Personal Automation Hack #16: Use a personal finance app

It may be a weird place to start with your personal tech transformation but this hack is so damn easy and sets you up so well in one area of automation (and with life in general) that we just had to share it, or reinforce it for those already converted.

So if you’re not already, use a personal finance app. Even if you’re not a big fan of money management running your finances through a modern-day app will automate a lot of different tasks in your life and give you a great oversight with with what’s going on.

Most people would think that the link between money management and automation is around scheduled bill payments and transfers but it’s a lot more than that. It’s about having an helicopter view of your financial situation and being alerted when things look out of the ordinary. Much like a smarthome setup helps give you an overview of your house you should consider your personal financial automation setup in the same way. These apps are designed to give you a good view on what’s happening, automate the mundane stuff (like bill & loan payments) and alert you to the urgent things.

Full disclosure; we’ve been big on money management & apps since the olden days of dial-up modems and having the software loaded from a CD. Back in the day managing your personal finances across multiple accounts and keeping track of all the cash transactions you made was a cumbersome adventure involving a mish-mash set of tasks of importing QIF files and manual entry.

Fast forward to the present and personal finance is largely an automated affair. With nearly all bank and financial institutions plugging into the best finance apps via feeds and the largest portion of society going cashless it’s extremely easy these days to have all your finances brought into one app, tracking your budgets, utilising some AI smarts to help with categorisation, so all you need to do as the human is monitor the outliers and confirm the transactions.

Don’t be too worried with your financial situation is at. The most important thing is that you’re aware of it and you’re getting on top of it. Using these apps and utilising automation is a huge step in taking action.

So what do you need to go get started? We’re glad you asked;

  • Choose a personal finance app (more on that below)
  • Add all your bank feeds into the app (include savings, cards, loans, retirement fund, as many as you can to give a more accurate picture of your finances)
  • Start categorising your transactions. Try to start from about a month back to give your app a good idea of where you spend, invest and earn your money.
  • Try making an initial budget (something that most personal finance apps should have) with your major expenses and income so the app can alert you to any serious diversions.
  • Let the app do the rest!

We don’t expect you to be obsessed with money management, or worse, be a total miser who can’t enjoy the odd splurge now and then. Once you’re more comfortable with the app you can get into more advanced activities like budgeting, cashflow, investing scenarios and the like.

Personal finance apps are at various levels of maturity around the world but for a quick summary of the recommended personal finance apps we would make in some markets:

  • US: Mint. The king of personal finance management and just too bad it’s not very global
  • Australia: PocketSmith. While there are a few competitors like PocketBook and MoneyBrilliant we find PocketSmith (alas the premium version) the most comprehensive in bank feed intgeration and actually makes money management fun!
  • UK: Money Dashboard. The most popular finance app in the UK, it is focused on budgeting and does an awesome job of it, integrating the largest amount of local bank feeds.

No matter what app you choose or whatever your financial goal is (getting out of debt, saving for a house) using a personal finance app will help you automate the process, and likely get you to your goal faster.

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