real life

"The best app I've ever downloaded saves me $$ every day without having to lift a finger."

Since beginning full-time work at the beginning of 2016, I’ve transformed from a spendaholic to a savings wizard.

Well, kind of… if your definition of “savings wizard” is “doesn’t survive off mie goreng for the week leading up to payday” then gday, my name’s Michelle, I’m 23, and a total savings wizard.

I get a nerdy kick out of seeing my savings slowly climb month to month, and on Australia Day this year decided I would spend 2017 learning more about investing my dubloons. I set out wanting to know how I could make my money do things for me; I don’t want it just sitting in a bank account anymore, I want it to work hard, to grow larger and larger and, ideally, learn to do backflips and maybe a speak second language.

(I realise I’m making my savings account sound like the Pacific Ocean – please know that it’s nothing like that. My savings is more like a teeny tiny puddle. Not very large but, you know, still in existence. AKA waaaaay better than the droplet I once had to my name.)

I digress. Back to my Australia Day epiphany: On average, women lose out on $100 a day that our male counterparts pocket – all because they’re savvier investors. Women generally feel a) lost and b) scared about investing, which inevitably makes us poorer. This statistic is what made my mind explode and ignited my decision to educate myself about money. I mean, we need more sisters at that money tree goddammit.

Listen: The Barefoot Investor shares his ultimate money-saving tips. (Post continues…)

So since my Australia Day Money Epihany, I’ve been thinking about how I can change my savings habits.

The first thing I did was create a third bank account – my “emergency/investment” account, where I move about $500 every month. I reached for this when my car broke down in August (see you later, $1090), when I forgot my car rego was due ($700) and when I smashed my iPhone screen at the airport ($200). Despite this, there’s still a little sum sitting in there that I probably wouldn’t have saved otherwise. When Australia Day 2018 arrives, I’m going to invest whatever the total amount is.

The second thing I’ve done is download Acorns, an app that is definitely nothing new but is bettering my life regardless (I assure you this is not an ad, I am just fanatical and need everyone with a pulse to know about it). It took five minutes to set up, was free to join, and has been the perfect toe-dip into the world of investing.

Here’s how it works. Using millennial speak, of course:

  1. Steph Claire Smith buys an avocado for $3.50 at her local Woolies using her debit card.
  2. Acorns takes an extra 50c from Steph Claire Smith’s account to round the amount up to $4, and INVESTS IT in a range of magical things chosen by true money experts.
  3. Steph Claire Smith does nothing. Continues being Steph Claire Smith for foreseeable future. (Posts Instagrams, builds new health companies, models bikinis etc.)
  4. Acorns works away in the background for every avocado and non-avocado purchase she makes with her card, rounding up to the next dollar, investing and cuddling her sweet bonus savings.
  5. Steph Claire Smith checks her Acorns account weeks/months/years down the track. Is richer without realising any money ever being taken from her account. Can withdraw/invest more at any time.

I downloaded Acorns at my sister and her partner’s insistence last month and, in that time, have saved a cool $82.96. Meanwhile my sister Claire has nestled away $130 in three months, while her partner Steve has saved $600 in 15 months.

This is literally the digitalised version of pinching your pennies, people.

Genius. Freaking genius.

Website InvestorJunkie was glowing in their review of the app, which they referred to as "revolutionary".

"This app is a great starting point for anyone who hasn’t invested yet or needs a bit of guidance in the beginning," the website wrote, awarding Acorns an 8.5/10 rating.

Meanwhile Arielle O'Shea, Nerd Wallet's resident money expert, wrote: "If you want to make the most of your spare change and get the occasional retailer kickback, there’s really no better place to do that."

It's worth noting that not every single function Acorns offers is worthy of a gold star.

"Micro-investing might look great at first glance, but more than 50,000 micro-investors using Acorns are paying annual fees of over 6.2 per cent a year on their micro-investments," author of Blueprint to Wealth Gary Stone wrote for Fairfax earlier this year.

"Downloading the app is free, meaning people with a zero balance do not get charged. But once you start using the app, the fees are a flat $1.25 a month – or $15 a year – to access the platform.

"It might not sound like much, but compared with the alternatives, it's daylight robbery!"

And look - Gary may be right. I might be handing $1 over to a big corporation when other investment fund thingymajigs don't charge as much. But here's the other thing: I pay, considerably more for Netflix and Stan and Spotify every month. And those companies don't really do ANYTHING good for my bank balance. I care extraordinarily little about $12 being taken out of my Acorns account every year when it's saving me so much money anyway.

I'm fast and loose, yes. But I think that's the whole reason people like me are Acorns' biggest fans. I don't need to be an investment banker by 2018. I just need some help making my puddle that little bit deeper.

And if that sounds good to you, I highly recommend you jump over to the app store right now.

I'll see you all at the Mercedes Benz dealership in about five years, okay?