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Saving Money Is Hard for You? These 6 Apps Can Make It 10 Times Easier

Saving Money Is Hard for You? These 6 Apps Can Make It 10 Times Easier

Budgeting is hard. It’s time-consuming and requires you to face the fact that you spend money. And often times, the money you’re spending could have been saved. Do you really need that six dollar latte? Do you have to have that scarf that you will wear one time and then forget about? No, I don’t think so.

But often times, we get caught up in a moment and use money that would have been better spent in a savings account or going toward credit card debt. After all, statistics show each household with a credit card carries more than $15,000 in credit card debt.[1] So why are we racking up more bills? When smartphones starting making a big appearance in our world, the phrase you heard so often was, “there’s an app for that.” And, well, there is!

Self-control just doesn’t work when you spend money? Technology can give you a helping hand!

While it will require a small learning curve sometimes, and while it does mean you have to pay attention to your spending and track your habits, using money saving and budgeting apps can do wonders for your bank accounts. If you can get into the habit of turning to some of these apps before handing over your credit or debit card to the cashier at your favorite clothing store of coffee shop, you may find yourself with a healthy savings account, and potentially even some “leftover” money!

The following apps will be rated on the same scale and look at uniqueness and personalization, price, usability and appearance. If you’ve used any apps on or off this list with success, be sure to share!

Acorns

    This app is incredibly user-friendly, and the concept is simple: Automatically invent spare change from every purchase. So let’s say you go to Starbucks and buy a coffee for $3.24. You would be $0.76 away from an even $4.00 purchase. So Acorns applies that difference to your account. Boom, you just invested $0.76. You can even set up recurring investments, such as $5.00 a day. This simple savings can add up to about $2,000 a year. And if you have a 401k or another type of savings already, imaging the benefits you’ll reap by investing just $35 a week on top of that![2]

    Uniqueness and Personalization 10/10

    I love this app for everything it represents! It couldn’t be more personalized, since it is going directly off of your purchases.

    Price 10/10

    Acorns is free!! I try to stay away from money saving apps that cost me money, as I feel like it defeats the purpose!

    Usability 10/10

    I know I’m giving this app a perfect score, but I believe it deserves it. Acorns really makes saving money simple and at no point does it feel intimidating or confusing.

    Appearance 10/10

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    Acorns is bright, clean and easy to read and understand. I like to look at it and therefore, I’m prone to use it more.

    Mint

      I personally love this app. For me, it serves a great purpose because I can see all of my accounts, bills and budgets in one place. If you, like me, have more than one credit card and multiple recurring subscriptions, it’s really helpful! You can also link your savings accounts, 401k, IRA, and even see your net worth. It’s secure and free and gives you a (fairly accurate) free credit score regularly. Oh, and if you are one of the rare people who use cash only, you can still use Mint, you just have to manually enter in your transactions.[3]

      Uniqueness 8/10

      I’m not giving Mint a perfect score, because I think there are plenty of ways to budget, be it an Excel spreadsheet, paper and pen or an app, but I did rate it high because it’s one of the most convenient out there.

      Price 10/10

      Mint is free, and I love that. It truly gives you no excuse to not save money!

      Usability 7/10

      I’m giving this a 7 because even though I use this app regularly, I do find that sometimes it gets a little hung up. One of the nicest features is being able to see your money flow in real-time, but occasionally I have to refresh a handful of times before it’s actually current. It’s not a big deal, but it is a little annoying.

      Appearance 7/10

      Mint’s website is great. It probably would’ve gotten a 10, but the app is set up just a little differently, and it’s enough to knock the score down.

      Prosper Daily

        This app is also known as BillGuard, and it’s not only helpful for saving and spending, but also for making sure you are the only one with access to your hard-earned money. Like the other apps, you can track all your accounts in one place and see what you’re spending, but Prosper Daily also allows you to quickly identify fraudulent charges. You can also check your credit score as often as you like, but please note that free credit scores are not always accurate. They do tend to be in the ballpark though, so they are helpful for getting an idea of where you are and measuring success.

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        Uniqueness 9/10

        While this app isn’t especially unique overall, I scored it high because I love the fact that it flags suspicious activity. This can be more helpful than hoping your credit or debit card company catches something. Awareness is key!

