IT’S super easy to use your smartphone to spend money, from instant payments using your digital wallet to in-app purchases. But the gadget in your pocket can also be a force for financial good.
There are many powerful financial apps that can help you budget and save, many of which are free. Here, the Sun Money team shares some of their favorites…
BEST FOR: Easy savings and long-term goals
TESTED BY: Lucy Alderson, Senior Consumer Reporter
Lucy said: “Like Chip, Plum also calculates how much you can afford to save.
It then automatically transfers that money from your bank account into a separate savings pot each week. Previously, I set up direct debits to do this on payday.
But sometimes I didn’t save enough or let myself short, which meant I had to dip into my savings.
I liked the idea of Plum calculating the perfect amount for you. With the holidays approaching, I was keen to save a little extra cash as easily as possible.
It’s exciting to watch my pot grow. It also got me thinking about saving more for retirement.
It’s so important that it’s easy to overlook long-term savings plans when you have a vacation planned for the next month.
The money you save is FSCS protected, like Chip. It pays 1.01% AER interest – but it’s important to note that you could get more elsewhere.
I think I will continue to use Plum well beyond my summer vacation.
BEST FOR: Find hidden savings
TESTED BY: Lynsey Barber, Deputy Head of Consumer Affairs
Lynsey said: “Snoop’s bot helps you budget better – and identifies where you could save money.
You connect it to your bank account and credit cards. I found it really easy to set up.
A small red flag appears if you are spending too much and a green one if you are able to save money.
He told me that maybe I could save some money on my cell phone bills because I’ve been with my provider for over two years.
Unfortunately I was already on a discounted offer – but I think others could easily save a lot of money by using it.
I love how it automatically tells you how to save money. I’m lazy and probably wouldn’t check half the stuff he does as regularly as I should.
I set a drinks alert on £30 nights to make sure I didn’t overspend. When he appeared in the pub it made me feel guilty for spending more.
Even though I missed one last beer, I know that’s good it got me thinking about what I was spending.
The free version limits your spending, saving, and repayment alerts.
The premium version costs £3.99 – I don’t think you need that.
BEST FOR: Establish a budget and track it
TESTED BY: Chloé Stratton, editorial assistant
Chloe said: The Emma budgeting app kept me from running out of money for the past month. I noticed that my mobile phone bills and my Spotify subscription were due out on the same day, so I cut back on my expenses and was not left out.
I really loved seeing all my cards and accounts in one place and found it really helpful in giving an overview of my finances.
When I’ve used other banking apps to manage my expenses before, I’ve “cheated” them by using a card that doesn’t track my purchases.
With Emma, there’s nowhere to hide as it divides your spending into 16 categories, including transportation, restaurants, vacations, and personal care.
I found that a lot of my invoices and purchases were initially in the wrong category, but that was pretty easy to fix.
The neat bar chart showing my income versus my expenses helps me quickly check that I’m living within my means. I also like how it offers cash back and discounts for different stores within the app.
But I’ll definitely stick with the free version rather than paying £10 a month for extra features that would immediately blow my budget.
BEST FOR: Save money automatically
TESTED BY: Tara Evans, Editor-in-Chief of Sun Money
Tara said: “Chip helps me save without really noticing.
It connects to your bank account and uses smart technology to calculate how much you can afford to save, based on its algorithm.
Every few days it takes money from your bank account and puts it into a savings account on the app.
For the past year I’ve used it to save for Christmas and the holidays.
I keep mine in Chip’s 90 day notice account to earn up to 1.55% interest free of charge.
Its easy access pays 1.05 percent. The current best easy access account is Virgin Money’s 1.56% checking account.
Your savings (up to £85,000) are protected by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme so they are safe if the app or bank they are stored with goes bankrupt.
On average, Chip users saved £3,000 in 2021.
Keep in mind that it can take up to five business days to withdraw cash.
I find it a good deterrent and helps me keep saving.
BEST FOR: Long-term planning and pocket money
TESTED BY: Olivia Marshall, Consumer Journalist
Olivia said: “I’m saving up for my wedding next September so was looking forward to trying HyperJar.
It’s quite different from other apps because you save towards your goals by transferring money to a prepaid card.
It can be digital or you can order a physical one if you prefer. You then allocate money to different “pots” which you can label according to your goals, for example: “wedding” or “vacation fund”.
You earn interest at an annual rate of 4.8% and it’s easy enough to transfer it into your checking account if you need it.
You can sometimes get a premium rate of up to 10% if you save in jars for particular stores, like holiday company Tui – almost like a gift card.
But it’s harder to get your money back if you change your mind or find your planned purchases are cheaper elsewhere.
Unlike gift cards, money allocated to a store doesn’t have an expiration date and you wouldn’t lose it if the store goes bankrupt.
The money you load onto the card is handled by a regulated ‘e-money’ provider and stored at the Bank of England.
Hyperjar is popular with parents because you can create a jar for your kids’ spending money and give them their own card.
You can monitor their spending and help them know more about the money.