Do you start each new year with the goal of getting your finances in order — just to find yourself in the exact same spot 12 months later? Well, there’s no better time than the present to finally get a grip on your money.
The idea of getting a budget together and paying off debt can be daunting, but the good news is that there are so many apps and tools that now make the process of creating a budget — and sticking to it — super easy.
Read more: 8 tips to transform your finances
Here are three key areas to focus on in order to get your finances organized and on the right track in 2016! Plus, apps, tips and tricks to getting it done!
3 key ways to get a grip on your money
1. Organize your life & accounts
FileThis is a great way to keep track of all of your bills and account statements in one easily accessible place.
Just link your FileThis account with all of your online accounts to get a complete overview of each account, download account statements and get alerted with bill due-date reminders. Pretty much any online account can be synced with FileThis, including banks, wealth, health, auto, utilities, communication and retail.
The app keeps track of your account statements from the past three years and downloads new statements as they become available. You can choose to have the documents downloaded to a number of different storage sites, including Dropbox and Evernote — or have them downloaded to your computer.
If you aren’t using your bank or credit union’s mobile app yet, it’s time to get started!
Mobile banking apps provide you with a variety of great features, including instant access to account balances, easy money transfers, bill-pay, notifications for bill due dates, and many will even find fee-free ATMs nearby when you need one.
2. Make a budget – and stick to it
Level Money keeps track of your spending and gives you a sense of how you’re doing. If you’re looking for a free app to take your financial temperature all the time, this is it. It will probably work best for those who have relatively simple and linear financial lives.
You Need a Budget
YNAB is not only a way to track your finances, but the app also gives solid financial advice, focused on getting out of debt. The software itself is $60, but if you’re a paid member of the very active community, you can take advantage of the free mobile app.
YNAB is structured on a personal finance method that focuses around four basic rules:
Rule 1: Give every dollar a job
Rule 2: Save for a rainy day
Rule 3: Roll with the punches
Rule 4: Live on last month’s income
The app allows you to set goals — like paying off debt — and it helps you find areas in which you can cut back and fund those goals.
Mint is a very popular app that allows you to track your spending, monitor your credit score and keep up with potential fraud by automatically downloading transactions from bank, credit card and investment accounts.
The service allows you to combine all of your finances in one place — giving you a constant overview of your financial status. You can also set up alerts and automatic bill-pay.
3. Start paying off debt
Pay Off Debt
This is a great app for people with multiple debts and who prefer an interface that’s simple, user-friendly and will help organize the details of those debts for you.
‘The app is strictly focused on helping folks actually pay off their debts (not rearrange them),’ said personal finance writer Jackie Beck, who designed the app. ‘Users are hit with a dose of motivation every time they glance at their phone or tablet and see that ‘PAID!’ icon. Of course, users can also organize their debts in the order that works best for them, and experiment with different payment amounts to see how their planned debt free date changes.’
The app is $4.99, but users praise it for being highly organized and easy to use. It also includes an amortization schedule for each debt, so you how much you’re paying in principal and interest with each payment.
Read more: Apps to help you ditch debt
Ready For Zero
This is a great tool if you need help coming up with a realistic plan that’s suited to your spending habits.
Thomas Frank, founder of College Info Geek, paid off a nearly $15,000 student loan debt before he graduated.
The ReadyForZero (RFZ) app is free, and it offers quite a few interesting features that let you customize and track your get-out-of-debt plan. After you add your financial info, RFZ analyzes your finances and suggests a debt-payoff plan that’s optimized for your needs and spending.
‘Your plan can be based on what you are able to pay each month, and the tool will help you focus on the highest-interest accounts first, in order to get out of debt as fast as possible,’ said Benjamin Feldman, ReadyForZero head of content. ‘You’ll also get a graph of your progress so you can see your debt dwindling as the weeks go by.’
That progress graph helps you visualize your goals, giving you a solid idea of when you’ll be debt-free, based on how much you decide to put toward your debt.
Read more: How to start paying off credit card debt
The app also keeps you motivated by sending payment reminders, suggestions to pay off debt when you make a large deposit to your checking account, and even celebratory emails when you reach a milestone, Feldman said.