        Price 10/10

        This is yet another free app, so it gets a perfect score from me.

        Usability 9/10

        Easy to understand and simple enough to use.

        Appearance 9/10

        Nice, clean graphics and helpful charts.

        Ibotta

          I’m obsessed with this app. Seriously.

          For a while, my friends probably thought I was being paid to advertise for this company, because I could not stop talking about it! Ibotta is a rebate app for groceries.[4] Some of the cash back amounts are small (think $0.25), and some are upwards of $5.00. To date, I’ve made over $100 on the groceries I needed to buy anyway! If you use code edbmoql when you log in, you’ll get $10 right away! Not a terrible bribe, huh?

          Uniqueness 10/10

          While there are a handful of grocery rebate apps (and yes, I have about all of them) Ibotta remains the most unique to me because it offers so much. Not only can you earn cash by getting groceries, but you can also get rebates at certain restaurants and retailers.

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          Price 10/10

          This one deserves beyond a perfect score. I mean, you’re paid to download it!!!

          Usability 10/10

          Some rebate apps/sites send a check via snail mail. While I’m always happy to receive money, I hate to wait for it! Ibotta let’s you send the money straight to Venom or Paypal once you reach $20.

          Appearance 10/10

          Easy to see, understand and use. Perfect score from me.

          Walmart Savings Catcher

            This app is great if you buy all of your groceries and household items at Walmart, because the savings will add up quickly. This isn’t a coupon app, but almost a rebate app! It works like this: scan the barcode of your Walmart receipt in the app and watch your earnings begin. It’s that easy. If the app finds any of the items you purchased at a better price, they pay you the difference on a Walmart gift card. Plus, the savings catcher is built into the regular Walmart app, meaning you can also reorder prescriptions, order online and check out sales.

            Uniqueness 10/10

            I think it’s very unique that Walmart did this, as it really shows how much they wanted to keep their customers. They already price-match, but this app goes a step further by making sure you, as the customer, really did pay as little as possible for the items you needed.

            Price 10/10

            Free app = perfect score.

            Usability 7/10

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            I’m only giving this a 7 because you have to remember to scan your receipt every time. I know it’s like this with any rebate/savings app, but for some reason this app is the hardest for me to remember to use.

            Appearance 8/10

            This app is nice enough to look at, and it serves its purpose.

            Cartwheel

              Last, but certainly not least, is the app for Walmart’s competitor, Target. The Cartwheel app also allow you to browse and shop through the Target site, but I love it for it’s coupons! While I have been known to clip and print coupons in the past, if I’m going to Target, all I need is my smartphone. Cartwheel allows you to “clip” coupons (ranging from dollar amounts to percentages) by selecting them. They are all added to your personalized barcode which is scanned by the cashier at checkout. There is something so satisfying about watching your total drop after the beep of that scanner gun!

              Uniqueness 9/10

              I don’t know that coupons in an app are especially unique, but I rated Cartwheel high because I love how it’s done. While you don’t get cash back, you do get so see how much you’ve saved.

              Price 10/10

              Cartwheel costs $0.00.

              Usability 10/10

              This app is so easy to navigate and use. The only issue I’ve ever had was if I lost signal in the store. I especially love the option to scan the item’s barcode in the store to instantly check if it’s on sale!

              Appearance 10/10

              Clean and simple to understand, view and read.

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              Heather Poole

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              Last Updated on January 6, 2021

              14 Ideas on How to Measure Productivity to Make Progress

              14 Ideas on How to Measure Productivity to Make Progress

              Everyone has heard the term productivity, and people talk about it in terms of how high it is and how to improve it. But fewer know how to measure productivity, or even what exactly we are talking about when using the term “productivity.”

              In its simplest form, the productivity formula looks like this: Output ÷ Input = Productivity.

              For example, you have two salespeople each making 10 calls to customers per week. The first one averages 2 sales per week and the second one averages 3 sales per week. By plugging in the numbers we get the following productivity levels for each sales person.

              For salesperson one, the output is 2 sales and the input is 10 sales: 2 ÷ 10 = .2 or 20% productivity. For salesperson two, the output is 3 sales and the input is 10 sales: 3 ÷ 10 = .3 or 30% productivity.

