Know Thyself

To build anything - a house or a future - requires a good foundation.

Apps in this section: Mint, Penny

Let me tell you a story.

A recent college graduate moves back into his parents home, and starts working a cubicle job to “get into the industry”. It doesn’t pay much, but that’s ok - they’re just starting out. Soon, the student loans hit, and their money goes out just as quick as it comes in. So, after a couple years, they move to another job - getting a nice raise in the process.

But their money goes out just as quick as it comes in.

They help support the family when times get hard - paying a car payment here, a rent payment there. “It’s alright, this is temporary” they say, as they hand over the credit card to pay for an emergency car repair. “When we even out, we’ll be fine” they tell themselves, footing a medical bill here.

But their money goes out just as quick as it comes in.

5 years after graduation, they have nothing to their name, and haven’t paid off any of their debt. They’ve bounced from job to job, always chasing the one that promises more money, always chasing that bright future that just doesn’t seem to...materialize. They’re stuck in a rut, and there’s no way out. can guess who this story is about. In 2015 I sat down and did something I’ve never done before in my entire life: I built a budget. I had been working for 5 years after college, and I was unable to make a dent in any of my loans. This made no sense to me, as over this period I’ve doubled my salary. “What is going on?!” I’d ask myself, but I had no answer.

So, the budget.

After sitting down and doing a quick paper budget - all big ticket items, nothing detailed - I realized I was bleeding $200 a month. Every month I spent $200 more than I brought in. This was masked by credit cards and shuffling money around, but the long and short of it was that every month I was getting poorer, not richer.

To get a real handle on the situation, I found an app that combined my entire financial life together in one quick, easy place. That app is called Mint, and it changed my perspective on my money forever.

Quick Stats:

App name: Mint

Creators: Intuit (the guys behind Turbo Tax)

Cost: 100% Free

What it does for you: Tells you exactly where you are, every month

I hate to make crazy statements, but, Mint changed my life. It ties into your student loan accounts, bank accounts, retirement accounts - everything,

all encrypted, all secured - and puts it in one place. You can dive into your spending by category, by history, you name it. My personal favorite is the net worth column; although mine’s still negative, it gives me something to work towards.

It allowed me to see what was bleeding me dry - where I could cut costs and corners, what I could cancel and where I should consolidate debt. It got me from sinking to treading water; just knowing what was going on helped me act.

This helped me tremendously… but I still wanted more. Mint was helping me figure out what was going on this month, right now, but it didn’t have the forecasting that I hoped for. So, I searched the internet and did my research, and stumbled across a new app from a small team. Penny is, quite frankly, a useful and adorable app. Although she shares no relation to Inspector Gadget’s wunderkid, she’s still a smart cookie.

Quick Stats:

App name: Penny

Creators: Friendly Finances, i

Cost: 100% Free

What it does for you: Tells you where you’re going

Now Team Penny has built a stable, secure app - but instead of making it look like Mint (with charts and graphs and things) they’ve made it much more human; Penny’s app looks and feels like a text conversation.

She’ll send you funny gifs, talk to you about how she’s feeling - how you’re feeling, and generally be a nice person. When you do ask about how this month is going, she’ll tell you how you’re doing compared to last month - and how she thinks you’re going to do for the near future as well. She’ll alert you when she thinks you got paid, and generally gives high-fives all around. She helps remove the anxiety that’s tied to managing your money, and that mental boost is wonderful.

Penny is still in active development, but everything I’ve seen from this team is excellent. As more and more people use her, she becomes more and more useful; every day their team adds new connections and features.

So, armed with these two apps, I was able to take control of my current situation. When you arm yourself with these as well, you’ll be able to see where you are, where you’ve been and where you’re going. You’ll know how well you did, and more importantly, you’ll know where you need to go from here, without any judgement.

Knowledge is power, and knowledge is your friend. Just by the process of knowingwhere you stand, you gain power over your problems.