ASIC’s MoneySmart – TrackMyGoals App Review

ASIC’s MoneySmart is a fantastic resource for all Australians who are in a place to take responsibility for their financial situation. Not only do they come up with some brilliant content, but they have also recently released an app to help people reach their financial goals. This article serves to independently review the app.

Here are some images of some of the app’s features:

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As you can see, the interface is nice and simple and it has clear marks and colours, which are in line with the MoneySmart branding. I think that objectively, it’s a great tool if you don’t already track your savings elsewhere in a visual way. However, there are Google Tools and budgets which already help do this for free. You can use these tools on your phone.

Although, if you’ve never tracked your goals or habits, this app can be nifty for you. Your goals are not limited to just saving money, but they do have to do with money. By this I mean, you can ask the app to track a particular purchase goal. It’s great that there’s a free tool out there to help keep us accountable.

One thing I immensely disliked about this app were some of the savings tips. A previous article on Help Me Bank was about savings tips but I tried to at least demonstrate that I had used these tips. However, the tips I disliked on this app were as follows:

“Put a timer in your shower to reduce water and power use”. I don’t like this one as it puts personal hygiene on a back burner and also implies that everyone showers in a wasteful way. I think it could actually cause more harm than good.

“Shop around for a bank account with cheaper fees”. This is wrong. Customers should be advised to try and find a free bank account, because there is one of those available for the needs of most people. 

“Don’t buy books and DVDs, borrow them from your local library”. This is a wonderful way to discourage people from supporting arts and literature. 

“Go on a picnic or to a free outdoor concert”. Firstly, picnics aren’t free. Tip #1 in the app is to write a grocery list and stick only to what’s on that list. What if you didn’t budget for a picnic? Or do you expect to invite a bunch of people and mooch off them because you’re the organiser? Also, where are these free outdoor concerts?

“Quit your gym membership and walk or ride your bike to work”. This just encourages unhealthy living habits. The riding your bike to work not only assumes that you in fact have a bike, but that you also live close enough to ride to work. I know people who catch a three hour train to get to work. I wonder how long it’d take them to ride a bike. 

“Give up drinking coffee or alcohol for a month.” There are ways to drink coffee for cheap without giving it up. Not going to argue against alcohol.

“Buy in bulk and only go grocery shopping once a month.” This assumes that you’re not living in an apartment with a tiny fridge space. It’s absolutely presumptuous to think that people can fit a month’s worth of groceries into their fridge and freezer. Clearly the person who thought of this tip isn’t in touch with reality about how many people actually live. 

“Lock up your credit card for a month and only pay for things with cash.” This only teaches people that their credit card is something negative, and not something that they can use to get free Reward points for their usual expenses. It doesn’t teach discipline, it just sweeps the problem under the carpet.

“Check out your local public transport options to save on petrol, tolls and cabs.” Again with being detached from how many people live. MoneySmart, as awesome as you are, don’t you think that most of us already travel by public transport?

My commentary might come off as harsh, but these tips seem rather disconnected from the real people of our society, and that’s precisely why Help Me Bank exists.

5 Smartphone Apps for You to Manage Your Money Better

Technology has been making life easier for us by assisting us in all walks of life – from running jet planes to handling daily household chores. Whether it’s vacuum cleaning, doing laundry works or something as trivial as keeping the home warm using room heater, technology always has a role to play.

We all keep track of our day to day spending. Some of us do it in a systematic manner while others, not so systematically. Assuming you are systematic and want to track every dime spent, you could use some cool technologies such as money management apps. In this article, I’ll discuss some of them.

1. GoodBudget: How people used to save money when there was no calculator, let alone be computers? They grabbed themselves envelopes, write down the cash-flow reasons on the back of them and put the money into them. This old school saving technique has made a comeback with the app called GoodBudget.The app has a section called “Envelopes.” You can save on a monthly basis, on a weekly basis, or on a bi-weekly basis – whatever suits you best. There’s a menubar like sub-section showing whether the saving is weekly or bi-weekly or monthly. The body of the app displays how much money is saved under which envelope.

The app is free and can be downloaded by Android and iOS users.

