Financial Tools To Help You Save Money

The digital age has made it easier for all of us to order food, watch our favorite TV shows, receive purchased items within hours, and thankfully for us, even save money towards a new home! The following five financial apps and websites make it a cinch to save big in no time:


Mint is a great site to track your spending and create simple budgets. Once you've entered your online banking, credit and investment account information, Mint begins to automatically track your money. The default categories are sufficient for most people, but you can even add your own, for everything from restaurants to movies and travel. The site allows you to view your spending trends, as well as how much money you have in all your accounts at any one time. Mint comes with a free credit score and is owned by Intuit, so the data automatically feeds to TurboTax at tax time. The perfect way to start if you’re new to tracking your spending.


Acorns is a savings tool that helps users save money by automatically investing change from each charge. Just like a squirrel saves a few acorns everyday for the winter, so to will you be prepared when you need your acorns the most. With micro investing, every purchase helps save towards your future. For instance, if a transaction costs $1.50, Acorns rounds it up to $2 and sends those extra 50 cents into an investment portfolio diversified with ETFs. It’s a mindless way to save big, and has a low fee of $1 a month on account balances below $5,000 and 0.25% per year on balances over $5,000. You can also set recurring or one time investments to boost your savings if you’re looking to save more than a few cents at a time. Squirrels are going to be so jealous of your acorn stashing robot.


Leave the saving to the robots with Digit. This app monitors your income and spending habits, then stashes small amounts of money every few days (or whenever it thinks you won’t miss it) into a savings account. They never deduct more than what they think you can afford and even provide a ‘no overdraft’ guarantee. When you’re ready to access your savings, just transfer the money back into your bank account. Similar to Acorns, Digit moves money in small intervals so you won’t even notice you’re saving. If you want to save without any hassle, Digit is a great option (plus, it’s free!).

You Need a Budget

This budgeting app helps users learn to live on last month’s income. You Need A Budget directly imports transactions from your bank accounts, but requires manual categorization by the user. The app says this helps you raise your awareness about your spending, and also provides the user with a harsh wakeup call when they are forced to view all their Uber charges. Their envelope-based system allocates the exact amount of income available, putting a cap on spending. The app costs $50 a year, but might be worth trying if you want to work with your money hands-on.

Personal Capital

For personalized financial help, Personal Capital assigns users financial advisors to answer all their questions regarding anything and everything, including retirement planning, refinancing and obtaining a mortgage. The site also offers a 401(k) fee analyzer and a retirement planner which crunches numbers to tell users whether they’re on track to meet their savings goals. An investment checkup tool looks at the asset allocation in a user’s investment accounts and recommends a target allocation. If you’re looking for someone to guide you through more complicated investments, Personal Capital fits the bill.

Download these apps and you’ll be a financial wiz in no time! Or, at least, you’ll figure out how much you’re spending on lattes.

Considering Investing In A Real Estate Investment Trust? Read This Before You Pull The Trigger!


A question has kept rolling around in my brain ever since I heard about crowdfunding real estate investing. Is it possible to invest a bit of money while at the same time saving for a house each month? If this is possible, it could mean freedom from a 30 year mortgage, or more likely, a quicker path to saving for a down payment. This article explores crowdfunding real estate investment opportunities and I will tell you if it is actually a game changer or not.

Ok, first things first, what is real estate crowdfunding and investing? Real estate crowdfunding and investing is the ability to invest a relatively small amount of money into a property or collection of properties. The investment is open to everyone so the cost of the property is divided between all parties and the rental income is collected and dispersed back to the investor. This became legal just last year under the Jobs Act. This new option is available to the general public, so let’s explore the possibilities and see who this type of investment is right for.


This type of investment was born off the back of the real estate Investment Trust (REIT). A REIT is a collection of real estate that an investor can put his money into. Each investor owns shares, which represent a portion of the holdings of the fund. If you know what a mutual fund is then you can think of a REIT as a real estate centric mutual fund. REITs are popular because they diversify risk and they are mandated by law to pay out 90% of profits to shareholders each year. REITs are only accessible to accredited investors who make over $200,000 per year or who have at least $1,000,000 in assets minus their private homes.


  (Realty Mogul)

When the SEC, Securities & Exchange Commission, adopted Title III of the Jobs Act, it opened the door for any investor to buy a REIT share even if they are unaccredited. Through licensed exchanges anyone can put money into a share of a piece of real estate or a portfolio of real estate. An investor can own a piece of a real estate deal for as little as $5,000.


We talked with Royce Running, a Financial Advisor with Newport Harbor Wealth Management, to find out what he thinks of the crowdfunded REIT.

What do you think about the idea of young adults investing in a crowdfunded REIT every month as a way to start saving for a house?

“Not the best idea. REITs aren't very liquid so you may finally save enough, find your dream home, start the qualification process, then find out you can't get your money out of the REIT. The investor will not get their money back for 6-10 years.”

