Here is my pick of apps and other #FinTech (Financial Technology) products that help you budget and save if you live in the UK. They are aimed at people who are short of money. It doesn’t include apps getting you to invest in the stock market.
But if every month is a struggle, you find it hard to manage on the money you have, leave enough in your account to pay the bills and have a small emergency fund, give some of these a try!
Money management apps
Some people still love using spreadsheets to track the balance on their account and how that will change when the rent is paid on Monday and the council tax and water bills next week. Other people just check their bank account every day on their mobile.
If what you are doing works for you, that’s great! But if you feel you aren’t in control of where your money goes and how much is left for you to spend, the aim of the apps here is to automate all that – less work for you and always up-to-date!
These apps work by taking the numbers from your bank account automatically and categorising the expenses so you can see what you are spending on food, petrol, entertaining etc. Sometimes the categorisation is wrong – your groceries bill at Iceland is identified as “holiday spending” for example! But you can correct this and they will then get it right in future.
If you only use one bank account, some banks already provide this sort of information.
Here are three picks – if you don’t budget carefully at the moment, any of these could be a big help:
You can set budgets for different categories – if you do this Yolt tells you when you’re getting near your budget, or points out where you overspent in previous months. It has a “countdown to payday” which I have heard described as useful or depressing!
Cleo isn’t a stand-alone app you install on your phone, instead it “lives” inside Facebook messenger. Some people love this, some people don’t. If you spend much of your online time on Facebook and you use one of the banks Cleo covers, this one is worth trying.
Squirrel takes a different approach. You keep your current bank account but Squirrel sets up a new bank account in your name. When you are paid, your money is moved into this new account and Squirrel then moves back the money to your real account as it is needed to pay your regular bills.
The rest of the money – what isn’t needed for bills – is then moved back to your real bank account so you can spend it. If you want, Squirrel can move it back in weekly chunks, so you don’t run out before you are next paid.
If you find it hard to leave enough money for your bills, you could find Squirrel very helpful. Budgeting for monthly bills if you are paid weekly can be especially tricky and Squirrel helps with this.
Unlike all the other apps on this page, there is a monthly charge for Squirrel – £3.99. But the first three months are free, so you can try it and see if it makes a real difference for you.
I have written a detailed review of Squirrel.
There are two good “stealth savings” apps that I suggest you should look at: Chip (an app on your phone) and Plum (which lives inside Facebook messenger). There is a full review of how they work here: two apps that help you save money without realising it. If you find it impossible to save even small amounts, try one of these!
Helping you to spend less
Bean – track down unwanted DDs and STOs
Do you still want all your direct debits and standing orders? What about regular payments from your credit card? Over time it’s easy to let some slip through unnoticed – insurance for a washing machine you have replaced, a subscription you forgot to cancel after the trial period etc. The Bean app can identify all of these, then you tell it which to cancel.
Find a free cash machine
The Link ATM locator app will show you your nearest cash machine and you can tell it to only show free ones too. Useful if you are often on the move.
The Petrolprices.com app lets you have 20 searches for local petrol prices free each month. But remember the rule of thumb – don’t travel more than two extra miles to save 1p per litre, or it may cost you more then you save!
All those loyalty cards
The Stocard app keeps a record of all your loyalty cards so you don’t have to carry them around with you. It works well for most shops but there are a few where there are problems – Sainsbury’s self-checkout and Boots, many people find. Some people love it, others have given up because of this.
LOQBOX is a new product that helps your credit score if you can save the same amount every month for a year. I’ve looked at it in detail here: How LOQBOX can improve your credit record while you save.
Not all apps are a good idea!
There are dozens of apps that are mostly trying to get you to spend more money by offering a couple of percent off or loyalty points. But are you already spending more than you would like online? See Five ways to cut back on online spending for some helpful ideas.