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5 Apps That Make Saving Money a Breeze

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Whether you’re an impulsive spender or you just need help budgeting for goals, it can be difficult to manage your savings. But with the advent of FinTech, there have come digital solutions that make saving money easier than ever.  If you want to get your finances in order, these apps will help whip your savings into shape. And dare we suggest, they’re even kind of fun.

1. DIGIT

WHAT IT DOES: Finds extra cash in your budget and saves it automatically 

HOW IT WORKS: Digit is a smart savings app, meaning it analyzes your account balances, spending history, and upcoming bills to calculate how much you can afford to save every few days. If it thinks you can afford to sock away some extra cash, it’ll automatically transfer it into your Digit account, where you can withdraw the funds at any time. 

It’s available as a web and iPhone app, but you don’t need to download the app to your phone in order to use it. You sign up for an account online, link it to your checking account, and Digit will start looking for ways to save. From there, it works with your phone’s SMS. You simply text commands to Digit’s phone number, like "withdraw," "save more," or "save less." You can do this from the web app, too. You don’t have to worry about overdrafting your account, either: Digit’s algorithms are designed to keep that from happening, and if somehow it does, they’ll reimburse your fee. 

WHO IT'S FOR: If you’re the type of person who spends money when you know it’s there, Digit will keep you from doing this. You can’t use your Digit account to make purchases, and while it’s easy enough to move the cash back into your bank account, that extra step is a great buffer to prevent impulsive spending. 

SECURITY: Digit uses bank-level security that encrypts and protects your information. According to its founder, Ethan Bloch, they don't store your bank login and password. While they do store your account number, they use asymmetric cryptography to keep that information safe. 

2. QAPITAL

WHAT IT DOES: Uses actions to trigger automatic savings into a goal account 

HOW IT WORKS: Qapital is sort of like the banking version of the web tool IFTTT: You set up certain rules for actions. When those actions are completed, that triggers Qapital to add cash to your savings. For example, you can make a rule rounding up all of your change. Or you can set a rule to save money any time you spend on a guilty pleasure. You could also just set a rule to save a fixed amount daily, weekly, or monthly.

The app is available via iOS and Android. Once you download it and register, you set a goal, then you set rules for saving for those goals. You can invite friends to share your goal, too. The app comes with some other rule suggestions for funding your goals, such as:

Freelancer Rule: Set aside 30 percent for Tax Day every time you get paid.

52 Week Rule: Save $1 during Week 1, $2 for Week 2, and so on for every week of the year.

Apple Health Rule: Connect the app to your phone’s fitness data, and save every time you hit a fitness target.

Even better, you can connect the app to IFTTT, and make your rule possibilities practically endless.

WHO IT'S FOR: If you’re a fan of automation, you’ll love Qapital. It allows you to reach multiple savings goals or set money aside for taxes and other expenses automatically, so you don’t have to spend a lot of time managing your day-to-day budgeting.

SECURITY: They use the strongest 128-bit encryption possible, which meets bank standards. They are also FDIC-insured for up to $250,000.

3. TIP YOURSELF

WHAT IT DOES: Helps you save extra cash and make progress on other goals

HOW IT WORKS: Like Digit, Tip Yourself is an online savings account that saves money directly from your checking account. However, Tip Yourself allows you to save your own specific dollar amounts and it’s designed to help you reach your goals using a financial incentive. For example, every time you work out, you can “tip yourself” five bucks. Before you know it, you’ve saved up enough for a fun weekend getaway—and you’ve reached your goal to get in shape! Essentially, it’s a goal-tracking and savings app in one. 

You have to download the app to use it (it’s currently only available on iOS), and from there, you keep track of your goal progress and your balance. When you’re ready to withdraw, you can do it straight from the app. 

WHO IT'S FOR: According to co-founder Mike Lenz, “Tip Yourself is perfect for anyone looking for a fun way to motivate themselves while saving money in the process.” They also have an engaging, fun online community to offer encouragement and support. If you’re not into that, though, you can opt out.

SECURITY: According to their privacy policy, they “use industry standard physical, technical and administrative security measures and safeguards to protect the confidentiality and security of your personal information.” Specifically, they use 256-bit SSL encryption, and they don’t store your info on your phone. 

4. ACORNS

WHAT IT DOES:  Automatically invests your spare change

HOW IT WORKS: Acorns is available as a web app, iPhone app, or Android app, and it’s designed to make investing less intimidating. After connecting to your bank account, Acorns rounds up the cost of your purchases and saves the difference in a separate Acorns account, where it eventually invests your money into low-cost exchange traded funds (ETFs). You can also deposit and withdraw your money at any time. The app helps you set up an investment portfolio, too, based on your goals. For most users, it does cost money to invest with the app: $1 per month for accounts under $5000 and 0.25 percent a year for accounts over $5000. (But it’s free if you’re a student or under 24.)

Your Acorns account is like any other taxable investment account, meaning you’ll get a statement at the end of the year. If you had any gains, you’ll pay taxes on that amount.

