For a lot of people, establishing a budget and sticking to it can be a daunting task. To make things a little easier, and to relieve the stress and hassle of tracking every single transaction, sites and apps like Mint, YNAB (You Need A Budget), and Personal Capital have become a common site in the personal finance realm. But for all of these sites, you have to provide detailed personal information, like bank account login details, that can leave you vulnerable to hacking and identity theft. So how safe are these sites, and do you put yourself at risk in using them?
What are the risks?
No matter the site or application you’re using, you’re going to have to provide some pretty sensitive information for the app to function properly. One positive thing about these brands is that, assuming you’re using a reputable app, they understand the delicate nature of the information they’re receiving, and usually provide some detailed explanation about the type of security provisions they’ve established for that data. But providing your personal information always comes with a level of risk, so vetting whatever application you use is important before you sign on the dotted line.
Another great thing to note is that, for most of these applications, no money can be withdrawn or deposited through the application itself. By limiting the type of transactional behavior of your account access, your information can’t be exploited beyond what the budgeting site allows.
But the information on the backend isn’t always what worries technology experts; it’s the vulnerability of losing your phone and leaving all those apps and logins available to thieving hands. One way to protect yourself in the event your phone is lost or stolen is by ensuring you don’t save the login information in the applications themselves. When the browser or the application asks if you want to “save the login information,” decline it, and enter the login credentials manually each time. That will automatically limit who can get into your financial-based apps, even if they get your device.
Do I need a budgeting app?
The most important question to ask is not necessarily if you need a budgeting app, but if you need a budget at all, and the answer is a resounding yes. Managing your personal or family finances is no different than running the books for a business – you need to know where the money is coming in, where it’s going out, and how much you have left over at the end of the month. The only way to grow an emergency savings, or build toward a new financial goal, is to be fully aware of your financial ebb and flow.
While some people can do a great job organizing a budget with just a pad of paper and a pen, some people need a little more support and automation. A budgeting site can be a great way to get that extra leg up. For FCU members, another option is by using the Budgeting tab within your Online Banking account; it can show you the breakdown of your spending habits all within FCU’s secure site.
Like this article? Read this other piece from the FCU Blog: "Taking Charge Financially: Online Budget Tools"