The Best New Savings Apps for Your Phone

girlphoneSeveral years ago, entrepreneur Yaron Samid noticed a fraudulent charge on his credit card. When he investigated, he found that it had actually been a recurring charge, added to his monthly bill, that he had been paying without even realizing it. He also discovered that other people posted online about the same charge, and he wasn’t the first person to be surprised by it.

His tech background inspired him to start thinking about how people could share information about such fraudulent charges to help protect each other. That concept led him to create BillGuard, an app that has been used by more than 1 million people worldwide since it launched in July 2013. “The app is helping people make sure they’re only paying for what they should be,” says BillGuard spokeswoman Marina Boykis​.

BillGuard is one of several apps to hit the market recently with the goal of ​protecting your finances and saving you money. Other popular ones reduce your parking expenses, help you track spending and help you find discounts and coupons. Here’s an overview of some of the most popular apps, which are all available for both iOS and Android, and how they work:

1. BillGuard. The BillGuard app, using bank-level security, pulls all your transactions from various accounts, and flags ones that might be erroneous, including duplicate charges that have been flagged by other users. You can flag a charge and dispute it with a company directly through the app. When a retailer faces a data breach, BillGuard alerts you if you shopped at the store during the period of the incident.

The app saves people money, Boykis says, because most people quickly skim their account statements – if they review them at all – which makes it easy to miss errors. Last year, BillGuard flagged more than $70 million in suspicious charges. “This puts you in control of your money and helps you fight back, especially given all the data breaches,” Boykis says.

2. Key Ring. This app lets you store your rewards card numbers on your phone so you don’t end up missing out on discounts because you forgot your rewards card. “It lets you throw away all of the discount cards taking up space on your physical key ring,” says Lisa Koivu,​ contributor to the U.S. News Frugal Shopper blog and founder of “Now, since I always have my phone, I always have my discount cards.”

Koivu says she uses the app most at CVS, which also lets you load coupons onto your discount card online. On a recent trip, she saved 20 percent off her entire purchase with the coupons and card discounts.

3. Retailers’ apps. If you have a store you frequent often, then check to see if it has an app, because it could save you money on products you’re buying anyway. Koivu recommends the Target Cartwheel app and Shop Your Way app for Sears and Kmart, which offer exclusive discounts to shoppers.

4. Gift card apps. These apps, including GoWallet and Gyft, help keep you from ever forgetting or losing a gift card again. You can upload your cards onto the app and use it to track and redeem them. Like the Key Ring app, it lets you save even when traveling lightly, without all your cards.

5. Retail Me Not. This app means you never have to clip coupons out of Sunday circulars again. Instead, this app collects coupon codes for you, and lets you save your favorite stores for easier tracking. The best part is you don’t have to save a paper coupon at all. At checkout, just show the code on your phone to snag the deal.

6. Ebates. This app gives shoppers cash back for purchases and recently started offering users even better deals​ one Monday every month, dubbed Mobile Monday. The app lets shoppers earn cash back at more than 1,800 retailers, compare prices and track deals. Shoppers can get as much as 20% cash back on their Mobile Monday purchases.​

7. Park Whiz. If parking is eating up a big chunk of your monthly budget, then the Park Whiz app could be what you need to cut costs. It makes it easy to search – and reserve – nearby ​off-street parking. Available in 150 cities nationwide, it also offers discounts on garage parking (as well as open-air lots) and even find spots from private homeowners who have open spots available. “We work with parking providers to offer our drivers exclusive discounts only available through the service, sometimes up to 60 percent,” says Park Whiz spokesman Mason Pain​, who uses the app to lock in a low monthly parking rate for his own commute.

Depending on your shopping and driving habits, one of these apps could probably help you save – and help meet your financial goals for the year.

