According to a recent study by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, Australia’s average household savings ratio (the ratio of income saved to household net disposable income) is currently at a record low of 4%. Furthermore, a study by UBank found that in 2017, two million Australians had less than $1,000 set aside in their savings accounts.
There’s no doubt that saving money, tracking expenses and sticking to an allocated budget can be tough, not to mention that it actually takes time to build towards your goals. Interestingly, as you can say for just about anything nowadays, there’s an app for that, and budgeting is certainly no exception. Of the near-endless amount of budgeting and savings apps out there, we’ve compiled a list of those that have piqued our attention.
Raiz (formerly Acorns Australia)
Commonly known as Acorns before rebranding in April 2018, Raiz is a micro-investing app that automatically invests your spare change into one of six diversified portfolios:
- Moderately conservative
- Moderately aggressive
Source: Raiz Invest
This app targets people who might be short on cash and aren’t quite ready to invest large sums of money in the stock market just yet. Instead, you can save small amounts of money daily and turns these savings into an investment portfolio.
For example, a $3.70 coffee purchase with this app will take another $0.30 and add it to your investment portfolio, while you can also set recurring investments (say $5 a day/week) that, unlike share trading apps, don’t charge brokerage fees.
There are monthly account management fees of $1.25 a month if you have a balance under $5,000 (0.275%/year if more). And if you decide to withdraw your money from Raiz, you won’t be charged any withdrawal fees.
Summary: Raiz can be an option worth considering for beginner investors starting on a small balance who want to set their savings onto auto-pilot. Since the fees are low for people with balances under $5,000, your Raiz portfolio can be an excellent way to both save and invest in turn.
Free2Spend by UBank
Recently released by UBank, this tool inside its mobile app is designed to help customers ‘put their budgeting on auto-pilot’ by giving them a daily spend limit that adapts and changes in real-time. Taking inspiration from fitness trackers, Free2Spend auto-generates a daily spend limit based on a person’s income and expenses and adjusts this limit to either give the user more freedom or more restrictions in their daily spending.
According to CEO Lee Hatton, Free2Spend is aimed towards ‘struggling savers’ – those who want to save but often struggle to do so for various reasons. She says that current economic conditions have made it much harder for people to save, and that rather than focusing on your negative spending habits, Free2Spend looks forward by evaluating your money decisions.
Summary: Free2Spend can be of interest to people who want to save but still want to splash out on the things that bring them joy. To use Free2Spend, however, you must be a UBank customer.
Pocketbook is a free Australian budgeting app that tracks all your expenses to calculate just how much you spend each month. It automatically syncs data from your bank accounts daily and categorises each spend, so it can be a useful tool that shows you exactly where you’re spending your money.
Once you’ve seen a breakdown of where your money goes, you can then set a monthly allowance for each type of spend, be it food, leisure, travel or bills. You can also permit Pocketbook to send you notifications when you’re getting too close to your monthly limits.
Summary: Pocketbook is an interesting tool for analysing your spending habits to help you figure out what you can cut back on and what you can be a little more relaxed about.
MoneyBrilliant is an app that works in a similar way to apps like Pocketbook, allowing you to collate multiple bank and financial accounts into a single, easy-to-use location. Simply adding bank accounts is free, while there is a $9.90/month plan that allows you to connect your super, credit cards, investments and loans in addition to all of your assets and liabilities.
By combing all of your accounts into MoneyBrilliant, you can create budgets, categories, transactions and save towards important goals. In addition, MoneyBrilliant comes with a tax tool, designed to help you identify certain transactions that might be tax-deductible come tax time.
Summary: MoneyBrilliant offers perhaps one the most comprehensive services of this list, equipped with the spending breakdowns of other apps like Pocketbook while also including your assets and liabilities if you pay for the full version.
