Personal Finance

6 Helpful Savings Apps to Save for Travel

March 13, 2017

I see a lot of articles saying “take the leap and just travel”. I support people who feel comfortable with that sort of decision, and I wish that I could leap as well, but… travel means spending money. Whether it’s a little or a lot, I have to have a financial safety net; it’s just as simple as that. This is why I haven’t traveled the globe 20x over, and why Eric and I still plan each trip meticulously. I know there’s a ton of people out there like me otherwise wanderlust wouldn’t be a such a big deal. We save for trips and ultimately want to travel for six months or more. Saving this much takes time so we can feel comfortable and take our own leap.

I’d like to use my vacation days more, but just like this recent cnn.com article suggests, Americans aren’t using their vacation days anymore. The reasons vary, but a lot of people fear they will lose their job; they have too much work; they can’t trust someone to cover for them (*cough* my issue *cough*); or they don’t have the money. This is why I think it’s so important to have a financial safety net whether it’s for travel or just life.

I’ve discussed this with many friends and everyone really wants more “saving” ideas. Travel is a huge love of mine, but another love is personal finance. When you work a desk job and your income is steady, it’s really helpful to take advantage of the “paying yourself first” method. Some of the apps I explore in this post automate once you set them up. You would be surprised how quickly you can accumulate a couple hundred dollars. You forget that they’re doing the work for you.

I’m happy to share what apps I have found useful to help save for travel or just in general. Plus, this is great opportunity to see what else might be out there.

6 Helpful Savings Apps To Save (For Travel)

1.) Acorns

I love the Acorns app so much. I started using it last year in April, and it’s helped save me over $1,000 since then. The basic idea is that you link it to your checking account, and every time you spend it rounds up the cents to the nearest dollar. So let’s say you buy a latte for $2.75. Acorns will see that and put $0.25 into a savings/investment account for you. They manage and invest the “spare change” transactions for you for $1 a month. There are investment strategies you can adjust in the app: conservative, moderately conservative, moderate, moderately aggressive and aggressive. Your money will be invested accordingly.

It shows you graphs, and you can play with the settings in each of the 5 categories listed above to see which one fits your goal for the moment. I’m a sucker for graphs, and manipulating them to see what I could save in “x” years if I save “$x” extra is just fun. Maybe slightly depressing because I can’t save $2000 a week, but(!) it’s a nice goal to have.

One of the smaller drawbacks is that it’s recommended that you open your account with a couple hundred in it to make the $1/month fee worthwhile.

The biggest positive draw about this app is that it helps you save, and you don’t really have to do anything to make it work!

2.) Digits

Digits is pretty similar to Acorns except it isn’t an investment app. It pulls money from your checking account and puts it into a “special savings account”. I don’t use this one myself, but I know friends who do and decided to use it over Acorns. I researched both of these, and I liked the Acorns approach more, but Digits has its pros and cons. Con: for example, they put your money into a savings account, and instead of giving you the interest, they take that to pay for account management services.

This particular option is a turn off for me because I’d rather have a flat fee versus losing out on interest. Also, Digit isn’t very upfront about this. I had to dig quite a bit to find out how Digit makes money, and how that would affect my potential account. Pro: They do have a “savings bonus”. For every $100 you save over each month for 3 months, they will pay you $.05.

3.) Tip Yourself

This one I just happened upon in my quest for better savings apps. Tip Yourself relies more on you saving on your own. It uses a month calendar and each day you “tip” yourself it turns green to prompt you to continue “tipping” yourself. It also shows your progress to your community of friends, so they can give you “props” or comment on well you’re treating yourself.

It’s nice to know that this app offers a gamified approach. The community keeps you motivated to save and holds you accountable via social media. Personally, I am not a fan of this approach because I’m in the automation camp, but I know people who would be interested in this and find it fun.

Tip Yourself also doesn’t provide any interest payment either. Instead they take the interest earned, like Digits, to pay themselves. This makes sense since they don’t charge a fee, but again, it should be in their general FAQs because it’s something you have to actively search for.

4a/b.) Wealthfront or Betterment

I’ve used Betterment for almost a year, but as of this post I will be moving to Wealthfront. This is why it’s so important to research these things before investing your hard earned money!

I could spend a whole post on the differences between Wealthfront and Betterment, but there’s already a lot of helpful articles out there that do just that. Instead, I’m going to say why I’m switching from Betterment to Wealthfront. Betterment charges about $25 a year to manage your account if you have a balance of $10,000 or less. Wealthfront charges $0 until you reach $10,001. Betterment is more friendly to investors who have more money, and that’s a huge turnoff for some who are trying to start an account with smaller funds.

Both of these apps take any money you set aside and invest it for you. You can pick the percentage ratio of stocks versus bonds, and it depends on how much risk you are comfortable with. Betterment’s team recommends a 40% stock allocation with 60% bond allocation breakdown for someone to save their emergency (or travel!) fund within their accounts. Many bank accounts are not offering very high interest rates, and people are losing out on valuable growth as a result.

The stock market is risky. I’m wary of it myself, but I can see the benefit of using it to your advantage even in a small way. Both Wealthfront and Betterment’s teams do everything in their power to take care of their investees. They also offer plenty of educational articles to help you navigate investing to make the best decisions for your financial situation.

5.) Old School Approach / Ally Bank

This is not an app but simply setting your bank account to automatic transfers. I do this with my bank by transferring to an Ally Savings Account. Ally gives 1%, which is one of the highest for a standard savings account. It’s not much, but it does add up and it’s certainly better than a lot of other banks have to offer.

6.) Personal Capital

Personal Capital (PC) isn’t a savings app, but I have found it helpful for tracking our savings, investments, and debts. Mint.com has been convenient in the past, but there are a few things I don’t like about it. PC fills in some of the holes. The app is organized, clean and advantageous if you’re trying to keep a closer eye on your investment breakdowns. I am still learning when it comes to investing but from what I do know, I appreciate the the detail that the app provides.

One of the drawbacks is that it isn’t always up-to-date with exact totals. So, for example, when my paycheck hits my bank account,  PC will take a day to update the new amount. Unfortunately, this limitation proves to be a real issue if you need a live total. i.e. if you ever overdraft because Wells Fargo is worthless in letting you know if it happens. (Side note/rant: It took Wells Fargo almost a day to “e-mail” me, not even call or text, that I had over drafted. I didn’t know my account hadn’t successfully transferred funds, and because I used PC to check the balance, I kept over drafting because multiple bills were posting to the account. Needless to say, I was not a happy Natalie.)

That aside, Personal Capital is a cool app to check out if you want all your accounts laid out simply and effectively.

Now that you all some cool apps to choose from, no excuses anymore! These apps couldn’t make it any easier to save, they take 10-15 minutes to set up, and then you just forget about them and let them save you some serious cash!

6 Savings Apps

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