Download First Financial’s mobile banking app today! Our app provides convenient, easy, and secure banking and bill payment solutions right from your iPhone or Android device. You can even pay other people with the PopMoney feature in Bill Pay. Get 24/7 instant access to your First Financial account – including bill payment, make transfers, check your balances, find branch and ATM locations, and receive account alerts.*

*You must have an account at First Financial Federal Credit Union (serving Monmouth and Ocean Counties in NJ) and be enrolled in Online Banking, to use this application.

Article source written by Kimberly Palmer of US News.

6 Apps That Can Save Your Financial Life

Save-Money-with-AppsWelcome to the bulging world of smartphone applications that will do the logging, tracking and thinking for you as you get your financial life in order, help you follow a budget, and nudge you to pull in the reins on your spending. New smartphone apps are going to market at speedy rates as consumers, both young and old, demand on-time access to all their accounts at a moment’s notice and thanks to Mint, Bona was able to do just that.

1. Mint: Mint is the oldest and most popular free app that pools your personal-finance accounts and investments into one place. You can pull up Mint on your smartphone or laptop and set goals — like paying off credit cards or saving to buy a home — that you can follow closely through graphs and colorful pie charts. If you stray by spending too much on, say, clothing, Mint does the equivalent of yelling at you. The app will alert you when a bill is due, but you cannot actually make a payment directly. This function is actually a good thing, in that it doesn’t allow you, or anyone else, to deposit or withdraw money, move money around or pay bills. It is encouraged that you download your financial institution’s mobile app or sign-up for Online Banking to move, transfer, and/or pay bills.

Here are budgeting and bill-paying apps besides Mint that will make your financial life simpler:

2. LearnVest: This new app is an extension of the financial-planning site of the same name that’s been around since 2009, initially as a personal-finance education site for women. The free app is a lot like Mint. It helps you create budgets and prioritize your financial goals while nudging you to meet them. Like Mint, it also connects directly to all your accounts — savings, checking, credit cards, investments — and tracks every credit and debit. That gives you an instant picture with easy-to-decipher charts and graphs of your net worth as well as alerts that you’re spending too much in one category. There’s a lot of reading material to help you navigate your financial future and for an extra $19 a month, plus an initiation fee of as much as $399, you can get financial advice services.

3. HelloWallet: This app, which is owned by Morningstar, takes a behavioral science approach to business to help you plan your financial future, not just today’s bills and debt management. Its founder, Matt Fellowes, is a consumer-finance scholar at the Brookings Institution who melded technology with behavioral psychology to offer individualized personal-finance recommendations based on income, age and spending patterns. Using your GPS, for example, it can alert you that you already have spent too much money at a particular restaurant. It will also point out the gaps in your financial life, like a missing emergency-savings plan or inadequate levels of insurance. It’s primarily distributed through employee wellness plans but household memberships are available — with a three-year commitment — for $100 annually.

4. OnBudget: This new app and its fee-free prepaid-card component follow an unfussy approach to budgeting: You can’t spend more than you have. With a MasterCard prepaid debit card — what OnBudget calls a “monthly budgeting card” — you find yourself organizing spending much as your parents and grandparents may have, with different “envelopes” for each spending category. But in this case it’s virtual envelope organizational behavior that delivers real-time spending patterns, tips on saving money and constructive suggestions for better decision-making. There’s no setup involved because the software system learns your habits as you spend — and tells you about them. A plus: Unlike with most other personal-finance management tools, more than one person in a household can share a single budget. And there’s no hiding spending here because the system tracks who is spending what.

5. Better Haves: Another envelope-budgeting system, this is a relatively new one designed particularly for couples, though individuals can use it too. You can track expenses on the go and watch your color-coded envelopes deplete with each purchase. Once the envelope’s empty, everyone is advised to stop spending in that category. This one’s dashboard charts joint expenses, but there are separate tabs for joint and individual budgets. There’s even an early-warning system that a money fight could be in the offing. Plus it asks you how you felt about your spending that day.

