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.
Finally, it creates your plan, calculating your spendable money by subtracting your bills and savings goals from your overall income. Three circles indicate what you should spend today, this week, or this month. Any leftover money you don’t spend one day gets rolled over into the next day. Once it's good to go, Level tracks your transactions in real time and automatically updates your "spendability." It is a good idea to check transactions at least once a day to make sure they are properly tagged, however.
Level was built with millennials in mind, as this age group “feels financial pressure, yet lacks the resources to manage responsibly,” according to Fuentes. And maybe that’s why I find it so helpful: I’m on the old end of the millennial spectrum, but I’m there nonetheless. But really, it's a refreshing, old-school way to think about saving and spending that anyone can get on board with.
My only pain points are that it doesn’t yet support one of my smaller banks that I use for savings, and double-checking the transaction tags can take a bit of time. Everything needs to be completely in cahoots in order for Level to be of any use.
Level is certainly helpful if you’re looking for a tool to assist with everyday spending. And while I’m not ready to ditch my nagging Mint account, I can see a budding relationship between us, where those two gang up on me to keep my spending in check.
This story, "Level Money launches on Android, tells you your daily allowance" was originally published by TechHive.