TrackMySPEND by ASIC
TrackMySPEND by ASIC’s MoneySmart is a simple but effective budgeting tool that is much closer to the spreadsheets of old. The app is free and easy to use, and it allows you to:
- Record your weekly household budget as well as your work and travel expenses
- Record any other additional expenses, such as coffees and lunches
- Nominate a spending limit (either per week, per fortnight or per month)
- Separate your ‘needs’ and ‘wants’ and create ‘favourites’ to view frequent expenses
- Categorise your purchases and set reminders via text messages
One downside to TrackMySPEND is that it doesn’t link to your bank account, so you have to input all information manually, which doesn’t suit everyone.
Summary: While it might not be as intuitive as other savings apps, TrackMySPEND is a no-frills, back-to-basics product that comes from a trustworthy source. It’s more similar to the old spreadsheet method people used to use, so it could be a good option for you if you like that sort of thing.
Unlike the other apps and tools in this list, Pelikin hasn’t actually launched yet (it’s set to launch in mid-2018). Pelikin is expected to be used primarily for travel budgeting, and is aiming to ‘reshape the way Australians save, send and spend money abroad’.
Pelikin is an app and debit card combo that allows Australians to deposit and store funds as well as track their spending habits, but will also allow you to spend this money overseas without paying any account fees or currency conversion fees. The kicker is that you can specifically save for a certain trip in-app, be it for yourself or with a group of friends travelling with you.
Summary: Although it isn’t yet available to the public, Pelikin looks determined to fill a much-needed niche in the market, working to help its customers save money towards a desired holiday while also allowing them to spend that money fee-free.
Availability: Launching soon on Google Play and iOS
Microsavings apps like Raiz are becoming more popular as people start to see their appeal, with many customers putting their extra funds towards either an investment portfolio or a savings account. Sydney fintech start-up Carrott, also set to launch soon in 2018, says it will take this roundup approach and put your spare change towards meaningful destinations, such as a mortgage or your HECS-HELP debt.
The app will be free to download on Android and Apple smartphones but will come with fees – an account maintenance fee of $1.50 per month plus a 3.98% charge per transaction. If you don’t make any transactions in a month, you will not be charged.
Summary: Carrott could be a tool worth considering for slowly chipping away at important debts and loans you might have taken on. By linking Carrott to your transaction account and contributing just a few dollars each week, you might be able to pay off hundreds of extras dollars a year, which can make a big difference.
Availability: Launching soon on Google Play and iOS
Splitwise is a bill splitting app that could be worth a look if you are a frequent diner. While not strictly used for budgeting, Splitwise can give you a good insight as to how much money you’re lending to people, as long as you remember to input the bills and charge the correct people.
Splitwise automatically splits all payments you enter between members of the group, while also tallying a total of who-owes-who what.
There are other good bill-splitting apps out there like Suncorp’s award-winning Billsplitter app or the social media payments app Cashper – but for someone chasing a free and easy-to-use tracker, Splitwise may be a worthwhile addition to your phone.
Summary: Splitwise may well help you keep track of shared expenses and ensure no lent money is forgotten. It could be particularly useful for situations like sharehouses and overseas holidays, but does require all users to download the app individually.
Your savings account
Of course, while these apps can be useful, it’s possible that your bank’s mobile app also comes with a handy budgeting tool that automatically tracks your spending. A lot of Australia’s major banks have put some serious resources into creating apps and functions designed to help their customers save money.
In addition to these, you can always consider the trusty old savings account. While the interest rates on these accounts are no longer what they used to be, automatically setting aside a portion of your salary into a high-interest account with low or no fees can be a low-risk, low-maintenance way to save over the long-term while having quick access to your money when you need it.
The table below displays a snapshot of 5-Star savings accounts on Canstar’s with links to providers’ websites, sorted by the total interest rate (highest to lowest).
This article details each of the 87 savings and transaction accounts we have recently awarded a 5-Star rating for Outstanding Value.
More apps to consider
Looking to use your phone for more than just budgeting? There are apps out there for just about every purpose, and Canstar has compiled roundups of some of the best ones for each of the following topics: