Easy Online Tools For Managing Your Personal Finances
When was the last time you balanced your checkbook with an actual pen and your check register? If you're like the average American, chances are it's been quite some time. With new online tools being dreamed up every day to help you tackle your financial tasks and achieve your financial goals, access to your spending and saving statements is easier than ever.
But the flipside to this new era is that there are literally thousands of websites to comb through to find the best tools. We did some of that work for you.
Mint.com is the granddaddy of the budgeting sites, pulling all of your financial information–savings, retirement, checking, credit cards and loans–into one comprehensive picture to help you budget and reach your savings goals. And with 6 million users, you're in good company when you want to reach out for advice on your financial issues. The service is free. (For more information on budgeting, see 10 Frugal Living Tips To Happiness On A Tight Budget.)
If you're a fan of using envelopes to stay on a budget, you might want to check out Mvelopes.com, an online budgeting system based on the envelope method. However, unlike the traditional envelope budget method, Mvelopes allows you to use debit cards, credit cards and checks. Company spokesperson Delilah De La Rosa reported that users on average have eliminated $9,000 in consumer debt and increased savings by $15,000. Plans start at $8 per month.
For consumers who have fairly straightforward tax filings, online tax preparation sites can be a quick way to accomplish one of life's least enjoyable activities.
TurboTax.com claims to offer "your biggest tax refund, guaranteed," with online tools like live support for taxpayers. The tools are updated each year with the latest tax laws, and you can access information from prior years' returns to save you time. The 1040EZ is free to file; the deluxe federal filing package starts at $30. (To learn more, check out 3 Tax Planning Strategies For Tax Season.)
Similar to TurboTax, TaxACT.com keeps track of your information from year to year, and offers a free federal e-file. A deluxe federal edition starts at $10.
If you have something a bit more complicated or are unsure of the advice you've received from your accountant or online tax preparation service, you might consider checking out BIDaWIZ.com. This is an online marketplace where consumers can ask for tax and other financial advice from a network of qualified professionals, including CPAs. These experts "bid" on your question and you choose who will help you and pay the price associated with the bidder. Advice starts at $10.
The good news is that most banks and credit cards now offer online bill paying tools that are secure and can also help with budgeting by giving you a comprehensive view of your spending habits by category. If you haven't already, look into what your credit cards, mortgage and other lenders offer for online bill payment. Often, you will save money paying online versus paying by phone. Here are a few other bill-pay tools to consider.
BalanceFinancial.com is a personal bookkeeping tool that manages bill payment, budgeting and other money tasks. It adds a layer of sophistication by supporting online bill payment, expense tracking and reporting. Membership plans start at $39 per month.
Readyforzero.com is a free financial program that helps people who are in debt take steps toward digging their way out by giving payment advice. You can track your progress across your accounts and have visual reminders of how far you've come. (For more information, see 6 Important Tips For Getting Out Of Debt.)
Payoff.com is another free online tool that tracks debt and attempts to make the process of paying it off a little less painful. This site offers a social media connection that allows users to share their financial goals and progress.
Saving And Investing
Though high interest-bearing savings accounts are few and far between, people can use a tool like NerdWallet.com to compare the most current rates online. This one sorts rates for CDs, savings accounts, money market funds and more from more than 7,000 banks. (To lean more, see 5 Superior Alternatives To Using A Savings Account.)
SaveUp.com is an online tool that rewards people for saving money. Each time a person makes a deposit or pays down a bill, this site rewards them with credits that can later be redeemed for prizes, including big-ticket items like a car or college tuition.
Some investors utilize LendingClub.com, a peer-to-peer lending organization that bypasses the banking system by allowing members to directly invest in and borrow from each other.
Check out one or two new tools today and let us know what you think in the comments section. And be sure to share your favorite tools, as well.