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How Apple Watch apps may help you save more money

The Apple Watch app store won't officially be open for business until Friday, when the device itself is released. But banks, brokerages and consumer finance sites are already angling for virtual shelf space in the Apple Store.

Among the more than 1,000 apps already submitted this month, several are aimed at helping you budget, save and invest your money. (The CNBC App for the Apple Watch is also available starting Tuesday.)

It's not clear yet how many of the money management apps will differ from those available for smartphones, but details are starting to emerge.

"Having something on your wrist is a great physical cue for behavioral change, and design matters when you are dealing with behavioral nudges," said Stephen Wendel, author of "Designing for Behavior Change." "I find the notification capabilities of the Apple Watch to be very promising."

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Don't expect many budgeting apps on the Apple Watch to bombard you with notifications about overspending on dinner and drinks when you're out on the town, though. "If you go negative all the time, users will start to ignore you," said Wendel, who is also a principal scientist at HelloWallet, which provides personalized financial guidance to workers through web and mobile apps. (The company is still working out the details on its watch app.)

Instead, apps are more likely to congratulate you when you meet your budgeting goal or reach a savings target in your bank account.

A businessman tries on Apple Watch.
Chesnot | Getty Images
A businessman tries on Apple Watch.

Mint, one of the most popular personal finance apps in iPhone's app store, lets watch wearers set monthly savings targets, and then track their progress over time. The app reviews day-to-day spending in the context of larger goals and suggests short-term spending levels to stay on track but still "keep up with your lifestyle." The app also allows users to get email or text alerts of upcoming bills, bank fees, low bank account balances, unusual spending activity and more.

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Other budgeting apps include Unspent, which lets you create custom budgets and log your spending, and MoneyWiz 2, which goes a few steps further, allowing users to manage their budgets, log and track spending, and view bank account balances from the watch's touchscreen face. Similarly, the iBank app will let users check their budget status and see how their investments are performing via the "Glance" screen. But the budget area also gives a clear visual of how they're doing with a "progress circle" that shows inner and outer rings for income and expenses and a "today" line to see how well users are sticking to their budgets.

Some apps are taking a different tack with financial notifications, banking on the fact that users often need to know negative information quickly, too. For example, BillGuard, which has an iPhone app that aims to detect fraudulent credit card charges, has an Apple Watch version in the works. And brokerages, such as Fidelity and E-Trade, plan to launch Apple Watch apps that stream trading updates (good and bad).

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Citibank, which announced its Apple Watch app a month ago, has taken a more utilitarian approach. The app will allow U.S. debit and credit card customers to view account balances and recent transactions and to receive real-time notifications of credit card transactions through their Apple Watch.

While the opportunity to receive notifications on your wrist may help prevent you from making bad financial decisions and empower you to take action quickly when, say, a fraudulent charge is spotted, advisors worry that some Apple Watch notifications could focus people's attention on their short-term financial picture rather than their larger goals.

"I'm not terribly impressed with all the apps for second-by-second, real-time portfolio updates," said Bill Winterberg, a certified financial planner and founder of FPPad.com, a technology news website for financial advisors. "I would like to see an app that tells me, 'Despite a drop in the market, your financial plan is still on track.' "

That may be yet to come. It's not clear yet what features will catch fire on the Apple Watch and what developments may still be on the horizon. "There's tremendous promise with the Apple Watch," said Wendel. "[But] it's early days. We still have a lot of testing to do before we really see what works."