From keeping tabs on your spending to setting savings goals, take advantage of smartphone apps and online tools to maximise your savings
There has never been an easier time to get on top of your finances, with thousands of specialist websites and mobile apps now available to help.
Sarah Coles, personal finance analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, believes technological developments are changing how consumers engage with their money.
“Ideally, we’d all put aside time to track spending and check bank statements but most of us are far too busy, so these tasks get pushed down the to-do list,” she says.
This is where apps come into their own. You don’t need to build a gap in your schedule to sort out your finances – as long as you have a smartphone.
“Whether you are on the bus, waiting in a queue or tolerating an ad break, you can open the right app and get everything done in a matter of seconds,” says Ms Coles.
Here is our lowdown on some of the latest apps to boost your savings and investments, and keep tabs on your spending.
Track your spending
Get to grips with where your money is going, and it’s much easier to see where savings can be made.
Personal finance app Wally helps you to keep track of your income and outgoings, as well as enabling you to scan receipts for your records. It’s clear, easy to use and free.
Another free app to consider is Money Dashboard, which links your accounts to give a more detailed picture of your financial health.
Banks such as Barclays and HSBC – through the Connected Money app – allow you to link accounts from other providers.
Make sure that you only share details with regulated providers - especially if you are sharing your log-in details with a third-party provider. Read here for more information.
Earn while you shop
CheckoutSmart is a free app that gives you cashback on trips to the supermarket both online and in store. You log on to browse the deals and if you buy any of the products listed on the app, you then take a photo of your receipt. Once this is uploaded to the app, the cash reward will be credited to your account, which can be paid into your bank or via PayPal.
“With the right app, you can sort out your money in seconds”
Manage your money
Squirrel works like a second bank account that helps you to budget and save your income – before it even reaches your main current account.
Once your salary gets paid into the app each month, the amount that is allocated to savings is ring-fenced, while money for bills is released to your bank account the day before they are due.
Your spending money, meanwhile, goes into your account as normal and you can request to break this down into weekly amounts if you wish. The principal benefit of this app is that it prevents you from spending money earmarked for bills or savings.
On the downside, it costs £9.99 a month and the savings you squirrel away via the app won’t earn any interest. However, it could help those who struggle to budget.
Take care of the pennies
As the old saying goes: “Take care of the pennies and the pounds will take care of themselves.” This is the idea behind microsavings apps, such as Chip, which tuck a little bit of money away without you even noticing.
Chip uses artificial intelligence to analyse your spending. It works out what you can afford to put away and takes out small sums from your current account every few days. These are deposited into the Chip account, which is hosted by Barclays Bank and is free. If you refer a friend to the app, you’ll be given a bonus of 1% on your savings – and you can earn up to 5% if you refer enough people.
Invest your spare change
Moneybox adopts a similar approach to Chip but invests the savings you make via the app. It allows you to effectively save your ‘spare change’ by rounding up purchases made to the nearest pound. The developers suggest that users make around 30 transactions each week, with an average round-up of 28p. This equates to £8.41 of savings each week.
The app invests the money into a range of global assets via three index tracker funds aimed at cautious, balanced and adventurous investors.
Moneybox charges two fees: a fixed subscription of £1 a month (free for the first three months) and an annual platform fee, equating to 0.45% of the value of your investments.
In addition, you will also pay the annual management charges levied by the index tracker fund providers.These are charged monthly and Moneybox says they average out at 0.23%.
Set a savings goal
Savings Goals Pro allows you to set a target – whether it’s a new car, holiday or another big ticket item – and then track your progress. Once you set a date for each savings goal, the app will calculate the amount you need to save each week or month to hit the target. It can also show you how long you’d take to save a certain amount, based on the money you’re putting away each week. It’s clear and straightforward, and at a one-off fee of £3.99 won’t break the bank.
Become a virtual investor to assess your trading strategies
Practise building a portfolio
Apps such as the Best Brokers Stock Market Game allow you to run a virtual investment portfolio that won’t leave you out of pocket. They can let you try out investing without risking a fall in the value of your own savings. You can also test different trading strategies that you wouldn’t want to use with real cash.
The Best Brokers Stock Market Game features more than 60,000 stocks, as well as funds, exchange-traded funds, bonds and cryptocurrencies.
You start with a notional £25,000, building your investment portfolio over time, or you can test different trading strategies. Users can also compete with friends or other users, and assess performance on weekly, monthly or annual charts.
Plan your retirement
There is no longer-term savings than your pension fund, so tools to help you stay on top of your retirement pot can prove very useful. Winning Moneywise’s best pensions education initiative in our Pensions Awards 2018, Aviva offers tools and calculators on its website (Aviva.co.uk/retirement/tools-and-calculators/). These are available for anyone – not just its own customers.
Look out for its ‘Shape My Future’ and ‘My Retirement Planner’ tools. The first builds up your lifestyle choices in retirement and how much they would cost, while the other uses your pension details to calculate how much you’re likely to receive.