Managing and automating your finances has never been easier. There are so many online and mobile tools available (most for free!) that setting yourself up for financial success involves little more than 30 minutes of set-up and a few minutes of monitoring a month.
You’re more likely to meet your financial goals if those goals are specific and actionable. Online tools, apps, and calculators put numerical data at your fingertips, letting you know exactly how much to save, and for how long, in order to hit certain milestones. They also make researching a major purchase (like a home or car) a lot easier.
These tools are a great place to start. As you get older, your financial situation might get more complicated and you’ll do things like buy a home, combine finances with a partner, or start your own business. When those things happen, you might want to work with a financial planner, who can help you figure out issues like tax planning, estate planning, saving for your child’s education, and more.
Saving and Budgeting
- You Need a Budget (YNAB) helps you identify your money values and budget for them, while allowing you some flexibility for unexpected expenses. It costs $50 per year, but you can try it for free for 34 days to see if it works for you.
- Qapital is a free app helps you save effortlessly by allowing you to create automatic “rules” for when to transfer money into your savings account. For example, you might set a round-up rule where if you spend $3.20, it rounds up to $4 and transfers 80 cents to savings. Or you might save a small amount any time you go to the gym or complete an item on your to-do list. You can even reward yourself for watching cat videos on YouTube!
- I’m always shocked when I encounter a millennial who doesn’t use PayPal or Venmo. These apps make it so easy to send and receive money from friends (helpful when you front the cost of the hotel for your next group trip and you don’t want to wait for everyone to mail you a check). They can also double as a budgeting tool if you keep a certain amount of cash in your account as your spending allowance for the next week or month.
- Budgets Are Sexy blogger J. Money’s free budget templates are awesome! In exchange for them he just asks for your email — but you should get on his mailing list, anyway.
Paying Down Debt
- Undebt.it helps you develop a debt repayment plan, whether you choose to pay down the lowest balance first or the highest interest debt first.
- Thinking about going to grad school but want to know what your monthly payments will look like after you graduate? Check out this estimated student loan repayment calculator from Sallie Mae. Make sure you’re prepared for the payments upon graduation.
- Mortgage rates have been low for the past several years while housing prices have been going up across the country. If you bought a house a few years ago and weren’t able to put 20% down, you might be paying Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI). If you think you could have 20% equity in your home due to rising home costs, it might be a great time to refinance and see if you can drop your monthly PMI. Check out this mortgage refinance calculator to see if it’s worth the closing costs.
- Pro Tip: If your mortgage is your only debt, I’ve been encouraging quite a few of my clients to refinance from a 30-year to a 15-year mortgage at a lower interest rate, often resulting in saving tens of thousands of dollars while becoming debt free years earlier!
Investing and Tracking Your Net Worth
- Compound interest is that magical thing that makes your money work harder for you! See how much your investments can grow with a compound interest calculator. You can adjust variables like your expected interest, how much you contribute when you open the account, and how much you deposit into it monthly.
- Morningstar is one of my favorite sites for researching potential investments. Just search for the stock or fund’s ticker to get all sorts of data about that company or fund.
- Mint connects to your bank, investment, and retirement accounts to calculate your net worth. You can use it to create budgets, track bills, check your credit score, analyze your spending habits, and more.
- How much money will you have in retirement? Can you afford to retire early at your current savings rate? There are lots of great retirement calculators that can help you map out a few retirement scenarios. Try the ones from NerdWallet, AARP, and Kiplinger.
- I like this net worth calculator from Investopedia because it lets you name all the line items, making it feel more personal.
Cost of Living
- Thinking of relocating? This cost of living calculator helps you compare costs of taxes, housing, and food in different cities.
- Are you better off renting or buying a home? A rent vs. buy calculator will show you which is the better choice for you based on your location and budget.
- A buy vs. lease calculator is essential if you’re getting a car and aren’t sure which choice to opt for.