As technology advances, there are new innovations that can help us organize our finances, save money, and stay caught up on paying our bills.
For some people these changes are confusing or difficult to trust. If you have spent decades paying bills by writing checks, it’s hard to transition to paying bills online. But paying online is quicker, more secure, and easier to track—online bill pay is the kind of innovation everyone should embrace.
If you’re reading this, you probably already have the technology in your hands, and it’s time to start using it fully to enhance your financial life. Here are some tips on how to use technology to manage your money better.
Use Default Apps You Already Have
To get started, you don’t have to do any research or purchase any software. You already have many built-in free apps that you can use more effectively without having to spend any extra money. Spend some more time learning to use these apps in new ways to organize your finances:
Use the Calendar App
Use your calendar app to schedule your monthly financial obligations. You should be able to pull up your calendar any time and see when each of your bills are due. Each calendar event can be set to pop up and remind you—even days ahead of time—that the event is coming.
If you already use calendars for events and appointments, why not add your financial deadlines as well?
Tied to calendar, your reminders app can let you set recurring reminders that will pop up and alert you if you have a task due soon. You can set this reminder to persist every month, so you’ll never have to worry about whether your postal mail is delivered correctly or an email with your monthly statement got sent to your junk mail folder by accident.
Ultimately, setting reminders is a way to be proactive about paying your bills rather than reactive to the statements as they come in. This way, you’ll have a much stronger idea of how much money you need to make all of your payments and keep your budget on track.
Automate on the Web
The most powerful app you have for paying your bills is your web browser. Whether you use Safari or Chrome, simply logging in to your bank’s web site should give you access to online bill pay services that mean no more writing checks, buying stamps, or runs to the post office. You’ll also be able to check back to see when payments were delivered, and have a record of when your payments were made.
Besides bill pay, you’ll have real-time access to your transaction history, so you can verify your account is secure without having to wait for a monthly statement to arrive.
A simple notes app, built into every device, can make a huge difference for people who are learning to budget. We want everyone to track their spending as they create a new budget, and your notes app is a quick and convenient way to jot down spending as it happens.
More Resources: Create a Budget with Our Free Budgeting Calculator
For a budget to be effective, we urge people to track every cent they spend, even if you don’t get a receipt when you put a dollar in a vending machine. With the notes app, you can jot down when and where you spent that dollar so your budget adds up at the end of the month.
Document Using Photos
Your cell phone’s camera can be a lifesaver for record keeping. You should be saving all of your receipts so you can balance your budget, especially when you’re still getting established with a new spending plan.
By using your cell phone camera, you can take a photo of each receipt, then shred the original. And after you’ve used the photos to reconcile your budget, put them in a folder to be used when filing next year’s tax return.
Organize Your Email
It’s easy to let your email inbox be overwhelmed. Every retailer will happily send you marketing messages and coupons—some will send an email every day if you let them. While it’s important that you keep your inbox organized and stay caught up on reading new mail, it can be a good idea to let the companies you do business with contact you.
Some businesses no longer put ads in the Sunday paper—they send an email instead. If it’s from a store where you normally shop, an email like this can be valuable. And of course, you want to get all of your monthly bills by email if possible.
As part of organizing your email, make sure any messages you want to see in your inbox, (like our newsletter!) aren’t being shunted off to a spam or junk mail folder. These days, mail apps are smart and will learn which messages should be filtered out and which should be allowed through.
Opt-in for Text Messages
You can use text messaging for your financial goals as well. By visiting America Saves, you can pledge to save and get text message reminders, tips, and regular encouragement. Use every tool at your disposal to become a more consistent saver, and let America Saves help.
Download Other Financial Apps and Browse Websites
Some apps you may want to use to organize your finances may not be built in to your devices. Before downloading a new app and entering any of your financial information in it, do a little extra homework.
Learn More: 3 Free Online Financial Goal Planning Tools
Make sure they’re trusted—if you’re downloading your bank’s app, make sure it’s really their official app. Your bank probably has a QR code at their local branches you can scan that will link to the app you’re looking for. For any third-party budgeting apps, read reviews and ensure you’re dealing with a reputable developer. Keep an eye out for hidden subscriptions or recurring charges.
Start with free versions—even if you are thinking of subscribing to a paid app for budgeting or other financial services, start free. Look for apps and websites with a free trial period so you can see if they are worth paying for before you subscribe. Also look for other apps that do the same thing for free or charge less. Don’t always assume free is better, though. Find out how the app developer makes money—is it by selling your financial info, or just through advertising?
Be careful what info you share—read the software user agreements so you know what data each software developer is collecting and how they will use it. Your privacy is very important, so you should always be thinking about how you’ll protect it as you use new technologies and services.
Stay connected online
Using technology to organize your finances also means staying current and connected. What is the current state of consumer law? This year, COVID-19 caused some huge disruptions to our financial lives. For example, we all had a few extra months to file our income tax returns in 2020.
Read Trusted Sources
The hardest task when staying up to date on what’s going on in the world is finding trusted sources. Anytime someone shares a story, you’ll have to verify that it’s accurate and current. Go do the research for yourself and make sure you can verify things with a legitimate news source.
Take Advantage of Free Learning Resources
There are many resources online for learning to budget, understand and improve your credit, protect yourself from identity theft, and more. Start in our free online FIT Academy and take advantage of every opportunity to learn new financial skills.