I can't tell you how many times I bought clothes without trying them on in the store thinking I would return whatever didn't fit, and then I completely spaced out about getting back to the store on time to get a refund. The same thing has happened with gifts that I bought and then decided to get something else for the giftee. The original gifts and those ill-fitting clothes were donated to charity, but my budget suffered for it. I'm sure this has happened to most people, whether it's with clothes or other items.
Being right in the middle of the prime shopping season, I decided to see if there were any mobile apps that would somehow help me and my readers get returns to the store on time so we could get our refunds. I found apps that do just that, based on individual store policies. They can remind you when it's getting close to the end of the return window of time, too. And, there are a couple of apps that help you compare shipping options so you can save if you need to ship returns back to the retailer. Read Easy Shopping Returns with Free Mobile Apps for the details. Apps listed are for iPhone, Android, Windows Mobile and Blackberry.
I put together line up of 10 options for creating and tracking a budget, whether you prefer an online app or to stay offline with desktop computer software. While some of the software or apps on the list also offer features for tracking your financial accounts, all have a focus on keeping a budget and usually work out better for people who are big into budgeting or who need to manage money very carefully.
What makes these tools better then a spreadsheet or doing a budget on paper? You can quickly make changes to the budget and easily do forecasting to see how spending and saving effect your finances into the future. Check out my 10 Budgeting Software and Online Apps to learn more.
The value of the digital currency Bitcoin rose to over $1,000 this morning on Mt. Gox, one of the largest exchanges for the currency. This means that Bitcoin has risen by nearly ten times the value as of early last month, when it dropped significantly to $110 after the the FBI shut down an online black market that utilized the currency. Could Bitcoin go even higher? Probably. But, it can also take a nose dive due to extreme volatility. There's a long way between $110 and $1,000.
Still interested? Check out Bitcoin Scope for quotes every 30 seconds, tweets, news and more. The site is not the most attractive, but it consolidates a lot of information on one page.
Splitwise is an app for splitting bills with other individuals and groups and then tracking who has paid up and who has not. When I first covered Splitwise in my Top 5 Android Apps for Splitting Bills and Tracking IOUs last summer, my opinion of it was just "meh". That's all changed now that this app has stepped up its game for Android so that it's more in line with Splitwise for iOS.
Among the improvements in the Android app are push notifications to your phone for new expenses and edits, adding bills is easier, and you can now add images to expenses using your phone's camera. Check out my updated info for the Splitwise Android app to read more about what's new. If you tried it before and uninstalled it, you'll want to take another look.
- Splitwise Online App Splits Bills, Tells You What's Fair
- 2013 Top Personal Finance Android Apps
- 2013 Best iOS Apps for Personal Finance
Image: Splitwise for Android 3.x
The best way to score Black Friday 2013 bargains is to plan ahead and to know when new deals are announced. Simplify your search for the best prices, coupons and online and in-store deals by using Black Friday app on your iPhone or Android, whether you search for low prices from the living room couch or you get notifications of the latest sale announcements while you're out shopping. Here are some other features you'll find in my top picks for Black Friday iPhone and Android apps:
- Notifications of early sales news leaks.
- Download advertising circulars and zoom in for details on sales.
- Create a shopping list to have a Black Friday plan of attack.
- Send sales and deals to friends via text, email or social media.
These apps also bring you Cyber Monday deals, and if you don't like the crowded stores, you can shop directly from the apps.
Image: Black Friday Deal Finder 2013 by FatWallet.com
iBank 5 personal finance software for Mac released today with a whole lot of new features and improvements worth mentioning. This is a full version upgrade for iBank 4 users, and I am looking forward to trying it out and writing a review soon. You'll need to Mac OS X 10.8 or higher to use iBank 5, which is fully compatible with 10.9 Mavericks.
