must-have apps

20 Must-Have Apps To Better Your Life

Smartphones have emerged as amazing personal finance tools, but they are not the key to good personal finance. Proper time management, limited spending, and great money management will improve your financial health. Fortunately, there are some must-have apps that can help with each of those factors!

These apps can help you achieve your goals by encouraging you to stay on top of your finances and continue to run your life responsibly.

Time-Management Apps

Time is money, and making sure you are using your time efficiently can boost your financial health. I use apps for my to-do lists, idea tracking, businesses, and general productivity.

Every app on this list is free, though some have a paid, premium mode. I use the free version of each app mentioned.

Remember the Milk

Remember the Milk syncs to all your devices to ensure you never miss an item on your to-do list. You can add items to your tasks list and get reminded wherever you are whenever it’s time to complete those tasks.

You can even add subtasks and share your to-do list with other people to help get your chores done faster. Plus, you can automate tasks, attach files to them, and take advantage of import or export options.

You can even customize the app with different themes suited to your particular style. If you enjoy looking at the app, that makes you even more likely to complete your tasks when the alerts pop up!


Evernote is like a digital notebook on the web. I use the web, mobile, and Windows interfaces to create, reference, and track notes in the cloud.

My favorite use for Evernote is project management. I recently used Evernote to help me track reviews and information for a new hard drive purchase. It’s helped me track my home remodeling projects. I even have a notebook full of date ideas.

It can really be used for anything. The mobile version allows you to read, cut, paste, add audio recordings, or add images. For example, you could use it at Home Depot to reference room measurements for a new hardwood floor. 


I love to travel. It is one of my favorite things in the world. TripIt automatically picks up travel information from my Gmail inbox, adds it to my calendar, and tracks it for me.

When I am getting ready to go, TripIt has the weather for me. After I get to the airport, I open TripIt, and my reservation information is there. When I land in a new city, I open TripItm, and my hotel information and directions are all ready for me, along with confirmation numbers.

A premium version also tracks your frequent flier and hotel points information and does live updates on changes to your flight information. The premium version even offers travel alerts, schedule monitoring, and some features from AwardWallet.

I never travel without TripIt. I wouldn’t ever consider dropping a service so valuable to me.

If TripIt isn’t an app you enjoy, Kayak Trip Planner offers a similar service. However, it is not quite as robust.


Dropbox is a free, cloud-based storage folder for all your computers and mobile devices. I primarily use Dropbox on my desktop and laptop computers, but the mobile app is an integral part of the value.

The iPhone and Android apps also have an automatic photo upload feature. That gives me an automatic and free backup of all my pictures and allows me to easily get them on my computer to upload to sites like Facebook.

I use Dropbox at least a dozen times every single day.

Google Calendar

Another app on my daily list, Google Calendar, helps me track my schedule. I use Google Calendar on the web as my calendar nerve center that connects Facebook, TripIt, Outlook at work, and more, then aggregates them into one calendar of my life.

The Google Calendar app is not the same thing as the calendar app built into Android. It has many value-added features, including more advanced event scheduling and notifications. Plus, it’s free.


I don’t really go to the store anymore. I do all my shopping online and use Shippity to track my purchases.

Shippity makes tracking packages and online purchases a piece of cake. How easy is it? Like TripIt, Shippity grabs my receipts from online shopping sites like Amazon and automatically loads the tracking and shipping information to the web and mobile interface.

When I am itching to know when my package will be delivered, I open Shippity, and everything I want to know is there.

must-have apps

Money-Saving Apps

For most of us, our smartphones are a money drain. We might pay hundreds per month for unlimited plans to get our calls and internet wherever we are. However, we can use our phones to save money. 

Here are my favorite free money-saving apps.


I use ZipList for two purposes. First, I use it as a recipe finder and organizer. It works with an interface on both my laptop and my phone. I also use it for my grocery list, which is where the money saving comes in.

I put together a healthy cooking list using the recipe function and load the ingredients list to my phone with one click. Then, I use that shopping list to guide me at the grocery store.

To save money, stick to the list and buy store brands whenever possible. As a bonus, use ZipList to find recipes with many fresh fruits and vegetables. Those are generally money savers, particularly if you buy in-season produce.


Yesterday, I drove to a nearby Arco station and filled up my tank for $4.47 per gallon. That station had the cheapest gas in my area. Without GasBuddy, I would have had no idea there was cheap gas so close.

Had I gone to my regular gas station on the way home, I would have paid about $.50 more per gallon, or $10 more. Sure, $10.00 isn’t that much, but doing this once a week could save you over $500 per year.


I use KeyRing for two reasons. First, it makes my wallet smaller. Second, it saves me money.

KeyRing allows you to load all your loyalty and membership cards that have a barcode. My local grocery store is King Soopers (Kroger). I put my Sooper Card number in my phone, and the cashier scans my phone for my discounts to apply.

In addition to this feature, which works at almost any store in America, the app also sends you coupons based on where you already shop. If you already shop there, you might as well save the money.


With Ibotta, you can earn cash back when you shop. Before you head to the store, search the app for products you intend to buy, then add them to your list. Buy the items, and upload your receipt or link your payment account to get cash back.

You can withdraw your earnings directly to your bank account, via PayPal, or as gift cards to your favorite stores. However, you will need to reach minimum redemption levels in order to cash out your earnings.

Fortunately, Ibotta offers bonuses to help you reach the minimum redemption thresholds faster. By completing specific offers, you can get the cash back amount and a bonus, enabling you to rack up your rewards quicker.


With Fetch, you can turn your receipts into rewards. Every time you shop, take a photo of your receipt and upload it to the app to earn points. You can then redeem your points for gift cards to your favorite retailers, helping you save money the next time you shop.

It’s even possible to redeem your rewards for sweepstakes entries to increase your points or charitable donations.

Just remember to scan your receipts within 14 days to earn points. Otherwise, your purchases won’t count.


With the Rakuten app, you can get cash back when you shop online or in-store. You can even get 5% cash back at thousands of restaurants, which could help you stretch your dining or entertaining budget further!

Some popular stores you can get cash back from include Walmart, Staples, PetSmart, Banana Republic, and more. Olive Garden, Uber Eats, and Flamebroiler are among the restaurants offering cash back.

You can get your cash back via bank transfer or check. Plus, you can get $30 for every friend you refer to the app.

must-have apps

Money-Management Apps

Having a solid understanding of where your money is coming from and where it goes is critical to improving your financial health. From budgeting to paying bills to investing and more, these are some of my favorite apps to help me manage my money.


Apps like HomeBudget ensure you stay on top of your budget and allow you to access a bevy of information easily. This platform lets you monitor your expenses and income by syncing with your checking, savings, credit, and debit accounts.

You can even manually add cash transactions and work within the same budget alongside other members of your home. This ensures everyone in your home is on the same page when it comes to spending.

The app has a free lite version as well as a more robust subscription that costs $4.99 monthly. It is available for both Android and Apple devices.

Your Bank’s App 

I am a fan of automation and putting things in one place. If you set up a fire-and-forget system, like the many Mint alternatives on the market, you can minimize the time you put into your financial management. But what if you need to trade a stock or transfer money around?

Mobile banking is one of the best innovations of recent years. It lets you view your balance, transfer funds, and pay bills through secure web-based systems. Best of all, internet and mobile banking allow you to keep track of your finances in real-time.

As a Schwab and Chase Bank customer, I’ve downloaded their apps and am happy with them both. You can likely follow suit and do this with any financial institution you use so that you can easily access your accounts from your phone.


It is worth looking into accounting software to ensure you plan your finances well. The most well-known product is QuickBooks, an extensive system that allows you to track expenses, income, and organize your taxes.

Even if you have an accountant, you can still use it to see your projected earnings. This is very important as it will help you determine how much you can spend every month.

You Need a Budget (YNAB)

YNAB has its budgeting philosophies built around giving every dollar a job. If you earn a dollar, it should be assigned to a budget category, like groceries or rent, or a savings category, like an emergency fund or Roth IRA. 

This app takes a less automated approach than other budgeting apps on the market, but its strategy helps reach financial independence. The app is free for 34 days, then $14.99 per month or $99 per year if you pay in full upfront.


