Surprise, surprise, I went and got myself employed. It’s nice to have a job, but life was much easier without a salary. I never had to balance expenses against income – there was only ever expenses, and only ever Dad’s income. You might be in the same position – gainfully employed and for the first time in your life, you can buy things when you want them. But do you know where your paycheck is going? Are you even saving, bro?
“I just kinda use my card whenever I want something. As long as it’s approved, I’m fine.” It’s not fine. You’re doing it wrong. It’s impossible to know that you’re keeping your expenses within what you’re earning. Lucky for you, there’s a handful of tools you’ll love that are 1) not Microsoft Excel and 2) not your dad, designed specifically to help you get your shit together.
Yes, you can haz online banking. And if you have as little as a dial-up internet connection and don’t live in 1993, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t. Every bank in the U.S. has an online banking service, and if they don’t, they won’t be a bank much longer. At a bare minimum, use your online banking service to check that you have money in the accounts you use to buy food and pay rent. If you’re slightly more adventurous, you can use it to pay bills, send money to friends, family and Princes’ in Nigeria, and monitor your spending habits. Online banking credentials also give you access to a host of third party services that you can use to make the most of the interwebs – like online shopping, identity verification and paying for dank memes. If you don’t have online banking setup, stop reading and click this link. In order to use services 2, 3 and 4 – you need to have this one down.
Mint.com is your all-you-can-eat budgeting, expense tracking, portfolio hub for all things finance. Mint swipes right with your online banking, credit cards and investment portfolio to give you a complete picture of where you stand in terms of your financial health. Managing your Mint account is as easy as signing up, setting a budget ($1000 for rent etc.) and checking back a couple of times a month to make sure you’re on track. It also has some cool features that remind you to pay bills, track your student loans and set savings goals.
3. Credit Karma
You never really know why you see photos from that one kid you met at summer camp ten years ago on Facebook. You’ve un-liked, hidden and un-subscribed, but he still pops up from time to time with a rant about how everyone uses public transport when it’s raining. Facebook has it’s own rules and regardless of how badly we want to understand it, we won’t. The same goes for your credit score. We know that not defaulting on a loan is a good thing and that a third Amazon credit card is probably one too many, but for the most part, we don’t have a clue. This, however, is no reason to ignore it. There are plenty of sites out there that you can use to check in on your score and take steps to keep it healthy. Most of these sites are advertised as “free” but require a payment down the road, which is quite un-free (looking at you freecreditreport.com). Credit Karma is the best free service for checking in on your credit score. Not free-this-month-then-$9.99 but free, like America.
The beauty of Credit Karma is that it doesn’t just spit a number out and then send you on your way. It breaks your score down into very easy to swallow bits of information. Credit Karma is easy to sign up and will send you a monthly report to your email.
PS – if you’re as skeptical as I was about how they make money, you’ll notice their Recommendations section – a place for them to push you towards one credit card or another. If you have what it takes to not apply for every credit card you see, you’ll be fine.
4. Betterment (kinda free – first 30 days free then 0.35%)
In addition to hoarding cash under your bed, or you know, in a bank, you should be putting it to work as well. Though the word ‘invest’ is synonymous with huge amounts of capital, the biggest financial institutions and silver-haired billionaires worldwide, micro investing platforms like Betterment have changed the game for millennials, giving almost anyone with an internet connection and online banking the opportunity to invest without a whole lot of capital.
Betterment sets itself apart from your traditional financial institutions by focussing on “a great stock basket, an incredibly easy user experience that makes it easy to understand your money and control your exposure to risk, and automatic rebalancing of your portfolio.” Stock what? Doesn’t matter. Just sign up and set auto-deposits once a month from your nominated bank account and they’ll do all the leg work.
Keeping up with your finances doesn’t have to be as stressful as scrolling back for context in a group chat. Once you see you’re spending habits on screen, you’ll naturally start to curb your spending to fit in with the budgets you set yourself.
Now if I can just find a website that will ship glitter to my enemies…