Being able to manage money well is a necessary life skill, and the keystone for good financial planning. If you don’t have a handle on your cash flow, where your money is spent and how much to save, it will be harder to not only pay your bills on time each month, but to realize your future financial goals.
The good news is that technology has made it easier than ever to learn good financial habits such as budgeting your money, reducing how much you spend on your purchases, and calculating what you need to save.
Keeping track of your spending
Start with your own financial institution. Checking account balances, making transfers and paying bills online is just the beginning.
Most banks have a budgeting app that tracks your spending so you get a better idea of where your money is going. They connect securely to your bank accounts, automatically track your transactions and put them into categories for you. You can track your spending over time and access your spending history, so you can compare your current spending to your monthly average and make any necessary adjustments.
Check out the TD My Spend app, CIBC CreditSmart, and RBC MyFinanceTracker for iPhone and Android devices.
If all your accounts don’t reside with just one financial institution, there are lots of mobile apps and budgeting software available, such as the popular Mint.com, GoodBudget, and You Need a Budget.
Online coupon and price comparison sites
For frugal Canadians who hate to pay full price, coupons from online deal sites like Red Flag Deals and Smart Canucks can help you save money on your purchases.
For a weekly flyer comparison for your area check Mrs. January and Grocery Alerts which also match up those flyer deals with coupons. Find the best deal on groceries with grocery apps such as Flipp and Checkout 51.
Sign up with Great Canadian Rebates to earn cash back on your online purchases.
In addition to helping you save money on the purchases you make, smartphone apps make is easier to put money into your savings account. Typically, these apps will round your purchases up to the nearest dollar and put the extra change into your bank account.
This is the 21st century version of saving your change in a jar – the start of an emergency fund perhaps.
If you’re around my age, you’ll remember having to do complicated and time-consuming math (remember logarithm books?) to calculate such things as compounding, mortgage and loan payments, and comparisons.
Fortunately, there are plenty of tools available that can quickly help you with the most complex scenarios to help you make smart decisions.
- See how much you can save by paying your balances down faster on credit cards, loans and mortgages.
- See how fast your retirement savings grow based on how much you contribute.
- For those already contributing, check what your nest egg will be in 10, 20 or 30 years from now.
- A life insurance worksheet will help you decide on the optimum amount to buy.
- Is it more cost effective for you to buy a home or rent instead?
- How much will university cost?
- Compare bank accounts and credit cards to find the best one for you.
If you do a search for the different online calculators, you will get a bazillion hits. A good place to start looking is your financial institution website. Other good, multiple event calculators are available on the sites from Get Smarter About Money, Fiscal Agents, and sync.com.
Just be aware that each site uses different assumptions and algorithms to reach their conclusions. Use them as the tools that they are, and maybe compare a couple of different ones.
Whether you’re digging yourself out of debt, saving for a specific goal, or trying to get a better handle on your budgeting and spending there’s a smartphone app or website or online calculator to help you. These tools are fun to use, and worth looking into.