3 Ways Technology Makes Personal Finances Easier
From saving money to staying on budget, technology has made it easier than ever to stay on top of my personal finances. Here are 3 ways technology has helped me save money and time.
1. Banking, budgeting, and investment tracking always within reach.
iPhone apps from Bank of America and Bloomberg
Smartphones (and even regular cellphones) puts control of my finances in my pocket.
Banking has become much easier since I got my iPhone. I can check balances, transfer money between accounts, and look for the nearest ATM just by pulling out my phone. Even folks with regular cellphones can check bank balances and/or get low balance alerts via text messages.
Budgeting -- really, sticking to a budget -- is now 10 times easier with my iPhone. One of the problems I had with sticking to a budget was keeping track of my spending. At first, I was good about keeping receipts and entering the totals into a spreadsheet at the end of the day. But as the days went by, I got lazier about entering receipts each day. Eventually, I stopped tracking my spending altogether.
These days, I can enter amounts I've spent into my phone right away. Even when I didn't have a smartphone, my regular cellphone had a way to store simple notes. This made it easier to keep track of my spending on a day to day basis.
Once I started using Mint.com (and their great iPhone app), the process got even simpler. If I use a debit or credit card, the transaction is added to my Mint account automatically. Even better, Mint does a good job of automatically categorizing expenditures, which makes analyzing my spending at the end of the month easier and more accurate.
Finally, keeping track of how my favorite stocks are doing is now a breeze with the Bloomberg iPhone app. I can now easily check my portfolio daily, and make trades as soon as I notice trends or hear interesting news. Rather than waiting until the end of the month to look over statements or meeting with my broker once every quarter, I can now stay on top of my investment portfolio while waiting in line or when I'm having lunch. The iPhone has made me a faster and smarter investor.
2. Crowdsourcing my way to better buying decisions.
Making smarter buys with consumer reviews on Yelp and Amazon.
Between local business review site Yelp and Amazon's customer reviews, I now buy with a lot more confidence. No more wasting money on restaurants or products that disappoint. Nowadays, I hardly ever walk into a new restaurant before checking out what fellow foodies have to say about the place on Yelp. And I almost never buy something without checking Amazon's user reviews. Thanks for the recommendations, world!
By the way, both Amazon and Yelp have iPhone apps so I can look up reviews while standing in front of a new restaurant or walking around a big box store.
3. More data than ever available to consumers.
Zillow provides info previously only available to real estate agents.
The Internet has been a boon to consumers hungry for information. Not just product reviews, but large scale trending data that helps them make big purchases. I'm looking to buy a home in the next year or so, and I've been a frequent visitor to Zillow. I haven't even contacted a real estate broker yet, but I feel like I already know more about the real estate market in my area than my parents ever did when they were house shopping.
Rather than depend on an agent to feed me limited information, I can use Zillow to get a list of all houses on sale in my neighborhood, details about each home (including nearby schools, lots of photos, and a bird's eye view of the neighborhood), and even historical charts of the home and neighborhood's value. Technology has given us home shoppers unparalleled information that was previously only available to professional real estate agents.
Once I am ready to make an offer, I can use another site, SmartHippo, to shop for mortgages. SmartHippo is Yelp-for-mortgages. Consumers review their lending institutions and even individual agents. Again, leveraging the power of the crowd to make smarter buying decisions!