Here's the great new stuff you'll find in iBank 5 (there are a couple of items here that are huge for convenience, in my opinion):
- Pay Bills: iBank 5 connects via the Internet to most major U.S. banks without leaving the software. Now payments can be scheduled and sent while transactions for payments are categorized in account registers.
- Automatically Update Transactions: Use Direct Access to connect to over 10,000 banks worldwide, and sync with iBank for iPad 2. Direct Access is subscription service (see cost below).
- New Budgets: Budget feature automatically uses scheduled transactions, at-a-glance daily progress updates, adjust future budgets and view history. Sync budgets to iBank for iPad 2.
- Update Everything At Once: Do less manual data entry, or completely eliminate it with the Update Everything button. This imports all account transactions, updates stock and other investment prices, syncs iOS devices (there are iPad and iPhone apps) and downloads Direct Access data.
Other improvements were made for investment and loan support, data import from Quicken for Windows or Quicken Essentials and other personal finance software, new Resolve View with recent transaction activity, better filtering, enhanced speed and many more significant tweaks.
How to Get iBank 5:
Grab the 30-day, fully functional free trial at the IGG Software website. After 30 days, pay $59.99 for a license. If you're using iBank 4, you can upgrade for $29.99 and you can use iBank 5 in free trial mode first, then upgrade within the new version.
Add Direct Access for automatic transaction updates for $39.99 a year, or $4.99 per month. This service is a real time-saver, especially if you have a lot of accounts. The annual cost comes down $3.33 a month.
To catch my iBank 5 review when it's published and other personal finance software and app articles, follow me on Twitter, Facebook Personal Finance Technology page or on Google+. You can also subscribe to my About.com Financial Software weekly newsletter.
Image: iBank 5 Scheduled Transactions
Your mind is probably on Thanksgiving and other holidays that are right around the corner. Taxes are not a priority, right? Actually, you should take a look at whether you'll be getting a refund or paying taxes and maybe penalties with your 2013 Federal return. You can do quickly with the free preview versions two online tax software providers offer. TaxACT and TaxSlayer are now available. Take a minute to create an account, then follow the tax interview for step by step guidance. If you find that you will owe taxes, you have time to reduce or eliminate that tax liability before December 31.
Another benefit: you can decide if you like either TaxACT or TaxSlayer enough to complete your official 2013 return.
Just about everyone loves a Thanksgiving dinner complete with turkey, mashed potatoes swimming in butter, cranberry sauce, stuffing -- and did I mention mashed potatoes? Then there's the pie!
The problem is, Thanksgiving meals traditionally include so much food that this can make a major dent in your budget. The best way to avoid this deficit is by budgeting and planning to save for the holiday all year around, and I've put together a tutorial that explains how to use your personal finance software to budget for Thanksgiving. You may think it's too late to start a holiday budget plan, but check out the money-saving tips in the last step of the tutorial.
Today in the U.S., we honor our military veterans, and I thank you all for your service. I've also started thinking about tax software because it's getting to be that time of year again when I start researching for my reviews. I have some great picks for free tax software for military members from last year that are available for tax year 2013 as well.
Tax software that's designed for members of the U.S. Military includes a customized tax interview with questions specific to payments from the armed forces, like combat pay, and includes deductions that military members may qualify for. The software is online, and the interview walks you through preparing and eFiling your income tax return. You can print and mail the return, too, but the IRS prefers eFile.
I'll be putting together a new review of free tax software for military members soon, possibly adding more titles if I find any others that I would recommend. Here's the scoop on last year's picks:
Have you started making a list for holiday shopping? Do much online shopping? I do, because I'm not fond of crowds in stores, parking lots or on the streets that will soon get very busy in around shopping centers.
Doing to leg work to get the best prices when shopping online can be time consuming, and here's a solution: free browser add-ons that do price comparisons and find online coupons for you while you shop. That link gives you five of the best to try with Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome, Safari and Opera, so the next time you shop online you can save money while you save time.
Image: Shoptimate browser add-on
More online apps: