Saving for a down payment is one of the biggest obstacles to homeownership. Even a minimum 3% down payment is significant in California’s pricey housing market. Add to that closing costs and a potential homebuyer needs to save up tens of thousands of dollars.
Many would-be homebuyers get stuck on the long journey to saving. In this article, we examine three of the most popular saving apps to help you get your clients back on track to buying a home.
You Need a Budget
You Need a Budget is a no-frills, easy-to-use budgeting app.
The first step is entering your account details and making a spending plan. The app tracks your spending so that when you (inevitably) go over budget in one category, you can move money around to cover it. The app calls this approach “giving every dollar a job.” Some of those dollars can be put to work saving!
Budgeting can help potential homebuyers stop living paycheck to paycheck and help them get on the road to saving. It also puts them on the road to healthy spending, important for homeownership.
The cost for this app is $50 a year, and the first 34 days are free. The app estimates the average user is able to save $200 in the first month and $3,300 in the first nine months.
The app is invested in educating its users on how to budget and save. It offers a variety of free workshops to users, including lessons on how to pay down credit card debt, how to manage credit cards and reach savings goals.
The Acorns app rounds up your purchases to the nearest dollar and invests the spare change.
It works by linking your credit cards and other accounts you use to make purchases. The app registers each time you make a purchase and will pull the spare change from your account into the app. For example, when you purchase your $5.35 latte with your debit card, the app will pull 65 cents from your checking account and deposit it into your Acorns savings and investment account.
You also have the option to deposit voluntary, larger sums into the app at any time. Or, set up a recurring deposit.
The app invests your money in a portfolio of stocks and bonds. The aggressiveness of this portfolio is created by your answers to questions the app asks about your financial goals.
The cost is $1 each month. Once your portfolio reaches $5,000 the cost is 0.25% of your account balance a year.
How successful is the Acorns app at helping people to save?
It depends on how much you invest. When a user uses only the round-up feature, they will be investing a minimal amount of money each month, maybe $10 or $20. But when the user also deposits larger sums of money, the app can be very useful — especially because of its relatively low fee compared to other investment tools.
Mint is a free app that tracks your spending and helps you set up and stick to a budget.
Owned by the same company that made Quicken and TurboTax, Mint starts out by providing each user with a free credit score — important for future homebuyers — and tips to improve it. It links each of your accounts so you can view and pay bills from the app.
Another bonus feature is the unusual spending alert Mint can send to alert you of potential stolen accounts.
The biggest benefit of using Mint is using it to craft and stick to a budget. This makes it easier for potential homebuyers to see where they are overspending and cut back to build up their savings. (However, its budget features are not as robust as You Need a Budget).
A word of caution: nothing is truly free, and Mint is no exception. While the app costs nothing to use, it advertises credit cards and banks, providing their rates so the user can consider transferring to a company or bank that can potentially help them save more.