There are times in everyone's life where you live paycheck to paycheck — college student, young professional, recently divorced, on the heels of unemployment. It's during these times that we are most cost-conscious, yet we can still struggle to track where and how every penny is spent. In our ongoing series to find the best budget apps around, we take a look at Level Money, an app that analyzes your balances and bills due to generate a “spendable” number for the month for discretionary purchases like eating out or Starbucks.
After taking it for a test-drive, we found Level is ideal to help you make quick spending decisions. Unlike many other financial apps, Level Money provides valuable insights on where you are spending money, and thus, how and where you can pare costs. Its easy-to-use customized tracking and graphic features allow you to see your monthly spending habits with complete clarity. For people not living paycheck to paycheck, the Level Money app can still be helpful. You can also use it to provide a helpful and visual way to reach a big-ticket savings goal such as that European vacation, a new car or even a house.
Level Money does exactly what it sets out to do: track the money coming in and going out each day, week and month. Like Mint and Prosper Daily, Level Money downloads your financial transactions from your bank accounts and credit/debit cards. The key is that you provide Level Money with a financial plan based on your expected monthly income, fixed expenses and anticipated savings. The app then determines your “spendable” money.
What I Liked
The tracking feature is a big draw. By knowing exactly how much you are spending on transportation, entertainment, retail purchases and other miscellaneous costs, you can quickly adjust your spending. For example, notice that Uber or Lyft costs are creeping up? Instead of using these services as a solo rider, use the sharing option and take two trips for the price of one. Or, if you see that you are spending $20-$30 a month on shipping costs from online purchases, perhaps it's time to purchase an annual membership that provides free shipping.
You Want My (Gulp) Bank Info?
I still have trouble typing personal banking information and hitting “submit.” I understand the encryption used, but with so many scams on the Internet, I'm always a little leery of sharing sensitive personal data. My fear was eased because the app was acquired by Capital One in 2015 after reaching 700,000 users so I figure it must know what it's doing to keep my personal information safe and secure.
What Others are Saying
Online reviews of the app show a range of experiences. Here's one from Lauren B.: “The ideas behind the Level app are sound, but until considerable kinks are worked out, I can't see myself using it for anything other than basic tracking. That tracking is nice, but it's not enough to tempt me away from the more overwhelming, somewhat outdated, but ultimately reliable Mint.” A Level engineer, Dave F., tackled the Mint comparison head-on, saying the app was designed for a “lean-back” approach to budgeting. We're starting with features that help our users answer questions like, “Can I go out with a friend tonight, or will I break my budget?”
Anybody living on a fixed income or paycheck to paycheck. You will see spending trends that then will allow you to adjust your habits or your budget to ease the pressure of running low on cash three days before the next payday. It's also good for anyone looking to pare down on non-essential purchases.
Not Good Forâ€¦
People who are unconcerned about their discretionary spending or who have strong budgeting tools already in place.
The app is free and compatible with both iPhone and Android devices.
(7.5 out of 10)
About this series:
We are taking time out to test-drive as many of the top savings and budgeting apps as possible so you can quickly find a tool that works for you. Want to join us by sharing an unbiased review or by adding your thoughts to an existing one? To share your opinion, comment below or email us at email@example.com.