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Seven budgeting apps to help you save over autumn 2019

Find out how open banking can benefit your savings

You may still be paying off your summer holiday, but there are only four months to go until Christmas – making now a great time to start saving. We’ve rounded up some of the best apps to help you along the way.

UK households typically spend £500 more in December compared with other months, according to Bank of England data.

If you haven’t planned ahead, it could result in a costly hangover in 2020. In fact, research has found many Brits don’t manage to pay off Christmas debt (funded by credit cards and loans) until the following April, 14 weeks after the festive period.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. From clever ways to cut your expenses, to warnings when you’re over-spending, these apps can help you build up a savings pot.


Budgeting apps round-up

All of the apps we’ve chosen to look at are both FCA-approved and regulated open banking providers.

Introduced in January 2018, open banking enables third parties to access your financial information in a secure, encrypted way.

Keep in mind, however, that only current account data is included in open banking at the moment.  To share other types of information, for example about credit cards or your mortgage, you may need to provide your log-in details to the app.

Money Dashboard

Price: Free

Availability: iOS, Android, Web

What does it do? The app’s dashboard allows you to see all of your accounts in one place, including current accounts, savings accounts and credit cards.

With all of your income and spending automatically categorised, it’s easy to see where your money is being spent, and you can set targets for each kind of category. This can be particularly handy if you need an incentive to cut down on eating out or takeaway coffees.

You can also look into the future, as the app sets out your predicted income, expenditure and balances. If you’re looking to free up some money for Christmas, being able to see four months ahead can show you how much you need to start saving.

More than 70 UK banks are supported in the app, from the big high street banks to smaller challengers, with more being added soon.

Oval Money

Price: Free

Availability: iOS and Android

What does it do? The Oval Money app allows you to monitor your spending, and set up ‘Steps’, a series of savings rules based on your habits.

One rule might be to pay into your savings whenever you go for a run or post on Facebook, for instance. Or, you can just set up a fixed weekly deposit.

Oval currently works with 28 banks and credit cards, which you can sync to your account.

Your savings with Oval are held in a segregated account at Barclays. Keep in mind that the Financial Services Compensation Scheme will protect deposits of up to £85,000 per provider, so if you have other accounts with Barclays, this will add to your total.

You also have the choice to invest through the app, though this will put your capital at risk.

The app also features ‘Oval Coach’, which sets you savings missions to improve your habits. The more missions you complete, the harder they get – but the more money you save.

Yolt

Price: Free

Availability: iOS, Android, Web

What does it do? Yolt puts all of your bank accounts, credit cards and pension investments in one place, supporting more than 35 banks and financial institutions.

Your spending is split up into categories so you can see where it goes, aided by the three-month spending-history charts. Upcoming debits will be highlighted, so you can avoid any nasty surprises

You can also set and track spending limits for each category, monitor renewal dates for any bills and subscriptions, make payments and switch energy providers – all of which should mean you’ll have more money to squirrel away as savings.

Emma

Price: Free

Availability: iOS and Android

What does it do? Emma is described as a ‘financial advocate’ for your money. The service aims to help you avoid overdrafts, track debt, cancel needless subscriptions and save money.

You can track your spending and set budgets, plus receive notifications to let you know when you’ve received a refund, when your direct debits are going to leave your account and when your salary has been paid.

If you have cryptocurrency investments, you can also track them over time, as Emma supports connections with Coinbase, Kraken, Binance, Bitfinex, Bitstamp, Bittrex and individual Bitcoin/Ethereum addresses.

All of this means you can get a full view of your finances, making it easier to identify where you can save money.

Cleo

Price: Free

Availability: iOS, Android, Web

What does it do? Unlike the other apps listed here, Cleo works through Facebook Messenger. You can ask questions like ‘can I afford a night out?’, and expect to receive answers that give insights into how your spending is going this month – and maybe a witty gif.

Cleo also sends notifications, quizzes, insights and challenges to keep you up-to-date and engaged with how your money’s doing.

You can choose which accounts you want to link up. The app is only able to read your transactions and make calculations based on your income and spending. You can’t move money within the app itself.

There’s also a Cleo wallet feature, where the AI calculates how much you can afford to save each week, and squirrels it away before you spend it. Every little helps towards that Christmas budget.

Bean

Price: Free

Availability: iOS and Android

What does it do? In an age where subscription is king, Bean is all about tracking and staying in control of your regular payments.

You can connect your bank and credit card accounts, and the dashboard will find all recurring payments. If you find, say, an old gym membership you never use, the app can sort out cancellations, as well as providing a comparison and switching service if you want to get a cheaper deal elsewhere.

Bean also notifies you if any of your bills are going up, renewal dates for things like insurance contracts, and  other useful information to make sure you’re not paying out any more than you need to.

Moneyhub

Price: 99p a month/£9.99 a year; £1.49 a month/£14.99 a year via the App Store

Availability: iOS, Android, Web

What does it do? With options for individuals and businesses, Moneyhub allows you to connect all of your current accounts, credit cards, savings accounts, mortgages, pensions and investments in one place, to get an in-depth analysis of your spending and savings.

Once you’ve sorted that, you can set up budgets for different spending categories. The app will send you ‘nudges’ to let you know how far through the budget you are. Knowing that you’ve nearly spent your eating out budget for the month might encourage you to cook at home instead.

For trickier financial decisions, there’s Moneyhub’s ‘Find Advisor’ feature. This puts you in touch with professional advisers and, with your consent, it can share all of the data you’ve connected to the app to give them a full overview of your situation.

Open banking vs screen-scraping

Budgeting apps tend to use one of two methods to ‘read’ your financial transactions.

Screen-scraping is when you hand over your bank login details to an app, which then effectively poses as you to access the transactional data from your account.

The downside of this method is that you may not be able to rely on your bank’s fraud protections if any of your money goes missing, and it could potentially violate your bank’s terms of service.

With Open Banking, by contrast, that apps can access your data without using your login details.

Once you give consent, your bank will share your data via an ‘Application Programming Interface’ (API), essentially a secure connection. With this approach, you know what information is being shared with each company, and it’s possible to easily revoke access.

Legislation due to come into force in September will mean screen-scraping will no longer be a viable way to access financial transaction data.

You can find out more in our guide to Open Banking.

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