Why bother holding on to more cash if you're not going to manage it wisely? Whether you're saving for something special or socking away money for retirement—or simply making sure the bills are paid with a bit left over—these apps can help you plan and meet your goals.
CREATE A BUDGET
Best App: Mint (Amazon, Android, iOS, Windows)
Bottom-Line Benefits: This app links to your savings, checking, credit card, investment and other accounts, allowing you to track spending and set bill-pay reminders. Mint also can alert you to bargains such as a bank with a better interest payout and a credit card with a lower interest rate.
Best App: You Need a Budget (Android, iOS)
Bottom-Line Benefits: Like Mint, it integrates your accounts, letting you track spending, set reminders and save for goals. But it also has an active user forum and daily online classes on topics such as creating a budget. Note: To use the app, you need to buy the $60 software package, but you can check it out first with a 34-day free trial.
STOP PAYING ATM FEES
Best App: MasterCard Nearby
(formerly ATM Hunter; Android, iOS, Windows)
Bottom-Line Benefits: Find your bank's or other fee-free ATMs from among the more than 2 million machines worldwide in the brand's network. You can search for no-surcharge options and look for drive-up, wheelchair-accessible and 24-hour ATMs, among other specifics.
Best App: ShoeBoxed (Android, iOS)
Bottom-Line Benefits: Useful for anyone who needs to monitor miles or receipts for tax purposes, it logs miles through GPS and stores uploaded receipts in a searchable, IRS-accepted digitized format. The app services are free, but costs accrue based on how many receipts you save. Storing up to 50 receipts per month would run you $10 monthly.
SAFEGUARD YOUR CARDS
Best App: BillGuard by Experian (Android, iOS)
Bottom-Line Benefits: BillGuard tracks your spending with an added layer of security: It alerts you to data breaches, suspicious activity and so-called gray charges (often the result of deceptive or fraudulent offers). The company estimates that one in four people are the victims of gray charges, costing an average of $356 per year per person.
DROP YOUR DEBT
Best App: ReadyForZero (Android, iOS)
Bottom-Line Benefits: Link your loan and credit card information (or enter it manually) with the app and it analyzes your balances, interest rates and income to develop a personalized debt-reduction plan. You can try the free version to decide whether the additional features in the $10- to $15-per-month upgrades are worth it.
MONITOR YOUR CREDIT SCORE
Best App: Credit Karma (Android, iOS)
Bottom-Line Benefits: Although it's best to check your score at all three of the big credit reporting agencies—Equifax, Experian and TransUnion—Credit Karma can give you an idea of where you stand. Be prepared for credit-card and other offers from the company's partners, as that's one way this app makes money.
BUILD A PORTFOLIO
Best App: Acorns (Amazon, Android, iOS)
Bottom-Line Benefits: This app links to your credit and debit cards, rounds up your purchases to the next dollar and sweeps the change into an investment account based on your risk tolerance. The app is free, but once you start investing. Acorns charges $1 per month for accounts of less than $5,000, and 25 percent per year for assets of $5,000 or more.
Best App: Smarty Pig (Android, iOS)
Bottom-Line Benefits: This "online piggy bank" is an FDIC-insured savings account with a 0.75 percent annual percentage yield. Use it to set savings goals between $50 and $250,000. Connect with friends and relatives, who can contribute to your effort and help you stay on track. Hit your target and you can pick cash-back options from participating retailers.
KNOW WHAT BROKERS KNOW
Best App: Seeking Alpha (Android, iOS)
Bottom-Line Benefits: Delivers investment advice to help you make the most of the stock market and the reasons for its ups and downs. From the hot-shot Wall Street website of the same name, this robust app has commentary, research and all manner of news to guide your investment decisions.
APP TIP! Make use of bill-pay reminders, like the one on Mint, to ensure you don't have a 3 a.m. "Gosh, I forgot to pay that" panic attack. If you have a 780 FICO score, just one 30-day late payment could drop that number by 90 to 110 points. That might add 0.4 percent to a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage—which would cost you nearly $16,000 during the life of a $200,000 loan.