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Get saving sharp and spending smart with the boom in money apps

Budgeting

COMPROMISE and budgeting — have there ever been two more depressing words? We can’t help you with the former but companies like Monzo are sexing up the latter.

Monzo is a mobile-only bank service with a pre-paid Mastercard and now a current account. The cards work like debit cards but log everything you spend by categories such as groceries, eating out, bills, transport and entertainment. You can then get a handle on where all your money is going and subsequently set realistic weekly budgets.

There are no fees for making payments abroad and you can simply freeze your card from your app should you lose it or wish to lock yourself out after a few too many of an evening.

The Change Account takes budgeting slightly further by allowing you to create specific wallets for each of your spending categories. So you can apportion, say, £100 each month to eating out and it will warn you when you’re running low so you’ve got time to rethink your next meal before you end up having to do the dishes at Pizza Express.

You can ring-fence the money you’ll need to pay your utility bills and it’s a superb system for anyone issuing pocket money to kids — no more worries about how that cash is really being spent.

For something a little less restrictive, Yolt is a decent shout too. Backed by financial giant ING, it’s a single app via which you can view all your other balances. That’s your banks, your credit cards, your savings — and every provider you can think of is included. You can budget and monitor bills but, mostly, it’s a handy way of seeing everything at once.

If it’s the physical bulge of the plastic in your wallet that you’re trying to reduce, though, then try Curve. It’s one card for all your accounts. Use the Curve app to select which of your debit or credit balances it’s going to represent, then tap and pay in an instant.

Saving

Putting a little something away may seem like an impossibility but that’s where you’re wrong. Moneybox is a stocks-and-shares ISA that you feed a basic rate of as little as £2 per week from your current account.

On top of that, Moneybox rounds up all the transactions you make to the nearest pound and puts the change into your ISA as well. It’s a slow game but in a year you’ll have saved enough for a holiday without having really felt it.

If you’ve already maxed out your ISA allowance then Plum is a very decent alternative way to save. It uses AI to analyse your finances and figures out how much you can afford to set aside in your Plum account each month. From there, you can take things a little further by choosing to invest this cash in a peer-to-peer lending scheme with RateSetter.

Naturally, there’s a risk involved but the returns are certainly well above what you’d get in a normal savings account.

For those more flush, two other interesting options that require precisely zero financial knowledge are Evestor and Bricklane.com. The former is an investment broker but at a fraction of the cost — 0.5 per cent of your fund each year – and you can get going for as little as £1.

It takes a quick profile of you and your goals, then suggests how to get the best returns. Sadly, there’s no app for Bricklane.com at present but what the site offers is a property ISA. You choose which UK city to invest in and then take advantage of any rise in property prices even if you don’t have enough cash to actually buy any bricks and mortar of your own.

Shopping

Do you collect reward points? You will with Bink. Link up your payment cards and your store cards, and Bink will automatically stockpile all the points you accrue in the relevant loyalty schemes without you having to bother thinking about it again. Harvey Nichols, Topshop, Dixons Travel, Iceland — and that’s just naming a few. You can also join the schemes in-app if you’re not already registered.

Of course, reward points aren’t much use if you can’t afford to buy in the first place. Klarna is some interesting Swedish tech offering two ways to pay so long as your cash shortage is a temporary situation. It’s not an app in itself in the UK but, instead, a system that’s integrated at the online payment points of shops such as Topman, JD Sports, ASOS and others.

Klarna lets you can slice up your purchase price into manageable monthly amounts that gather no interest unless you start failing to make the payments. The other choice is to pay the whole sum either 14 or 30 days after ordering, which is perfect if you’re planning on sending some of those more leftfield items back.

Lastly, Wonderbill is the app to save you some regular moolah. It’s a comparison service for all your utilities and subscriptions — your phone, TV, music service, gym membership, energy, the lot.

Plug in all the details — which, OK, takes a while — and then you’ll get notifications of when to switch and to whom when it’s time to cut your costs. Save smart, shop more.

More money apps

Download these free bankers and breathe life into your wallet

Circle

Surely the best mate-to-mate payment app around, Circle is the WhatsApp of money. Chat and send and receive cash between groups or individuals, as easy as an instant message. No foreign currency fees either.

ClearScore

Gone is paying to find out your credit rating. With ClearScore, it’s free. Check your current standing, read monthly reports on what’s changed for you and why, and even get credit coaching too.

Cuvva

Cuvva is the big disrupter for the car insurance market. Perfect for non-daily drivers, PAYG for between one hour and 28 days or get a flexible subscription based on how much time you spend driving.