The Best Financial Apps

Post Holidays is the best time to reevaluate your budget, spending, and financial wellbeing. The new year brings new beginnings, and our finances and budgets always need a refocus to get back on track. Here are a few apps available for your smartphone that can make the process a bit easier.

Acorns is a great way to build up some savings. It rounds up the purchases you make to the nearest dollar and saves the difference. With as little as five dollars, you’re able to invest and building a small nest egg from there. They also have platforms that help you save for retirement or college. The app also supplies you with an educational aspect that enables you to learn about personal financing too!

Mint has been the go-to for budgeting apps for some time. This app automatically updates and categorizes transactions; it creates a real-time picture of your spending. You can add personalized categories, track bills, split ATM transactions into what you bought, and set budgets. This app will also send you alerts when you’re getting close to reaching your budget. The app also provides a free credit score so that you can see your financial picture as a whole.

YNAB or You Need A Budget, is said to be a great budgeting tool. This app does come at a bit of a price, at $83.99 a year or $6.99 a month, but you do receive an initial 34-day free trial.  This app imports your transactions from your current bank accounts and from there you can categorize your funds into an envelope-based system, helping you keep track of spending, giving you a platform to see your financial life in one spot.

PocketGuard is a great app to help you know how much they have for spending. It shows you how much money is available after accounting for bills, expenses, and savings contributions. Users of this app can view how much money is left to spend on other things between paychecks. It also gives you the option to go more in-depth on your spending and track where your extra cash is going.

Spendee is a well-received app that allows you to connect bank accounts as well as cryptocurrencies and E-wallets and inputs your cash expenses manually to give you a full view of how your financial life stands each month. This app gives you updates, set budgets, and lets you see how much you’re able to spend per day without going over your budget. There is a shared-wallet option for couples and families. A shared wallet lets you include information from every user’s connected accounts and provides you with an overall view to see how you can meet your financial goals as a team. Save for significant expenses, like a vacation or tuition costs. All of your financial summary information is provided in graphics and charts, making things easy to read and help you visualize exactly where you are financially.

When our finances are in the right place, it seems the rest of life is manageable. Knowing that we are covered financially and prepared for a rainy day is such a great feeling. Budgeting can be challenging and confusing, but with a few useful apps and some self-control, the process can be made a lot easier.

Smartphone Myths Debunked

Smartphones have been around now for a while, and there have come to be “rules” that smartphone users live and swear by that are, in fact, myths. Here are a few of the more popular myths surrounding smartphones and why they should be debunked.

Charging- There are a couple of different myths when it comes to charging our devices, maybe even a few you swear by as a smartphone user. Two of the most prominent include overcharging your device and only charging when the battery goes completely dead, both of which no longer hold much weight. Older devices with older generations of lithium-ion batteries could run hot causing them to overheat and, in some cases, explode, but newer phones, chargers, and batteries have been redesigned with this in mind to help prevent overheating. Though it is never a good idea to leave your device on the charger excessively as some degradation does exist, it isn’t sufficient enough to be noticeable.

Only using the provided charger- Though your device’s manual highly recommends you use the charger provided, it is okay to use a different USB charger. Of course, you probably do not want to use a charger that doesn’t exactly fit or seems a little sketchy, but other than that it is okay to use an off-brand charger that fits properly to your device. There can be a discrepancy in charging times between different chargers, but using one that did not come with your phone is okay and should not affect your device.

Anything running in Background- We’ve all read, heard or believed that “anything running in the background is going to kill your battery life!” In actuality, once you leave an app, setting, or window, they freeze and take up very little energy and do not continue to suck the life out of your battery, on the contrary opening all the screens and apps to close them does cost you some power. If you’re a little particular, like me, you will probably continue to do this anyways. Let’s face it; some habits are hard to break. Either way, apps or anything running in the background isn’t sucking up as much power as we’ve been led to believe.

TIP: One of the most significant battery drainers could be your screen, to keep your battery life on point try turning down the brightness on your screen by accessing your display settings in your tools. Also, avoiding large video files or steaming while trying to conserve battery is a good idea.

More Expensive = Better Performance- Buying the most expensive device with all the bells and whistles and the best accessories will not necessarily make your phone perform better. Factors such as build quality, application compatibility, and user knowledge can influence how your device performs overall. Not knowing how to utilize those advanced functions as a user, incompatibility between your device and apps or accessories, infractions within the manufacturing process all affect the overall abilities of our phones. The amount of money spent will not determine the overall usability of your device.

These are just a few of the myths associated with Smartphones, and some truth to debunk these tales. It’s not hard to imagine why many of them came to be in the first place. If you’re like me, you hate and rarely read the many user manuals included with our various purchases. Sometimes it’s easier to make an assumption ourselves or listen to someone else’s regarding how things work and why specific issues arise. It’s always good to question things and conduct a little research instead!

Today I Cried

Today I cried at the grocery store, which is odd because I am not one to show my weaknesses and emotions to people I don’t know. But, there I was standing in front of the cake lady who looked uncomfortable trying to pretend not to notice the tears welling up in my eyes. She asked me again, “Would you like us to put ‘Class of 2018’ on the cake as well?”. I wiped my eyes quickly and tried to convince myself she hadn’t noticed. “Yes, yes please,” I responded, my voice wobbling. She started telling me that this is her son’s last week of grade school, breaking any delusions I had that she hadn’t seen me get emotional. She looks the same age as me. My daughter is months older than I was when I had her and now she’s graduating from High School.

