I just spent six weeks with an app that watched over my spending like a hawk with an MBA. I figured I needed it. I?m a personal finance reporter without a budget. Am I overspending this week? I don?t know. How much do I blow on alcohol? No idea. Should I be saving more? Good question.
Silicon Valley keeps building software to help people like me keep their spending under control. Banks are getting in on it, too. They?re panicked that they?re losing touch with a generation of millennial customers who hardly ever visit them. I?m a couple of years beyond millennial, but I put Level Money on my phone anyway.
Level Money, which claims 800,000 downloads and was acquired this year by Capital One Financial Corp., is free and doesn?t require users to open a bank account or use a special debit card. Signing up and linking it to my existing bank and card accounts was easy. It went ahead and analyzed my bank statement, picking out my paycheck as well as recurring expenses?rent, utilities, Netflix?with only an occasional nudge from me. It made a good first impression. Then it suggested:
Set aside money for your monthly savings!
OK. I adjusted a little gauge to set my daily and monthly levels of saving and spending. Already I was faintly disappointed in the relationship. How much money should I save each month? This was the very question I was hoping Level Money would answer for me. ?
So I guessed, and LM immediately started watching my spending and sending me feedback every few days. It was like getting texts from a creepy new boyfriend who’s just a little too interested in everything you do. ?Color us impressed!? it said one day. “Boomshakalaka!” it said another. Like a cyborg who still hasn’t got all the human idioms down, it exclaimed:
Thundering typhoons! We’re happy to share you’ve spent less than 50% of your weekly Spendable!
Really? I had just charged $240 for theaters tickets and $560 booking a long-weekend getaway. “It’s a good day,” LM beamed at me another time. “Your bank just saw a large incoming payment!” Yes, it did! Because I had deposited a $231 check! ?
I decided to move some of my savings to a mutual fund.?
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