              Knowing how to measure and interpret productivity is an invaluable asset for any manager or business owner in today’s world. As an example, in the above scenario, salesperson #1 is clearly not doing as well as salesperson #2.

              Knowing this information we can now better determine what course of action to take with salesperson #1.

              Some possible outcomes might be to require more in-house training for that salesperson, or to have them accompany the more productive salesperson to learn a better technique. It might be that salesperson #1 just isn’t suited for sales and would do a better job in a different position.

              How to Measure Productivity With Management Techniques

              Knowing how to measure productivity allows you to fine tune your business by minimizing costs and maximizing profits:

              1. Identify Long and Short-Term Goals

              Having a good understanding of what you (or your company’s) goals are is key to measuring productivity.

              For example, if your company’s goal is to maximize market share, you’ll want to measure your team’s productivity by their ability to acquire new customers, not necessarily on actual sales made.

              2. Break Down Goals Into Smaller Weekly Objectives

              Your long-term goal might be to get 1,000 new customers in a year. That’s going to be 20 new customers per week. If you have 5 people on your team, then each one needs to bring in 4 new customers per week.

              Now that you’ve broken it down, you can track each person’s productivity week-by-week just by plugging in the numbers:

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              Productivity = number of new customers ÷ number of sales calls made

              3. Create a System

              Have you ever noticed that whenever you walk into a McDonald’s, the French fry machine is always to your left? 

              This is because McDonald’s created a system. They have determined that the most efficient way to set up a kitchen is to always have the French fry machine on the left when you walk in.

              You can do the same thing and just adapt it to your business.

              Let’s say that you know that your most productive salespeople are making the most sales between the hours of 3 and 7 pm. If the other salespeople are working from 9 am to 4 pm, you can potentially increase productivity through something as simple as adjusting the workday.

              Knowing how to measure productivity allows you to set up, monitor, and fine tune systems to maximize output.

              4. Evaluate, Evaluate, Evaluate!

              We’ve already touched on using these productivity numbers to evaluate and monitor your employees, but don’t forget to evaluate yourself using these same measurements.

              If you have set up a system to track and measure employees’ performance, but you’re still not meeting goals, it may be time to look at your management style. After all, your management is a big part of the input side of our equation.

              Are you more of a carrot or a stick type of manager? Maybe you can try being more of the opposite type to see if that changes productivity. Are you managing your employees as a group? Perhaps taking a more one-on-one approach would be a better way to utilize each individual’s strengths and weaknesses.

              Just remember that you and your management style contribute directly to your employees’ productivity.

              5. Use a Ratings Scale

              Having clear and concise objectives for individual employees is a crucial part of any attempt to increase workplace productivity. Once you have set the goals or objectives, it’s important that your employees are given regular feedback regarding their progress.

              Using a ratings scale is a good way to provide a standardized visual representation of progress. Using a scale of 1-5 or 1-10 is a good way to give clear and concise feedback on an individual basis.

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              It’s also a good way to track long-term progress and growth in areas that need improvement.

              6. Hire “Mystery Shoppers”

              This is especially helpful in retail operations where customer service is critical. A mystery shopper can give feedback based on what a typical customer is likely to experience.

              You can hire your own shopper, or there are firms that will provide them for you. No matter which route you choose, it’s important that the mystery shoppers have a standardized checklist for their evaluation.

              You can request evaluations for your employees friendliness, how long it took to greet the shopper, employees’ knowledge of the products or services, and just about anything else that’s important to a retail operation.

              7. Offer Feedback Forms

              Using a feedback form is a great way to get direct input from existing customers. There are just a couple of things to keep in mind when using feedback forms.

              First, keep the form short, 2-3 questions max with a space for any additional comments. Asking people to fill out a long form with lots of questions will significantly reduce the amount of information you receive.

              Secondly, be aware that customers are much more likely to submit feedback forms when they are unhappy or have a complaint than when they are satisfied.

              You can offset this tendency by asking everyone to take the survey at the end of their interaction. This will increase compliance and give you a broader range of customer experiences, which will help as you’re learning how to measure productivity.

              8. Track Cost Effectiveness

              This is a great metric to have, especially if your employees have some discretion over their budgets. You can track how much each person spends and how they spend it against their productivity.

              Again, this one is easy to plug into the equation: Productivity = amount of money brought in ÷ amount of money spent.