WHO IT'S FOR: If you’re scared of investing and don’t know where to start—or just don’t think you have enough money to start—Acorns is a great way to get your feet wet. ETFs are generally considered steady, diversified investments.

SECURITY: Acorns uses 256-bit SSL encryption, multi-factor authentication, and other security measures to protect your data. Every account is also insured for up to $500,000 for fraud. 

5. ROBINHOOD

Robinhood from Robinhood on Vimeo.

WHAT IT DOES: Lets you trade stocks and exchange-traded funds for free

HOW IT WORKS: Unlike traditional brokerage firms that charge a fee every time you trade a stock, Robinhood lets you trade for free. You can invest in individual stocks or exchange-traded funds. The app is available online, as well as on iPhone and Android.

Like Acorns, Robinhood is a digital brokerage firm, so you’ll have to sign up for an account and, of course, you’re on the hook for taxes on any investment gains. You don’t need to maintain an account or investment minimum—you pay whatever the stock costs, and you buy it directly from the app.

WHO IT'S FOR: If you’re a seasoned investor and you know what you’re doing, Robinhood is a great option for bypassing hefty commission fees other firms charge. The app also gives you performance details on stocks and ETFs.

SECURITY: Robinhood uses bank-level security and all data is encrypted. Your securities are protected up to $500,000. You can read more about their security measures here.

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Switzerland Flushes $1.8 Million in Gold Down the Sewer Every Year
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Switzerland has some pretty valuable sewer systems. As Bloomberg reports, scientists have discovered around $1.8 million worth of gold in the country's wastewater, along with $1.7 million worth of silver.

Scientists at the Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology examined sewage sludge and effluents, or discharged liquid waste, from 64 water treatment plants and major Swiss rivers. They did this to assess the concentrations of various trace elements, which are "increasingly widely used in the high-tech and medical sectors," the scientists explained in a press statement. "While the ultimate fate of the various elements has been little studied to date, a large proportion is known to enter wastewater."

The study, which was recently published online in the journal Environmental Science & Technology, revealed that around 94 pounds of gold makes its way through Switzerland's sewage system each year, along with 6600 pounds of silver and high concentrations of rare metals like gadolinium and niobium. For the most part, these metals don't harm the environment, researchers say.

With gold and silver quite literally flowing through their sewers, is there any way that Switzerland could turn their wastewater into wealth? Scientists are skeptical: "The recovery of metals from wastewater or sludge is scarcely worthwhile at present, either financially or in terms of the amounts which could be extracted," the release explains.

However, in the southern canton of Ticino, which is home to several gold refineries, the "concentrations of gold in sewage sludge are sufficiently high for recovery to be potentially worthwhile," they conclude.

Switzerland is famous for its chocolate, watches, and mountains, but it's also home to major gold refineries. On average, around 70 percent of the world's gold passes through Switzerland every year—and judging from the looks of it, much of it goes down the drain. As for the sewer silver, it's a byproduct of the chemical and pharmaceutical industry, which is a cornerstone of Switzerland's economy.

[h/t Bloomberg]

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Lists
14 Things You Owned in the '70s That are Worth a Fortune Now
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DON EMMERT/AFP/Getty Images

From old toys and housewares to books and records, these pieces of '70s memorabilia have aged (and increased in value) like fine wine.

1. THE LORD OF THE RINGS KNICKERBOCKER PLAYSET

A vintage ringwraith toy from Lord of the Rings by Knickerbocker toys, still on the yellow blister pack.

eBay user butamaru999

Peter Jackson wasn’t the first one to take a crack at J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy. In 1978, Ralph Bakshi directed an animated version with the voices of John Hurt, William Squire, and Anthony Daniels, among others. There was a toy promotion to go along with the movie, of course, and though the action figures look a little cheap by today’s standards, they’re anything but. According to eBay, a complete set can sell for up to $17,000.

2. DAVID BOWIE’S DIAMOND DOGS ALBUM

Photo of David Bowie
RALPH GATTI/AFP/Getty Images

Check your old vinyl! In 1974, David Bowie released the Diamond Dogs LP, which featured artwork of a cartoonish Bowie-dog. The top half of the creature was Bowie, while the bottom half was all canine—including its genitals. Right before the album was released, RCA decided to avoid controversy and had the artwork retouched to remove the offending parts. However, some enterprising employees were able to snag some of the originals, and in 2003, one of them sold for $3550.

3. LUKE SKYWALKER ACTION FIGURE

Luke Skywalker action figure still in the Kenner packaging from the 1970s.
DON EMMERT/AFP/Getty Images

OK, you probably didn’t own this exact Luke Skywalker action figure with double-telescoping lightsaber when you were a kid, because there are only 20 known toys in existence. If you are one of the lucky few, though, get thyself to Sotheby’s: In 2015, this 1978 Kenner toy sold for a whopping $25,000.

Even if you don’t own this ultra-rare figure, don’t despair: Your old Star Wars toys could still be worth hundreds—or even thousands—of dollars.

