I recently had a friend tell me that Acorns found money for them and it really made me think about if it makes sense to use Acorns as an investing strategy in your process. So, can Acorns find money for you to invest as well?
I won’t go too far into the weeds with Acorns as I’ve previously compared their platform vs Stash, a very similar application, but the core concept is that anytime you make a purchase, your purchase is rounded up to the nearest dollar and then that money is invested.
I think the concept is one that is extremely interesting because you’re forcing money to be saved/invested every time that you purchase something and the more that you buy things, the more that you’re going to save. Now, the downside of that is that you’re not going to be saving a ton of money, but it’s better than nothing.
Something really cool about Acorns is that they give you the ability to invest in a Roth IRA which is an amazing tax-advantaged account that I think every single person should have. Or, if you’re a fan of a Traditional IRA, you can have that instead – but you should just have an IRA, plain and simple!
Like I said, my friend said that by using Acorns they effectively “found money” in his budget that he didn’t know was there. To me, that sounds like someone that is just a little too relaxed on their spending and should probably be tracking their spending a little bit more, and that’s exactly what I told him!
It really got me thinking about how much of this Acorns money would’ve been found in my own personal budget, so I wanted to go back and do my own post-audit.
To do this, I simply logged into my Chase account to see how many transactions I had last year and honestly, it was surprising – a grand total of 896 transactions – dang!!
On average, those transactions were $.42 short of being a dollar, so that $.42 was the average rounding amount to get back up to the next dollar. This means that the total amount of money that I would’ve invested through Acorns in 2020 would’ve been $377, an average of just over $31/month.
Truthfully, that number is a bit underwhelming. While I do think that it’s cool, this tells me that simply by using an app like Acorns or Stash, you’re not going to hit your financial independence goals, plain and simple.
Personally, I have a very addictive personality, so I know that I would start to make this a game and try to save as much as I could. While in a nutshell that sounds like a good thing, we must remember that the only thing you save money with Acorns is by spending money in the first place, so there’s a direct contradiction there.
So, to answer the question of, “can Acorns find money for you?”, I think it 100% boils down to your personality.
At the end of the day, there are really two different types of spenders in this world:
1 – The people that spend whatever is in their bank account
2 – The people that buy what they need and put the rest of their money to work in other ways
If you’re one of the people that fall into the first bucket, then yes – I 100% think that Acorns can find you money. I used to be one of these people that would view my bank account as a “fun fund”. I would basically just spend all my money every time that I got paid and just make sure that I had enough to get to my next paycheck.
If I had $200 left and I was going to get paid in a couple days, I would find a reason to blow the entire thing. Maybe that meant me going to Golf Galaxy and buying a new golf club that I didn’t need. Maybe I would decide to skip my meal prepping that week and instead just eat out. Maybe I’d go buy some tickets to a sports game that I wanted to attend but didn’t need to go to.
The point is just that I would find a way to blow it rather than saving it like I should’ve done. So, in that case, yes, Acorns would at least allow me to save a little bit of money.
Maybe I would only have $180 at the end of my 2-week period between when I was paid and when I’d be paid next. Sure, that doesn’t mean that I am saving some overwhelming amount of money, but $20 would certainly be better than saving nothing, right?
And maybe Acorns would just be a gateway to my potentially saving even more money later in life. It could be a really good way to start to lay that money foundation to correct my mindless spending and get me to save a little bit of money.
But if you’re the second type of person, then Acorns isn’t going to do anything for you at all. This is the type of person that I am now.
The reason that Acorns wouldn’t work for me because at the end of the month, i take any unused funds and invest those in the manner that I see fit. I know that likely sounds easy, but it is so much easier said than done and the exact opposite of the mindset that I had previously as I outlined.
Now I will follow a budget calendar and cross off different expenses literally every single day to track how my bank account is doing. It might sound like it’s a lot of work, but it only takes me 60 seconds each day and I find that it really gets my mind focused in a good way when it’s the first thing I do. I start the day off by getting enjoyment out of paying off bills because I know that I am getting that much closer to the end of the month where I’ll have more to invest.
By following this budget calendar, I am finding myself always focused on being the best saver and investor that I can be, so I am never spending frivolously and instead will find myself being very conscious throughout the entire month because i know the extra money that i can save will not be wasted but rather used in a fashion where my dollar will work for me.
“Andy, you promised a better way for us to save without using Acorns – what is it?”
