Are you short on time and money? There’s an app for that!
By Jenny Hoff
Saving money in a single-person household can be difficult, but saving money as a parent can often feel impossible. With the never-ending list of school needs, sports needs, extracurricular activities and entertainment requests, credit-card bills can quickly get out of control. Luckily, a little bit of creativity and savvy use of technology can help you get your budget under control and put you on the path to saving and investing. Here are some ways to get started.
1. DOWNLOAD AN EASY BUDGETING APP—AND USE IT. The fastest way to start a budget is to find a personal-finance app that works for your personality. A great one for parents is Wally, which gives you a more comprehensive view of what you’re bringing in every month and where your money is going on a daily basis. Mint is also a popular budgeting tool that connects with your credit cards and bank account, and alerts you to how close you are to hitting your monthly budget in each category. YNAB, which stands for “you need a budget,” is a highly rated app for those who need to shape up their budget immediately.
2. NEGOTIATE DOWN CURRENT BILLS. There are two ways to increase your income: make more money or cut costs. Every year, you should check out what you can get a better deal on, whether it’s your gym membership, homeowners insurance, phone contract, etc. You can almost always negotiate a lower price by checking out the competition. If haggling on the phone isn’t your forte, let the Trim app help. It will analyze your spending, cancel unused subscriptions, find you better car-insurance offers and even negotiate your cable bill.
3. GET CREATIVE AND USE FREE RESOURCES. Don’t pay for things you can get for free. There are some great websites in Austin that clue you in on ideas for free date nights and free activities with kids, like freefuninaustin.com. If you plan to join a gym, find one with free child care and nice enough facilities that you could even enjoy a date afternoon with your partner without having to pay extra for a babysitter. (Life Time Fitness is a great choice.) Having fun together as a couple or a family doesn’t have to automatically mean spending money, especially in Austin, where the number of available free activities rivals any major city.
4. INVEST IN SELF-CARE. Investing in some self-care rituals can balance your emotions, reduce stress and, in turn, help you avoid overspending. Multiple studies have shown stress can cause people to spend more than they want to, with credit cards serving as a pressure valve. Instead, take time—and a little bit of money, if necessary—to keep your cortisol levels low through meditation, yoga, deep breathing or some other activity you know will help you feel calm after running after kiddos all day. If you need a reminder, Headspace is a great app that will alert you when it’s time to take a moment to meditate and breathe.
5. START INVESTING FOR YOUR FUTURE. While creating a college fund now is a great gift to your kids, financial experts recommend you put money into your own retirement fund first. After all, your kids will have access to college loans if they need them, but you won’t have access to retirement loans. The Acorns app is a great way to get started. It will track your spending and round up every dollar to invest the change in a portfolio for you. It doesn’t get easier than that. Organization and budgeting are key, and with so many fantastic apps to help you out, you can get started immediately without sacrificing your quality of life or time with your family.
Having fun together as a couple or a family doesn’t have to automatically mean spending money.