Earlier in the year I set out to be a better financial blogger and pay attention to all the new technology coming onto the scene.
We constantly get barraged with the latest “greatest” super-fantastico-will-change-your-life-OMG-TRY-US! type press releases, but I typically hit “delete” and move on my lazy way thinking “they’re not for me.” As if I have all the answers and couldn’t be bothered (hah).
But then I started paying attention and realized, “wait a second – some of these ideas are actually kinda smart! Why don’t you check them out and see if they improve your finances, dummy!”
And so I did.
And now, $1,659.17 and 8 months later, I’m pretty happy with the results :) Not only is my wallet plumper, but I feel like I have a better pulse on the industry too and not stuck in 1998 when spreadsheets ruled all (and rightfully so!). I’ve also had the surprise benefit of being asked to be on a panel of judges for an upcoming financial start-up competition, so the wins keep on coming!
All this to say taking a little time to consider alternatives out there could pay off in dividends. And sometimes, quite literally. People are coming up with all kinds of incredible ideas around money and new technology, making it a completely different world than even just 3-5 years ago. These guys are bringing the sexy back* to financial management, and I’m now happily eating it all up! (Though some I chew and spit out – not all services are created equally)
Anyways, out of the dozens of companies I’ve tried or looked into this year, here are my favorites along with any updates since last reviewing them. They seem to be only improving with each passing month.
My Favorite Financial Services This Year:
#1. Digit (FREE) // $1,398.84 <– total saved!
These guys are by far my favorite new service out there, and the one that kick started this renewed interest in technology due to how much it just blew me away. So much so, in fact, that I later became an “advisor” to them and spend a few hours each week helping them out.
What they do is pretty straightforward: every day their algorithm analyze your spending (checking account), and if they see any money they don’t think you’ll miss/need, they push it over to a savings account for you. Small chunks here and there ($5-$50) that all add up without you lifting a finger. It’s all automated, and you can take it out whenever you want.
There’s even text-in commands like “save more” or “save less”, “checking” to check your balance, and all kinds of ways to interact with your accounts (another favorite is “recent” to see your recent transactions). In fact, most communication is via text messaging making it as fast and easy as it comes!
What’s new: As of last Thursday (8/13/15), they now pay “cash bonuses” for saving! I.e. the same as interest basically only called something different due to the way they’re set up. This is huge because it crushes the one main con people had with them – not that anyone will get rich over pennies whether at Digit or their own bank. Still, Digit now pays its members $0.05 for every $100 we keep sitting there for 3 months. It’s not much, but comparatively it beats out most savings accounts out there.
So it’s a smart upgrade for sure… And just wait until they move into other areas of finance! Debt? Investing?? Imagine having a little robot paying all your bills for you as efficiently as possible? Shooot… Gonna be a game changer, I say – you heard it here first! ;)
(Other companies are catching on now too – both USAA and Betterment recently announced similar features. The future looks bright!)
#2. Acorns // $237.33 <– total invested!
Acorns is another favorite of mine as it too harnesses automation, though in a different clever way (and with investing vs savings). What it does is round up all your transactions to the nearest $1.00 (or however you set it), and then invests the difference for you into a pre-selected portfolio of ETFs and index funds. Even some with Vanguard in it!
You can also have them invest additional money anytime you want with a quick click of a button, say, after getting a bonus at work or wanting to reward yourself for not spending money on something ;) What better gift to yourself than that of financial freedom??
What’s new: they recently waived their fees for all students and people under 24. A cool move to remove any obstacles for younger people to get started and building up that nest egg. While you can certainly use them as your main source of investing, I’d suggest making them an “extra” or secondary one to put some money aside. Their normal rates aren’t horrible ($1.00/mo for accounts under $5,000, and 0.25%/year for accounts over $5,000) but you can do better elsewhere.
The question, of course, is whether you take the action to do so. If you don’t trust yourself to, sign up to Acorns and let it ride! (And it works like magic in conjunction with Digit too, fyi. There’s nothing better than seeing savings go out, and then topping it off with a little investing!)
#3. Honey (FREE) // $3.00 <– savings so far
These guys I just started trying out – like a month ago – and so far has saved me a tiny bit of money. Honey will help you save some BEFORE picking up that item.
It’s basically a browser extension that you download in 3 seconds, and then every time you’re about to check out you just click the little icon (it looks like this: ) and it’ll display all the coupons it finds for it. Which saves you from opening up another browser and searching for them yourself – which you SHOULD BE DOING EVERY SINGLE TIME! You almost always find savings, especially for those Godaddy domain hoarders like me which is where I scored this easy $3.00 deal :)
#4. OfferUp (FREE) // $20.00 <– total made so far
This app’s pretty cool because it uses your smart phone to sell stuff online instead of the usual Craigslist or ebay (and takes about 1/100th of the time too!). You snap a pic of whatever it is you want to hawk, type in the price and what it is along w/ a short description, and then hit “post item!” Within seconds it’ll go into the marketplace and gives you another avenue to make that $$$.
I didn’t have much success the first few times I tried (then again, I started w/ crappy items I was having trouble selling on CL), but the last two things I listed I sold within 48 hours. They’re definitely worth checking out if you need a new – or extra – place to sell stuff. And again – super easy just using the camera on your phone!
(Only downfall is they’re still somewhat new so there’s not as many people buying/selling yet – depending on your area. I think this will change as time goes on though and smart phones continue playing such large parts in our lives. For better or for worse!)
