Managing your personal finances is an incredibly valuable skill, but sadly it's not a part of standard educational curriculum. So, if you're like most people, you are probably keeping track of your big purchases in your head, or if you're advanced, on a spreadsheet.
Fortunately, with the emergence of the smartphone, there are now many ways to easily manage your money. Although, with so many options offering you pie charts, investment jargon, and checklists, your head may spin. So where should you begin?
We took a look at a relative newcomer to the personal finance market, Charlie, and put it to the test against a veteran in the game, Mint. Like most personal finance management tools, both services tell you basic information like how much you spent at restaurants, on car rides, your phone bill, etc. What separates them is ease of use, what/how much information is presented, and what they allow you to do with that information.
Ease of use
First of all, Charlie is text-based. That means no app to download, no passwords to remember, and no complicated web accounts to manage. All communication, including setup, is done via Facebook Messenger (or SMS, if you prefer, although we found the Messenger experience to be better). This makes the service accessible to anyone who has a phone, and more importantly, incredibly easy to use for anyone who is familiar with the concept of text messaging.
Mint requires a more traditional setup with an app download and corresponding web interface. After signing in, you will see charts and graphs that slice and dice your spending info in a variety of different ways. You can gain insights into how you are spending your money, create budgets and get reminders, and receive customized tips on how to maximize your investment returns. These are all things that are possible with Charlie as well, but you are trading fancy charts for the ease of communication via text.
What information do you receive?
After creating and setting up your account, Mint seeks to empower you with all kinds of information, including detailed transaction tables across all your accounts, summary charts, trend analyses, and more. In contrast, Charlie analyzes your financial information and then processes it into simple conclusions - delivered in 140 characters or less. From alerts on payment deadlines, to reminders on your purchase trends, to ways to budget and save, Charlie requires the least amount of work on the consumers' end for the most results.
What do you do with this information?
It's almost like Charlie takes the same charts and tables available through Mint and takes you straight to the conclusion you should reach through simple, timely, actionable advice. Yes, Mint provides tons of information that is very useful to the right person - but may be too complex for others.
Both Mint and Charlie have a dashboard-type web experience available where you get to see your balances and transactions across all accounts, your monthly budget, bills, and other financial information. Our question from a consumer standpoint is: "What do I do with this information?" Imagine being able to text your financial questions and have prompt, concise answers, or to receive texts with personalized tips on saving money. You can with Charlie, and that's our favorite aspect compared to Mint.
Charlie also helps make it easy to take action. You can automatically lower your bills (phone, car insurance, etc.) by either re-negotiating your contract or by helping you switch to a lower cost provider.
If you're like most consumers who don't have the time or know-how to deep dive into finances, or if you're looking for an effortless way to keep track of the flow of your money, Charlie is perfect. If you're financially savvy or love being in the trenches of spreadsheets and pie charts, try Mint.
John Austin is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.
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