Empower is my go-to service for getting my financial account balances and investment analysis in one place. The site automatically updates with my most recent transactions for my bank, credit, and investment accounts. It also adds value by analyzing investment fees and categories.

When I signed up and loaded my accounts into Empower, I found that certain mutual funds in my portfolio had fees much higher than comparable funds from other companies. I ended up selling two ETFs and buying into a Vanguard high dividend yield fund. It projected thousands of dollars of savings by the time I retire.

If you want extra help with your investments, new advisor services can help you manage your money with as little work as possible. These services also charge far lower fees than traditional financial advisors. Empower offers this type of service if you want to work with a human advisor. 

If you are okay with computer algorithms managing your investments, Betterment, Blooom, and Wealthfront are excellent options.

Credit Karma

Credit Karma is best known for monitoring your credit score, but it also has an account aggregation tool that works great for matching your credit card accounts to your credit report. 

It falls short of Empower’s investment tools and YNAB’s budgeting tools but is a top choice if you are trying to figure out what is going on with your credit.

Credit Sesame

If Credit Karma isn’t cutting it for you, Credit Sesame might be worth looking into. This app isn’t an aggregator, but it is free and provides huge value. I use Credit Sesame to get my credit score for free. 

The site also offers tips and ideas to improve your credit score. If you want to improve or learn more about your score, check out Credit Sesame.


When I need to check on my frequent flier miles or hotel point balances, I only click once to go to AwardWallet. Just like Empower, AwardWallet is designed to take a lot of stuff and put it on one screen with the most useful info in one place.

AwardWallet brings in my balances and expiration dates to one screen for every mile and point account I have (including Chase Ultimate Rewards). This way, I can maximize my points and stretch my dollars further each time I book a trip.

Tips to Maximize the Effectiveness of These Must-Have Apps

While each of these apps can help you simplify your life, there are ways to make sure you maximize how well they allow you to improve your time and money management.

Here’s how to ensure you use these apps to their maximum potential.

must-have apps

Have Everything Go To One Email Address

How many email addresses do you have? If you’re like me, it’s more than one, which can be difficult to monitor. 

Many providers want to email you when your statement or bill is ready. This can make it easy to manage, but not if you have them going to different emails.

What we do is have one email address that’s devoted to receiving these emails. That way, there is no confusion, and we can manage our finances without missing a bill or statement.

Streamline Where Possible

The problem with managing your finances is that you have many different accounts and/or bills to monitor. One way to simplify your life is to use one of the various programs that allow you to manage everything out of one location like Empower.

The nice thing about these programs is they can collect everything for you so that you only have one place to go to manage your finances online. Just make sure to evaluate which security measures they have in place so you can have peace of mind that you’re mitigating risk.

Take Action Right Away

It can be difficult to always stay on top of your finances if you’re busy. My wife and I have learned that if we don’t take care of something right away, it’s less likely to happen. So, when we get that little reminder that our bank statement is ready for download, we download it that day.

The same mentality can be taken with your bills so you don’t miss a payment. Not only will this keep your accounts in good standing, but it’ll also help you avoid costly fees resulting from missing a payment reminder.

Automate to Save Time and Money

You can further automate your finances using free online tools to save even more time and money.

Most banks offer free online bill pay. Using this tool, you can put some bills on autopay while paying others manually through one central dashboard. This is much easier than logging into each site to pay or sending a paper check in the mail like it’s 1986.

Does your employer offer direct deposit? If they do and you are not taking advantage of it, sign up immediately. It is easier to have your money just show up in the bank on payday rather than getting a check and physically depositing it in person or using your bank’s app.

Once you get everything set up to run automatically, use the aforementioned must-have apps to check that your payments or deposits went through correctly. 

The Bottom Line

Managing your finances and time might seem overwhelming, but you don’t have to do it alone. If you have a smartphone, downloading the right apps to help you keep track of everything can simplify the process.

Not only can these apps assist you with managing your finances and time management, but they can also improve your life. Consider downloading one (or more) today to see just how beneficial they can be!

20 Must-Have Apps To Better Your Life
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