4. THE SEX PISTOLS’S “GOD SAVE THE QUEEN”/“NO FEELINGS” 45

The Sex Pistols
Graham Wood/Evening Standard/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

The infamously offensive Sex Pistols signed to A&M Records in 1977—and were dropped by the label exactly six days later for proving to be just too much to handle. But in those six days, 25,000 copies of the band’s “God Save the Queen” single had already been pressed. Just nine copies have surfaced over the years, making the rare records worth a pretty penny: In 2003, a copy with the paper sleeve sold for £13,000 (about $17,600).

5. WALK LIVELY STEFFIE BARBIE

Walk Lively Steffie doll

Image courtesy of bklyngrl44 on eBay

Remember Barbie’s friend from the 1970s, Steffie? Not many people do—which may be why a mint condition Walk Lively Steffie doll that's still in its box can be worth nearly $800.

6. THE GARDEN OF ABDUL GASAZI BY CHRIS VAN ALLSBURG

A copy of The Garden of Abdul Gasazi

Your book collection provides you with hours of entertainment, and can also be a great source of extra income. A first edition of The Garden of Abdul Gasazi, a 1979 children’s book by Chris Van Allsburg, is worth nearly $1000 (if it's in “Fine” condition). If you have a collection of Van Allsburg first editions, by the way, you’re doing well: A first edition of Jumanji from 1981 is worth hundreds, if not thousands, and a signed first edition of The Polar Express from 1985 is worth $2500.

7. ONE HUNDRED YEARS OF SOLITUDE BY GABRIEL GARCÍA MÁRQUEZ

The green, floral, leafy cover of the first edition of One Hundred Years of Solitude.
Image courtesy of cnos.mich on eBay

Who knew an exclamation point was worth so much? In some early copies of Gabriel García Márquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude, the first paragraph of the dust jacket blurb featured an exclamation point instead of a period. That little mistake makes a first edition with the exclamation point worth $740. (Even the version with the intended period is worth some cash, though—about $400.)

8. LIMITED EDITION VERSION OF THE FIRST STAR WARS COMIC BOOK

Star Wars Comic Book
Image courtesy of heisman1944 via eBay

Here’s a riddle for you: When is five cents worth $7500? Answer: When rare Star Wars memorabilia is involved. When the first issue of the Star Wars comic book was released in 1977, Marvel published about 1500 limited edition copies for 35 cents instead of the usual 30 cents. Spending that extra nickel 40 years ago is worth more than $7000 today—and there’s currently one on eBay being sold for more than $10,000.

9. REMCO BATMAN UTILITY BELT

A vintage Batman utility belt stilli n packaging, with plastic handcuffs, decoders, and watch.

This Remco Batman Utility Belt from the 1970s came with all of the bells and whistles: a communicator, decoder glasses, a toy watch, handcuffs, a Gotham City decoder map, a secret identity card, and a secret message, among other things. Not only is it cool, that’s a lot of little pieces to keep track of, so you can see why a complete set in decent condition sells for more than $3000.

10. ALPINE MAN PEZ DISPENSER

Image courtesy of tobor1010 via eBay

To commemorate the 1972 Olympics in Munich, PEZ released the “Alpine Man” Pez Dispenser. There were two variants—a mustachioed figure in a green Alpine hat and a clean-shaven one wearing a brown cap. The green hat can be worth up to $3000; the brown one is worth “considerably more,” but is apparently so extremely rare that no pricing seems to actually exist.

11. ORIGINAL MEGO ROBIN ACTION FIGURE

Tom Simpson, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

The Mego company doesn’t produce action figures anymore—it went bankrupt in 1982—but for a decade, it was considered “The World’s Greatest Action Figure Company.” Many of their figures are worth a nice chunk of change today, but the original Robin the Boy Wonder figure from 1973 takes the cake. The first version came with a removable mask, while later versions came with the mask painted on. As you might imagine, that teeny little piece of cloth was often lost by the kids who played with the toy, so finding a Robin in good condition with the mask is pretty rare; one sold for $7357.

12. IKEA FURNITURE

A car topped with boxes of IKEA furniture
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IKEA has become known for their affordable furniture and housewares, but certain vintage pieces will set you back a bit more than a $9.99 LACK table. Today, a teak bookshelf and cabinet combo from the 1970s can fetch up to $3000—surely a good return on investment.

13. PYREX DISHES

A green Pyrex mixing bowl with red ribbons and holly on it, sitting on top of three pyrex collecting books.

Image courtesy of qualityqueen62 via eBay

Your parents and grandparents shouldn't have passed those Pyrex dishes down—they're worth a lot of dough these days. Whole sets of certain patterns or colors can go for thousands of dollars, but even single bowls can fetch hundreds, like the above Christmas bowl from the early '70s, which is going for $370 on eBay.

14. THE ADDAMS FAMILY LUNCHBOX

They’re creepy and they’re kooky ... and they’re worth a lot of money. This metal lunchbox by King Seeley depicts the cartoon version of everyone’s favorite ooky sitcom family. A good-condition set containing the lunchbox and matching thermos can be worth up to $325.

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