mind, if we’re going to be using selfies to make transactions soon, maybe we should take a moment and find out what we can do now.

Here are some frequently asked questions about managing money on a smartphone:

What’s the best app for budgeting?

For most of the jobs you want to do, one app is as good as another.  If you want to make a to-do list, there are hundreds of apps for that.  If you want a game, there are thousands.  With budgeting, there aren’t as many, and that’s because two apps are far and away the best.  Mint, by Intuit, is a free app that gives you a clear and updated budget.  It’s easy to use and it provides a good bird’s eye view of your finances.  You Need a Budget (or YNAB) is a more colorful and user-friendly app, but it costs $60 for the software after a free trial.  YNAB has few security features, since it contains none of your financial information, making it much easier to enter transactions.  The $60 also means you never have to look at ads.

Question:  Do I really need a budgeting app?

Both are great solutions, but you can also stick to your old spreadsheet.  As Microsoft, Amazon, Apple, Google, and Dropbox all compete for your cloud storage money, the software to sync cloud-stored data has come along quickly.  All you need to do is move your budget spreadsheet over to Google Docs or a similar online service and you can adjust your budget on the go.  Couple this with our mobile web app to easily reconcile your budget the same way you always have. 

Question:  I can’t get rid of the stock app on my phone.  Should I just use that for monitoring my investments?

You don’t have to use it just because it’s there.  You probably found a better option for your email client (such as Gmail, Missives, or Dispatch) and your to-do list app (like Trello, Evernote, or Todoist). You can also find a much better app for investing than the one that came with your phone.  Personal Capital is an app from the former CEO of Intuit, and it is one of the best free investment dashboard apps you’ll find. Its service is designed for the “aspiring wealthy,” and exchanges a free investment monitoring service for targeted advertisements for its paid investment advice.

Question:  I’m looking at all of the great automation features on my phone and I want to connect to the credit union that way.  Why doesn’t your website play nicely with my phone?

We don’t have a lot of the features that other apps use to talk to one another, and it’s not because we’re behind the times.  It’s entirely possible, and not that difficult, to build the software to talk directly to other software so you can buy movie tickets or place an Amazon order whenever you get paid.  The problem is that all of those services use programming protocols that put your information at risk, and we’re not going to relax our security.

Soon enough, our mobile data will be sending selfies to one another, verifying each others’ purchases by thumbprint, and probably doing our jobs for us while we focus on other things.  For now, we’ve got really great software that makes it easier than ever to watch our spending and see our savings grow.


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