Young adults want to get their finances in order in 2011, and they’re turning to online tools to help them meet those goals. Eight in ten Americans and 98 percent of young adults say they want to try to save more money this year, according to the new Chase Slate-U.S. News Consumer Monitor survey. One in ten of those surveyed said they used an online program to budget their money, and almost half said they are looking for more tools to help them better manage their finances.
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Here are ten innovative online tools that are helping young adults get on top of their money:
1) Mint.com: This popular site lets users upload account information and get immediate insight into where their money is going. It’s not perfect—some users complain that accounts aren’t always immediately updated. It can also be challenging to personalize the program to untraditional arrangements, such as multiple paychecks or smaller student loan providers. But Mint.com is free and user-friendly and comes with a smartphone app that lets you keep up with your budget where ever you are.
2) Bundle.com: “You can set up budgets around your specific goals,” explains Farnoosh Torabi, author of Psych Yourself Rich, which makes easier to stay motivated and track your progress. Bundle also allows users to compare their own spending to other people’s and see average breakdowns of spending patterns.
3) Free tools from money bloggers: J. Money, the blogger behind popular blog Budgets Are Sexy, recommends skipping the fancy new programs and instead taking advantage of customized versions of basic spreadsheets. He created one with lines for income, net worth, and savings goals and also links to others on his blog. “When it comes to budgeting and tracking my money, I learn the best by watching my fingers copy and paste and seeing the totals move for me,” he says.
4) Free tools from your bank. “An increasing number of banks are offering free products to customers who use online banking. I like that idea, because you can see the information when you’re already logged in to your bank or credit card site,” says David Weliver, founder of the Money Under 30 blog.
5) Payoff.com: This investor-funded, free website turns paying off debt into an interactive game. Users can link their financial accounts to track their progress and win badges and prize money as they get closer to their goals.
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6) Online receipt organizers: Emily Co, associate editor of SavvySugar.com, recommends staying on top of paper receipts with websites such as Shoeboxed.com, which charges a fee, and myreceipts.com, which is free. Myreceipts.com has teamed up with a growing number of retailers, including Best Buy, Whole Foods, and Staples, which send them electronic versions of receipts.
7) Billshrink.com: “If you’re looking to shrink your bills and want to save time, Billshrink.com can do the work for you and it makes pretty good suggestions on how to make the most of your credit card and cable bills,” says Co. According to the site, eight in ten people overpay for wireless service.
8) Online wishlists: Wishlists aren’t just a way of letting your family and friends know what you want for your birthday; they also can help you avoid impulse purchases, says Co. “If you want something online, try to put the item in a wishlist if they provide one. For example if you’re shopping in Amazon, just add the product to the wishlist and come back a week or two later to see if you still want the item. Chances are, you’ll find that the appeal of the product has diminished.”
9) Free calculators: Most people fail to calculate exactly how much they're on track to save, or how much they'll need, in retirement. Check out the retirement calculators available through your financial institution (Fidelity, T.D. Ameritrade, Transamerica, and T. Rowe Price have them, among others) or use free calculators from Bankrate.com or dinkytown.net.
10) YouNeedaBudget.com: This tool is aimed at people living close to their budget and trying to pay off debt. It encourages you to decide where every dollar earned is going on a monthly basis, then helps you make adjustments if you spend too much.
Chase Slate-U.S. News Consumer Monitor New Year Survey was conducted by Ipsos Public Affairs on behalf of Chase Credit Card Services and U.S. News & World Report. The national telephone survey of 1000 adults was conducted from December 1 to December 5, 2010. The margin of error on a sample size of 1000 is +/-3.1% and larger for subgroups. To learn more about the Chase Slate-U.S. News Consumer Monitor or Chase Slate with Blueprint, please visit http://multivu.prnewswire.com/mnr/chase/47492/.
Kimberly Palmer is the author of the new book Generation Earn: The Young Professional’s Guide to Spending, Investing, and Giving Back.