#5. Personal Capital (FREE)
To sign up: PersonalCapital.com
Our full review: Why I Use Personal Capital Almost Every Single Day
This one’s not new, and I don’t personally use it as much as the others I just wrote about, but they have a cult following and people swear by them. And with over 800,000 members now tracking over $150 billion in assets, you can trust they know what they’re doing :)
To quote my boy Justin from RootofGood.com, “It’s like Mint on steroids, but with better portfolio management tools.” In fact, here’s a perfect summary of why he’s connected all 20+ of his accounts to them and why he regularly uses them:
As soon as you log into PersonalCapital.com, you get an instant view of your net worth for the last 90 days and your monthly income and expenses on the Dashboard. It’s like having a CFO for your personal finances. Except this CFO doesn’t expect a seven figure salary with stock options – it’s free!…
I still maintain a small fleet of spreadsheets but this is a great tool to see everything in one place and enjoy the beautiful graphics showing financial changes over time. My spreadsheets only get updated about once a quarter so I can’t rely on them for real time insights into my spending, income, net worth and investments.
The review he did for us is pretty killer (super in-depth and chalk full of real-life snapshots of his account!), and considering Justin recently hit early retirement, I’d say it’s worth a look into ;)
What’s new: they now offer a robust retirement calculator they say is one of the smartest ones out there since it uses your *actual numbers* to forecast the future compared to those you guestimate and add in. Which makes sense of course, since you’d be getting a much more accurate picture that’s continually being updated automatically. They’re definitely worth the consideration if you’re looking for a new (or better) way to track your $$$. Even to just stay on top of your net worth!
Other Helpful Sites I Came Across This Year…
While I can’t list any of these in my “favorites” since only one I’ve actually used myself (and thus, don’t have first hand experience/excitement over), I want to list them here in case you’re a better target audience for them. Not everyone is exactly like me, thank goodness ;)
Sign up here: Smart401k.com
My review here: A Service That Better Helps You Invest Your 401(k) Money
I don’t have a 401(k) anymore since I’m self-employed, but if I did I’d be ALL OVER this as I used to hate trying to figure out what funds to invest in and what percentage/etc/etc. With these guys you submit a little info over (goals, risks, funds your employer offers) and shortly thereafter one of their certified financial advisors will give you recommendations. Perfect for second or even third opinions – especially since it’s free!!
*Normally they charge $200/year, but they’ve waived it for all BudgetsAreSexy readers for a limited time. Be sure to use this link here though or else you’ll be asked for your credit card. You can cancel anytime at no cost, and they won’t automatically renew you or anything like that – don’t worry.
To sign up: MotifInvesting.com
My full review: A Creative Way to Invest (+ My First Dividend Portfolio!)
This is one of the first companies I tried this year in an effort to test out new products and get my feet wet with dividend stocks. And while the idea of Motif is actually pretty genius and a ton of people are using them, I’m realizing more and more just how much I prefer my index and similar funds. I’m not the day trader I was back in the day (I was the typical “do not be like that guy!” warnings you often hear) but maybe they’re something up your alley?
In a nutshell Motif allows you to invest in a bunch of stocks or funds all at once – creating your own “fund” – without having to pay a handful of fees to do so. This new bucket of stocks you pick up is called a “motif,” and then you can buy future motifs anytime you want at the same 1-time cost: $9.95. It’ll also be shared with the Motif community there (unless you prefer it not to be), allowing other people to see how you invest in case they’d like to try it too. And vice versa. The minimum needed to open up an account is only $250, and it comes with absolutely no maintenance or inactivity fees either.
So a great way to pick up a bunch of stocks w/out being gorged on transaction fees. I joined 19 other bloggers in a friendly competition using Motif back in January, and it was pretty cool to see everyone’s strategies. I tried the dividend investing route copying my man Jason from DividendMantra.com to learn a little bit, while others went super risky to try and beat everyone out. They’ll either win or lose badly at the end of the year, haha, whereas I’ll be stuck in the middle since obviously dividend investing is more for the long haul ;) I’m currently #11.
UPDATE: Forgot to mention that you can now buy single stocks with them too ($4.95) as well as creating different “motifs.” This makes it easier for people who want to do their investing in one spot.
(FYI: I believe there’s a $100-$150 bonus for any new members who sign up to Motif, btw, though that could have changed)
Lastly, if you hate dealing with your bills and/or are lazy in getting them lowered, Billcutterz might be an interesting option for you. What they do is call up all your bills in an effort to haggle them down, and if they succeed they split the proceeds with you, and if they don’t it doesn’t cost a penny.
It’s kinda like my Challenge Everything mission, only you’re cheating and then giving up half your savings ;) But of course any savings is better than $0 savings, so it might be worth looking into (though not sure how the privacy stuff works?)
And there you have it!
The best of the financial companies/services/apps I’ve come across so far this year, mixed in with a few extras. I think I’ve looked at more companies in the past 6 months than I have in the past 6 YEARS! Haha… But hopefully you’ve found them as helpful as my wallet has :) I’m $1,659.17 richer now and much more knowledgeable!
Future reviews to come, my friends… gotta keep that brain active!
*FUN FACT: this blog’s title was inspired by Justin Timberlake’s “I’m Bringing Sexy Back” that dropped not far behind the launch of this site :) Still one of the catchiest songs ever!
PLEASE NOTE: As always, anytime I mention companies I love and use on this site there’s a good chance I have an affiliation with them and will be compensated when new people sign up (such as most of these services listed here). I never promote/share anything I don’t personally feel is helpful, but it’s always best to do your own research before signing up to anything. I’m no expert to say the least.
Jay loves talking about money, collecting coins, blasting hip-hop, and hanging out with his three beautiful boys. You can check out all of his online projects at jmoney.biz. Thanks for reading the blog!