Tech Vigil an unique Technology Blog

Three savings apps to turn your meager spare change into a solid emergency fund

SALT LAKE CITY — One lesson to take from the recent federal shutdown is that having emergency savings is crucial. Yet only two-out-of-five Americans can cover an unexpected expense of a thousand dollars, according to a recent survey by Bankrate. There are several smartphone apps you can use to help turn your spare change into an emergency fund.

“I couldn’t afford to save. At least, that was the explanation,” said Dave Noriega of KSL Newsradio’s “Dave & Dujanovic.” “There were piano lessons, guitar lessons, numerous sports; I always had something I needed to spend my money on.”

However, that changed about a year-and-a-half ago when Noriega started using the app, Acorns, and its round-up tool.

How it works is you link the app to your credit or debit card. If you buy something at a store for $4.75 with that card, Acorns records the purchase as $5 and sends the 25-cent difference into an investment portfolio.

“So, then what happened is I started getting excited about savings, so every $5 or $10 I had, I would just redirect it (to Acorns),” said Noriega.
So excited, Noriega now drops another 5 dollars into Acorns five days a week, automatically. After a year-and-a-half, Noriega has squirreled away just over $2,800.

“I feel very relieved,” Noriega explained. “I feel the peace that I haven’t felt for years.”

One of Noriega’s favorite features is Acorns’ “potential” screen that shows how compounding interest will work. So, if Noriega keeps investing $5 a day, in 40 years’ time, he might see his Acorns account grow to over $381,000.


“It’s the stock market; who knows what it’s going to do?” questioned Noriega. “But again, it’s still fun to see that number grow.”

Acorns’ fees are $1 per month for accounts with a balance under $5,000.


Noriega’s co-host on KSL Newsradio, Debbie Dujanovic, wants to save up a thousand dollars.

“The problem with not having $1,000 in a savings account is, ‘What are your options?’” Dujanovic explained. “It’s a credit card. You’re going to run up that credit card when you blow that tire. It’s your ‘go-to’ and I really want to reverse that and say, “’No! My ‘go-to’ is my emergency fund.”

Dujanovic uses the app, Qapital to create goals and automatic savings rules she can set and then forget.
“It has been effortless, I don’t have to think about it. I have zero brainpower involved. You just set the rules that you want,” she explained.

One rule Dujanovic has set: round up every transaction in her checking account to the nearest two dollars. So, paying a $35.17 bill means Qapital will round the expense up to $37 and drop a $1.83 into an FDIC-insured account.

“You don’t realize how often your checking account is dinged for a variety of different things. Whether it’s utility bills, a car payment, house payment or every time you go to the grocery story, that app is going to collect a little bit of money and before you know it, you got a nice little pile,” Dujanovic said.

Dujanovic also kicks in an additional two dollars every day. In just over a month, she has accrued over $140 in her Qapital account.

“It’s actually making savings fun,” is Dujanovic’s assessment. “I feel like I’m finally in more control of my money than my money is in control of me.”

While Dujanovic is simply saving money with Capital, it does offer to investment options to help grow your funds. Its membership fee is $3 monthly for the basic level, $6 for the complete and $12 a month for its master level.


Fifteen months ago, KSL Newsradio’s Heather Kelly started micro-investing with the app Stash after hearing about it from several guests on her podcast, “Money Making Sense.”

“I went, ‘Okay, $5 a week, I’ll try it,’ and within a couple months I was totally hooked,” Kelly told us.

After several months, Kelly upped her investment to $20 a week. Stash will invest your money into an investment portfolio of your choice. There are more than 40 to choose from, depending on risk level and your interests.

“You can do clean energy, you could do oil and gas investing. Medical marijuana just popped up.”
Kelly’s favorite portfolio is, ‘Roll with Buffett.’

“You know, the third richest man in the world. Whatever Warren does, I’m going to do,” she elaborated.

Stash will also let you invest in fractional shares of individual stocks like Microsoft or Apple.

In a little over 15 months Kelly’s “stash” has now grown to over $2,300. One thing she really enjoys is the app’s learning tools and personalized advice.

“Every week they’ll have two or three different things for you to learn like, ‘What’s the difference between a Roth IRA and an IRA’ and ‘Which one should I choose?’ It’s all done in laymen’s terms so you will not get overwhelmed,” Heather explained.

Whether you use Stash, Capital or Acorns, any of these apps will help make it easier to be prepared for life’s inevitable emergencies.