Posts

money-saving-apps

Coolest Money-Saving Apps of 2018

If you find it difficult to stretch your paycheck over the entire month, don’t worry. Often times, it just takes being organized and creative to make it work. It is not about tightening the belt even more or starting a second/third job, but about using the newest technology to your advantage. There are numerous money-saving apps that will help you save some extra money and earn rewards for things you buy anyway.

money-saving-apps

Earny

This free app monitors retailers and notifies you when they reduce their price on an item that you have already purchased. In other words, it tells you that an item you just bought is now on sale. It calculates the difference and contacts the company so that they can return that amount to you.

Earny App

It is especially useful for retailers that will price match and you basically don’t do anything but enjoy the refund.

Swagbucks

This is one of the best apps that gives you rewards for simply because you shop, search or do other common activities online. The app includes a search engine that looks a bit like Google. This custom engine gives you points for searching, shopping at partner stores and participating in online surveys. When the points add up, you can get a free gift card for stores like Amazon or cashback into your PayPal account. While many apps offer gift cards, only Swagbucks provides you with cash into your account, which you can transfer to your bank and get actual cash.

Honey

Honey is a plugin that can be used with Chrome, Firefox, and Opera and helps you save money by not letting you forget that you have coupons that give you a discount. Honey applies the coupons automatically at the final stage of online shopping. A popup window will appear at the checkout stage of your shopping and all you need to do is click on it. Honey will check all coupon codes and apply the one that best fits the purchase. The plugin works with over 3,700 online stores and also gives you “Honey Gold” points. When you collect enough, you can exchange the points for a free gift card.

Wikibuy

This plugin is similar to Honey but only works with Chrome and Firefox. There is also an iOS version for iPhone and the site promises to launch an Android version soon. The plugin is considered less reliable than Honey, but if you find it more useful, you can use it. It also gives you points that can be redeemed for gift cards or other products.

Raise

Raise is a free app that helps you find discounted gift cards or sell your own gift cards for cash in case you do not want to use them. Raise allows you to find gift cards with an average discount of 12%. You can search gift cards by brand, category or value. This is the best place to save money by buying or selling gift cards depending on your needs.

CamelCamelCamel

This money-saving app is designed especially for those who love shopping on Amazon. It allows you to view charts and details with the history of product prices that are for sale on Amazon. It helps you compare current prices to the past trends and thus decide whether now is the best moment to buy or if you should wait to get a better deal. Since Amazon changes prices constantly, this app is a very useful tool to save money if you are an avid Amazon shopper.

Shopkick

This app is very useful for those who love to shop both online and offline. You can earn points that are called Kicks as a result of different activities, some of which do not require purchases. You get certain Kicks for going to a physical store and buying certain items that are eligible for awarding you points. In some cases, you are just required to physically visit a store and find a given product on the shelf without buying it. You need to upload your receipts in order to get the points and then exchange them for gift cards that can be used on Amazon, at Starbucks,and at Target.

As you can see, there are various money-saving apps that can help you with your budget. Choose those that you prefer. Be careful, since you can use only one app of a given type, so select the one that gives you the best results.

Please share this entry
Protecting your Identity or Personal Information

10 Steps to Protecting Your Identity

Identity theft is something people tend to neglect, no matter how often they hear about it. It always seems as something terrible that only happens to others but never to us. The unpleasant truth is that identity theft can happen to anyone. And even though there is no 100% guaranteed method to protect ourselves against it, there are a number of simple things we can do to make us less likely to become a victim of identity theft.

But first, let’s see why we should do it.

What qualifies as identity theft and why you should be careful

Protecting your Identity or Personal Information

We often imagine identity theft as someone walking around, pretending to be us. In reality, unauthorized use of any piece of personal information is considered identity theft. This could include address, email address, previous addresses, mother’s maiden name, the place where you were born, pin number, bank account details, social security number, passwords, and more.

Having your SSN stolen sounds pretty scary – with it, a criminal could do almost everything that the real SSN holder can. Your property would be at risk. Not only that, but a criminal could commit a crime using your SSN and name. Then the police would come looking for you, thinking you’re the one who did it.

But how could a criminal use your mother’s maiden name to do you harm? Indirectly. Many companies keep your personal information these days and questions like “what is your mother’s maiden name” are common before they give you access to your data. Someone could take advantage of this and break into your account. Once they do, they would likely find more sensitive information, which can be directly used for their benefit.

Online Identity Theft Prevention

Identity theft is not something new but modern technologies and lifestyle present new risks. Social media, for example, makes it very easy for thieves to find victims and acquire personal information. You can’t be completely safe. There is no way to hide your email from everyone or even control who sees it. But you can take certain precautions.

  1. Use strong passwords –many sites today ask users to use a password with at least 12 characters, including letters, capital letters, numbers, and symbols. This a safety measure against brute force hacking into your account. Ideally, a password like that is random-generated. However, recent studies suggest that this practice had made overall web security weaker. That’s because people simply cannot remember those passwords and as a result, they write them down somewhere – on a separate text file or on a note on the desk. This makes it easy for others to find and use those passwords. Perhaps the best advice is to use a password you can remember but is hard for others to guess.
  2. Use 2-factor verification for all of your online accounts–upon login, you will be asked to enter not just your username and password, but also something else – like a pin code sent to your phone as an SMS. This drastically improves security and is common practice for banks and financial institutions, but you should use 2-factor verification wherever possible.
  3. Be mindful of your privacy settings on social media–you are able to choose who sees what of the things what you share. An open profile makes it extremely easy for identity thieves to learn an awful lot about you. Take the time and adjust your security settings now.
  4. Don’t be quick to open or download any email attachments – they are often infected with malware which gives hackers access to your computer and any private information you store on it.
  5. Be hesitant to share sensitive information on sites which do not have SSL certificate – check if the web address starts with https. If it does, it means that the site will encrypt the information you are about to submit, making it unreadable to hackers.
  6. Remember that public Wi-Fi connections might be corrupted – do not use them to log in your PayPal account or online banking. Actually, do not use them to access any accounts. Hackers could easily steal your information over non-secure Wi-Fi networks.