I finished ordering the cake and walked out to my car. Before I placed the keys in the ignition, I lost all capability of holding in my emotions. To calm myself and quit the tears I focused on why I was crying. The best way to control things is through understanding them, feelings and reactions included.  I was never the emotional mom, I never went in and took pictures on the first day of school, never cried when I dropped my kids off for their first day of Kindergarten. So, why was my first-born graduating sending me into unexpected emotional overload? I spent the rest of the afternoon at my desk thinking of all the possible reasons for my reaction.

I’ve concluded that I am sad that I haven’t lived up to my expectations as a mother, I feel sorry for the loss of abundant opportunity to create more traditions and memories that comes when a child lives within the household. I spent eighteen years striving for structure and stability. Every year telling myself, next year I’ll get it together, next year I’ll have the money and time to do more together. When they’re walking, when they’re talking, when they’re teens, on and on it went, and now those opportunities to give them the childhood they deserved and opportunities to be the mother I hoped to be are dwindling. I do not fear the loss of my baby; she will forever be my baby. I fear the loss of opportunity to share that with her every day, see her grow and learn and change every day. I am sad not to be a part of that process every day like I have been for eighteen years.

A Thousand Times

“A thousand times we die in one life. We crumble, break and tear apart until the layers of illusion are burned away and all that is left, is the truth of who and what we really are.” Teal Scott

 

I have read this quote many times and think to myself, if we are capable of hypothetically dying a thousand times in one lifetime, we must also consider that a portion of those deaths were suicides. The tearing apart of oneself in the hopes to be born wiser, better and assumedly happier, means that our other lives were taken by some form of our own “new” being. I cannot help but wonder how bad our former selves, or thoughts, or situations must be to want to become a new person by crumbling, tearing and breaking. How can someone get so far off track that they would rather face the pain and uncomfortableness of killing parts of who they are, to become who they want to be?

Although I support the “grow, be better, reinvent yourself and educate yourself” topic the quote above implies, I am having a hard time convincing the train wreck that has become my post-death yet not entirely reborn life, that things will get better. While I am on the topic, this status fits quite well. I have gone from being a perfectly capable, sure, confident and responsible adult to be a reckless, confused, needy and repressed adult-child who can’t quite jump back on the responsibility train without needing to breathe into a paper bag and then sleep off the anxiety; or run away from it all together.  With each significant passing death, I have become smarter and have felt closer to my purpose; but I have grown exceeding worse at managing the rebirth and growth stages.  Starting over is hard and extremely painful, and I know that to build a new life, the old one must die but the grieving process never gets more comfortable and the heart never fully recovers without a sense of fear and uncertainty.

Though I cannot tell you which death I am now recovering from, I do hope it is closer to the last time than it is to the first. My heart is tired, and my nerves are raw, no matter how hard I try to avoid the end of the looming “grace period” extended to me by those around me I am simply just not ready to take those crucial first steps. My terror grips me, and my knees buckle at the slightest reprieve. I am not prepared to put myself back together for fear of finding out I not only fall short but that I am not even close to being improved as I had hoped to be. I fear that my insecurities and self-doubts will become verified as fact rather than eradicated. The more I see others around me so sure of themselves and their skills, the more self-vilifying and afraid I become. This fear and uncertainty have made it harder for me to leave any space, real or false, that provides me with even the littlest comfort and acceptance; or at the very least releases me from any judgment from another person.

Going It Alone

When we think about college students, we often think about the wet behind the ears, straight out of high school, stars in their eyes, young go-getters. Across from me sits a college student different than that. Alice Launder is in her mid-thirties and like me, finds it hard to relate to the other younger students chatting loudly around us. Alice has taken the long way to college which sometimes happens when life turns out much differently than one anticipates. As she answers my questions, I can see the exhaustion in her smile, but I am taken off guard by the quiet determination in her voice.

Alice grew up a “Military kid” and moved several times before the age of eight; the family eventually made Minot, ND their home. Alice’s parents both worked in shifts to ensure their children would often have the care of a parent at home. At the age of twenty-one, Alice married and became a mother to a boy and then a girl. Her son was born with a disability and has always depended more on Alice than other children his age and probably always will. When her marriage fell apart, Alice became a single mom working dead-end jobs to make ends meet and create a new place in the world for her and her children.

Unlike most other students Alice has already experienced the work-force and the joys of being a mother. She has experienced the pain of divorce and has learned to stand on her own two feet. She has overcome things that the average college student has not. Now she wants to be able to support herself and her children to the best of her ability, and this requires her to find a stable career that will allow her to financially support her family as well as providing her the flexibility to care for her domestic responsibilities. I watch Alice as she explains her situation with a sense of hope in her voice and I am taken off-guard by her willingness to take on whatever stands in her way.

Alice wants to be a writer, a career that can fulfill the unique needs of her situation. She is in her senior year, just inches away from graduation, and now financial difficulties may keep her from the finish line. Going it alone can often be hard and sometimes can break a person down.

Alice has the ability and the drive, and it is heartbreaking to watch her fear of not reaching her goal. I see in her the pride over her successes and the lessons that have brought her this far. I am confident she will find a way. Though I hardly know Alice, I don’t ever see her giving up so quickly. Going it alone is scary and challenging but the successes it can bring and the lessons it teaches are priceless, and Alice is a woman I am proud to have been able to get to know. She is not your average college student, and that is not a bad thing!