Where would you recommend someone to put their money if they have $100 per month to invest and want to save for a house?

“Low volatility liquid investments, such as fixed income/bond ETFs or high interest savings accounts. You want something that doesn't cost a lot and doesn't fluctuate too much, but also a vehicle where you can pull your money out when you reach the end of your time horizon.”

Given the opportunities and the current laws, who is this investment right for? 

“Crowdfunded REITs are excellent investments for the long-term investor who wants to get their feet wet in real estate without having to deal with managing tenants and all of the headaches that go along with being a landlord.”


James Sprow, Director of Research with Blue Vault Partners, says: " not recommend crowd funding of real estate as an avenue for individual investors to save or invest. It is especially inappropriate for individuals who wish to accumulate a nest egg or a down payment for a home.

The concept of crowdfunding is interesting but any investor who participates should be advised to do considerable due diligence prior to committing funds. The skills and experience necessary for such research and analysis is going to be well beyond most investors.  Again, individuals who are simply trying to save for a home purchase should be unequivocally warned to stay away from such programs and be advised to use conventional, low-risk, liquid methods for accumulating savings: Bank Savings Accounts, CDs (Certificates of Deposit) and Money Market Funds."


The amount of money needed to invest is low, sometimes as low as $5,000. Crowdfunding may be enticing to beginning or novice investors because it is a relatively small amount of money to invest, and it seems like less risk, but this is not the case. The more knowledge of real estate you have the better your chance of substantial returns. Each deal will take extreme vetting on the part of the investor.

Unfortunately, my original hope is not feasible. Crowdfunded REIT’s are a very bad investment for a first time home buyer looking to save for a house or down payment. They do not allow you to get all of your money back easily, so it means that when you are ready to buy a home you won’t be able to count on that little nest egg.

The crowdfunded REIT is the wild wild west right now. It is inevitable that first time investors will lose their money or get it stuck without understanding the terms of their investment. Hopefully this article will dissuade some of you from making this mistake. The idea is still being defined and it is yet to be seen if the successful practices of the REIT will transfer over to the crowdfunded REITs. Right now, the space is mainly for investors looking to experiment.

“It’s predicted that commercial real estate crowdfunding in the U.S. will grow potentially to $10 billion in five years.”

Mid-Century Modern Cat Houses

Bonus! Read to the end of the article for a special surprise gift for our readers!

Meet Tom Davies whom I had the pleasure to meet and discuss his fabulous feline houses. When Tom Davies of Davies Décor realized his cat needed its own place to hang out, he was unable to find an option he liked at pet stores or online. So, Davies took it upon himself to design a custom bed for his cat that was comfortable, practical, and stylish. Now, Davies Décor manufactures a variety of designed Mid-Century Modern Cat Houses. We sat down with Davies to learn more.


What inspired you to create these houses?

When we brought our cat home, we quickly realized that he loves to get into small spaces. Every time we came home from shopping we would leave the shopping bags and boxes on the floor for him to curl up in. Before long the house was a cluttered mess. 

I wanted the cat to have a place to chill out, but I also wanted it to be something more pleasing to the eye than a bag or box. So, I designed the Post and Beam Cat House, the Googie Cat Bed and the Oscar Cat Rest, comfy spots for the cat to chill out that are also uniquely designed modern pieces of furniture. 

The designs combine three big interests of mine: mid­century design/architecture, woodworking, and cats. 


What would be the dream cat architectural style that you would like to build? 

I get a lot of suggestions from people about what architectural style to base my next design on including Victorian, Craftsman, and Tudor. But I think it would be cool to try to make something resembling Frank Gehry's great design of Disney Hall in Downtown LA. 


Do you offer custom homes?

I am now moving into the world of designing custom cat furniture specifically designed to suit my clients' individual styles. 

Where can people find you next? 

As you know, I recently showed my products at CatConLA and the Hauspanther Style Lounge at the BlogPaws conference in Phoenix. My work will be featured in the upcoming Fall/Winter issue of Modern Cat magazine. 

What sets your cat homes apart?

Inspired by architectural styles popular in the mid­-Twentieth century, these beds are 100% handmade by me, the designer, and offer a level of craftsmanship you won't find in other cat enclosures. 


After meeting Tom and seeing his work I decided to partner with him. Now, when we stage your home for sale, if it strikes your fancy, you can have one of these posh and whimsical cat post & beam homes in your home. To me, it strikes just the right chord of fun while still maintaining a well-designed environment and I may even wear my cat ears! If you’re looking for a unique piece for your home to be enjoyed by your family and feline, check out Davies Décor


Bonus! If you leave a comment on this article you will be entered into a drawing for this fun Japan Movt cat watch!

Here is a video of Tom making his cat dream homes!

Here are some other great people doing fun things for cats.

Leave a comment below for a chance to win the watch! Oh, and comments need to be actual comments. "Nice article" and "fun" aren't going to get you entered in the drawing. K, bye.