If you’re not using a banking app on your smartphone, you might be surprised to learn how much time it can save—and how it can help you budget.
Your smartphone acts almost as a remote control for your finances, allowing you to check account balances, transfer funds, pay bills and view past transactions. Plus, you can sign up for mobile alerts that notify you of account activity wherever you are.
“Being able to check balances and transfer funds using my smartphone while watching my son's baseball game or waiting at the doctor's office saves having to drive across town to visit a brick and mortar location,” says Travis Pizel, a Rochester, Minn., blogger who writes for the money management site EnemyofDebt.
With mobile banking, you also can deposit checks remotely: Simply take a picture of the front and back of your check and make a deposit using the mobile app. It’s convenient and it’s also secure. Banking technology protects your information, and none of your personal banking details are stored on your smartphone, which is good to know if your device is ever lost or stolen.
Start with a mobile budget
Mobile banking allows David Weliver, MoneyUnder30 editor, to manage his finances remotely from his home in Portland, Maine.
“Make a budget and carry it with you,” Weliver says. He suggests using a free budgeting service that lets you categorize your expenses and allows you to see all of your financial information in one place, including your bank accounts and credit cards. Weliver suggests sites such as Mint.com. Or you can use the online services from your bank to gain a more holistic view of your finances.
“You can set a mobile banking app to send you alerts via emails, texts or phone when there’s unusual activity on any of your accounts, when you’re nearing your budget limit, and so on,” Weliver says.
Pizel agrees. “If someone asks me if I want to go out to lunch, I like to check my balance first. I can see if I’ve got enough money left in my restaurant budget. If I don’t, it’s ‘Sorry, not today.’”
Transfer funds and pay bills on the run
If you need to make a large purchase unexpectedly—an unscheduled car repair for example, “you can quickly transfer money with your mobile app from a savings or money market account to your checking account,” says Jacob Wade of Seattle, who blogs about budgeting at IHeartBudgets.
You can set up automatic payments for recurring bills from your app, or log in to pay bills anytime, anywhere, so you’ll avoid late fees.
Track spending as you go
“Download a mobile app and use it every day,” Weliver says. “People don’t really balance checkbooks anymore because lots of people don’t even use checks. So they’re not always paying attention to how much they’re spending. The best way I know to stick to a budget—whether you’re working to get out of debt or saving for big purchases—is to check your balances every day. Check your checking balance, your credit card balances, and see how much interest you’re paying on your credit cards. This will force you to realize how much you’re spending, and remind you of the impact of every dollar.”