If you're not taking advantage of free tools to save more and spend less, you're throwing money out the window.
“Making your money work as hard for you as you do for it.”
It’s a tired expression, but one that makes sense. Because there are often simple things you can do to either make more or spend less, without sacrificing your quality of life.
Most people spend more time shopping for milk than they do things like insurance or savings accounts. And that’s a shame, especially since there are so many free tools available to help you earn more on your savings, pay less when you borrow, eliminate debt from your life, and stay better organized.
The Money Makeover
At the top of every page of this site, you’ll see something called “Money Makeover.” Click on it, and you’ll see a drop-down menu with action items:
- Step 1: Get Organized
- Step 2: Search Credit Cards
- Step 3: Search Mortgages
- Step 4: Search Insurance
- Step 5: Search Savings Rates
- Step 6: Deal with Debt
How can this tool make you richer? Let’s count the ways.
1. Get organized: Track your income, expenses and goals, automatically. Establishing savings goals and tracking your income and expenses are important to keep your finances firmly in control. In the past, that meant writing down everything you spend every day, sorting the expenses into categories, then adding them up and comparing them with what you’d budgeted.
What a pain.
Today, however, there are free services like PowerWallet: You tell it where your money is, it automatically tracks your expenses. You tell it your goals, it automatically measures your progress. And the best part: If it sees a savings account where you can earn more, a loan where you could pay less, or a coupon that will save you money, it lets you know. Check it out!
2. Credit cards: The perfect plastic can make you thousands. I frequently travel to Manhattan, where a decent hotel can easily run $400 a night. Fortunately, I haven’t paid for one in years. That’s because instead of cash, I use credit card reward points.
I’m thousands ahead simply because I read a few credit card reviews, then picked the plastic that gives me the most bang whenever I spend a buck.
But my perfect plastic may not be the best card for you. Some cards are great for travel, others for cash back. If you carry a balance, forget the rewards; you need the lowest possible rate. So read some articles, then use the credit card search. You could turn a few minutes into major money.
3. Your mortgage: the rate that can change your life. Borrow $250,000 with a 30-year, 4 percent fixed-rate mortgage, and over the life of the loan you’ll pay $179,674 in interest. But increase the rate to 6 percent, and you’ll pay $289,595. That’s a difference of nearly $110,000 — enough to help you retire earlier, start a business or put your kids through college.
In short, those 2 percentage points could change your life.
There are two ingredients to the best possible mortgage rate: having stellar credit and shopping hard. When it comes to improving your credit, we offer articles like “8 Little-Known Ways to Raise Your Credit Score” and “How to Clean Up Your Credit History.” And when it comes to finding the best deal, our mortgage search will help. When you’re ready to buy or refinance, this tool is ready for you.
4. Insurance: We all hate it, we all need it. Between health, life, home and car, insurance is probably one of your biggest expenses. Yet you likely spend more time shopping for gas than any of those policies.
Insurance can be hard to understand and a pain to switch — facts not lost on the companies that sell it. They know you hate dealing with it, so they’re free to jack up prices. Don’t let them get away with it.
Learn how to pay less with articles like “The 5 Golden Rules of Saving on Insurance.” Then use the insurance shopping tool to make sure you’re getting the most for your money. With a little knowledge and a few minutes of shopping, you could easily pocket hundreds yearly.
5. Savings rates: extra money, free. If you could earn 10 times the money at an identical job, you’d switch jobs in an instant. Well, some identical savings accounts may pay 10 times more than the one you’re using now. Why are you settling for less?
Granted, no matter what you do, rates are low on insured savings accounts and certificates of deposit. But that’s no reason to settle for 0.2 percent if you could be earning 2 percent — 10 times more. So take a few minutes to visit the savings rates search.
If you find a better rate, you may not even have to switch. Just show the rates to your existing bank or credit union and see if they’ll match them. You might be surprised. And if you’re willing to take some risk, explore other investment ideas by reading articles like “Beginning Stock Investor? Here’s All You Need to Know.”
6. Destroy your debt before it destroys you. Debt can be more than an inconvenience: It can ruin your life. Unfortunately, it’s all too easy to get into, and sometimes nearly impossible to get out of.
We’re currently working on special tools that can help you dig out of debt, as well as put you in touch with the right people if you need professional help. Until those tools are ready, visit this page for articles that can get you started.
Use the Money Makeover — but don’t stop there
Money Makeover tools will make you richer and you should use them periodically to get the best deals on financial products. But while they’re a place to start, they’re not necessarily the place to finish. Our search tools, for example, include lots of companies, but not all companies. So when you’re shopping for something big, like a mortgage, you’ll want to beat a few local bushes as well.
You should also know that in some cases we get compensated for referring you to various banks, insurance companies, etc. But we’re on your side: We’ll never mention, much less push, any company just to line our pockets.
How else can we help?
We’re always on the lookout for information and tools to help you make more, spend less or make your life easier. When we find them, you’ll find them in Money Makeover. So check back now and then. And remember, this site is for you. Anytime you have a suggestion, let us know! I personally see every piece of correspondence and every Facebook post. It may be tough to believe in this day and age, but your opinion actually counts here! So when you get a minute, drop me a line, even if it’s just to say hello.
One last thing: If you like what you see here, please spread the word. Our advertising budget is zero. We count on people like you to share Money Talks News with your friends. If you’re not part of our little family, it takes less than 10 seconds to visit the red stripe above and sign up for our daily newsletter. Who do you know who might benefit from reading it?