Offline Identity Theft Prevention

Compared to the online world, we feel more secure in the real world. It is hard to imagine how someone could trick us into giving them sensitive information. But practice shows this happens a lot and we shouldn’t underestimate the risks.

  1. Be careful with documents that contain private information. Documents such as bank statements and solicitations should be shred or at least torn up. Some people could search through your garbage to find your private information. Don’t throw the ATM receipt in the nearest bin. Carry it in your pocket until you can get rid of it safely.
  2. Do not give away any private information over the phone. Ever. No company would ask you to do that. If someone is trying to collect your information, it is most probably a scam. If it seems urgent, hang up, call the company back, and ask them to confirm that they indeed need this information from you.
  3. Monitor your credit score. You can request a free credit report from the three national credit bureaus – Equifax, Experian, and Trans Union – once a year. This means that every 4 months you can check for anything suspicious going on with your credit. For example, if someone has tried to apply for a loan using your social security number.
  4. Pay extra attention to how you protect your Social Security Number. Do you keep it in a safe place? If it is in your wallet or purse, how likely is it to get stolen? Who has access to it? Whenever someone requests you to give a SSN, ask if it is absolutely mandatory and why. Be familiar with their privacy policy.

Identity theft is among the fastest growing crimes in America. It may cause you serious trouble and it is typically hard to undo the damage. Protection of your personal information should be a priority. And if you believe you have been a victim of identity theft, contact the authorities immediately. Stay safe!

Please share this entry
Best budgeting apps

Best Budgeting Apps: Keep track of your income, spending and saving with ease

Like everyone else, you are probably doing these two things every day:

  1. Looking at your smartphone to check Facebook, read your email, check the weather, count your steps or simply play a game.
  2. Wondering where all your money went.

Keep track of your income, spending and saving with a budgeting app. Turn your smartphone into a personal financial advisor and let it do the budgeting for you.

Downloading a budget app is a simple way to create a budget, learn new positive financial habits and avoid costly mistakes.Best budgeting apps

How to choose a budgeting app

A good budgeting app:

  • Is free – if you are on a budget, you don’t have the extra money to spend on apps.
  • Saves time – the app should streamline typical budgeting activities, like allowing you to scan or take a picture of your receipts, calculating automatically how much you spent or being able to connect to all your devices or accounts, etc.
  • Tracks your expenses – that’s a no-brainer – after all this is the main function of the app.
  • Links to your accounts – it links to your bank accounts and credit cards directly.
  • It tracks your credit score – this is a newer feature on some apps, and we are sure others will catch on – if you can snag a free app with credit tracking – go for it.
  • Identity theft protection – some apps offer alerts if they uncover suspicious activity or inconsistencies.

Top 7 free budget apps to help you manage your money

  • Mint – Mint has been around a long time and is one of the best budgeting apps you can get. It helps create a budget with several spending categories. Then it uses brightly colored graphics to warn the users when they are near the end of the budget in each. It is free and links to your accounts. What’s even better is that it gives you access to your credit score. You can download the app on iOS, Android, and Kindle.
  • BillGuard – The app keeps track of your spending by type, month and location. It links to your account and gives you free access to your credit score. You can upgrade for an annual fee of $83.88 and get credit monitoring and identity theft insurance. You can download the app on iOS and Android.
  • Dollarbird – The app allows you to divide your spending by category and also adds past and future income and expenses to a calendar. Thus, it calculates the impact on your balance. The disadvantage is that it doesn’t link to your bank account. You can download the app on iOS and Android.
  • Good budget – The app uses the envelope budgeting strategy. You can set a budget for each category and it will warn you when the money is about to run out. Then you simply stop spending from this category. It doesn’t link to your account and if you want to sync up to five devices, have access to unlimited categories and five-year history you will need to pay $45 a year. The app is available for iOS and Android.
  • Level Money – The app recreates the experience of actually opening your wallet. In order to determine how much you can spend per month, week or day, the app subtracts recurring expenses and savings from your income and then distributes the budget according to the period you have set. It links to your bank account and is completely free. The app is available for iOS and Android.
  • LearnVest – The app is quite useful as it categorizes transactions by expense type and helps set and track goals. You can also use it for net worth calculation as well. It links to your bank account and only for $19 per month you can partner up with a financial planner if you wish. The drawback is that it only operates on iOS.
  • Personal Capital – This app offers something more than the usual sophisticated budgeting tools. It can be used to track investments and helps to establish goals and models for retirement, college or other important life events. What’s more, since it links to your account, the app will send recommendations for investment opportunities to people with more than $25,000. The app is available for iOS and Android.

Bonus: You can also install an app that helps you with your saving, without any complications or sophisticated actions on your behalf. Acorns app offers to automate savings for you, thus modeling good financial behavior. You need to select a portfolio of low-cost exchange-traded funds (ETFs) and each time you make a payment with a card connected to the app it will round the amount up to the next highest dollar and automatically invest the difference. You can end up accumulating some nice savings over a year – just keep in mind that since it is invested in ETFs, the value of your savings will fluctuate with the market. The good news is that the service is free to college students and costs about $1 per month for the rest.

Download one of these great apps to optimize your budget and identify why and where you are losing money. Once you master your budgeting skills, you can move on to the next level and start actually making money.

Please share this entry