I’m old enough to remember what it was like to have to sit down every month and balance a checkbook—not just because I watched my parents do it but because I had to do it too. Paying bills and managing money online seems so normal now but really, it’s only been normal for a few years. A decade ago very few people trusted the internet enough to let it manage their bills and almost nobody had anything that remotely resembled a smart phone. Heck, it was just two years ago that Investopedia was warning us against using personal finance apps and tools.
Instead, we’d sit down dutifully every month with our bank statements and check registers and go through them line by line making sure that we had written everything down correctly. Sure, if we were worried about our balances we could call the bank or do a quick balance check at an ATM, but for the most part, it was that monthly stressful afternoon that kept us in check. Pun intended.
Today things are so much different. Young adults who are graduating from high school and even college probably don’t actually know what a bank statement is. To them it’s probably that thing they get notified about once a month but that they never actually look at.
What makes that problematic, though, is that we do so much of our money stuff online that trying to keep track of all of those details is actually harder than it was when we had to do it “the old fashioned” way. Today we can swipe cards, transfer money with the bump of a cell phone and buy stuff with just a few touches on a screen. We have a dozen different subscriptions to things like Netflix and Spotify and Pandora…it’s easy to lose track of what we’ve spent where.
Keeping track of what we’re keeping where is also difficult. Most people have, at the very least, a checking account and some form of online payment account (usually PayPal). Some people have a savings account too. Some people, though, have separate accounts for all sorts of things. They have their married joint account, their personal account, their online shopping account, an investment account, a retirement account—understanding what’s going on is rough.
It’s no wonder, then, that most people—myself included—are searching for a simple app that will help us keep track of everything in one place. Why an app? Because it’s the future. Apps are a way of life now.
I took a sort of “paint sprayer” approach to finding the right app. Earlier this year, the New York Times published a review of personal finance apps—all of the big players that we see people talking about on Twitter all the time. I started with those. Then I downloaded a few more that came highly recommended by friends and then some who simply had a lot of stars in the app store.
Eventually, after doing a bunch of experimentation I settled with Evolve Money because it lets me pay my bills on the day they’re due for $1.50. That is a *much* better rate than is actually offered by any of my creditors (most of them charge at least $5 for same day processing). That means it’s cheaper to use this app to pay my bills than it is to pay them directly.
I have to say that being able to pay my bills and track my money on the fly has been a godsend—especially since I’m someone who typically forgets her bills are due until she’s on her lunch break—on the bill’s due date.
What? Just because I’m old enough to remember balancing a checkbook longhand doesn’t mean I’m good at this whole adulting thing.