March 9, 2012

Sober and broke? Here are the best tools to get your finances under control

We all can’t win the lottery, but we can work toward better financial stability.

At the tips of fingers and clicks of buttons are some of the best tools on the web to attempt to put a financial house in order. If there’s not a lot of money coming in, budgeting is key. To be able to purchase needed and wanted big-ticket items, financial goals need to be set and started. Here at we’ve compiled some of the best online tools on the web to help get haywire finances under control.

MintMint, from the makers of Quicken, is an online tool that allows users to budget and manage their money. But that’s a simple explanation of the free service. Mint can do much more. It allows users to enter their financial account information on a safe and secure site and automatically categorizes all purchases and helps set money goals.

When you use your debit card to buy a morning coffee, Mint knows and tracks it. When you use your credit card to pay for your cellphone bill one month, Mint tracks that, too. Every transaction is managed in the system, and can be displayed in charts. You truly are able to grasp your spending. In a month’s time you can see how much of your budget goes toward entertainment, housing, food and other various facets. Once you see where your money is going, Mint helps you set up a budget.

The tool will send you email alerts if you ever go over your monthly budget in a designated section. So, you’ll know if that weekend dinner splurge was $10 too much from an email alert. Mint apps are also available on-the-go for free for the iPhone, Android and iPad.

The tool will also help users set up any debts, so it is considered in the equation when setting up a budget.

To watch a 90-second overview about Mint, click here.

Smarty PigSmarty Pig is like a virtual piggy bank that your social media friends are welcome to donate to. The free online service is an FDIC-insured savings account set up in a way that allows users to save for specific goals, whether it is a new computer, vacation or anything else their heart desires — or needs. Users specify a goal, set a target amount of money to save for and deposit a seed amount of money from a brick-and-mortar bank account into the goal. They can then choose to have a certain amount of money dropped into the goal at a monthly or weekly rate, or just do it manually.

Here is where Smarty Pig is a little different than your average savings account. Your goal can link to Facebook and Twitter if you choose. You can share with your friends your Smarty Pig goal and if they want to, they can donate.

Once a goal is reached — or you choose to stop a goal — you can retrieve the funds three different ways. It can be deposited back into your bank account, deposited into a Smarty Pig debit card or added to store gift cards of your choice, which usually comes with money boosts and savings. The final goal money can also be split between all three of these options.

To watch a video tutorial about Smarty Pig, click here.

Credit Karma — Credit score can determine a lot these days, and it’s important to know where you stand. Credit Karma is a free service — that really is free — that will give you your credit score, what it means comparatively and offers advice on how to improve it. You will have to put up with some credit card offers after you get your score, but they are merely offers.

After you get your credit score, the site will also show you how the number compares to other users in an array of categories, such as people in your age group or region.

KiplingerKiplinger is an ultimate resource with informational pieces on personal finance, business and money advice. If you have a question about finance, whether it’s about saving money for private college, how your 401(k) will grow or how your salary stacks up in your field, you’ll find it on Kiplinger. But the website it more than a simple question-and-answer site. It’s also rich in tools.

In addition to the wealth of information, Kiplinger also offers up a free payroll tax calculator, budget worksheet, budget calculator and investment calculator. There is also a stock information tool and a college search based on financial information tool.


Managing Money Living Skills DVD

Managing Money Living Skills DVD

DVD, 18 min, cc

Managing Money encourages clients to explore their relationship with money, change their thinking about it, and learn the benefits of budgeting. Also includes a discussion on financial woes, bankruptcy, and resources for money management help. Managing Money is a part of the Hazelden Living Skills Program

Online Price: $99.00 Each

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