New wave of apps changes how consumers manage money

- Once upon a time, we balanced our checkbooks, using a pencil.

Things have changed, but would you let an app manage your savings, pay your bills, or invest in the stock market?

The newest frontier in money management is apps that do the work for you.

"So a lot of apps aren't just showing you what categories you're spending in, they're showing you how you can take small amounts and save it and invest it," says Lisa Rowan, a personal finance writer at the Penny Hoarder.

Here are a few we thought were easiest to use and made saving simple. 

Digit - This app analyzes your spending habits and takes out a small amount when algorithms determine you can spare it.

Acorns - This app rounds up purchases to the nearest dollar and invests the difference.

Qapital - This one lets you pick what triggers savings. You can make it something fun and random, like when your team wins, when you upload a picture on social media, or when you work out. 

You can link it to your fitness tracker so every time you hit 10,000 steps, it puts $2 in savings. It may not seem like a lot, but if you hit the steps every day of the week and it can start to add up.

There are even apps that will cancel subscriptions and negotiate fees on your behalf.

Trim - This app looks for deals on things like your cable bill. When they save you money, they take a little cut of that savings and give you the rest.

"That's the tradeoff.  You're going to give them a little bit of the cut. For example with me, I saved $54. I gave them $12 dollars," Lisa Rowan explained.

Some personal finance advisors warn against too much of a set it and forget it mentality. Hillsborough County extension agent Lisa Leslie advocates for the old-fashioned way to save.

"I say set it up yourself if you can through your payroll or your savings account. Planned savings can help you get to your goal versus haphazard," Leslie said.

When picking any of these apps, make sure you're the one who logs into your bank accounts. They should never need your password information, just an authorized connection.

Lisa Leslie also has this important reminder: "These tracking apps can be helpful but understand they're also tracking your behavior. They're getting in your head and there's going to be some real specific targeted marketing going on."

In other words, always be aware of what they're getting for helping you.

For some local savings guidance and motivation, take the Tampa Bay Saves pledge at www.TampaBaySaves.org. It requires you complete a short survey from the University of Florida between now and March 31 to be entered for a chance to win a $50 gift card. A total of 20 gift cards will be given away.

For more information about Hillsborough County Extension personal finance programs visit http://sfyl.ifas.ufl.edu/hillsborough/work-and-life/personal-finance/.

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