The unfortunate reality is that most people struggle to find clarity when it comes to their money and their financial futures.
In addition to not having a good understanding of where or exactly how to get started when it comes to managing their money, they feel overwhelmed with the amounts of resources that are available. Most of the time, people resort to using paid alternatives, while free options exist and can do just as good of a job, if not better – solely on the premise that you save money right away.
I think it’s safe to say that money managing principles are key to having a good financial situation.
Below is a list of some of the best free financial tools that virtually anyone can use as a way to help them when it comes to their personal finances.
This list is not an exhaustive list, but it is a great place to get started in the right direction. It’s also important to keep in mind that these tools are not going to fix all of your money problems, but rather they should be used as tools to assist you when it comes to building a better relationship with your money.
Budgeting seems like an appropriate place to start because it’s very likely that you’re familiar with different budgeting methods and have an understanding of how budgeting can be effective.
Mint is a great free tool that helps you budget your money mainly by allowing you to connect your bank accounts to the budgeting software, which then enables Mint to keep track of your spending on your accounts and any associated cards.
Mint has a nice feature that allows you to “set” your budget, while it tracks all of your expenses for you. On top of that, the tool will automatically separate your expenses into categories it assumes to be the correct fit for. If something shows up in the wrong category, no problem, you are able to go in and make the correction to the category placement. What’s even better is that Mint continually learns to categorize better according to the corrections you make to it.
One of the inherent downsides to using Mint as a financial tool for free is that you will be shown ads related to credit cards and loans while you use their budgeting tool. But with that being said, the budgeting software is 100 percent free, and it doesn’t get much better than free.
You Need A Budget (YNAB) is another powerful budgeting tool. If you are looking for ways to be more active and involved with your finances, while still having some automation in place, this tool is perfect for you.
Similarly to Mint, with YNAB you’re able to connect your bank account(s), but you are responsible for categorizing each transaction that comes through.
A lot of personal finance influencers and experts really seem to enjoy using this tool over some of the others. YNAB does a really good job of keeping you on track with your money and it also comes with educational content and videos that teach you how to think about cash flow management. The educational side of YNAB is one that really stood out to me when I was initially exploring options for budgeting tools.
While it’s not entirely free for everyone, YNAB is completely free for students for one year. After the free year expires, YNAB then costs $12 per month. So if you’re not a student, expect to start paying the $12 per month right away.
The overall premise of Every Dollar is that every dollar you earn and save should have a job. There is a paid version where you are able to link your bank accounts, however, the free version works great for people who enjoy inputting their purchases and tracking their expenses the good old manual way.
It’s quite simple to use actually: You first create and set up your budget, then each time you spend your money, you’re responsible for inputting the expense amount to keep track of everything.
Personally, I really like this philosophy a lot because you become more aware of how you are spending your money by constantly having to record it every time you make a purchase. It keeps you accountable and on top of your money managing habits.
Online Savings Account
Online savings accounts are great for your emergency fund and other savings goals you have for the short term period.
These types of accounts can be very useful because most online savings banks will actually pay you a much higher rate of interest compared to traditional banks. You can think of them as tools that can help you save your money more effectively for short-term savings goals.
In my opinion, these types of accounts are well worth it because of how much more they will be paying (and you’ll be earning) in interest when compared to traditional types of accounts.
Ally Bank has zero transfer fees, monthly maintenance fees, or minimum balance fees. Based on those alone, you’ll easily be saving a lot over the long term. What’s great about Ally Bank is that you can create sub-savings categories within your main savings account that you end up opening.
This is a really cool feature because it helps you categorize your money and savings goals all within one account, rather than having to keep and maintain multiple accounts. As an added bonus, Ally Bank is known for its great customer service and having a great user interface.
Discover Bank is another great savings alternative when it comes to online banking that also has no transfer fees, monthly maintenance fees, or minimum balance fees. Unlike Ally Bank however, Discover Bank does not have the ability to create sub-savings categories within their savings accounts.
Instead, you are able to set up and open as many savings accounts as you need or want according to your financial goals. There is no right or wrong solution when it comes to that, it all boils down to personal preference.
When it comes to searching for the right online banking solution to meet your needs, Bankrate is a great place to start, helping you find the best online savings account at the current time you are doing your research.
The key when it comes to these types of accounts is to look for accounts that have zero transfer fees, monthly maintenance fees, or minimum balance fees on any accounts that you are considering. It’s all about shaving down your costs and saving money where you are able to.
Cash Transfer Apps
Venmo is a great tool for just about anyone who is looking for a way to transfer money to their friends, colleagues and family members quickly.
With Venmo, you first connect your checking account to the application which then enables you to be able to pay your friends directly through the application for everyday things whether it’s lunch you owe them, drinks, you name it. Venmo remains free-to-use as long as you keep your bank account connected. If you decide to link your debit or credit card(s) instead, then there is a service fee that’s attached to the money transfer.
In recent news, Visa has actually set out to acquire Plaid, the company that powers Venmo, for a valuation of $5.6Billion. It will certainly be interesting to see where things go with the platform over the next few years.
Ibotta, Groupon, Coupon Calendar are all great couponing apps that allow you to save money by using coupons that are placed in the apps as a way to access better deals when purchasing everyday items.
The key to these couponing applications is to remain disciplined when making purchases and to not get sucked into spending more. Trust me, it sounds a lot easier than it is for most people.
Remember, the main goal here is strictly to look for savings on items you need to purchase with, or without, the coupons.
Savology is a completely free-to-use financial planning tool where you can get an accurate, free, and personalized financial plan in about 5 minutes.
After you’ve completed the online questionnaire, you’ll get a free financial plan, holistic report card on your current financial health, along with action items and recommendations to help you improve your financial standing and reach your financial goals.
Savology also connects you quality financial providers and institutions that you would have otherwise spent time and money searching for, as a way to help you reach your financial goals such as increasing your savings rate, building an emergency fund, getting the proper amount of life insurance, and saving for your ideal retirement.
Credit Score & Report
Credit Karma is one of the most popular credit reporting tools that you can sign up for as a way to monitor your credit. In addition to seeing your credit report, Credit Karma allows you to see your Transunion and Equifax score.
It goes without saying that Credit Karma is a powerful tool that you can use to track and stay on top of your credit. Beware though, the one downside is that Credit Karma actively promotes credit cards and other loan services directly within the platform, so it’s important to be mindful of those when you’re using their service.
If you’re looking for a free credit report, Annual Credit Report is a great alternative and a great place to get a free credit report each year from each of the 3 major credit bureaus.
It’s important to check your credit report from each of the credit bureau’s annually to make sure that everything is accurate and up to date.
Getting started with free financial tools
Hopefully these free financial tools mentioned above will prove to be useful and become great tools and resources when it comes to helping you find clarity in your personal finances.
The best thing to do is get started with one, or all, of the services mentioned above to start building a better relationship with your money today. By using them, you’ll get a better understanding of what tools you prefer, and which ones you can live without.
Ultimately, the important thing is to get started and start making progress towards your financial future.
Starting your financial future today
Savology is a free planning platform where you can build a free, unbiased, personalized financial plan in about 5 minutes. Your Savology plan will give you action items to start working on as well as an overview of your current financial situation. After you have made some progress, Savology can connect you with some of the world’s top providers to help you accomplish your financial goals.