You might be guessing the Budget Calendar by now but that’s just one part of it – it’s called Doctor Budget!
Now, I understand that it might be perceived that I am a little bit biased when it comes to Doctor Budget, but I think it’s for good reason. Remember how I said that I used to be the person that used to spend literally every dime that I had so my bank account was as close to $0 as possible before getting paid again? And remember how I also said that now I take pride in transferring extra money into my investing accounts when I get paid because that’s all just “gravy” on top of my investing goals?
Yeah, that all happened through Doctor Budget.
I didn’t realize it at the time, but when I graduated college and started manually tracking my spending in Excel, that was really the origin of Doctor Budget. It has gone through many iterations and versions trying to find the perfect blend, but at the end of the day, I have made sure to stay true to the roots and accomplish the three most important goals of successful budgeting:
1 – Simplicity
2 – Forcibility to Track
3 – Fool Proof
Now, I won’t go too far into the weeds on my descriptions of these because I have done this previously when I named it the best budgeting tool on the market, but I do just want to give a few quick notes about why these three focus points are so important.
Simplicity matters so stinkin’ much because if it’s not simple to use, it won’t be used – plain and simple.
For someone that is a “non-budgeter”, or the Financial Independence version of a “muggle”, having a budget planner that is simple to use is probably the most important aspect to adopting this new lifestyle.
A budget inherently is going to feel restrictive but that’s the exact opposite of what Doctor Budget is. Instead, Doctor Budget recommends that you download a few months of recent expenses from your credit card/bank provider online and then just group those expenses into certain categories that make sense for you. You can literally call them anything.
If you want to break out all food by groceries, eating out, drive through, drinks, etc., you can! Want to just say food? Go for it! It’s totally up to you to customize how you want and the entire process of updating takes 15 minutes each month – sounds simple to me!
Forcibility to Track
“Andy, if simplicity is so important, why would I use an Excel Spreadsheet instead of an app that will do the budget for me?”
Great question, and a simple answer – because you won’t fully understand your spending until you physically see where those dollars are going. Simply by having to download your expenses and go, “Oh, that was $8 at McDonalds – code that as food. That was $20 at Shell – code that as Gas” you’re going to be significantly more in-tune with where your money is going.
I think those apps can be great for a refined budgeter, but it’s imperative that you understand the basics before moving onto an app or something that’s not going to give you that full transparency.
Think I’m off my rocker? Well, have you ever tried to lose weight without tracking your calories or workouts? Ever tried to become more efficient and get more things done in a day without an organized to-do list where you’re tracking your tasks?
Tracking is imperative, and that’s what Doctor Budget provides. I really think that this is such a key, fundamental piece of personal finance in general that once mastered will provide you years of benefit.
Yeah, I said it, it’s Fool Proof. I provide a list of “short instructions” as well as some “detailed instructions” whenever you might need help going through the process and at any point in time, you can email me which I also provide. I’m here to help you on your journey and want you to succeed.
Like I said initially, I created Doctor Budget through years of me refining what worked for me as a spender and as a saver, combined the two to make this extremely comprehensive product to push that non-budgeter over to the budgeter side. I really do want everyone to succeed and think that it is very possible with Doctor Budget.
So, in summary, is it realistic to utilize Acorns to find money for yourself? Sure, I think that it absolutely is. But as I mentioned before, the core issue comes down to the fact that you’re literally only saving money when you’re also spending it. Personally, that’s just a strategy that is very hard for me to get behind.
I think that a better strategy is working to change your money habits altogether and instead become a sophisticated budgeter, utilize a budget calendar so you know when your income is coming in and your expenses are going out, and then challenge yourself to spend as little as you can and transfer extra money into your investments each pay period.
Heck, I will even make my Roth IRA contributions a line item on my Doctor Budget because it’s 100% customizable and I view that contribution as a true expense. No matter what, hopefully, that will always occur every single month, so what’s the best way to make sure I don’t overspend and just cut from that contribution?
Make it its own line item!
It’s that type of simplicity, tracking and customization that makes Doctor Budget fool proof.
If you want to read a little more about the ins and outs of Doctor Budget, look here. Or, if you simply feel like you’re onboard and want to check it out, you can do so here.
And while you’re at it, you might as well know that you get a FREE Net Worth Tracker when you purchase Doctor Budget…talk about a $weet Deal!