When it comes to money, I'd like to think that I'm a good budgeter. I categorize all of my spending, analyzing where I can cut back to save up for more important necessities, like retirement! An emergency fund! And... vacation!
However, if you ask my Mint account if I'm a good planner, it will likely tell you that I'm a colossal failure. I rarely stick to my planned budget--I stay within my overall monthly allotment, yet almost never successfully stick to what I think I'll spend on food, or clothes, or going out with friends. I get weekly reminders of how off I am, and not-so-subtle nudges to update my budget to realistically reflect on what I spend on "entertainment" and "alcohol and bars." (Also, who are you working for, Mint? My dad?!)
Enter Level Money, a budgeting app that focuses on keeping your spending within a daily limit, instead of tracking categories. The idea here is to change the focus from compartmentalized budgets--like groceries, transportation, and shopping--to a new system of cash flow, or "spendability." Level launched on iOS last October, but joined the Android crowd on Thursday.
"With Level, we let users rethink the concept of budgeting," said Level's CEO and cofounder Jake Fuentes during an interview with TechHive. Fuentes stresses that because our payment structure is predominantly cashless these days, it's easy to just swipe our cards at will without tracking how much we've spent. He relates Level to a wallet filled with cash: You spend your cash for the day, and then you're done. If you overspend one day, you have less to spend the next. Conversely, if you have leftover cash, it redistributes for future spending.
I've used Level on both mobile platforms, and the Android version is identical to its iOS counterpart in terms of functionality. Subtle design tweaks let Level shine on both platforms, specifically its optional widget for the Android home screen that displays your daily spending goal.
To get started, just link the bank accounts and credit cards you'd like Level to monitor, and watch Level go to work. It takes a few minutes to go through your accounts, as it reads everything and color-codes transactions based on income, bills, spending, and credit card payments. Don't worry about security: Level Money uses Intuit's platform with bank-level security, encryption, and privacy features.
After it's finished reading your transactions, it shows which transactions make up your income and bills. Uncheck any items that shouldn't be included, and add bills or income that it didn't spot. For savings, Level's default setting suggest you save 7 percent of your monthly income, but you can adjust that, too.
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