Now that we’re a few weeks into the new year, we hope you’re staying true to those resolutions and making some positive changes for yourself and to those around you.
What’s that? You haven’t made any resolutions at all? Well, before you resign yourself to putting resolutions off for another 12 months, we’re here to tell you some good news: it’s not too late to make 2017 the year to take on new challenges and break old habits. (We’re only a few weeks in, after all.)
Think of the most impactful resolution you could make -- especially when it comes to improving your financial future. You may endeavor to save more money for yourself or your family. This could be the year that you start looking for a new house to make the transition from renting to owning. Perhaps you’re a freelancer and you’d like to get better at budgeting. Or maybe you’re saving up for a big trip or treat for yourself.
Or, maybe you just can’t keep your eyes on the road and your hands upon the wheel, and your habitual texting while driving is jeopardizing your safety and that of everyone else on the road. (How is this financial? Well, if you cause an accident, everything from your auto insurance to health insurance rates could rise, legal fees notwithstanding.)
Being that it’s 2017, you don’t have to look any further than your own smartphone to put some substance into those empty promises. There’s literally an app for virtually anything you can think of; Android or Apple, there are more than 2 million apps on the market available for download.
Luckily, there’s an app to help you with all of those goals we just mentioned above. Here’s a beginning-of-year recap, plus some suggested resolutions:
Resolution: I need a budget.
App: You Need a Budget
You Need a Budget -- also known as "YNAB" -- might just be the personal finance app that changes the way you look at budgeting your money. Most financial apps can sync your bank accounts, but YNAB’s design does it in a way that makes comparing your deposit and investment accounts intuitive and easy to track; plus, the goal tracking and progress features work in tandem to build a workable budget that keeps you in the black, not the red. At $5 per month, it’s a minor expense compared to the money you’ll save with YNAB.
Resolution: I need to get more organized with my papers/documents/receipts.
Paper receipts everywhere, overflowing out of drawers, glove compartments and pockets; and then, the most important ones always go missing or discarded somewhere. Instead of stuffing them into a shoebox, put them in Shoeboxed -- the app, of course. Shoeboxed works on a modern variation of the classic envelope system, digitizing and sorting your receipts for record keeping and retrieval (like filing your income taxes, for example). The all-paperless Shoeboxed app includes built-in GPS mileage tracking and an expense report creator. According to the app’s homepage, receipts and documents scanned via Shoeboxed are accepted by the IRS for tax filing. (Shoeboxed costs users $9.95 to $49.95/mo.)
Resolution: This is the year I need to look for my own place.
App: Doorsteps Swipe
Swipe left. Swipe left. Swipe left. Like. The Tinder of real estate, Realtor.com’s Doorsteps Swipe is a matchmaking app hooking up homebuyers with the perfect property. Search homes by location, save your likes, and filter out and narrow down your options by price, size and amenities. The app gets deep into the metadata of things, like calculating the percentage of properties that allow pets, or when the particular property you’re researching was built. Enter your specific financials, like your earnings and projected down payment, and Doorsteps Swipe will streamline your choices further. (App is free to download.)
Resolution: I want to fulfill my dream travel plans this year.
Airfare can be expensive and eat up a big portion of your travel budget -- not to mention rack up loads of credit card debt. Mobile app Hopper makes use of an algorithm predicting the right times of year, month and even week when plane ticket prices are at their lowest, so you can book in advance right from the app and save money.
Resolution: I will stop texting while driving.
App: Drive First
Drinking and driving may be one of the deadliest combinations there is, but texting and driving comes close. Just one form of distracted driving, statistics show that more than 660,000 motorists attempt to use their phones behind the wheel at any given time during the day. Cell phone use while driving is also linked to 1.6 million crashes annually, causing more than 330,000 injuries every year. Sprint’s Drive First app is one of the more restrictive apps we reviewed, but that’s the whole point of curbing a vice like texting while driving. The app automatically locks your phone once you start driving, and automatically replies to texts while you’re in transit. It does allow you a few modes to access maps or play music, and you can set special VIP contacts for dialing and receiving important or emergency calls.
Resolution: I will increase my emergency savings this year.
"I need to save more money" is actually a bit of a misnomer; "I need to reach many goals and save money in the process" is more like it. The Qapital app does just that, letting users designate an automatic money transfer into their savings after completing (or failing to complete) a certain task. Through IFTTT tech, assign a trigger, like syncing the app to your Fitbit, and it’ll set aside savings when you’ve completed a workout or finished a run. Or, trigger it to save as a penalty when you fail to reach a goal. More than just a money saving app with a gamified spin, Qapital enables you to stick to your resolutions because it keeps you accountable and builds discipline.
Resolution: I’ll get the health insurance coverage I need.
Getting in shape, going on a diet, aiming to lose weight: they’re all great resolutions for the New Year or any time of year. Above all that, everyone needs health insurance. What was once an arduous, time-consuming process of plan researching and price comparing gets distilled into express mode with the PolicyGenius health insurance app, which we launched last November. Use our web app to compare health plans, both on- and off-market, and enter some info about yourself to estimate what your average monthly premiums, deductibles and discounts might look like for specific plans. In addition, you can sort plans by type, carrier, and search care providers by network. Are you eligible for Medicaid or other assistance? The app will let you know. Open enrollment ends in just a couple of weeks -- January 31 -- so make logging into the app one of your first resolutions this year.