              Having this information is very useful in forecasting expenses and estimating budgets.

              9. Use Self-Evaluations

              Asking your staff to do self evaluations can be a win-win for everyone. Studies have shown that when employees feel that they are involved and their input is taken seriously, morale improves. And as we all know, high employee morale translates into higher productivity.

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              Using self-evaluations is also a good way to make sure that the employees and employers goals are in alignment.

              10. Monitor Time Management

              This is the number one killer of productivity in the workplace. Time spent browsing the internet, playing games, checking email, and making personal calls all contribute to lower productivity[1].

              Time Management Tips to Improve Productivity

                The trick is to limit these activities without becoming overbearing and affecting morale. Studies have shown that most people will adhere to rules that they feel are fair and applied to everyone equally.

                While ideally, we may think that none of these activities should be done on company time, employees will almost certainly have a different opinion. From a productivity standpoint, it is best to have policies and rules that are seen as fair to both sides as you’re learning how to measure productivity.

                11. Analyze New Customer Acquisition

                We’ve all heard the phrase that “It’s more expensive to get a new customer than it is to keep an existing one.” And while that is very true, in order for your business to keep growing, you will need to continually add new customers.

                Knowing how to measure productivity via new customer acquisition will make sure that your marketing dollars are being spent in the most efficient way possible. This is another metric that’s easy to plug into the formula: Productivity = number of new customers ÷ amount of money spent to acquire those customers.

                For example, if you run any kind of advertising campaign, you can compare results and base your future spending accordingly.

                Let’s say that your total advertising budget is $3,000. You put $2,000 into television ads, $700 into radio ads, and $300 into print ads. When you track the results, you find that your television ad produced 50 new customers, your radio ad produced 15 new customers, and your print ad produced 9 new customers.

                Let’s plug those numbers into our equation. Television produced 50 new customers at a cost of $2,000 (50 ÷ 2000 = .025, or a productivity rate of 2.5%). The radio ads produced 15 new customers and cost $700 (15 ÷ 700 = .022, or a 2.2% productivity rate). Print ads brought in 9 new customers and cost $300 (9 ÷ 300 = .03, or a 3% return on productivity).

                From this analysis, it is clear that you would be getting the biggest bang for your advertising dollar using print ads.

                12. Utilize Peer Feedback

                This is especially useful when people who work in teams or groups. While self-assessments can be very useful, the average person is notoriously bad at assessing their own abilities.

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                Just ask a room full of people how many consider themselves to be an above average driver and you’ll see 70% of the hands go up[2]! Now we clearly know that in reality about 25% of drivers are below average, 25% are above average, and 50% are average.

                Are all these people lying? No, they just don’t have an accurate assessment of their own abilities.

                It’s the same in the workplace. Using peer feedback will often provide a more accurate assessment of a person’s ability than a self-assessment would.

                13. Encourage Innovation and Don’t Penalize Failure

                When it comes to productivity, encouraging employee input and adopting their ideas can be a great way to boost productivity. Just make sure that any changes you adopt translate into higher productivity.

                Let’s say that someone comes to you requesting an entertainment budget so that they can take potential customers golfing or out to dinner. By utilizing simple productivity metrics, you can easily produce a cost benefit analysis and either expand the program to the rest of the sales team, or terminate it completely.

                Either way, you have gained valuable knowledge and boosted morale by including employees in the decision-making process.

                14. Use an External Evaluator

                Using an external evaluator is the pinnacle of objective evaluations. Firms that provide professional evaluations use highly trained personnel that even specialize in specific industries.

                They will design a complete analysis of your business’ productivity level. In their final report, they will offer suggestions and recommendations on how to improve productivity.

                While the benefits of a professional evaluation are many, their costs make them prohibitive for most businesses.

                Final Thoughts

                These are just a few of the things you can do when learning how to measure productivity. Some may work for your particular situation, and some may not.

                The most important thing to remember when deciding how to track productivity is to choose a method consistent with your goals. Once you’ve decided on that, it’s just a matter of continuously monitoring your progress, making minor adjustments, and analyzing the results of those adjustments.

                The business world is changing fast, and having the right tools to track and monitor your productivity can give you the edge over your competition.

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                Featured photo credit: William Iven via unsplash.com

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