Ah January – the month where every retailer pushes deals on their storage and organization products after the mayhem of Christmas gifts and decorations. I’m in the market for some steel garage shelving so that maybe, just maybe, I can get both cars in instead of one. Or find that thing I know I have in there somewhere and don’t want to buy again. I have no attic or basement, so it’s probably more important to get all that in order than I like to admit.
Garage shenanigans aside — I’m not pushing a deal, but I am going to push you to make keeping tabs on your money really easy and accessible. No, I am not going to suggest getting one of those all-in-one apps like Mint, YNAB, SoFi Relay, Qube or Personal Capital. You can if you want to, but I find that way too frequently, the accounts you connect to it stop sync’ing – like there’s always one that’s not playing along because of a software or security update. And if you add your mortgage account to it, then some of them will show your aggregate balance/net worth as negative. The horror! The inaccuracy!
Phone Apps For The Win
So rather than these big scary account aggregators that a big chunk of the personal finance community raves about, I propose the far-less-sexy phone app. I love them first and foremost for their convenience and speed – but did you know that apps are safer than using your phone’s browser?
Keep It SAFE!
I use at least 7 financial apps, and they all offer a biometric log-in option, like your fingerprint or face recognition. While they also take username and password, the apps do not store or autofill the password, and you can choose to not save your username. Why is this important? It makes your accounts less hackable when you’re on public wifi, or if your phone falls into the wrong hands.
To maintain this layer of safety, you should make sure your phone browser is not linked and sync’d with the same browser/identity on your computer that you access your bank accounts from. I’m sure there are more and more steps, like installing a VPN and all that, but there comes a point where cyber security gets in the way of your willingness to use technology so I’ll stop there.
Keep It CONVENIENT!
Checking balances to make sure there are no surprises has become something I do when stuck waiting anywhere – at the dentist, as a passenger in a car, while doing curbside pickups, when there are 17 people ahead of me in the phone queue for customer service (looking at you, Spectrum). I recommend having a peek about once a week just to keep tabs on your outgoings. But I do more complicated things than that, from paying my credit card bills to buying index fund shares inside my Roth IRA.
Keeping it all Easy & Organized
For phone apps, it’s so freakin’ easy. Depending on how many there are (think…personal banking, business banking, credit cards, mortgage, investment accounts), you’ll either want half a swipe screen or a whole swipe screen devoted to your financial apps. Make this cluster easy to locate but not too front-and-center. Mine live on my second screen because I use them a fair bit but not as much as email, maps, camera or two social media accounts.
But What if i don't Like banking on my phone?
No banking on the go for you? No problem! Create a MONEY folder on your bookmarks toolbar and collect the links to all your institutions in there. And maybe even the link to this blog, while you’re at it. No, seriously folks – I’m worth keeping at your fingertips! Anyway, that’s all there is to it for simple organization.
Got security concerns? Sadly there’s little we can do about those massive breaches at banks and retailers, but if you’re worried about network hacking, misplacing your laptop, or other things that you have some control over, there are a few steps you can take.
- Don’t label that favorites folder MONEY. Call it something dull that no one with evil intent wants to look at – Book Club, DIY Ideas, Recipe Pins, Chess Sites. I’d say Cat Memes, but even villains can be distracted by extreme cuteness.
- Don’t save usernames, passwords or credit cards for autofill. For me, this constitutes too much inconvenience, but it’s a valid strategy.
- When traveling, get a VPN so you can set your location in your home country.
- It’s a good layer to add so that you’re not low-hanging fruit to cyber baddies on public networks.
- There are a LOT of sites you can’t access at from abroad – banks of course, but also Target, Netflix, Google in English(!).
- Free VPNs won’t always help – they make money when companies pay to opt out of their shielding.
Go Ahead - Press The Easy Button
If you took the trouble to read this far, don’t stop now – start downloading the apps or making a bookmark folder. And it takes a hell of a lot less time, frustration, money and misery to accomplish than the sh*tshow that is my garage! Maybe I’ll take a picture so you know what I’m dealing with. Go on, get on with your 15 minutes of moneying!