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Keeping an Eye on Your Finances While PCSing

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by Rachel Tringali Marston

Military families are constantly on the go, so it’s vital to be able to manage finances seamlessly, especially when a PCS is coming — or when you’re in the middle of one. Bulky folders and loose paper can be overwhelming when you’re moving and also adds baggage when you already know lots of other critical paperwork will be in tow, like the 47 copies of your new orders.

Most likely, you have a smart phones in your pocket right now. Why not use it to your advantage?

Overspending is one of the issues military members face during a PCS because many families tend to spend  up front for several components of the move. Staying on top of and being proactive with your budget is the best way to combat debt and make sure things are paid on time — no matter at what stage of the move you are. There are several sophisticated finance and budgeting apps that are perfectly suited to keep your spending straight. They can add, subtract, track, and some can even predict habits that way you can stay within your allotments.

Apps to Help Keep Things Straight

GoodBudget – The main goal of GoodBudget is to make sure your household establishes the  ideal budget. You’re able to track expenditures and categorize them to see what and where you are spending at any given time. For example, you can mark everything that would pertain to your move with a special tag. A benefit of GoodBudget is that you’re able to sync accounts with other users making sure you and your spouse are on the same page. There is also access online and you’re able to upgrade from a free account if you’d like for extras such as adding more users and getting email support. (FREE for Android, iOS)

Level Money – When you link your bank accounts, Level Money assesses your spending habits. From there, you can create different budgets based on the data collected and then incorporate moving expenses into the mix. You’ll get an overview, so you can make informed spending decisions in the future. There is also online access to your account, aside from mobile access via the application. (FREE for Android, iOS)

Mint.com Personal Finance – Mint.com offers a comprehensive financial management workflow that is also great for general finance and budgeting use. The app can monitor credit scores, create alerts, receive advice, and track investments. The feature that’s the most helpful for PCSing is creating a budget that would help you stay focused. In addition, categorization is available to keep items separate from each other for tracking. There are also security settings for added protection. Lastly, you have access to your account online via your web browser. (FREE for Android, iOS)

PocketGuard – With the capability to link your accounts to the app, PocketGuard aggregates your activity in one place, including bills and other projected expenses. Users are able to set goals for spending, to include your PCS, so everything can be tracked and monitored. A simple budget plan can be created based on your spending habits, and you are also able to incorporate spending limits that work within your allotments and current funds. (FREE for Android, iOS)

Prism – The primary focus of Prism is to make sure you pay your bills on time. Military life often gets the best of us and forgetting to pay bills, especially during a PCS, can really add up, particularly when you factor in late fees and possible interest charges. Not only does Prism remind you to pay your bills on time, it allows you to pay them within the app. (FREE for Android, iOS)

Prosper Daily – Capture all your accounts, including checking and credit accounts to track your expenses in one place. You’re able to prioritize your spending to make the most out of your PCS budget. Prosper Daily also touts ID protection and credit reporting to help you get your credit score in line, while you’re spending for the move. (FREE for Android, iOS)

Wally – Wally is a simple app meant to keep track of the basics of spending money. You input the details that way you can compare your family’s income to all your expenses. In addition to seeing a streamline flow of money distribution, users can establish a spending budget and take pictures of receipts for record keeping, which is perfect for tracking PCS expenditures. (FREE for Android, iOS)

The best part of all the apps outlined is that the basic versions are free to use. Before committing, transferring or utilizing any of the apps, be sure you do your own personal due diligence to make sure it’s the right fit for you. Read reviews from users and check out their app page to learn more. Your bank might also have a budget keeper to help with establishing your PCS budget. Check your own banking app to see how it can work for your needs.

Keeping Your Info Secure

The apps mentioned here are just a few of the many available. Remember that no matter how many bells and whistles an app may have, it is useless if you don’t use it, so be sure to find something that you consider to be user friendly and easy to access and use. But once you find the right app, there are a few extra steps you can take to keep your financial information secure:

Never Use Public Wifi! Especially when using financial apps — be sure your connection is secure when you are handling sensitive information. Also consider how much personal information you are comfortable with inputting for your apps. If you have your device already connected to the local public wifi, simply turn off your wifi option entirely while you complete your transactions.

Use Your Bank’s App. When you need to check those balances or perhaps make a last-minute payment, use the app for your financial institution instead of signing on through their website while you are on the move. Using the app provides an extra layer of security for your personal information.

Take the Extra Step. Make sure your phone or tablet is password-protected, so if you lose it, the finder won’t be able to gain access to those apps you have downloaded. And as convenient as it may be, don’t save your usernames or passwords on your device. While you’re at it, don’t just rely on passwords to gain access to your accounts —use the fingerprint option for signing into sensitive sites or apps when available.

— Bennett Leigh