2. Mvelopes: If you are not content with envelopes alone and want guidance along, download Mvelopes from Google Play Store and iTunes. The app syncs the bank accounts of users. When using it, you rest fully assured that your transactions will remain secure. At the time of syncing, you’ll receive email notifications, so you could confirm that it’s your account, and not someone else’s.

The app tracks the financial institutions that concern you and create copies of every debit and credit transaction. At the end of the month or the week, you can check it. Like GoodBudget, Mvelopes lets you create envelopes, but you have to define your income and create a budget beforehand. The benefit of using this app is you’ll be saving keeping your budget in mind, not how much you have as net worth.

3. Pocket Expense: The app offers you a visual representation of how much you’ve spent so far before you proceed to make a budget. The only demerit of the app is that it doesn’t sync with a user’s bank account. When you manually enter all your financial info (including transaction details).The basics are checking and savings accounts, which you can manually create. Your credit and your expenses will appear with color codes, so you could better identify them. The credit section will appear with a green dot and the expense section, with a red dot. One advantage of using Pocket Expense is you can manage multiple accounts with complete ease.The app has tabs, which systematize the work for you. When you feel the need to get a break down of your total spending, you go to the Calendar tab, and then check the color coded expenses for each day, week and month. If you want to set up a budget, the app has a separate Budget tab for that. Bad news for Android phone owners is only iOS users can download and use this app. It’s free.

4. Mint: Most money management apps are restricted to iOS and Android, except Mint. It is available to Windows users. Mint is among very few apps which sync not only with bank accounts but also with mutual funds and with the IRA.The app gets straight down to the details and gives you all the insights you need. It has a section called Update that notifies you about all transactions, including the unauthorized ones. The monthly budget and credit score are features, offered by plenty other apps.But Mint offers you something that no ordinary app can offer – budget perimeter security. It’s a fancy term coined by me. Perimeter security systems alert you when you cross the perimeter. Similarly, Mint gives you a heads-up whenever the spending crosses the limit set by you at the time of making the budget.On top of a real-time display of cash flow, and allowing you to set up saving goals, Mint tracks and analyzes your spending habit, and shares all information with you. The app is free.

5. BillGuard: If you are worried about your financial security, download BillGuard today. The robust security measures stop online scammers from accessing your financial information. After download the app, it syncs with your bank account, and keeps a tab of your balance and account spending.You could recognize and confirm whether you’ve done a transaction or not. The app inbox keeps a list of all transactions. When you’ll go through them, you’ll see two swiping options – swiping right and swiping left. Swiping right means you did the transaction. When you swipe left and inform the app you haven’t done the transaction, some options will pop open so you could address the situation.

BillGuard is a free app, and it is available on Android and iOS platforms.

What do you think of the five money management apps, discussed here? Have you used any of them? Are there other apps such as these? Let us know in the comment section.

 

Tina Roth is a blogger at Pro Finance Blog, a leading online resource providing high-quality “useful” content on personal finance, money management, debt solutions and many more where her aim is to help people you attain financial security through following the right advice.

How to start a simple budget using Google Sheets

There are so many free budgeting tools out there, you can probably Google for a list of fifty if you wanted to. If you’re an advanced budgeter with amazing software, this article will unlikely help you; but keep reading if you’re curious and want to have a look at the free Google Drive & Google Sheets software, we can direct you there.

How to access Google Sheets Budgeting tools

  1. Log into your Google account (this is the same as Gmail, YouTube & GooglePlus) or create one if you don’t have one yet
  2. Go to http://www.sheets.google.com
  3. Click which budget you are after – there is an Annual Budget and a Monthly Budget. You just need to put your numbers into the chosen spreadsheet.

Budget tips

  • Be honest with your numbers. Completing a budget is an important exercise and can help you plan for the future.
  • Update your budget if you’ve accidentally forgotten an expense or your circumstances change.

    Note: If you are drowning in debt, one of the first steps you should take is having a look at your budget and then speaking to a free debt counselling service. Good luck and I hope that the Google budgeting tool helps you, it is certainly handy for us here at Help Me Bank.

How can I make a complaint about my financial services provider?

If you feel that you’ve been treated unfairly to do with some sort of financial matter, you shouldn’t always just take it. There are some steps that you can take to protect yourself.

As you’re signing up
You need to ensure that you read everything you sign and if you don’t understand – make sure you ask your banker. If you feel that your banker is not explaining everything properly, ask for someone else. Make sure you ask lots of questions and get whatever you can get in writing. Ask for email confirmation.

After you’ve signed up
Contact your bank in the way that’s easiest for you. If you’re calling your bank, make sure you note down the dates and times of your phone calls because if whoever’s on the other end hasn’t made a file note of your call, it will be difficult to find.

Making your complaint
You need to start by complaining to the financial institution directly first. They need to try and do everything in their power to resolve it. If you are unhappy with the resolution, you can then make a complaint to the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS) or the Credit and Investments Ombudsman (CIO). You’ll need to find out which Ombudsman Service your financial institution is registered with. I’ve added those links to the Finance Favourites toolbar for easy access.

Before you make a complaint
You need to give your financial services provider a chance to rectify the situation. It could be that they are legally in the right (which is unpleasant but happens). They have 45 days to respond to you about your complaint. If they don’t respond or if you are unhappy with the resolution, you can then escalate to their respective dispute resolution service.

Note: If your dispute is to do with a credit facility (for example, such as a credit card, mortgage, personal loan), the provider only has 21 days to respond to you.

Pro Tip: Financial service providers typically want to avoid Ombudsman complaints because it costs them money regardless of the outcome. You can always drop the Ombudsman into conversation (calmly) if you’re not getting anywhere, so that they know you’re aware of the procedures and won’t just let it go. They will typically either take you more seriously if they weren’t before, or they’ll show you their true colours immediately (i.e. that they don’t care).

What are the best free online financial literacy resources for Australians?

I have no doubt that I will update this post (or make a new one as more useful resources come up) and also post some of these links on the left sidebar under “Finance Favourites”.

The purpose of this post is to provide the best free finance resources available to Australians. There is a lot of questionable material floating around the internet and it’s easy to get confused. There are also caveats to some of the materials available and I will try to go through as many of them as possible. Please note that I might not necessarily list all of the possible resources, because there are many and I’d be here forever.

Personal Finance

First and foremost, I will list the website that everyone should use. Funnily enough, this is a government-owned website – MoneySmart. This is an incredibly useful resource and can help you understand many of the financial products available. It can even help you get started on planning your retirement. They even put up recent scams – definitely check it out.

Tax

If you’re interested in matters of taxation, you should check out the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) website. This has plenty of free resources which will help you get involved in matters of taxation, super, business and more. There are a few helpful calculators on there as well such as the Simple and Comprehensive tax calculator. You should use these to estimate your tax.

Business & tracking down dodgy scammers

If you’re dealing with someone who you suspect to be dodgy, you can always check to see if they’re a registered business using the Australian Business Register here. This doesn’t just apply to finance, but any business. You can also follow the prompts to get started on registering your own business.

Speaking of business, you should be aware of the fact that an Australian Business Name is different to an Australian Business Name. The ABR is for ABN’s (numbers). You can also use ASIC to search for Australian Business Names and the entities behind them. This can help track down scammers and save you money when dealing with dodgy companies.

Mortgage brokers

I will touch on mortgage brokers in a later post, but if you are going to go ahead and use a mortgage broker, you should always ensure that they are registered with one of the two bodies – MFAA and FBAA. The major difference between these two bodies is that the MFAA requires a Diploma of Finance, whereas the FBAA requires a Certificate 4 for membership. This might change, but I still think that an MFAA broker cares more about their business because it’s more difficult to become accredited with them.

Note: whether you use a FBAA or MFAA broker, you’ll still more likely get a less biased opinion than that of a banker. Just make sure they’re registered.

Online lending calculators from the major banks

You can go ahead and use any of the major bank’s calculators. Sometimes they’ll tell you the assumptions that they use and other times they won’t. If you notice differences between different banks’ calculator results, this is because your borrowing power might be different between Bank A and Bank B. Why is this? Different banks have different risk appetites and lending criteria. So go ahead and use them for access to multiple banks.