6. Check: This is the rare app that helps you stay on top of your bills and actually pay them from your smartphone. It touts itself as a “free app that does the worrying and work for you.” Once you set it up, it sends reminders of due dates as it monitors your bank accounts and credit cards. It also alerts you in real-time of large purchases or unusual charges, but it won’t assist in budgeting.

Our Mobile App is now available for iPhone and Android users! Receive 24/7 instant access to your First Financial accounts – including bill payment, make transfers, check your balances, find branch and ATM locations, and receive account alerts. Click here to learn more and how you can download the app today!*

*You must have an account at First Financial Federal Credit Union (serving Monmouth and Ocean Counties in NJ), and be enrolled in online banking, to use this application. Standard data rates and charges may apply.

Original article source by Jennifer Waters of Personal Financial, Market Watch.

Saving May be Tough but Here’s How to Get a Handle on It

saveGetting on top of your finances can be a tough task. On paper the idea sounds simple, but in real life, it’s easier said than done.

By the time you pay down your consumer debt, put a dent in student loans, pay off your mortgage, and put extra money away for your children’s college fund and not to mention your own retirement, the list of demands for your savings is long! Online tools and advice from financial advisors suggest we can make it work but we need to rethink our approach and strategy. Here are some ideas to help you manage your savings goals:

Get real. If retirement sounds far away and “a rainy day fund” sounds kind of depressing, it’s time to rename these goals. For short-term savings objectives, identify what you want to buy and decide whether it’s important for you to finally take that dream vacation you’ve always wanted, or send your kids to college. The same extends to retirement. What does retirement look like to you: a vacation house, writing a book, or doing volunteer work? Visualize it then put a picture on your fridge so you can actually see it. It’s recommended that you should identify how much money you want to have put away at various ages in your life. Sixty-five may be hard to visualize, but goals targeted to ages 30, 40, and 50 will shorten your timeframes, making them more measurable and do-able.

Get started. The decision to save is based on a cumulative series of well thought out choices. You tell yourself you’ll save tomorrow and tomorrow never comes. If you don’t save one month it’s not terrible, but a series of those choices over your lifetime has consequences. Starting early really pays off and online tools and calculators will make the concept more real and easy for you.

Make savings planning a family affair. Providing an inheritance to your children is also about passing down values. The money tips we teach our children can be beneficial or crippling, even when we say we want our children to be financially educated to manage their finances in the future. Don’t be afraid of having money conversations as a family and talk to your kids about savings goals, spending and savings trade-offs, and even higher-level concepts such as inflation and investing, keeps everyone budget conscious.

Put your savings on autopilot. Did you know that you’re losing out on a lot of money when you don’t contribute the maximum allowable amount to your retirement plan? By committing to increase your 401(k) contribution by a percentage equal to your yearly raise will help you grow your pre-tax dollars before the money even gets distributed. Putting a stop to your daily temptations is also important – avoid going to the mall, only carry a small amount of cash in your wallet or simply leave your credit cards at home to cut back on your spending habits.

Hold your feet to the fire. When you’re spending money, ask yourself if this is a need or a want? Making this a habit enables you to keep track of your purchases and helps analyze your spending. It’s a good idea to make your own consequences when you fail to abide by your commitments – so bet on yourself. For example, if eating out has put a huge dent in your wallet, say out loud that you’ll limit yourself to two dinners out a week for the next month and then stick to your plan!

Go social. Sharing money-saving ideas or picking up tips from free sites like and Moneyning can help make the topic of finance more enjoyable. Maybe you may want to consider starting a friendly money-saving competition — it holds you responsible, will help you stick to your saving goals and helps take your mind off your struggles.

Here at First Financial, we encourage our members to come in at least once a year for an annual financial check-up – to sit down with a representative at any one of our branches to make sure you are currently placed in the correct Rewards First tier for you, and also that you are receiving the best value, products and services based on your financial situation. Give us a call at 866.750.0100 or stop in to see us today!

Click here to view the original article source by Barbara Minnino of Fox Business.