NEW YORK (MainStreet) Modern life can be hectic, to the point that you may feel your financial affairs are slipping out of control. But whether you need a gentle reminder to pay your bills on time, could use help planning and sticking to a budget, or want to formulate a plan to get out of debt, modern life also offers these helpful apps for Android phones or the iPhone.
Check - Bills & Money
Check, formerly called Pageonce, is a free app that keeps track of all your account balances and bills. It alerts you as bills become due and then allows you to pay them out of your bank account or, if it's necessary, from a credit card.
You'll also receive alerts when your cash is low, when you're nearing your credit limits, or when any activity in any of your accounts appears fishy.
Mint.com Personal Finance
This multi-award-winning mobile app from the free Web service gives you a comprehensive view of your entire financial situation, as well as budgeting tools and spending tracking. It keeps track of all of your accounts, including checking, savings, credit cards and even investments. It tracks your spending in customizable categories and generates easy-to-understand pie charts to give you a sense of where your cash is going. Budget pages tell you how much remains in the month's allowance for each category or by how much you've already overspent. You receive alerts about low balances or suspicious activity, as well as money-saving suggestions.
All of your info is backed up in the cloud, so if your phone should break, you won't lose it. If you lose the phone, you can turn off the app through the website and keep your info out prying eyes.
My Weekly Budget
Maybe you don't quite need all the information and financial tracking Mint provides, and you just want help setting up a budget and sticking to it.
This very simple app, sold for 99 cents, allows you to set up a budget for the week and then see how well you stick to it.
Enter purchases as you make them. You'll see how much money is left for the week as you go, and at week's end, see how faithfully you carried out your spending plan. Flip through your history to see what you've been doing from week to week.
This app doesn't have the cloud storage of Mint, but your phone may preserve your historical data, depending what kind you have.
Grocery Gadget is an app for Blackberry and Windows phone as well as iPhone and Android, dedicated to performing this task in the most organized way possible. It's available in either a $2.99 or an ad-sponsored version.
You can set up a master shopping list so you won't have to keep entering the same items over and over, and then add to or subtract from it for a particular shopping trip. Using popular recipe software, you can import needed ingredients into your list. You can also sync the list through a cloud portal with other family members. That way you, your spouse and your teenager won't all buy potato chips, while everyone forgets the eggs.
Other features include a price-comparison tool and searchable eCoupons accepted by a growing number of grocery chains. But the main reason to use it is to keep track of your food dollars. You'll know how much your cart costs before you head to the checkout, and you'll be empowered to shelve anything unnecessary.
Debt Payoff Planner
This 99-cent Android app is a kind of calculator to help you climb out of debt. You tell the app your fiscal troubles, inputting the amounts, interest rates, and minimum monthly payments due on each of your credit cards and loans. You choose from one of the payoff strategies, including highest balance first, highest interest first, or several other options. Then you input how much money you're willing to commit to the cause each month, and it spits out a payment plan for you to follow.
The app can also tell you when you will be debt free -- assuming you stick to the plan and don't incur more debt -- and how much interest you will have doled out by the time the glorious day arrives.
Whatever challenge you're having in reining in your finances, one of these apps is bound to help.
All you need is either a strong 3G/4G signal or save on data costs by using your home Wi-Fi connection on your way to financial freedom.
What other apps are helping you put more money in your pockets?
--Written by JT Ripton for MainStreet