Staying financially fit is difficult, to say the least. Many of us have worked hard to gain a certain level of comfort with our finances. But whether or not you're simply struggling to get out of debt or maintain a level of security that you've fought long and hard for, everyone can use at least a little bit more help.
Here are three apps that can help you on your daily path to financial independence:
Budget Simple is a free web service where you can set your monthly budget and track percentages of your income and expenses easily and efficiently. Whenever you make a purchase, simply enter it into the app and it's recorded on the Budget Simple website. Budget Simple keeps track of your monthly spending and allows you to copy over each month's budget easily so that you don't have to constantly copy and paste encrypted spreadsheets and store them in random nooks and crannies of your laptop. Budget Simple is nothing fancy but that's its strength. It's straight-forward, no-nonsense, and easy to use so use.
Checkbook Ledger is similar to Budget Simple in that it's simply a checkbook on your phone. How many times have you had to go through your bank statement trying to figure out where and when a payment was made or a product was purchased? Checkbook Ledger allows you to quickly and easily input any purchase or payment so you can easily keep track of what's going on with your bank account without constantly looking at your bank statement. You can break things down by card, by bank account, or even by family member. And Checkbook Ledger protects this information with a password and pin that you set. Checkbook Ledger has saved me from an overdrawn bank account many a time and is a great addition to your financial arsenal.
Tired of piling up receipts and stuffing them in the drawers of your work desk? Then get Scannable from Evernote and start scanning your receipts. All you need is a phone and... that's actually all you need! You can use the camera on your smartphone to quickly and easily scan your receipts. Once you scan your receipts they can be stored on Evernote, sent as an email, or text them directly to your accountant – if you guys happen to be that close. Scannable works for all kinds of documents but it's a great solution for efficiently gathering receipt information.
Fancy apps won't replace good financial sense, but the right tools always make the job just a little bit easier. So try these out and best of luck on your financial future!
- The Best Mobile Finance Apps of 2017 | PCMag.com ›
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- 7 Best Personal Finance Apps for iPhone | Bankrate.com ›
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- 6 Best Personal Finance Apps | Investopedia ›
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- 5 Best Personal Finance Apps | Investopedia ›
- The 5 Best Personal Finance Apps ›
When you take out a loan for a car, charge something to your credit card, or get a personal line of credit, there is going to be an interest rate that applies to your loan.
A lot of different factors go into what you will be charged, including your own personal credit score. But even those with flawless credit still see a minimum charge that they can't get around. That all goes back to the Federal Funds Rate.
One thing consumers rarely realize is that all of our banks are lending money to each other every night. Banks are legally required to maintain a certain percentage of their deposits in non-interest-bearing accounts at the Federal Reserve to ensure they have enough money to cover any withdrawals that may unexpectedly come up. However, deposits can fluctuate and it's very common for some banks to exceed the requirement on certain days while some fall short. In cases like this, banks actually lend each other money to ensure they meet the minimum balance. It's a bit hard to imagine these multibillion-dollar financial institutions needing to borrow money to tide them over for a bit, but it happens every single night at the Federal Reserve. It's also a nice deal for those with balances above the reserve balance requirement to earn a bit of money with cash that would normally just be sitting there.
The Federal Reserve
The exact interest rate the banks will charge each other is a matter of negotiation between them, but the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) (the arm of the Federal Reserve that sets monetary policy) meets eight times a year to set a target rate. They evaluate a multitude of economic indicators including unemployment, inflation, and consumer confidence to decide the best rate to keep the country in business. The weighted average of all interest rates across these interbank loans is the effective federal funds rate.
This rate has a huge impact on the economy overall as well as your personal finances. The federal funds rate is essentially the cheapest money available to a bank and that feeds into all of the other loans they make. Banks will add a slight upcharge to the rate set by the Fed to determine what is the lowest interest that they will announce for their most creditworthy customers, also known as the prime rate. If you have a variable interest rate loan (very common with credit cards and some student loans), it's likely that the interest rate you pay is a set percentage on top of that prime rate that your lender is paying. That's why in times of low interest rates (it was set at 0% during the Great Recession), a lot of borrowers should go for fixed interest rate loans that won't increase. However, if the federal funds rate was relatively high (it went up to 20% in the early 1980's), a variable interest rate loan may be a better decision as you would be charged less interest should the rate drop without the need to refinance.
The federal funds rate also has a major impact on your investment portfolio. The stock market reacts very strongly to any changes in interest rates from the Federal Reserve, as a lower rate makes it cheaper for companies to borrow and reinvest while a higher rate may restrict capital and slow short-term growth. If you have a significant portion of your investments in equities, a small change in the federal funds rate can have a large impact on your net worth.
Whether you're leaving a job involuntarily, departing for something new, or just want to prepare for the unknown, it is smart to understand all your options regarding your 401k.
Frugal gifting often gets a bad reputation. However, this shopping method does not make you cheap — it makes you practical. Frugal gifts often avoid waste and overspending and can be just as meaningful (if not more so) as any other present.
With the National Retail Federation predicting each consumer this holiday season to spend upwards of $1,000 on holiday gifts amidst an economic recession —this year might be the perfect time to reconsider your spending budget. We've formulated the ultimate list of frugal gift-giving ideas to get you started.