Managing your finances can take a lot of time to be done right, however you financial security and your cash flow are not things you want to scrimp on. So to get your life back from being buried in the pages of your cheque book and keep your finances and savings on track, you might want to consider these personal finance tools.
1. Online Budgeting Tools
How much time do you spend in front of the computer each week? Probably more time than you do sleeping if you have a desk job, and even if you work outside of a traditional office you probably still revert to a computer to check the weather, the football scores, order dinner or catch up with your friends. Therefore, why shouldn’t you be working on your budget while you’re there?
Managing your budget online is as simple as signing up for an account with a website like www.mint.com, www.wesabe.com or www.geezeo.com which collects information from all of your bank accounts in one place and tracks your account fees so you don’t get charged fees you could have avoided and will even alert you if the balance in an account gets low or your credit card is close to its limit. As for budgeting, you simply enter your income and your expenses just the once and your online budget will keep track of your mortgage payments, bank accounts and even your brokerage account details.
2. Gen Y Budget
If signing up for another online account is too much effort, then take advantage of an online budgeting program which links to your Facebook account. MyMoney is a Facebook app which targets Gen Y to encourage them to think about their finances but can allow anyone to track all of their finances from the home screen of your Facebook account and uses all of the same security features as your online banking systems. Your details remain completely secure and none of your friends can see your MyMoney app, just you.
3. Financial Planning
It’s all very well to have a budget to ensure you don’t spend more than you earn, but do you have a financial plan for the longer term? If not, why not test the waters of financial planning with an online tool like Simplifi . While not intended to replace the role of personal advice from a financial adviser, Simplfi offers the advice of a virtual adviser called Sophie who can guide you through the basics of a financial plan.
You don’t have to put in all of your financial details, but simply include approximate balances of your earnings and your goals. You can get advice on saving for your retirement or paying off your credit card debt, and with the financial information you’ve entered, Sophie can calculate your Goal Point Average â€“ the likelihood that you will be able to reach that goal based on your details. Sophie can also offer you advice on how much you’ll need to save each week to reach a particular goal, and which types of investments would best suit you.
4. Another Avenue of Financial Planning
Boulevard is an online financial planning tool which allows you to create an account, and then drag and drop all the goals you have for your life onto a timeline and place them where you hope to achieve them. You can then choose to prioritize additional goals and after entering how much you are able to save each month Boulevard shows you down a financial planning path.
You can choose to get the financial advice you need to achieve one of your goals for free, or for a fee you can receive a comprehensive plan, and access to a range of other financial planning tools.
5. Fraud Free Finance
As long as you have something of value there will be people trying to take it from you, but you don’t have to make it easy for them. There are almost endless numbers of financial scams out there, so before you are fooled into handing your hard earned investments over to a fraud, use one of these tools to verify your potential broker.
As well as allowing you to check for complaints against a broker, you can view the history and experience of registered securities firms and brokers at Finra Investors. Finra also provides you with a checklist of questions to ask your broker or yourself before you sign over your money. This questionnaire asks things like â€˜have you checked the license of your investment adviser’ or â€˜how did you find out about the investment opportunity’, and based on your answers Finra will give you their estimation of whether you should go ahead, and how to find out the right answers to guarantee your security.
6. Track Your Credit Report
Knowing the details of your credit report is important for ensuring your financial future. If there is an unpaid bill listed on your report, or if you have been the victim of identity theft and have thousands of dollars of credit card debt in your name which you didn’t know about then you are jeopardising your chances to get a home or car loan, or even apply for a new credit card or balance transfer.
Checking your credit score is free is you wait 10 working days after applying through Veda , or you can pay a small fee and receive your report in just one day. Another free credit checking website is Credit Karma which provides you with your credit report and offers you advice on how to improve your credit report.
