The Best Debt Management Apps of 2019
Debt is a bummer. For college graduates, student loan debt is just another log on the fire that is your finances. Because you aren’t just paying back your student loans, are you? No, you’ve got rent each month, a car loan to pay, and maybe even some credit card balances with absurd interest rates. Managing debt is difficult, especially if you’re doing it alone.
Most borrowers can’t afford a financial advisor – well at least not a living, breathing one. But technology has provided tools for managing debt and most won’t cost you a penny. We’ve mentioned the importance of budgeting before and having a personal assistant on your smartphone is the best way to control your spending. Remember, if you can’t increase your income, the only way to significantly shrink your debt is by spending less.
The Snowball vs The Avalanche
The two schools of thought regarding debt management are the snowball method and the avalanche method. Both have their merits and either option will simplify your life as a borrower.
The Debt Snowball – Popularized by self-help guru Dave Ramsey, the snowball method puts your easiest debts on the chopping block first. For student loan borrowers, this means focusing all your energy on your smallest loan. Once you’ve paid off your smallest loan, move on to the next smallest. Taking out your smallest debts first might seem counterintuitive, but this strategy creates good habits. Plus, paying off a loan is a win. For borrowers drowning in debt, a small win every now and then is necessary.
The Debt Avalanche – If you use the debt avalanche, you’ll pay off the debts with the highest balance or interest rate first and then work your way down to the smallest. The debt avalanche is difficult because of the urge to quit when you aren’t making lots of visible progress. However, the avalanche method will get you out of the hole faster than the snowball method since you attack your worst debts first.
Which strategy will work best for you? Each individual borrower must decide for themselves, but I’d recommend the snowball method for people dealing with student debt. Your student loan interest rates probably don’t have much variance, so attack your smallest loan first. If your debt is on credit cards, then I’d recommend the avalanche method and get the card with the highest interest rate paid off first.
Manage Your Debts With These Apps
Now that we have a plan of attack, let’s look at some apps to keep you on target. I’ve personally used all three apps on this list for budgets and all do a great job managing your finances. Your student loan servicer might have a debt calculator on their website, but they don’t account for your entire financial situation. Debt management means looking at the whole picture, not just next month’s payment.
From QuickBooks founder Intuit, Mint is a personal finance/budget tracker for iOS, Android, and desktop. To get started, you’ll create a profile and link your bank accounts, student loans, credit cards, retirement portfolios, and even utility bills to the platform. Mint will tally up your assets and liabilities, keeping track of which bills you’ve paid and which are upcoming. You can create a budget for different spending categories like food, loans, utilities, etc. and Mint will let you know when you go over your pre-defined limits. The interface takes a little getting used to and you’ll often run into connection problems when linking accounts. But Mint is still the #1 choice when it comes to tracking spending, creating a budget, and managing debt.
Personal Capital operates a lot like Mint, but with a stronger focus on investing. You’ll link all your accounts to the platform and Personal Capital will stay on top of your upcoming payments. But Personal Capital separates itself from Mint with the investing features. You can analyze your retirement accounts for unnecessary fees, create an asset allocation strategy, and even play around with different future scenarios in the retirement planner. If you want to manage your debt while keeping a focus on your investments, Personal Capital is the pick.
Is your financial health overdue for a screening? If so, you’ll appreciate Albert, the app that acts as a doctor for your finances. Like Mint and Personal Capital, you’ll link all your accounts, track your monthly expenses, and build a budget. But Albert is also full of individually tailored financial advice. You can use Albert to automate your savings, find out if you’re paying too much on bills like cable or internet, and build an actionable plan to get out of debt faster. Albert has an easy-to-use interface that won’t leave you feeling overwhelmed like Mint and Personal Capital do initially.
Which App Is Best For You?
All three of these apps are at the top of the iOS and Android download lists. But each is a little different and it’s important to understand the nuances. If you want to focus on the future and learn how to invest while managing debt, Personal Capital is best. If you just want to track your debts and build a repeatable budget, Mint is still king. And finally, if you hate looking at your loan balances and want a virtual assistant to hold your hand while giving advice, pick Albert.
Regardless of which app you choose, remember that you need to be proactive when dealing with excessive debt. Don’t hide from your account balances – understand exactly what you owe and to whom. Yes, debt feels like the adult version of a monster hiding under your bed. But remember what you learned from childhood – if you face the monster head on, you’ll find he isn’t so scary.
Dan graduated from college with a degree in journalism and about $25,000 in student debt. He luckily landed in a career that allowed him to pay his loans off at a reasonable rate, but not without making some sacrifices (sorry grandmom). Dan buried himself in personal finance books to better manage his debt and start saving for retirement. He thinks $25,000 is more than enough to pay for a good education and is stunned by some of the near six-figure balances he sees student borrowers carrying around.
Born 45 minutes north of Philadelphia, Dan went to Penn State in 2004 to pursue a journalism degree with a minor in political science. He graduated into the worst recession in 80 years and got his first post-college job serving hamburgers and Miller Lite. Dan eventually settled in as a purchasing agent at a printer manufacturing company, which isn’t a profession you’d think would be #2 on a journalist’s list.
Dan now lives in Elkins Park, PA with his girlfriend, who graduated with over $80,000 in student debt herself after getting an education degree from Arcadia University. Seeing a new teacher forced to pay nearly $1000 a month in loans drove him to action and LoanGifting gave him a platform to not only help his significant other, but all kinds of borrowers struggling with student debt. Dan’s hobbies include poker, weightlifting, and watching the Eagles beat the Patriots in the Super Bowl twice a week on BluRay. His writing has been published on Benzinga, Fora Financial, and Credit Donkey.