7. Impersonal Personal Loan
Borrowing money from friends and family is fraught with issues, however Virgin Money have come up with a way to make it easier. Through their website http://www.virginmoneyus.com/ , you can pay Virgin a fee of between $99 and $199 to set up a loan between you and a friend or family member with interest rates, a repayment schedule and even direct transfers from the recipient’s transaction account to the loan issuer. Formalising a loan between friends or family makes it much more likely the loan will be repaid and you can set up a payment system for a loan of any size.
8. Stock Market Tracking
Inner8 is like a social networking site for stock and you can track stocks based on who they move with, who they move against or you can compare your perception of the market to the stocks which suit you. There are 45 criteria which you will be assessed by when you sign up for Inner8 and this information matches you to stocks based on your profile, and you can also see the stocks other users are tracking and choose to follow their choices too.
9. Compare Your Mortgage With Your Neighbors
A tool called SmartHippo will allow you to compare the features and benefits of home loans with others who have the same mortgage products you are considering. This means you can cut through all of the bank’s advertising and large print, to get to what the product is really like to use and live with everyday, before you choose it for yourself. To join the SmartHippo community you create a profile of information about your mortgage lender and your interest rate to help other users who logon to read the information and reviews. This sort of review system also allows you to see information about smaller banks and credit unions which would normally get lost next to the big advertising budget of the larger lenders.
10. High Interest Savings Auction
Have you ever wanted the banks to come to you, instead of having to trawl through the maze of information about savings accounts? At MoneyAisle you can enjoy a reverse auction where banks participate in real time auctions against each other, to offer you the best deal. MoneyAisle is used by hundreds of banks and while not all institutions participate, with the competitive nature of the site you’re likely to get a great deal nonetheless. Banks can only participate in the auctions if they have a high rating so you can also be sure that your savings will be safe once you select a winner.
11. Instant Bill Payments
If you constantly forget that the due date of your bill is not the date you need to actually pay the bill for the payment to arrive on time, Yodlee is the finance tool for you. For a fee less than most late payment charges, Yodlee will be able to process a same day payment on your bills, with a few simple mobile bill paying keystrokes. Yodlee can process immediate payments to over 1,000 billers from the convenience of your mobile phone, if you’ve forgotten about a bill which is due today you can bid late fees farewell.
12. Excel Your Finances
If you want to bring your money management back into the more private realms of your own computer, why not use a program which you’re sure to have sitting on your desktop â€“ Excel. Usually included in both Windows and Mac system programs Excel is a spreadsheet program specifically designed to manage figures and calculations and you can do as much or as little with it as you like.
You can enter and tally your bills for the month and create a simple calculation to subtract that total from your wages for the same period. You can allocate a certain amount of your wage to see how quickly you could grow a savings account, or you can automatically import your bank statements or your accounts payable and receivables from your accounting software if you are a small business owner.
13. Quicken Your Finances
For a more complex and accounting based program for your desktop you can choose Quicken. Quicken products compete up there with MYOB for business accounting products and so are more than capable of handling your personal budgets and expenses no matter how complex. You can enter your savings details and account details, as well as including all of your bills and expenses to see where your money is going each month.
14. Personal Finance on Your Desktop
Where Quicken can link to an online version of the program and there are any number of online budgeting tools, Microsoft Money shows no signs of leaving your desktop for more connected pastures. Therefore, if you want all of the budgeting features and easy to read graphs and timelines without having to put all of your information out there on the internet, then Microsoft Money is the personal finance tool for you. Plus the program itself is a great investment and you can pick up a copy for $20-$60.
Managing your personal finances is not something you want to get wrong, so make sure you are using the right tools for the job, and ones which suit your financial goals and needs, and which you feel comfortable and confident using â€“ there is no point in setting up personal finance tools which confuse you, as this is going to be just another reason to ignore your financial situation. Instead, compare and choose the tools which appeal to you, and take control of your life.
Note from Jesse: I have used many of these tools and agree they are among the top of all personal finance tools you will be able to find. Using these tools you will be able to get hold of your finance, track everything and use information you never knew was available to you to make better choices and improve your financial situation in many ways.
Image by Brooks Elliott
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